It was early Friday morning in July 2016, when I decided that I would embark on my first ever solo trip to Copenhagen, Denmark on the weekend. I wasn’t sure how I would get there, so I surfed on GoEuro train options and booked a Deutsche Bahn ticket for 8:50 pm. Well, it was only around 8:40 pm, after tirelessly searching for the train platform, I was told by the information counter that this was a bus and not a train! So partly due my stupidity and inability to read German paired with a GoEuro site bug, I had quite an unpredictable and adventurous start to my first ever solo trip 😀
So to all my fellow travel noobies in Europe: Deutsche Bahn also has buses!
The 10 hr overnight bus trip was exhausting yet memorable. I woke up to a dramatic sky at around 4 am. Here’s a pic. I call it the perks of overnight travel.
As I took in this amazing view from the front seat on the top deck of the bus, little did I knew that at 4:30 am, I would have to get off the bus to ride a ferry! The 40-minute ferry ride was unforgettable. I got on to the deck, breathing in the fresh breeze accompanied with tiny drizzle.
Following the ferry ride, I was back on the bus. It felt like the bus was chasing the sunrise and tearing through the raindrops. After seeing a couple of rainbows, I was finally in Copenhagen at 7:30 am in the morning.
Saturday, Day 1:
I guess 7:30 am is pretty early for the scandic region. The streets were pretty deserted. I didn’t have a particular plan in mind so decided to walk around the city. Here’s a list of places I visited during the first half of my day:
- Rosenborg Palace: This palace has been turned into a museum. Even though I didn’t take a tour inside (I’m more of an outdoorsy kind), it’s said to be a treat for all museum enthusiasts. I chose to stroll through the beautiful palatial gardens. Here are a few pictures:
- Torvehallerne: Torvehallerne is an absolute must for all foodies. This food hall has a huge variety, everything ranging from bakeries, pizza joints to butcher shops. It’s a great place to try out scandic cuisine in bits and pieces. I bought a danish pastry and grabbed a corner seat by the window. I was so famished that I forgot to take photos!
- Nyhavn: This is the spot pictured on almost all of Copenhagen’s postcards. Nyhavn, meaning “new harbor”, is lined up with charming colorful buildings that house restaurants and cafes today. It also consists of one of the former residences of the famous Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Anderson. Tip: If you visit Copenhagen in the summer, don’t forget to try some absolutely yummy ice creams at this small ice cream shack called Rajissimo in Nyhavn. They make waffle cones right in front of you!
- Canal cruise: As Copenhagen is a maritime city, it has a lot of charming canals and waterways. The canal cruise is the best way to explore them as they are a fine reminiscence of their Amsterdam counterparts, however, smaller and less diverse in size, yet less crowded and cleaner. (Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Amsterdam! It was the first city I visited in Europe and fell in love with the place.) The tour also gives you a “Glimpse” (yes! just a glimpse as it’s always super crowded) of the most famous sculpture in Copenhagen: The Little Mermaid.
It was almost 3 pm, so I decided to walk back towards my accommodation. I came across The Royal Palace Chapel and decided to take a peek.
Later, I stopped at Wagamama for a late Ramen lunch (yes! Ramen in Copenhagen 😀 ). One thing to note here, Copenhagen is outrageously expensive for tourists just as the rest of Scandinavia. I paid the krone equivalent of almost €35 for a Ramen meal and gyoza. I remember paying around €12-14 for the exact same meal at Wagamama in Amsterdam. So you get the idea …
Apart from this being my first solo trip ever, I had another one of my firsts – staying at a hostel. I figured it would be fun to meet people when traveling solo. So I had booked a bed in a girl’s dorm at Urban House and let me tell you, this has been one of the best travel decisions I’ve ever made (we can leave the goof ups apart). Now, I always book hostels wherever I go. The whole backpacking culture in Europe makes it, even more, better. You meet amazing people (including many solo travelers) from all over the world. And of course, it all makes for an extremely affordable travel.
At the hostel, I met a fellow solo Indian traveler, Ritu. She was planning to visit Tivoli, so I decided to tag along.
