It has been a bit over a year now since my friends and I took this mid-week trip to Copenhagen from London, but I am finally getting around to writing this blog post! Beter laat dan noit!
This trip happened completely on a whim. I had mentioned the cheap flights to Denmark to my friends when we had met up for lunch one day, and we were trying to sort out when we could pull this off. A few weeks later, I get a message from one of my friends asking if I would be willing to go in the middle of the week to Copenhagen for a short 2 day excursion. Having had no classes on Wednesdays or Thursdays, I immediately said, “count me in” – and from there we bought our tickets (£14 roundtrip!! RyanAir is a true blessing), booked our cab to the airport, and started planning our itinerary.
Just a side note, Copenhagen is quite a small city compared to London. So, if you are on a tight schedule/budget (like we were), or if you are lucky enough to be going on a long trip through Europe, you can definitely get a good feel for the city in 2 days time.
The day began at an ungodly hour for me as I had to walk over to my friends’ (Mila, Flávia, and Flávia’s past roommate who was visiting, Laura) building to meet up with them. Unluckily for me, it was POURING and I made the mistake of walking over without my umbrella. Once I arrived, we waited in the lobby for our cab to bring us to Luton Airport for our early morning flight. We would arrive in Copenhagen with the rest of the day free for us to explore.
Luckily, we were staying at the hotel right next to the airport, so we were able to grab a quick bite to eat, drop any extra belongings in our room and head off into the city center. Copenhagen is super accessible by metro even from the airport which is a bit out of the way from the city center. There are only 2 main lines for you to take – the M1 (yellow) and M2 (green) and both bring you to Vanløse. Lufthavnen (the airport) is the last stop on the M1, so from there we bought our tickets and made our way over to Nørreport. (More info on Københavns Metro.)
Once we made it to Nørreport, we wandered around for a while through the city. We didn’t have much in mind for the day besides crossing off the famed Nyhavn waterfront and Little Mermaid statue from our list. So we kept it easy and took our time walking around and chatting. Perhaps it was the middle of the week and not a peak time for tourists, but during our stroll I couldn’t help but notice how few people were out and about. I didn’t mind much though – for me this was a nice breather from the hustle and bustle of London.
Sankt Petri Kirke
Sankt Petri Kirke (or St. Peter’s Church in English) is the oldest church building in Copenhagen. With roots to the Evangelical-Lutheran sect, Sankt Petri is also home to the only burial vault in Northern Europe. Although we could not go inside, if you are visiting later in the year (April – September) the church is open to the public from Wednesdays to Saturdays for free. (Fun Fact: For those of you who are well-versed in Danish royal history – or not – may remember that King Christian VII’s doctor, Johann Friedrich von Struensee, was buried here. Side Note: If you want a solid Danish movie to watch, give En Kongelig Affære (A Royal Affair) a go. It’s about the affair between Christian VII’s wife, Caroline Matilde, and his doctor. It’s all based on true events and is really well done!) Find out more about Sankt Petri Kirke.
Formerly known as Sankt Nikolaj Kirke (another church!), Nikolaj Kunsthal was converted into a contemporary art center and is home to the annual Videokunst Festival in Copenhagen. The festival was on going while we were in town, so we were able to watch one of the videos/short films being featured inside the building. Normally there is an entrance fee, but on Wednesdays guests enter for free (seems like free entry on Wednesdays is a common trend in Copenhagen…). The building happened to be under construction so there were lots of temporary edifices up, but I’ve seen pictures of what the center and galleries look like and it is quite beautiful. Definitely worth a quick peep if you are nearby! Learn more here.
Wandering over to Nyhavn
After spending some time in Nikolaj Kunsthal, we continued on through the cobbled streets passing through the University of Copenhagen (Københavns Universitet) and eventually out onto the street parallel to Christiansborg Slot (the inlet of land where Christianborg Palace and the Børsen are located). The air was clean, crisp, and cool, and though we were probably taking a longer route to get to Nyhavn, we didn’t mind. We were simply enjoying the sights of the city.
