Copenhagen wasn’t at the top of my list of cities to visit, but when flights from the airport ten minutes from my flat came up for £18.00 return, it was suddenly promoted.
This weekend, Jaz, Ross, Jess and I took on the city of pastries, Hans Christian Andersen and fancy dinnerware.
Jaz and I stayed on a houseboat, booked via Airbnb. We landed late at night with instructions on how to get in via a lockbox. The issue was that the pictures on Airbnb didn’t show which boat was ours. We tried breaking into two other boats before we found the right one (thanks to my keen detective skills). As expected, everything was very cool, Scandi and minimalistic. We went to bed, knowing we had a lot of exploring to do in the morning.
We were up at eight and out by nine. We walked across the city, picking up coffee and pastries on our way. Our first stop was the Round Tower, a dominating attachment to a local church that hosted the first observatory in Europe. The inside was built as a gentle slope rather than stairs, which begs the question, why do stairs still exist? They’re ableist bullshit.
The best investment was the Copenhagen Card, and the accompanying app. It cost us €99 each for three days and gave us access to the majority of exhibitions, museums and other attractions as well as free reign of the city’s public transport.
At the top of the tower was a burrowed hole through to the core where there was a twenty-five metre drop. There was a glass panel across so you could stand on it, staring down and worrying that you were tempting fate.
Further up was a tight staircase that led to a viewing platform over the beautiful low of green and terracotta rooftops.
On our way back down we found an exhibition on the original moon landing, which is definitely a bit of me. They had photos from the original landing as well as models and a to-scale Lego model of the Apollo 11. There was no mention of Kubrick’s involvement.
Our next stop was the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) which had several floors of Danish and French artwork from the sixteenth through to the twentieth century. I saw a lot of painted norks and felt richer for the experience.
We walked through Nyhavn to meet Ross and Jess at the Bridge Street Kitchen. We had pints of Pilsner and took it in turns to get food which we then shared. I had a hot dog with pickles and mustard followed by a noodle dish with a side of vegetable dumplings. All travel should be seen as a vessel to eat.
On the way back through Nyhavn (known for the canal and the beautiful pastel-coloured buildings) we stopped for waffle sticks (more food should be served on sticks). I had chocolate sauce and nuts, which I promptly got all round my face like a child.
We visited the Guinness World Record Museum, which was in the same league as wax museums – slightly cheesy but interactive enough to be worth a visit. There, we compared the weight of the four of us against the world’s fattest man (still only half his total), tried to beat the world record for stacking cups, drum rolls and longest basketball spin on one finger, and played immense games of Pac-Man on a giant screen.
We stopped in a bookshop café for beers, cocktails and hot chocolate and then headed to The Bird & Churchkey where we played loud games of Irish Snap before getting soaked in a sudden downpour and taking solace in Cock’s & Cows, a gourmet burger joint which I insisted on calling Cow and Chicken (thanks childhood spent watching Cartoon Network). We had huge burgers, assortments of fries and raspberry gin cocktails before heading back to the houseboat to play card games and drink beers.
On day two, Jaz and I walked most of the way to the Design Museum before discovering that all museums in the city are closed on Mondays. We visited Freetown Christiana, an area akin to Amsterdam’s approach to drug-taking. It has an element of urban decay or stoner logic to it. Everyone looks strung out and there are more off-brand tracksuits on display than a sale at Sports Direct. It was good to visit and look around but I think the time in my life when I would have been really impressed by it is over.
We walked back to Nyhavn and picked up an hour-long canal boat tour via the Opera House, the Little Mermaid statue and a fly-by of the canal where our boat was parked up. The tour was a better way of exploring the city than blindly wandering. I would not recommend trekking out to the statue of the Little Mermaid, when you could see it on the boat. Like all mermaids, she will only ever let you down.
We met up with Jess and Ross again and visited the Mystic Exploratorie, in an alley behind the Guinness World Record museum, which it could be considered to be the weak sibling of. Saying that, we did enjoy the electric chair.
Ross and Jess went shopping for tea and anything to make them feel more hygge. We got French-style hot dogs from a street vendor. We visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale House, which were both terrifying and stupid in a fun way. Any Ripleys, anywhere in the world, has the same dated elements. That doesn’t change it being a fun way to spend an hour out of the cold. I liked the illusions, the Vampire Killing Kit and the shark attack room.
The attached Fairy Tale House retold Andersen’s stories with a terrifying set of models and dioramas. It raises questions when they’re viewed through a twenty-first century lens.
We went to Tivoli Gardens, which I had been given mixed messages about. Some said it was a must when visiting Copenhagen, others said it was overpriced touristy crap. The truth is that it is somewhere in between. It is expensive but the experience was one of my favourite elements of our time in the city. Tivoli Gardens is a huge theme park in the centre of the city witha large range of rides, attractions and games as well as plenty of stops for food and drink. The price of entry to the park was included with our Copenhagen Card but you also need to pay for a pass if you want to go on the rides. This was 250DKK – 295DKK (£30+).
