Once upon a time there lived a girl named Mary who came from the land of Oz. She found her Prince Charming (literally) and lived happily ever after in a kingdom far far away. As a fresh faced 19 year old I, like many other Australians, watched one of our own walk down the aisle with such grace into a future where Mary Donaldson was destined to become the Queen of Europe’s oldest monarchy. Like any good fairy tale I was intrigued and 11 years later I found myself in the country that caught my attention all those years ago and even walked down the same aisle. Albeit there was no prince waiting for me at the end but it was the perfect happy ending for me… I was following my dream of traveling the world and for an average Aussie girl it was one of those full circle moments which makes you sit back and reflect.
My time in Copenhagen made me understand why any sun loving Australian would pack up their bags and move to the other side of world. It is one of the most unique, calm and charming cities that I have ever of visited. The fashion, the food, the functionality of the place all contribute to me being this close to moving there myself. Copenhagen feels like a super-village. Artisan shops line the streets with the most interesting knickknacks and designs that contribute to the originality that defines the city. Bakeries with the most delicious produce will pull you in with their sugary aroma that fills the air, unless you’re down by Nyvahn where sea salt fuses with beer to create the perfect ambience. Despite all this and more, the unexpected is what will stay with me when I reflect on Denmark because this city will make you fall in love with life again. Everyday I was there, I truly felt in the present and it has been a long time since I understood the meaning behind that sentiment.
Copenhagen, I will be back.
The Quick 5
Where did you stay?
It is difficult, but not impossible, to travel to Denmark on a budget because even cost effective choices like hostels are more expensive than other European cities. Copenhagen is renowned for its gastronomy, but if you are backpacker on a tight budget you might have to sacrifice this aspect of Danish life throughout your stay. As I was travelling alone and had never been to Copenhagen before, a central location was the most important factor for me when searching for a place to stay. Copenhagen Downtown Hostel, situated right in the heart of the city, met this requirement and though they were a little slow on reception due to understaffing the environment has a buzzing energy and a vibrant team eager to make your stay memorable. This hostel is more suited to those travelling as part of a group or for solo travellers looking to meet new people. If you are introverted and prefer a more quiet space then I would look elsewhere at risk of sacrificing the location. In addition, I would also suggest couples looking for something more romantic and private to research alternative options. As previously mentioned, hostel prices in Denmark are astronomical for what they are and if you are part of a couple, group or family Airbnb prices are generally on par with hostel prices, private and better quality.
The good, the bad and the controversial?
Should you intend to include a visit to Freetown Christiania in your itinerary be mindful that photos are not permitted. This was not something I was aware of before venturing to the site as I didn’t do my research regarding the neighbourhood. Furthermore, despite there being several signs around the eco-friendly site communicating the rules, having left my glasses at the hostel I literally had no idea what I was walking into. In retrospect, I don’t know what I was thinking, to be that unprepared is unlike me but fortunately was quietly advised to put away my camera by a local.
Christiania is perceived as controversial and at times unsafe as many tourists have experienced threats, had their property damaged or assaulted for breaking the rules displayed. I have never felt so ignorant and embarrassed at my blatant display of disrespect and though I had no ill intent it reminded me how important it is to always read about where you’re visiting beforehand rather than just make a blind assumption. If you follow the rules, Christiania can be a culturally fascinating place to visit and it is undoubtedly educational for tourists to see all facets of life in Denmark. However, should you be nervous about visiting the neighborhood or simply interested in gaining a local’s perspective a supervised tour, conducted in English and Danish, might be suited to your needs. Prices start at DKK 40 and paid in cash to your guide prior to the 3.00pm departure from the main gate. For my vegan readers, the variety of delicious food options at Christiania make this site well worth including in your itinerary.
Tips, tricks and advice?
As you start to navigate the streets of Denmark’s capital tourists will clearly see that this is a city that supports the arts. I was astounded by the quality of the musicians who lined the streets of Copenhagen expressing themselves through song and it was an honor to be surrounded by such talent. If the weather is favourable during your visit venture outside to soak in the music over a Danish pastry and a take away coffee. Many of these artists sell their CD’s for quite low rates which make for truly economical and personal gifts. Personally, my favourite moment was basking in the Easter sunshine in the main square, with a warm tea from Bertels Salon whilst being truly moved by the music of Peter Jones & The Lazy Bandits.
Denmark is wonderfully tolerant city and having lead the way for gay rights over countless decades has rightly earned the title as the most gay friendly city in the world according to Lonely Planet. Travellers who identify as LGBT might find it beneficial to download the GAY CPH app to source the best gay friendly venues and travellers who are more conservative need to be understanding of Denmark’s exemplary demonstration of equality and express the same level of tolerance whilst visiting. For international couples ready to tie the knot you might want to consider planning a destination wedding to Copenhagen as the country legalised same sex marriage in 2012. This picturesque city will not only provide you with several venue options, as same sex couples can marry in either a church or city hall, but a stunning back drop for photographs.
The Little a Mermaid. Worth it?
As a loyal Disney fan (despite my age) my inner child could not complete a trip to Copenhagen without gazing on the Little Mermaid in all her serene glory. As a red head Ariel is my spirit animal after all. However, the traveller in me advises that it’s a bit of a hike, but a beautiful one if you love to walk and are visiting in the warmer months. Like any famous monument there are an abundance of tourists to compete with so I would recommend rising early and get out before the crowds descend on the shore. Follow your visit to the Little Mermaid with a late breakfast as you plan the rest of your day. If I’m perfectly honest, I wasn’t overly impressed as she was smaller than expected and found the walk more interesting, but when in Rome….
How to get from the airport to the city centre?
Like many of its Scandinavian counterparts, travel to and from the airport in Copenhagen is timely, effortless and efficient. With public transport options including bus, train and metro designed to accommodate a range of budgets and tastes you will not be stranded anytime soon. There are even transportation options, including taxis, to take to Sweden should have a planned onward journey.
Having crossed nearly all of Europe I often get asked what my favourite country is. I knew the moment I found myself in this fairytale city that I had found a contender for the top honour.