A week-long summer fling with Copenhagen - Part 2
Continuing on from Part 1.
With our apartment located only a five-minute bike ride to the King's Garden, most our days started and ended with a stroll through its fairytale-like grounds. Like having the Rosenborg Castle, soaring closeby wasn't enchanting enough, here, there's also a tree-lined avenue, a large rose-garden, and some beautiful bronze sculptures speckled around, ready to cast you under its spell with every visit. Depending on the time of the day, I noticed families picnicking, young people tanning and clusters of small groups playing games on the grass, barefooted. Sometimes, we even found ourselves alone in the park, with not another soul to be seen, as if I made a silent wish for some private time with the park and had it quietly granted.
There really is nothing like getting above it all to survey a city in all its wonder. We were reminded of this during a visit to City Hall Tower. Upon entering City Hall, it felt like we had been transported back in time; vibrant red Danish flags lined the internal atrium with light filling the space. But the true beauty of this building only came upon climbing the 300 steps to the top, up, grand staircases, along with smaller timber ones, before finally reaching the cool air, 100 meters above the city streets. From high up, it's almost as if you're able to hold the city in your hands; like you're cradling a snow globe of Copenhagen.
I really think that if you want to fully immerse yourself in a new city, then you need to explore what's also on offer, outside the heart of it all. Since we were gifted with so much sunshine during our visit, we decided to dedicate an afternoon, taking a 20-minute bike ride from the city, heading south toward Amager Strandpark; a two-kilometer-long artificial island with a long sandy beach and grassy dunes. The main attraction for us here was the Kastrup Søbad; a smooth timber sea bath rising out of the water, just 50 meters from the beach. The diving platform is a popular spot in summer, but during a normal weekday, we only had to share the space with a few locals coming down for a quick dip.
We came across this picturesque public square towards the end of our trip and instantly wished we found it sooner. Gråbrødretorv is hidden away quite well, while still being only meters from the bustling Strøget shopping stretch. The streets bordering the square are just small laneways really, and it was only by chance, riding home one afternoon, that we glimpsed rows of tables and chairs full of people, through one of the narrow entrances to the square. We circled our bikes and headed on in to find the atmosphere buzzing. Waiters busily stalked the rows, taking orders and bringing drinks back just as quickly; a pop-up-bar was serving Negronis by the handful, to people who were casually sitting on the cobblestoned-ground, in either intimate or boisterous groups. And as the rainbow-coloured buildings muted with the fading light, we took a table right at the front and signaled a waiter.
Long Summer Days
I know that most places experience longer sunlight during the summer months, but when it comes to Denmark being so far north, the summer days here are even longer. We visited in early June, Copenhagen's start of summer, where the sun rose as early as 4am and did not set until as late as 10pm. Admittedly, this played with our minds a little in the beginning, as at times we would be having dinner at 8pm, though it would feel more like lunchtime; there were even some nights when we would try and head to bed and it would still feel like broad daylight. After a few days of this, you do learn to use it to your advantage as we did. We would head out for the entire day to explore, then head home for a quick nap in the late afternoon, before heading out again with still so much sunlight to greet us for the rest of the evening — it almost felt like we could fit two days worth of exploring in one, which for a short trip, was much welcomed.
One sunny afternoon we treated ourselves to a long leisurely lunch at Väkst, a restaurant designed as a green oasis in the city. The space features an abundant of hanging plants, outdoor bulb lighting, and a greenhouse built in the center, stretching over two floors. The basement design looks like a concrete urban jungle with a nod to up-cycled furniture, though we sat upstairs, at a table, opening up to the street so that we could soak up the sunshine. Being a Michelin star restaurant, the food was equally beautiful and super delicious too — a true highlight of our trip.
Copenhagen is one of those cities where instead of trying to find those one or two ridiculously beautiful streets, the real challenge is to try and find one that's not. It seems everywhere I turned I found a new one which I swore was my favourite, that was until I turned another corner and found an even prettier that would instantly change my mind. In addition to most streets being coloured in vibrant hues, there were also a lot of houses sporting a fanciful flowery façade, with robust rose bushes enveloping their doorways, climbing up and up toward the roof. With each house I fell in love with, I found myself wondering who lived there and whether or not they'd adopt me.
The final tower that was on our list to climb was Christiansborg Tower; a part of Christiansborg Palace where the Danish parliament is located. Although the tower is the tallest in the city, you're able to hitch a ride up an elevator, most of the way to the top, before climbing a small set of stairs. Being located in the actual center of the city, reaching the top gives you panoramic views of Copenhagen. It's also the tower that's open the latest, which gave us a different view of the city during a different filter of light. We were the last to leave during our visit, creating an eery beauty as we left the palace grounds.
On our last night, we decided to spend it cruising around the canals by hiring a Go Boat; a little electric boat you can rent by the hour. Each boat has a picnic table in the middle, so we made sure to bring something easy for dinner, plus a bottle of champagne and some beers to celebrate what had been an incredible week. The boat was really easy to maneuver, with the freedom to sail anywhere we wanted to around the city. This really allowed us to see a different side of Copenhagen, one that is clearly and strongly connected to a care-free lifestyle revolving around the water. With or without a boat, people flocked to the water's edge, making the most of the warm summer evening. We passed many other hire boats full of couples or groups of friends, plus some that were clearly locals who take to the water often with their own means. We got told that it is custom to greet each other, whenever passing on the canals, so we made sure to do just that.
What an unexpected pleasant surprise this trip had become. I now truly understand why the Danish people constantly rank amongst the happiest in the world. It's the type of happiness found along the colourful streets, planted on the grounds of the royal gardens, perched high above the towers, and reflected on the mirror-like lakes. It's contagious, even for visitors, and if you're lucky enough to catch it, you may just bring some of that happiness home with you.