Copenhagen, love at first sight

4 days
quite expensive
lot of nature
several monuments and interesting historic buildings
meat and salmon: delicious!
mappa con la destinazione
  1. Denmark
  2. Copenhagen
  3. Copenhagen, love at first sight

It's been so long since I had the "post-travel blues". I visited so many beautiful cities, but for Copenhagen it's been love at first sight!

Some cities just happen to me: stressing period, I want a break, I buy a ticket for the cheapest flight and boom! I fall in love with it!
It already happened with Oslo, I've been completely caught by this northern city's charm!

Airport and public transport

The proximity of the airport to the city center is an underestimate factor until you test the comfort of arriving to destination in 15 minutes! The airport itself, then, is very elegant and tidy. Wood flooring, signs both in Danish and English, smiling police officers at the passport control.
Same for Metro: open 24/7, new and clean, timely, automatic (there is no driver nor ticket office man), trains running every 2 minutes. A single ride ticket is 3.20£ and the 24 h travel card is 8£, valid on buses and boats. Once you buy the travel card, you can store it in your bag all day long because there's no need to touch in and out, just show it to the bus driver. Because there's no gates, at every station you'll find an elevator to the platforms...otherwise, escalators are always available :)

Not to mention bicycles, undisputed queens of Copenhagen's roads.
Bike lanes are well done, divided from the main road through cemented isles, so that no car, bus or truck can hit the cyclists. People rarely wear helmets, probably because they feel safe!
Every traffic light has a bike signal. On every flight of stairs there's a little lane to help climb up and down the bike. At every metro station there's a covered bike park. Obviously the bike sharing is common for tourists and locals: they have a helpful GPS and you can rent them by credit/debit card. Otherwise, the city is full of bikes stores where you can rent or buy.
Cyclists are people of all ages: mums with kids, elders, young. They do everything and go everywhere by cycling, because these bikes have baskets useful to carry bags, babies, friends 😆 Every street is packed of parked bikes, but what impressed me the most is the BIKE SPACE IN THE TRAIN COACHES!! Sorry if I overtalked...I became a cyclist in London few months ago, therefore I'm amazed by this Danish cycling development!

Carlsberg Brewery

Despite it was July, the day we landed in Copenhagen there's was an autumnal weather: 11°C, rainy and a wind blowing the bikes down. Although my leather jacket, I was cold! 😣
That's why we decided to spend few hours in the Carlsberg Brewery/Museum, waiting for the rain to stop.
It's located in Vesterbro, the city's west area. We got there by n.26 bus from the central station. Later we found out that from the central station you can take a free shuttle bus to the brewery, running once an hour.
The entrance ticket for the Carlsberg Brewery is 8£ each and includes: a visit to the museum, to the brewery and two pints of beer. You can drink it both walking around the brewery or at the nice bar located at the first floor: here you'll find football tables, couch and sofas 😙 What I enjoyed the most is the largest collection of bottles coming from all around the world, displaying more than 16,600 different kinds of beer bottles! And petting the horses, of course 😍

Stroget and the round tower

We came back to the city center with the free shuttle bus and decided to have a walk on the main shopping street, Stroget.
It's a long road beginning from the City Hall and ending at the new harbor, Nyhavn: together with its squares and tiny streets, it's one of the longest streets in Europe! Here you'll find several stores, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and local pubs. I found so many H&M's that I thought it was a Danish brand,rather than Swedish 😅

Reached the Round Tower we couldn't help but going up.
The ticket is 2.50£ each, the tower is not one of the tallest (34 mt) but has a distinctive trait: there's no stairs 😄 It's a spiral climb, without stairs!
It was built in 1637 and since then it's been used as astronomical observatory, in addition to the landscape observatory 😁
Halfway you'll find the library: formerly used as academic library, nowadays is home of art exhibitions and gift shop. From the top of the tower the view was not bad...such a shame for that wind!

Where to eat: Det Lille Apotek

At dinner time we randomly walked through a captivating little restaurant with red squared curtains and old fashioned furniture that persuaded us to walk.
Nailed it!
We unknowingly sat at a restaurant launched in 1720, born as a pharmacy: Det Lille Apotek means small pharmacy, indeed.
The internal design is kept unchanged: the old oil lamps, the hand-painted windows and the same square of the time.
Needless to say, the food was delicious: I took a grilled salmon with vegetables, and Massimo took a mixed plate of meat, fish and vegetables.
Both delightful, we paid 20£ each!

Nyhavn, Amalienborg Royal Palace, Kastellet, the Mermaid

The day after, a ray of sun throughout the window woke we up: the weather was definitely better!
We left the umbrellas at home and quickly ran to the well renowned Nyhavn, the colourful harbour I waited for so long!
But what "Nyhavn" does mean? "New harbour". And how old is it? 345! It's been built under the kingdom of Christian V between 1670 and 1673 (here a lot of people are called Christian, by the way! 😁). Formerly known for its bustle of sailors and prostitutes, today is full of bars, restaurants and tourist queuing for their canals boat tour.
Hans Christian Andersen has been living here for 18 years!

