Hello! Velkommen til København!
It’s going to be hard to limit such an impossibly cool city down to a mere Top 5, but I’m going to try my best.
I will mention that Copenhagen is a city designed to be seen and enjoyed via bicycle. If you’re someone who regularly enjoys cycling – consider Copenhagen your mecca.
I personally, am the only person who the quote, “You never forget how to ride a bike” doesn’t apply to…because, well, I forgot how to ride a bike. Because of this, my travel buddy Kate and I were dependent on the city’s metro system – and while very efficient, it definitely takes a minute to understand how all the buses, trains, and ferries connect.
Pro tip: if you do choose to stick to public transportation as we did – get yourself a Rejsekort. We each grabbed one and loaded 300 kroner on it (about $47). This amount served us well for our time spent in Copenhagen – we never had to reload our cards.
An important thing to note about your Rejsekort is when to “check in” and when to “check out.” Similar to The Tube in London, the price of Copenhagen’s metro is determined by distance traveled. Therefore, they need to be able to track exactly where it is you’re going. To do so – you scan your card at the designated “check in” portals before boarding any buses, trains, or even ferries. You may have to “check in” several times within one trip (allowing for transfers); however, you only “check out” once when your entire journey is completed.
Here’s the most important bit…you want to be sure to “check out” within two hours of any time you “check in,” otherwise, the Rejsekort system will subtract a set deposit from your card’s total value.
I realize this all might sound a little intimidating at first, but I promise you’ll quickly get the hang of it.
Alright, now that we know how we’ll be getting around this incredible city, let’s dive in to our Top 5.
#1 – Canal Tour
The Canal Tours in Copenhagen are a great way to get the lay of the land. There are about a dozen offered along the Nyhavn Canal – some offer a more private experience or even serve alcohol onboard, but obviously those add-ons reflect in the ticket price. Kate and I simply wanted to get our bearings, so we opted for a no-thrills company that provided a larger boat, accommodating more people.
Away we went on an hour long tour – we were incredibly impressed by our tour guide who managed to repeat all of the information 3 times – once in Danish, once in English, and once again in German. #talkaboutamouthful
Taking this boat tour really helped us to understand the layout of the city and to get a better idea of which neighborhoods we’d want to go back and explore further. Also, Copenhagen is famous for their low bridges, and this tour gets you up close and personal with about half a dozen of them. It was so interesting to see the varying architecture of every bridge. My personal favorite was the very first one the tour takes you under. I simply loved the weight and aged look of the metal.
Should you ever find yourself on one of these tours – be sure to report back here with which bridge ranked as your personal favorite. 😉
#2 – Tivoli Gardens
If I could only pick one favorite thing from Copenhagen – without a doubt it would be Tivoli Gardens. As the second oldest theme park in the world, Tivoli is thrilling, beautiful, historical, and sometimes…even a little unsettling (I’m looking at you The Flying Trunk).
It’s a city within a city – it has something to offer everyone. Endless rides, games, music, shops, restaurants, and confectionary stands. Tivoli is a treat for the mind, body, and senses.
It’s a unique place that manages to respect the classics (such as Ballongyngen – a balloon shaped Ferris Wheel that opened in 1943 during WWII) while kindly welcoming in the new (Tivoli’s most recent ride opened in 2013). I’m just saying – if a theme park in the center of Copenhagen can make it work, couldn’t we have figured out how to expand Harry Potter AND keep The Jaws ride? That’s right – I’m throwing shade at you, Universal. #shame
Anyway…back to Tivoli…
Kate and I spent nearly the majority of one day in Tivoli, and honestly, we could have gone back for more. Our original goal was to go on every single ride within the park (yes, even the kiddie ones), but alas, we fell short by just 5. Understanding the park a little better now, we could have easily achieved that goal had we arrived a just a touch earlier and spent a little less time gabbing over drinks at one of the fabulous restaurants along the entrance row.
Please go explore Tivoli Gardens for yourself. If you love wild rides as much as I do – I would urge you towards Aquila, The Demon, and Vertigo. Also, don’t you dare miss the chance to go on Star Flyer – at 80 meters tall, it provides an incredible way to see the entire city of Copenhagen.
#3 – Kayak Bar
Without a doubt – my favorite meal we had in Copenhagen.