Tivoli boasts a rolling expanse of beautiful gardens and a lake. It was all themed towards Halloween.
Jaz is not a fan of rollercoasters so took advantage of the snacks available while we rode as many rides as we could. We started on the wooden rollercoaster, cleverly named The Rollercoaster, and then hit up TikTak, a mad waltzer that span upside down if you could jar your bodies back and forth in the right way. We took turns to sit together. Jess and Ross sat together on the coaster and Ross and I joined forces on the waltzer.
We got pizza and hot dogs and went on Aquila, a ride where we sat in twos on giant birds that went round in circles while flipping upside down. We then found our way over to Vertigo, the biggest boy in the park. I was split about riding it at all but the peer pressure got the best of me and we joined the back of the queue. Looking at the tiny children coming off of the ride I knew I couldn’t back out but there was nothing about watching this giant torture device spin at such a rate that it sounded like their screams were being cross-faded above my head.
We were strapped in and set on our way. The fixed ride looped over and over again and again, flipping our four-way car around on its axis at the same time until it clunked into place and settled into a straight course as it got faster and faster. I felt my whole body drawn back into my seat. I couldn’t work out which way was up as it got faster still. It was dark out and flashing lights were turned on their heads again and again. I was sucked backwards and watched the world roll under my seat and over my head so quickly that I couldn’t work out if I was testing out for NASA or having a fun day out with my friends.
I came off feeling dizzy but wired. We stopped in a café nearby to warm up. I had the most incredible drink of the weekend – La Mumba. La Mumba was a hot chocolate mixed with rum. Jess had the same. Jaz and Ross had coffee with Baileys.
Ross and I ordered large drinks for the table and were amazed at our 6oz cups. It came to about 200DKK (£24) for four drinks. We decided not to convert it back to GBP at the time in case the fear set in.
Any ride we went on after Vertigo was twinged with the mundane. Vertigo was the upper limit. We went on the dragon rollercoaster, The Demon, and the swings, which shot up above the park. It is worth visiting late in the afternoon and holding out into the evening. A lot of the annoying children and their families head home when it gets dark which lessens much of the queueing time. It’s also worth visiting during term times, a thought we had completely skipped over.
Tivoli Gardens was a lot of fun and anyone who says otherwise needs to have a less serious look at themselves. We stopped in at the food court on our way out so we could all eat whatever the hell we liked. Writing this up, I realise that all I did was eat and drink for three days. Ross had a disappointing toasted sandwich. Jess got nuggets. Jaz had a chicken sandwich. I had an amazing burrito and a beer.
Ross and I then got electric scooters back to the house boat ahead of the girls, who insisted on walking. This is another recommendation. You can download Lime or a similar app to unlock access to the electric scooters which are strategically scattered around the city. They even offer up a warning if it’s late at night and you’re probably drunk.
Back at the boat we played more card games and had more beer. Jaz snoozed until we were finished and ready for bed ourselves. Day two was done.
We packed up our stuff and left our cute little houseboat. We walked to the Design Museum and were bemused at what seemed like a disorganised Ikea. While Danish design is incredible, there was little to inspire at the museum. The best part was the classroom of benches, colouring pencils and paper where you could sit and draw. It felt calming to pretend I wasn’t a grown up and to do something abstract.
We then went next door to the Medical Museion, which was much closer to our winter goth aesthetic. The museum is in the building that previously hosted the surgeons of Copenhagen. It’s a labyrinthine expanse across three floors with plenty of old equipment and samples to gawk at. We wandered through with morbid fascination.
There was a special exhibition on the link between gut health and mental health that was interesting but it was the preserved parts in jars that we stared at for the longest period of time.
We hired electric scooters and headed back to the Rosenborg Castle to meet Jess and Ross. The four of us went to the Big Apple café for fresh juices. Mine had chilli in and was supposed to detoxify me following the amount of booze I’d imbibed. I can only assume it worked.
We visited the Meteorology exhibition at the Natural History Museum, beside the Botanical Gardens. I’ve always been fascinated by space and the idea of anything otherworldly is right up my street but it remained a short trip. You know how the old saying goes, once you’ve touched one meteorite…
We walked back to the centre of the city and found a table at the Bastard Café where we played a two-hour game of Catan over beers. We got an early dinner at the fantastically named Riz Raz and then got the Metro to the airport, knowing we had to go home and that we had work the following morning.
I cannot recommend Copenhagen enough as a city to visit. The people are very cool, very tall, well-composed, friendly and beautiful. The city has a lot of history and a lot to offer for different groups of people. You can make the experience entirely your own and don’t need to do any of the things I did to have a good time.
It can be expensive but the Copenhagen Card is a great way of cutting down on expenditure when you’re there. Saying that, I think I averaged £100 a day on food and drink.
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