Walking throughout the Nyhavn inner streets we came to the Amalienborg Royal Palace, the Queen's winter residence.
Is curious to notice how the Palace lacks of gates or any kind of fences, with just two security guards at the entrance: it's very different compared to the "jail" in London where Elizabeth lives 😆
The museum and some rooms are open to the public, the entrance ticket is around 10£.

Near the Palace there's the **Marble Church", built in 1740 and covered by the largest dome in Scandinavia! Sadly it was closed so we haven't had the opportunity to visit it 😕

Heading north we bumped into a small park, which was the Kastellet background.
This fortress is dated back to 1600 and still used as a military base; despite the "war" intentions, the park and the fortress are still frequented by mothers with children, people walking the dogs or sunbathing.

Leaving the fortress from the north side, we turned right and walked along the Langeline, where we stumbled upon the Mermaid, another famous city icon!
The bronze statue has been built by Edvard Eriksen in 1909, to celebrate the Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale: the sculptor's wife has been his model 😊
Lots of people told me she's small and do not expect anything special. I found it cute instead, and not that small : the Manneken Pis in Bruxelles is way too smaller! 😝

It was obviously overcrowded... making pictures has not been easy, but I did it!

Canals tour

We took the bus coming back to Nyhavn, for our canals boat tour.

Boats depart from the harbour for 1 hour tour every 10 minutes and the ticket is 8£ each. The barge sails towards north to the Little Mermaid, then comes back and squeezes into the canals within the city, passing under very low bridges (watch the heads!). A guide explains in English and Danish all the places, monuments and architectural works that can be seen from the canals.

Kayak Bar

Sailing on the barge we saw a charming little place that aroused our curiosity, so we ran looking for it just after the canals tour.

Kayak bar is built on the bank of the canal: the proper bar, with kitchen, toilets and some tables, is on the land; whereas the benches, umbrellas, other tables and a sand covered area with deck chairs are arranged on a platform resting on the water of the canal, which makes the platform gently waving.
We felt in love with the place and stopped for a beer and a light lunch, wrapped in the blankets provided by the was windy! We wouldn't ever left that place, but another intriguing district was waiting for us... Christiania!

Freetown Christiania

Holding the city map we entered the streets of the Christianshavn district, past the Our Saviour's Church (we've been there the day after) and at some point we saw a wall completely covered with murals, then a wooden bow with the yellow sign CHRISTIANIA .
The road was made of debris, there were many trees, huts, market stands.
The first thing we found was a warning sign:


We were on Pusher Street: stalls were covered by camouflage cloths and the pushers, hidden behind hats, scarves and sunglasses, worked smoothly.
There was a large open space with lots of stalls selling clothing, handmade jewellery, souvenirs and flags: by the way, Christiania has its own flag! Red with three horizontal yellow dots 😆
This square was surrounded by a little hill with many benches; we sat down with a thousand questions blending in our mind. A nice Italian guy told us the story of Christiania.

In 1971 a group of hippies seized a former naval base, proclaiming Fristad, free town. Over the years the Danish Government has tried to remove the occupiers several times, unsuccessfully. Even today, the police do not enter Christiania, and every time the authorities request the illegal activities suspension, the residents deny.
For example, in 2002 the government asked that the hashish trade was carried out less visibly: the inhabitants covered the stalls with camouflage tarps 😂 After years of struggle, people have reached an agreement with the authorities: Christiania remains free on condition that they will buy all the land, which extends in a large park with a lake, valued 10 million Euros!

Christiania is the biggest squatted center of the world, located in the middle of a capital city.
The 1,000 of people living there are out of Copenhagen legislation, do not pay taxes and are self-managed.
Our friend advised us to take a walk in the park, and on the way we saw their houses, shops and a kindergarten. Almost everything made out of wood, covered with graffiti, surrounded by luxuriant nature. Paths were crossed just by people or cyclists (cars are not allowed), with no lights, no pavement.
Coming back to the entrance we noticed that behind the "Christiania" sign is written:


P.s. pics made by phone 😏

Assistens Cemetery

Browsing the net I read that the Assistens Cemetery, the graveyard where also Andersen is buried, is seen more as a park than a necropolis. We decided to go and see the next morning, in the Norrebro area.
Norreport metro stop, then 5A bus to the cemetery.
It's a park indeed! Trees, families with children, sun bathers, people walking the dogs: everything spaced out by graves, tombs and mausoleums.
I must say that at first it all seems weird, the joy of living almost clashed with the silence of the dead.
But then, walking among the graves, I realized that the Danes have a different relation with death: the tombs are well decorated, coloured, neat. The niches often have not only the deceased's name, but also drawings, small sentences telling their life or messages left to the alive.
I didn't feel the anguish and sadness that comes over me when I enter Italian cemeteries (almost never), rather the message that filters is: follow your dreams and fight ignorance.
After a couple of hours we left with a new concept: we like the cemetery so alive!

