A Sunny Weekend in Copenhagen
My pictures from Copenhagen didn't turn out as well as I'd like. The sun was SO BRIGHT. I should honestly just learn how to use my camera instead of shooting in automatic mode like a lazy bum. Or actually get out of bed before all the other tourists and take advantage of early morning light (again, lazy). But here we are. Shadows, shadows, and more shadows.
Copenhagen is hopping, happy, hygge, and beautiful. It reminded us a lot of Amsterdam. Virtually every street is lined with colorful houses, the city is very clean, and there's water everywhere. There are beaches along the Baltic Sea, canals through the city center, and lakes (Søerne) just outside the historic old town. Cute shops with flowers and beautifully designed home items are everywhere, as are snegel pastries and cafes. We dipped our toes into the Danish trifecta of design, "new Nordic cuisine," and award winning beer and our wallets lived to tell the tale. Their food and drink are truly way above average. We didn't eat a single bad thing.
Copenhagen is crazy expensive, so if you visit, do yourself a favor and book accommodations that allow you to prepare at least one meal per day. The good news is that you don't need to eat at Noma or buy an Arne Jacobsen original to enjoy the best that Copenhagen has to offer. We had a delicious dinner at Bæst: an organic pizza restaurant where all the ingredients are locally sourced from the flour used in the dough, to the milk for their hand-stretched mozzarella, to the meat on their charcuterie boards. They have their own cows and pigs 40 miles outside Copenhagen to ensure they have ultimate control over the quality of their ingredients, and their custom wood-fired oven was built in Naples (Italy, not Florida). You bet we tried that charcuterie and handmade mozzarella. Fab fab fab.
Let's talk about Airbnbs in Copenhagen. When we were searching for a place to stay SO MANY of them had the WORST bathroom situations. Smaller than a pantry, no discernible shower area... the shower head would be somewhere random, mounted on the wall if you're lucky, and you're just supposed to soak the whole bathroom. I've stayed in places that have beautiful wet bathrooms so I'm familiar and very comfortable with the concept. This took the situation to an extreme and just seemed totally unnecessary. I get that the whole hygge thing means that they design their homes with tiny bathrooms and bedrooms so they can entertain large numbers of people around their beautifully handcrafted wood tables in expensive designer chairs with candles all over the place. But what if your guests need to use the loo? And the whole thing is soaked?
We picked a place that had a better bathroom, but the rest of the place was just so weird. It didn't really bother us when we were there, but now the idea of living there full time makes me cringe. One entire wall was a speaker installation and the opposite wall was a 2-tier couch wrapped around a table and the whole thing was made of books. Those of you who follow my Instagram stories saw a few snippets of this. It makes no sense, I know. Picture floor to ceiling yellow/orange/red ombre books sawed and glued and otherwise destroyed to form walls and supports for a 2-tier couch. There were also secret compartments. IMO, it looked a bit like a hot mess and it would have been cooler if you could actually select a book and read it. Connor decided on day 2 or 3 that the owner was a tool. A few well-placed stickers indicated how he feels about police (unfavorably) and an award certificate from a football team was framed in one corner. Whatever. We drank their coffee and it was delicious.
We didn't visit any museums or do many touristy things on this trip, other than walking everywhere to see things from the outside. We did climb the 17th century Rundetaarn and we also checked out the (free) Rådhus, city hall.
We enjoyed the gardens near Rosenborg Castle and had a picnic near the Kastellet military fortress. Kastellet is moated and shaped like a star, and visitors are free to just wander through (no good pics of this, unfortunately).
Our Airbnb was in the trendy Nørrebro neighborhood and right near the lakes: three rectangular reservoirs that were damned up when the city needed power for windmills. We joined the locals and went for a run one morning around all three lakes.
One thing about the Danish: they don't mess around with their hobbies. All the other runners were wearing actual running gear, something Americans sort of do if we remember and if those particular clothes are clean. Have you read The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell? Very entertaining and a great preface to our trip. She mentions, and I definitely noticed, that the Danes are into GEAR. Gear shops all over the place. It was awesome. We passed a ski shop when we first arrived and I wanted to drop my bags and just hug the building (it's been too long!). Anyways, we had a great 5k morning run and sat by the lakes afterward enjoying the sunshine.
We took one of the city's free walking tours of the borough of Christianshavn hoping to learn a bit more about Copenhagen's Freetown Christiania. Have you heard of it? Prior to the tour, my understanding was that this is basically one of Europe's largest hippie communes... allowed to just do their own thing... tolerated by the government, despite the fact that all these people are squatting on waterfront government property. Turns out the government wants 76 million kroner for the land by the end of next year.
So its basically a collectivist, socialist, anarchist community squatting on government property. They pride themselves on supporting and caring for their neighbors, tolerating all lifestyles, and providing a safe place for people to start over and get back on their feet. They have a few basic rules like no cars, no guns, no knives, no bulletproof vests (??). Our guide explained this as: nothing that goes "bang." They don't have building codes and they are all about recycling. They no longer allow hard drugs (gotta take care of your neighbors... if all the residents are ODing and dying, the government will shut them down), but marijuana is openly sold on the community's main street, and is subject to occasional raids. For that reason, no cameras or running are allowed on Pusher Street.
Let me translate this into what we actually experienced. Yes, I made Connor walk through the thing with me because I wanted to form my own opinion and see for myself. Basically, the rules exist so the tourists don't accidentally trigger any of the burnouts. No running, shouting, banging, clicking cameras! There are also problems with gangs moving in and taking over the drug trade. Our guide told us to support the residents by buying some of their art instead of the drugs. The DIY homes made out of recycled materials are not reminiscent of Peter Pan, as I was imagining. One house was a rotting boat covered in patched sheets. Usually, I can get into the street art scene and I've actually really loved a lot of the graffiti in London. I wasn't feeling it in Christiania. As we walked through the streets, that feeling that descends upon me after 5 minutes in Ikea paid a visit. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!
Is it worth visiting? I think your imagination can tell you everything you need to know. Good luck to the residents with the 76 million. There's no way they're going to raise that money unless a sympathetic millionaire bails them out.
Onto more enjoyable moments... if beer is your thing, you would love Copenhagen! Famed Mikkeller brewery started here and has a few bars around town. One is a collaborative bar between Mikkeller and Three Floyds (brewery out of Indiana) called Warpigs. Torvehallerne, Copenhagen's big market and a must-visit, has a Mikkeller and Friends stall. The name is everywhere. And their beer is freaking expensive. The Mikkeller name and brand has sparked something of a beer craze throughout the city and everyone else has upped their game as a result. We chatted with a woman running a bar in our neighborhood and her dad used to brew with Mikkeller and now has his own outfit. She recommended a bunch of places to try and we visited a few. My favorite was BRUS. Great hygge vibes. Mikkeller was great too, but cramped. They had Founders' KBS on tap and it made my day.
Visit Copenhagen, wander its beautiful streets, try a snegel pastry from Det Rene Brød, sample some Mikkeller, buy some beautiful Danish items at Illum (candlesticks, for us, obvi), or Norman Copenhagen (little bird!), skip Hay House and its low inventory, and make sure your accommodations provide a normal bedroom and bathroom. You'll be happy as a clam and so glad you decided to visit a country known for it's bike friendly streets and "cozy time" hygge.