Kayak Bar is located directly on the water, nestled under one of the city’s many canal bridges. It is a truly unique space that provides live music, kayak rental, and absolutely delicious food.
My apologies for not providing more photos of this space, but truthfully, we were having such a wonderful girls’ evening – gabbing and sharing a couple bottles of wine – that we completely forgot about taking photos. I did, however, happen to nab the one adorable picture you see at the top of this section of Kate and her cousin.
Therefore, provided the lack of photos, I’m afraid you’ll just have to go see Kayak Bar for yourself 😉 Be sure to order the Grilled Meat of the Day Plate – it’s big enough to share! The night we were there, they were serving veal ribs, which were seasoned to perfection and absolutely delicious. I’m drooling now just thinking about them.
#4 – Papirøen (Paper Island)
Paper Island was so good, we went there twice.
As a New Yorker, I am not unaccustomed to food trucks or markets (Gansevoort in Greenwich Village or Smorgasburg in Brooklyn being a couple of my faves); however, Paper Island takes food purveyance to another level entirely.
Hosting 39 vendors, and 200 employees, the multi-level “island” is a treat for the eyes and, obviously, tastebuds. Be sure to go hungry enough to try multiple things, but not so hungry that the mass selection of items overwhelms you.
Out of all the things we tried at Paper Island, my Top 3 would have to be:
- The Hazelnut Iced Coffee – as a total coffee addict, this was hands down the best coffee I found during our entire trip.
- The Pulled Duck Burger
- The Crème Brûlée Donut
Yes. That’s right. A crème brûlée donut – filled with custard, then sugared and torched for you upon ordering.
I was absolutely obsessed with this doughnut. Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside…it was heaven. Also – when they offer to top your creme brulee doughnut with ice cream and chocolate – do not hesitate to say, “YES!”
As for where to sit and enjoy your delicious food – Paper Island offers both inside and outside seating. The first day we went – it was raining in Copenhagen so we ate inside. The space was pretty crowded so we were ultimately pushed upstairs. This is all fine and good in the long run, but keep in mind, you’re essentially in one giant kitchen…and heat rises. We got pretty toasty (re: sweaty) upstairs, but we also got some of the best pictures of the space so it worked out as a pretty even trade if you ask me.
The other option – which is what we did for our second visit to Paper Island – is to take your meal to go and venture out to picnic on the lawn at Frederiksberg. I was skeptical at first as the map shows it to be a bit of a hike, but the food traveled well and it was wonderful to dine and relax in the sunshine. Be advised, however, if you do go for this option, be sure to take a blanket to rest on as there are plenty of geese roaming the area. #birdpoopaplenty
#5 – Christiania
Ooooooo boy. What to say about the unique experience that is Christiania…
Christiania is a self-proclaimed, autonomous territory right on the edge of Copenhagen. Previously a military base, the neighborhood has grown to house 850 residents after a group of hippies squatted in the area during the 1970s.
The space is considered a “freetown” – therefore, it doesn’t abide by the laws of Denmark, but rather by it’s own rules put into place during a series of group meetings.
The big draw for a lot of tourists traveling to Christiania is that weed is technically legal within the town’s perimeter. In fact, whenever we asked about even venturing to the area, the “Green Light District” was always one of the first things mentioned.
Now, since weed isn’t legal in Denmark, but is considered so in Christiania, there is obviously some controversy surrounding the matter. Over the years, there have been police raids and violence in the area. To avoid giving reason for another raid to occur, it’s asked that no photos are taken in the “Green Light District.”
Truthfully, as a rule of thumb, I’d suggest even extending that principle through all of Christiania. Should you really want to take a photo of some of the art or a building – ask a local first. They are perfectly friendly and welcoming, and will be super appreciative of you asking.
Be sure to stop in the cafes and art galleries along the way. The artists we met during our time in Christiania were so lovely. Each warmly welcomed us into his/her studio to tell us more about his/her process and work. I resonated so much with one artist’s style that I even opted to bring a piece of Christiania home with me.
Bonus: Churros and Waffles on the Canal
Back at The Nyhavn Canal (where you surely enjoyed one of the canal tours recommended earlier), take a spare moment to jump into one of the shops offering ice cream, waffles, and churros. It will surely put you into a sugar coma, but come on…doesn’t this look worth it?