I love when the journey teaches me things, overturns my ideas, opens my mind, shows me new ways of seeing, thinking, perceiving.
This is the meaning of travelling, and this experience is an example of how much the curiosity can enrich myself.

Tivoli Gardens

Although the Assistens Cemetery was a fairly "living" graveyard, once out of there we decided to give us a shot of life and we ran to the Tivoli Gardens !!

Located between the Central Station and the City Hall, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest theme park in the world: it's been opened in 1843 indeed!
A hotel and a restaurant in Arabic architectural style welcomes at the entrance of the park, leaving space to ancient and modern rides, outdoor theatres and delicious lake warden restaurants. Admission is £9 each, then you have to buy tickets for every single ride from the machines located near each carousel entrance.
Although I really like the amusement parks, that day it wasn't my thing: I wanted to explore the city, not doing rides 😉 So after a couple of hours and a few rollercoaster rides, we left Tivoli and we stopped for lunch in a pub located right across the park entrance, the Vesterbro Bryghus.

We were afraid to find the classic pub food, burgers and fries, but at the same time we were too tired and hungry to look elsewhere, so we sat there.
Nailed it!
We took a chicken and bacon salad, a beef tenderloin in mushroom cream and a breaded plaice with lemon: DELICIOUS!

Museum of Copenhagen

From Tivoli Gardens we took the n.26 bus that in 5 minutes led us to Museum of Copenhagen.
Founded in 1891, it tells the story of the city from 1300 to the present.
A treat for children and young adults: at the top floor of this museum there's a room wholly dedicated to Legos! Thousands of bricks, wheelbarrows and shovels, small chairs and tables, all available to those who want to build their perfect city 😍
Too bad we found it out at 4.45pm, i.e. 15 minutes before closing time!

Our Saviour's Church

We took the bus, went back to the center and slowly moved toward Our Saviour's Church, in Christianshavn district.
I read on the website that a carousels concert is held every Saturday at 6 pm; but when we arrived we've been told that the concert was held at 3 pm: such a waste!!!
We decided anyway to climb the tower.
I'll start by saying that I have never suffered from vertigo: I've always done all kind of roller coaster, climbed towers of every city, at any floor.
Well guys, for the first time in my life I had a panic attack at the top of this tower! 😖

Until the stairs were made of stone everything went fine. The troubles came once I got to the bell tower spire: everything there is made of wood, the steps get shorter and shorter (imagine my 41 size feet!), I had to stop in the middle of the staircase to let people go up and down, a stifling heat (yes, after the first two cold days, at that time was hot! Or maybe I was just panicked?) and that crackling steps not really reassuring! The last steps are so steep, they look like the ladder of a bunk bed!
We finally reached the top: the walkway of the spire is also made of creaking wood, so narrow that there's space for just two people at a time, with low and not reassuring railings.
I grabbed onto the globe and din't want to move any more, I couldn't! My legs were shaking, I was sweating and out of breath, I became pale white! 😨 I asked Massimo to make as many pictures as he could and go away immediately. Once we got to the ground, I laid on the grass and got back my natural skin tone. My legs kept on shaking all night long 😕

(PS: don't be fooled by the smile in photo, it was a fake!)

Danish people and their relation with the canals

With our legs still shaking, we went to sit to the canal nearby, drinking beer, eating crisps and enjoying the atmosphere of a late Danish Saturday afternoon.
And there we felt in love with the city, if by chance we didn't the previous days.
We stopped to observe the Danish and the way they spend a sunny summer afternoon. We saw passing small boats, kayaks, rafts, and any kind of float. People over there were laughing, drinking, doing barbecues, hen parties, small parties, strolls with friends or family.
The canal was clean, many people put their feet into the water to freshen up, someone dived too.
It's a totally different way of living their own stream, I've never seen anyone doing that in Rome, in Florence, nor in London (of course).
Women passed through with bikes and their carts were loaded of shopping bags or children, at least two for each mother.
Whoever was relaxed, smiling and in good company. Whether sitting on the ground beside the canal, on the anchored boats, either in the several bars built on the wavy platforms: everyone was there to celebrate the weekend.
And we were astonished and in love with the relaxed buzz coming from that people.

Our holiday was over, the next morning our plane would have taken us back to the busy London, but we promised to Copenhagen to meet again.
Many times we thought to leave everything and move there: the people-oriented city, the English spoken very well by everyone, the kindness of the locals, the clean air, the ease which people can cycle, the reliable transports, the relaxing working hours: everything is so appealing!!

I have a doubt.
The problem is in me: Copenhagen is too small for me, to live.
I need a city that gives me hundreds of things to do, plenty of choice about how to spend a weekend, which has five airports to escape to any corner of the world.
I needed just 4 days to visit Copenhagen.

And I then... what would I do?

firma di Flavia Iarlori
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