Travelling in winter can lead to all sorts of adventure. You don’t need blue skies and a heatwave to enjoy the best of Europe’s cities! In our next series we’ll be throwing back to our recent winter city breaks on the continent. First up, say Hej to the Danes!
Are you thinking of booking a winter weekend getaway in Europe? Consider Copenhagen… it’s one of Europe’s most classically beautiful cities, sprinkled with Michelin starred (and recommended) restaurants, with surprises hiding around every corner (looking at you, Christiania…)
Did you know over HALF of people in Copenhagen cycle to work?! That’s one way to see the city and with cycle lanes hogging a decent chunk of most roads, it’s probably the easiest way to whizz through the districts. Which brings us onto our first tip…
Where to stay?
We stayed in the bustling district of Frederiksberg which in itself is worthy of a visit, as well as being within walking (and cycling!) distance of the city centre and all its attractions. There’s also a glorious park for a morning walk or chilly evening stroll! Check out Airbnb for gems that will make your stay that little bit more Danish. Our host Michael even bought us traditional chocolates and amazing wine as it was my birthday, not to mention him being a fountain of knowledge for the city – great guy! Check out his listing (including his orange tree), here. It’s also ridiculously close to Forum metro station.
What to see?
With just a long weekend in Denmark’s capital, you won’t be short of sights to see. The architecture alone is enough to keep you wandering contently for hours and, if you’re heading here for the shopping, be sure to check out the flagship Lego store on Vimmelskaftet – an attraction in itself!
Here are a few of our highlights…
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
Once upon a time, in an unsuspecting building in central Copenhagen, the lifetimes works of a beloved poet and author were put on display. If you didn’t already know, H. C. Andersen wrote many of the fairy tales you will have known and loved as a child, including The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina and The Princess and the Pea. Cue story time flashbacks! Head to his museum on Rådhuspladsen and explore the weird and wonderful for yourself.
One of the city’s most popular attractions, Tivoli Gardens is a fairground trapped in time. Steeped in tradition, the 83,000 square metre fun park first opened in 1843 and its exotic gardens even inspired Andersen’s Nightingale. Flora aside, there’s a rollercoaster still operated by a ‘brake man’ (as scary as it sounds) and a magical atmosphere like no other which even fuelled Walt Disney’s fascinations and inspirations when he visited in 1955. It even survived WWII sabotage – what a place!
Halloween and Christmas are times when it really comes alive, so be sure to check opening times and special events on the website.
This art museum shares its name with the nearby brewery because it was in fact founded by Carl Jacobsen himself! Filled with both ancient and modern art, the Glyptoteket is great for those who have a keen interest as well as those who just fancy a wander around beautiful surroundings – the Winter Garden (pictured) has a delish little cafe for a spot of coffee and cake, too!
A place where no two buildings are the same will always get our attention… make time to explore this harbourside district’s unique architecture. Bars and restaurants line one side of the harbour while canal boats and museum ships line the waterway – it’s an Instagram dream!
Head here early in the day to avoid the tourist crowds and grab a morning coffee to take the edge off the chilly air. Bliss!
Not far from Nyhavn is Amelianborg Palace – an exceptional statement of royal architecture that still houses the Danish royal family. Plan your visit around 12noon to see the changing of the guard.
Probably one of Europe’s most intriguing yet secretive neighbourhoods, Christiania is a designated ‘Freetown’. Borne out of a hippie group’s dream for independent, free living, in 1971 this green town was established. Christiania is made up of self-built homes, workshops and galleries, music venues, organic and home cooked food spots, and all surrounded by lush nature. Although illegal in Denmark, one area of Christiania is renowned for marijuana dealing. Since 2011, there has been an agreement in place between the state and the inhabitants of Christiania, meaning the Foundation Freetown Christiania actually owns most of the land, independently from the state. It’s unlikely to be like anywhere you’ve previously visited, so worth a wander!
