A week-long summer fling with Copenhagen - Part 1
When the team at IKEA Australia invited me to attend their Democratic Design Days event, taking place in Älmhult, Sweden, I instantly was tempted to extend my trip to include a longer stay in Denmark's Copenhagen. The route was to fly from Sydney to Copenhagen, before jumping on a train across to the event. All it took was a quick research of what Copenhagen had to offer, and just like that, my two-day business trip, became a week-long summer fling with this Scandinavian city.
It was winter back home, so I arrived determined to make the most out of my brief and borrowed summer. Luckily, what I came to discover is that I really didn't have to try too hard; Copenhagen was naturally charming, easy on the eye, and the type of place you fall for, rather quickly.
Here's Part 1 of our summer sojourn.
First thing's first, and likely the typical picture-perfect postcard of Copenhagen is Nyhavn; one of the most iconic streets in all of Scandinavia—albeit, the busiest. We made this our first stop here when we arrived in the city; because if any setting was going to give two jetlagged Australians an obvious Danish welcome, it would be this place.
Nyhavn is Copenhagen’s tourist hub, much like Times Square is to New York City. During our visit, I was instantly charmed by the colourful waterside townhouses and the passing boats on the canal. We joined a blend of locals and tourists, either sitting outside one of the many cafes situated along the pavement or strolling along the street's cobblestone paths.
Although it didn't take us long to find out that dining in Copenhagen is a bit on the pricey end, particularly within popular spots such as Nyhavn, we also quickly came to witness the relaxed local lifestyle of the city, with many people sitting by the water's edge, avoiding the pricey restaurants and bringing their own food and drinks with them.
We were drawn back to Nyhavn once more toward the end of our trip, this time just to dangle our feet off the canal, listening to the buskers and people watch the afternoon away.
After getting a quick Danish dose at Nyhavn, we checked-in to our Airbnb apartment, which was located to the north-west of the city center. When we first walked inside the apartment, I was so excited to see so much natural light, filtering through the traditional European windows. And unlike in Australia, we were able to keep the windows open all day and night, without worrying about mosquitoes getting in. I even turned one of the windows into a makeshift table, quickly checking emails in the morning, before heading out for the day. I have come to find that when visiting a city for more than a few days, even the nicest of hotels can start to feel a bit cramped. This is where finding a really amazing Airbnb listing, such as this one, really makes the difference. During our stay, we were able to spread out and return here often, to charge our legs and take a breather.
Copenhagen is definitely a city best either seen on two wheels or two feet; with this, we made sure to hire bikes for the entire week, and prepared ourselves to do lots of walking. This meant that we wouldn't miss a thing while wandering the streets, which at every turn can present you with another quaint, idyllic European scene. Not by accident, we kept strolling past one of the city's most charming streets, Magstræde. It's rumoured to be one of the oldest streets in the city, and with its lazy bends and cobblestone road, you can't help but be feel as though you've been transported to a different time entirely.
The Scandinavian countries have a long tradition of painting their homes in brightly coloured hues, creating rainbow-like streets that you can't help but wished you lived in. This particular street, Krusemyntegade, was only a two-minute walk from our apartment; and so I found a reason to take this route home on most days. We were lucky enough to be visiting during summer, as this is when an array of roses on arched climbing bushes are in full display — adding to the charm of it all!
Our third day in Copenhagen fell on my birthday, and the plan was to have a picnic somewhere 'quintessentially Copenhagen'. This idea lead us to Torvehallerne markets, where we sought to buy all the essentials; cheese, cured meats, and other little delicacies, as well as the not so essentials; champagne and flowers. While we were here, I noticed a little difference to other markets I've been to before, in that, there were people catching up for a drink at the small pop-up bars toward the front, and even people still in their work clothes, doing their shopping on the way home — it felt a little more a part of everyday life, rather than the markets you think of that people visit on rare occasions during weekends.
In what was truly a pinch-me moment, I spent my birthday having a picnic in the King's Garden admiring the Rosenborg Castle. All stocked up from our trip to Torvehallerne market, we rode our bikes here before parking them next to us, as we set up for an early lunch, making the most of the northern sun. It was that kind of afternoon where looking back, I'll be able to recall even the most insignificant of details; like that particular blue colour of the sky overhead, the distant sounds of other people playing games in the park, or the soft breeze that floated along every now and then that cooled my skin, just enough.
In between hitting the main stops around the city, we made sure to spend some time just to sit and watch as normal everyday Copenhagen life went on by. When the day warmed up and our legs needed a bit of a break, it became routine, to simply pull up our bikes and sit down at one of the many corner cafes. Something I came to notice was the number of windows that were wide open along the streets at any given time, as if the people inside wanted to stay connected to what was happening outside, even when staying in.
The actual meaning of Copenhagen, or København in Danish, is 'merchant's harbour', so it makes sense that a lot of the life here centers around the waterways. Drawing in crowds, both locals and tourists alike, is the Christianshavn canal. With an Amsterdam-like feel, this area spectacularly comes to life as the afternoon sun sinks low. There are cafes, restaurants, and bars that all dot the scene — but we took the option to do as the locals do — grabbing some takeaway dinner and drinks, picking out a spot on the edge and watching boats meandering on down.
What was quickly surprising about our trip to Copenhagen was just how warm it could get, during only the early summer months of June. Perfectly located atop the Illum department store, was Original Coffee, a local coffee shop chain with four other locations around the city. We gladly stopped here several times throughout the week, seeking to cool off with iced coffees, out on the rooftop balcony. It was a great way to get a caffeine fix before peddling home in a quiet space, above the bustle of the Stroget.
If it's not obvious by now, let me say it again; Copenhageners love to get out on water, even if it means renting out an oversized swan pedal boat. Yes, these are for adults, and yes, they were a lot of fun! The boats are up for hire at KaffeSalonen, a floating cafe pavilion nearby the Queen Louise's Bridge. Here you're able to buy wine by the (plastic) cup before taking your pick of the swans that are lined up along the deck. Taking off close to sunset, I cruised the mirror-like lake, pedaling along, and admired the grand buildings around me, all whilst gliding alongside a couple of real swans minding their own business.
Copenhagen is sometimes referred to as the ‘City of Spires’, owing to the many ornately designed towers scattered throughout the city. The most extravagant of these, in my opinion, is the Church of Our Saviours, located in Christiania. The imposing nave of the church is only bettered by the 90-meter tall gilded-railing spire that features an external spiral staircase, where you can get some of the best views north towards the city center. But this birds-eye view really isn’t for the faint of heart, as most of the 400-steps to the top, wind their way through the 250-year-old tower structure, up, tight wooden ladders, through narrow passages, around the arrangement of bells, before finally emerging in the fresh air and the late summer light, where the last 150 steps wind their way to the top. In the summer months, the spire is open until 7pm, so time your visit for the end of the day and you might just find, as we did, that you'll have the city views all to yourself come closing time.