After going to Stockholm on my own in June 2016, I had been hoping to get back to the region. I would consider Scandinavian cities among the easiest (though most expensive) parts of the world to travel to as a solo English speaker and woman. The cities are incredibly safe, transportation is very easy not to mention many things are walk-/bikeable, and everyone speaks English. People are also, while not forward, very pleasant, happy and helpful!
In March, while looking for a low-cost European flight options from New York, I saw that Norwegian Air had cheap flights during April from New York to Copenhagen and booked my flight. Norwegian keeps costs down by charging for all extras (food, drinks, luggage, seat assignments etc.) but even with these add-ons the flight was far cheaper than anything on other airlines and didn’t have a layover. A week and a seven-hour red-eye later, I was in Copenhagen.
The train from the airport goes directly into the city center (only 20 minutes!) and after meeting up with my Airbnb host, I settled in. In an expensive city, Airbnb offers savings and I saved some extra by staying in the second bedroom of an apartment for two nights, and then switching to a boutique hotel, Ibsens Hotel for two nights. Both my Airbnb/Ibsens were in Kobenhavn K, which I would highly recommend for a first-time visitor to Copenhagen for a central neighborhood with plenty of sightseeing, dining and drinking options. While I walked and used the metro to get most places, by far the fastest and most popular way to get around Copenhagen is bike. For other transportation options, Uber is ending operations in Copenhagen at the end of April and cabs are expensive.
After settling in, I went to the Copenhagen visitor’s center to pick up a five day Copenhagen Card. The card includes admission to most museums and attractions, public transportation, and some discounts that I didn’t explore. As a bonus for people with children, the Card also includes additional admission for two children under 10. [Sidebar: Copenhagen & Denmark overall are incredibly child friendly (excellent parental paid leave, healthcare, child care and education) and there’s babies everywhere!] The Copenhagen Card website has a calculator so you can see if the card is worth it for you depending on what your plans and timeline are. I went to the following attractions using the card:
Design Museum: This was on the smaller side but definitely interesting if you’re into design & has a nice restaurant/cafe
Kronborg Castle: This is about a half hour outside of Copenhagen so the free public transportation came in handy for this. The castle is most well-known for being featured in Hamlet. I would recommend doing one of the tours to get more out of it since not that big
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art: This is also about a half hour outside of Copenhagen and that the location itself was part of the museum was unique. On a nice day, it’s a great place to sit and eat outside
Staten Museum for Kunst: The National Gallery of Denmark features of course Danish art and there was an exhibit on Japan’s influence on Danish art, which was interesting after traveling to Japan in March
Tivoli Gardens: Tivoli Gardens opened for Easter after I arrived and it’s more than an amusement park, there’s restaurants, cafes and bars inside as well and was Walt Disney’s inspiration for Disney World. The Card includes admission to the Gardens but rides have to be purchased separately
I also went to see the changing of the guards at the Amalienborg but I didn’t go inside so didn’t use Copenhagen Card there. I wouldn’t say it’s terribly exciting but if you’ve never seen a changing of the guards maybe would be worth it.
In between and after visiting attractions, I was of course eating and drinking (coffee & cocktails). Copenhagen’s reputation as a culinary destination precedes it and, even with the recent closing of Noma, there’s plenty of delicious food to be eaten. My personal food highlights were:
Kiin Kiin: This one Michelin star Thai restaurant is tasting menu only and was my splurge for the trip. I wasn’t disappointed by any course and all presented traditional Thai flavors in innovative ways. If you have some lead time to make a reservation, a lower cost shorter tasting menu is offered early in the evening. Kiin Kiin also has some more casual sister restaurants that I didn’t have a chance to try
Restaurant Koefoed: The lunch menu here is a deal for Copenhagen and offers the traditional Danish open-faced sandwich smorrebrod
Mad & Kaffe: I missed breakfast here (damn you late night at Culture Box) but had an incredible veal tartare smorrebrod and (hard to find) iced coffee here. The breakfast menu is tapas style and looked amazing
Food Halls: Copenhagen Street Food and Torvehallerne offer lots of different options, as well as outdoor seating. Much like at home in New York with the Chelsea Market and Smorgasburg, the main issue is not being able to eat everything!
On the drink side of things, Copenhagen also doesn’t disappoint. As a heavy coffee drinker, it was really nice to find good coffee on almost every block. As a lactose/casein intolerant person, it was even nicer that 90% of places offered a non-dairy milk option.
In America, we are very much in the nascent stages of thinking about and implementing sustainable practices so it was very nice to see how much further along Denmark is, from the oat milk above to food packaging at Copenhagen Street Food, and even Ibsens Hotel where I stayed is carbon neutral. In spite of all my eating in Copenhagen, I ended up losing weight, which also happened to me in Stockholm. Better food and environment = better bodies (and Danes look great)!
On the less healthy end of things, I tried a number of cocktail bars in Copenhagen, which were all low key and had creative menus. My highlights were Ruby, which is perpetually listed among the top bars in Copenhagen (get there early if you can), and Strom. The bartender at Ruby gave me a recommendation for a bar and bartender in Stockholm, which gives me yet another reason to go back to the region.
While I had a great time solo in Copenhagen, it was nice to meet up with a familiar face my last night. My friend Alex was doing his live Sailor & I set at the Culture Box, the main underground electronic music venue in Copenhagen. This was my first time getting to see Alex sing/DJ and the set and crowd were both a lot of fun.
The next day I was off to Budapest, which hopefully will be the subject of another post, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Copenhagen and trying places I didn’t make this time around. The Danish word “hygge,” defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being,” is the perfect way to describe how I felt about Copenhagen! Until next time.