Tivoli Gardens: Nestled in the heart of Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens is one of the most ancient amusement parks in the world. It opened its doors way back in 1843 and ranks as the world’s most visited seasonal theme park today.
For me, Tivoli Gardens came across as a cozy place with a myriad of cultural themes mingled under the same roof. There is an old feel to it with wooden roller-coasters and other nostalgic rides. It wouldn’t be fair to compare the modern day Disney parks or Universal studios to Tivoli.Tivoli is different. It’s a celebration. It’s hard to put it down in words. One really has to experience Tivoli to understand the role it plays in the lives of Danish people.
We didn’t hop on any of the rides but caught a glimpse of a modern version of Cinderella played out at the open air Japanese theater. It was a truly refreshing take on the age old tale.
Later in the evening, we saw another open air concert performed by a local musician and a band. Tivoli has concerts almost every evening. Many famous musicians have performed here. We missed Pharell Williams by 2 days 🙁 ! However, the performances were astounding. They even sang one of my favorite songs – Freedom by George Michael. The show ended with a fantastic display of fireworks.
What a great end to the day that was!
Sunday, Day 2:
As Ritu and I had bonded really well the day before, we decided to see the rest of Copenhagen together. Here’s a list of activities we did / places we visited:
- Free walking tour: At 11 am, we joined the free walking tour at the Dragon foundation. The tour took us through the old town, introducing us to its eventful history including the Great fire of Copenhagen. We also walked past the childhood home of the famous Carlsberg beer founder, J.C. Jacobsen. After another elaborate world war history session, we ended the tour at the Royal Square, right in front of the Amalienborg palace which currently serves as the home to the royal Danish family.
- The Little Mermaid: Displayed on the rocks by the waterside, The Little Mermaid is a bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen. As it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Copenhagen, it was a challenge for us to get a glimpse of this wonderful statue. We had to push through the crowds and measly settle for an awkward photograph of The Little Mermaid that appeared to be pushed by a random guy! Check it out 😀
- Freetown Christiania: We walked past Nyhavn, on to a fancy, newly constructed bridge that joined the mainland to the free town of Christiania. Christiania is a self-declared autonomous region where the residents have their own rules, independent of the Danish government while practicing a fairly alternative way of life. It’s a hippie paradise dotted with art galleries, eateries, music venues, and much more. For me, Christiania came in as a bit of a culture shock, as it is a stark contrast to the rest of Copenhagen. It seemed like a common place with stoned people walking around. Nevertheless, Christiania has a unique and quirky character which is must-visit if you are up for it. Tip: It’s advised for your own safety to not take pictures in areas where people might be smoking hash, as Hash is illegal in Denmark.
- Copenhagen Street Food – Papiroeen: We stopped here for a late lunch. Copenhagen Street Food is a massive food hall that offers a varied selection of international fast food. We decided to try the famous Danish open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrø) here. Absolutely yummy!
- Strøget: This was my last stop in Copenhagen. Strøget is one of the longest shopping streets in Europe. Coming from Germany, where nothing opens on a Sunday, it was a pleasant surprise to see open stores in this part of Europe. I could find all my favorite fashion brands here. So if shopping is your thing, don’t miss Strøget!
Finally, I boarded the bus around 8 pm, missed the European cup final, hopped on a ferry at 12 am and finally reached Berlin at 7 am in the morning. Needless to say that I was a zombie at work that day 😀
Nevertheless, it was a fantastic weekend. Here’s my overall view about Copenhagen:
Copenhagen is a great place to relax and unwind yourself if you are tired of the busy city vibe. It is not as touristic and crowded as the other European destinations yet, it offers ample history and interesting spots to have an eventful weekend. Danish people are an extremely friendly and helpful lot! I can proudly crown them as the Canadians of Europe 😀 . Most Danes speak fluent English. Weather can be fairly tricky, I witnessed frequent rains in the month of July.
There are still some places I couldn’t visit but are definitely on my list for the next time:
- Church of our savior
- Carlsberg brewery
- Frederik’s church
- Noma: presently, the 5th best restaurant in the world
My list could go on and on … but until then, I’m happy to have shared my experiences with you 🙂