Perhaps the most iconic (and touristy) place in Copenhagen, Nyhavn is truly a sight to behold. The canal once was a bustling commercial port where ships from around the world would dock and unload their goods. Now the place is known for the colorful homes and restaurants surrounding it. (Fun Facts: No. 9 is the oldest house in Nyhavn, dating back to 1681. No. 20 is where Hans Christian Anderson lived!) Learn more about Nyhavn.
You could easily spend all your time here just taking pictures, grabbing a bite to eat, and staring out at the water. This was one of the busier places we went, and I can only imagine what it would be like in the summer!
After making our way out of Nyhavn, we decided to pop into a coffee shop for a quick cuppa. We noticed a small demonstration right outside and asked our barista what it was about (surprise, none of us understood Danish). She told us that they were protesting a proposed cut in education wages for students. In Denmark (as with several places in Europe), kids of schooling age are paid to go to school/university and the wages act as an incentive to keep up with furthering one’s education. It’s actually pretty interesting to think about, especially for those in the US where you pay HUGE amounts of tuition. (Here’s a good article that outlines the Statens Uddannelsesstøtte funding in Denmark.)
Once we warmed ourselves up, we continued on through town.
Amalienborg is the where the Danish royal family resides (generally in the wintertime). While not actually a singular palace as the name suggests, Amalienborg is a collection of four separate palaces. Each were constructed and styled in the Rococo design, and has been noted as one of the best places to see such design and artwork. You can also watch the Changing of the Royal Guards here every morning. (Learn more.)
Although we didn’t go inside the Amalienborg Museum, we did stop by the Marble Church (Frederiks Kirke) and caught a glimpse at the Christian X statue which are both located in the Amalienborg slot of Frederiksstaden. (Learn more about Frederiks Kirke.)
If you have time, I would recommend spending part of the day here. You can start the day with the changing of the guards and then continue to explore the palaces and museum!
Our next stop was just a bit farther past Amalienborg at the Designmuseum Danmark. Inside there are a ton of cool exhibits from Asian decorative art to Danish chair design. (Learn more.)
The museum is usually free for people under 25, but if you are older you’ll have to pay an entrance fee. However, if you visit on a Wednesday, you’ll enter for free AND there will be free guided tours too!
Finding the Little Mermaid
After finishing up at the Designmuseum, we decided to make our way to our next stop – Den Lille Havfrue (or the Little Mermaid statue). Many people say it is a bit confusing to find, but just keep in mind that the statue is by the water’s edge and past Kastellet (an old military barrack which is now is a popular for runners). If you have time, Kastellet is a great place to walk around and explore before heading to the Little Mermaid statue, especially if you want to avoid crowds. Churchillparken is also right outside Kastellet, and is also a great place to walk through.
End of the Day
With the evening drawing close, we decided to continue on and try to find something to eat before heading back to our hotel. We decided walk back towards Amagertorv/Strøget (learn more about Amagertorv and Strøget.) and the Nørreport area to find some food (we ended up going to McDonald’s though). There are a lot of good options depending on what you like to eat and what your budget is. There are many high-class restaurants (and even pubs if you fancy) in the area that offer great selections, however, as students you can’t fight that student budget.
Side Story: Unfortunately, one of my friend’s had her phone stolen while we were at McDonald’s. Just as a side note, Strøget is another busy stretch as it is a shopping and commercial area in Copenhagen. Although Copenhagen is generally really safe, as always when traveling, be wary of your surroundings and don’t keep your valuables out of your sight! Although it wasn’t how we expected the day to end, it was a good wake up call for us moving forward.
As we walked around here are some final things we saw before heading back to the hotel for the night. All in all, despite the unlucky turn of events during dinner, it was a pretty solid day of sightseeing through city – and we couldn’t wait for the next day!
(Continue on to Day 2 in Copenhagen!)