On entrance to the area you’ll be met with a list of dos and don’ts – one to absolutely adhere to is the strict rule of no photography – Visit Copenhagen advises against breaking this rule for your own safety…
For something to tickle your historical fancy, head to the star-shaped Kastellet Fort and meander along the ramparts for great views of the harbour. Soak up the history of this 17th century fortress and even take a peek at the chapel, which is still used today for concerts!
Characteristic in its shape and smack bang in the middle of the city, the Rundetaarn (“Round Tower”) is a whopping 375 years old, making it the oldest functioning observatory in all of Europe. Don’t be put off by the climb, spiral your way up to the top, checking out the exhibition of art, culture and history on the way up. Once at the viewing deck, take in the gorgeous city views.
As for the way down? Running is a fun option…
The Little Mermaid
Just to set expectations, Copenhagen’s most famed tourist attraction is actually one of its smallest. Gifted to the city from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1913, The Little Mermaid sits on the Langelinie quayside promenade and was inspired from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale about a mermaid (you know the one).
Sculptured from bronze and granite, she’s been beheaded twice, had her arm sawn off and covered in paint numerous times – pesky vandals! Avoid peak times if you want to get anywhere near her, she’s a popular little statue.
Back onto regal delights, Christiansborg Slot (or Palace) houses Royal Reception Rooms, the Supreme Court of Denmark and parliament, and sits on the mini ‘island’ of Slotsholmen. The Great Hall and Royal Reception Rooms are most impressive and worth the 90.00 DKK tour fee (about £10).
The last highlight on our recommendation list isn’t one I would have immediately chosen myself… BUT it was still an interesting couple of hours! The first Carlsberg Brewery was located here and the open site allows you to explore anything and everything that goes into this famous brew – yes you get samples. Free shuttle buses take you from the city to Visit Carlsberg, running every hour from 11:00 to 17:00 between Easter and Christmas, but it’s also a great walk.
One last thing – you could look at getting a Copenhagen Card to help ease the expense of all these attractions. You can get 24, 48, 72 or 120-hour cards that range from 389.00 DKK to 889.00 DKK, which include free museum admission, free transport and even restaurant discount – worth checking out!
Where, and what, to eat?
You can’t have researched Copenhagen without coming across Smørrebrød… the Dane’s version of an open sandwich and, arguably, the best! You’ll soon find yourself nose-to-window at all the bakeries and food bars in a desperate attempt to find your fav.
Starting with our most exciting and expensive recommendation, we knew long before we arrived in Copenhagen that we wanted to have a taste of contemporary Nordic cuisine in the form of Michelin-recommended hotspot, Høst. With no less than 13 Michelin-starred restaurants, this city is bursting with foodie talent.
We dared to try new concoctions in the form of crispy squid ink, chicken feet and beef tartar, to name but a few of the taster menu temptations when we visited! Tag on the wine pairing and soak up the award winning Nordic interior design vibes for a culinary experience you’ll never forget (depending how much of that wine you drink…).
If you do choose to stay in Frederiksberg, there’s a great breakfast spot called Kitchenette – help yourself to unlimited delights and set yourself up for a day of exploring (or cure a post-Høst hangover…).
Ideal for a lunch spot on your sightseeing route, Mother serves up Italian dishes without the fuss, in true Danish style. Arguably the best pizza in Copenhagen with a cracking Insta feed, too…
Cock’s and Cows
Wander down to Gammel Strand in an evening and you’ll smell this place before you see it. Serving up all kinds of burgers and sides to fill your winter boots with, Cock’s and Cows is super relaxed with a city vibe. The Cock’s actually stands for Cocktails – it was one of the first places in the city to offer a mix of restaurant and cocktail bar, so a great place to visit on your first night here!
Just next door there’s also a quirky cocktail bar called Fugu if you’re after a cosy and casual atmosphere before you head back to your apartment.
Seems there was a lot more to reminisce and write about than I first thought… If you are planning a trip to the Danish capital this year or even early next, hopefully some of these tips will come in handy – as far as winter city breaks go, Copenhagen is up there with the best. Wrap up warm and embrace the Hygge! And Christmas…