An Amateur’s Guide To Copenhagen
Hello, and welcome to the first in a travel series called An Amateur’s Guide, where I, an amateur traveler, will give you a guide to all the places I’ve been and hopefully share with you some tips and tricks into getting the best out of your trips.
While I may be an amateur (and very poor), I’m determined to visit as many places as possible, meeting new people, and exploring beautiful countries and cities that may not be as far from you as you think. I’m going to be splitting these posts into sections; In & Around, Doing Stuff, Good Views, and Sleeps, but also just talking about how beautiful and amazing each place is.
Let’s begin with Copenhagen, Denmark!
Nestled to the far east of Denmark on the Danish island of Zealand with Sweden and the city of Malmo only a stone’s throw away is Copenhagen, a quiet and beautiful city filled with green parks, cycle routes and picturesque, colourful buildings that make you feel like you’re walking through a fairy tale. This was my first trip with friends to a place I knew absolutely nothing about (going to Disneyland doesn’t count) and was eager to see what dipping my toe into travelling felt like.
Copenhagen is one of the safest cities in the world, and is partly why I chose it as my first destination. It’s perfectly normal, as someone who’s never done something like this before, to feel unsure and unsafe about what you’re doing, especially since I usually go away with family members who know exactly what’s going on. I was responsible for myself, and despite being with friends (some I knew and some I didn’t), I was still embarking on something pretty big. A first, if you will.
But Copenhagen did not disappoint on the safe part. In my opinion it’s actually quite a quiet city. Coming from an overcrowded country where there are people wherever you are always, going to a country with only 5 million people in it (as opposed to the UK’s 60 million) is like walking into slice of heaven. People were respectful and polite, friendly, and the city was easy to get around!
In & Around
So you’ve landed at Copenhagen Airport, or København Lufthavn; what next? Before you jump into a taxi or look for a coach, let me talk to you about the metro. Straight from the airport, the metro can take you into the heart of Copenhagen for a fiver to Norreport, a large station with links to trains as well as other metro lines. The metro tickets work a little differently than train/tube tickets, and have to be used within a certain time frame. You can pay extra if you need a little more time.
And after that? I WALKED. Copenhagen’s attractions and things to do are so near one another that you don’t need to take any sort of transport again until you go back to the airport, unless you plan on going further into Denmark. I loved walking around Copenhagen, even if it was just to look around and not actually going into an attraction. The buildings are colourful and all have each individual character.
Ahh, the best part of your trip! The doing things! Despite visiting Copenhagen off season, there are still some great things to see and do, and one of the most common things you’ll find yourself doing is visiting castles and palaces.
Right on the doorstep of our hostel was Rosenborg Castle which we unfortunately didn’t have a chance to go into, but on the hottest day of the year for Denmark, the gardens surrounding it were packed with picnic-eaters, cyclists and frizbee throwers.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit to Copenhagen without stopping by to see The Little Mermaid statue (Den Lille Havfrue), situated by the waterside at the Langelinie promenade near Kastellet, a ‘star fortress’ which we nearly got stuck on top (there weren’t many exits). The Little Mermaid statue was one of the most ‘touristy’ attractions we visited, and included people literring and trying to climb on top of the statue despite signs saying not to. There were coach loads of people with selfie sticks and queuing for ice creams, and so if you want to visit this beautiful landmark but without the crowds, I’d suggest early morning or late evening strolls. Even when we visited off season, it was still crazy busy!
The next is a two parter, with a palace and church opposite each other and available to you in a two minute walk from one to the other. Frederik’s Church (also known as The Marble Church) and Amelienborg Palace.
The day before we visited either buildings, we were walking back to our hostel after an incredible walk around Kastellet and spotted Frederik’s Church’s dome behind a construction site. I was mesmerized even just by that small piece of it where the view was ruined by a crane. We googled it and decided that THAT was our next visit. And disappointed I was not.
The church was, unfortunately, surrounded by building works, but it clearly outshone the cranes and giant skips nearby. Inside, we were told to be silent (or at least super quiet) out of respect, and were allowed to sit in the pews and look up at the beautiful artistry on the inside of the dome and make a donation when we’d done. Beautiful. Peaceful. Free. *thumbs up*.
And across the road is Amelienborg Palace which, just as we arrived, began a procession of what may have been the changing of the guard, or just a fun a show for the gathering crowds. There were the playing of instruments and chanting so, who knows. It was great though!
One of the biggest blunders of the trip was not being able to visit Tivoli Gardens, a theme park right in the centre of Copenhagen, considered the top attraction in the city. As we went during the off-season, the park was unfortunately closed and was opening the week after we were visiting (I KNOW) and so be prepared for your trip and check whether or not Tivoli is actually open. What I can gather from Google, it’s pretty spectacular. And it’s paragraphs like this that are the reason why this is called an ‘amateur’s guide’.
The other most popular place to visit is Nyhavn, a harbourside area filled with bars and restaurants with colourful buildings that are way too expensive to even look inside. This is the place that’s on the Copenhagen brochures that tourists flock to to get photos of and it’s exactly what we did too.
It’s definitely a beautiful place to visit and have a walk around. But unless you want to blow all your holiday money on one evening of extravagance, I wouldn’t buy a beer here.
My favourite thing to look for whilst in a city is things I can go up; tall buildings that let me see the whole of the city in all of it’s beauty. Bonus points if it’s a panorama. I’d already done a quick google to find obvious places to go up and right by our hostel was The Round Tower (Rundetaarn). It cost around £2,50 per person and is exactly what is says it is: a round tower. Thankfully, there are no stairs, just a flat ‘spiral ramp’ which takes you all the way to the top where the views are stunning.
Not only was it one of the warmest days of our trip, The Round Tower was also a fairly quiet tourist attraction, and I found myself sat on a bench at the top just admiring the view after I’d taken a million photos. The day was clear and bright, and I kept pointing out random buildings including a bright pink one that looked like it was made out of candy (we found out later on that it was an old style cinema).
It wasn’t until our last day that we found two fantastic opportunities to go up things that we almost missed them! The first? The rooftop cafe of Illum, a department store situated on Strøget, a long pedestrianized shopping street through the heart of Copenhagen. Not only was it free to get in, there were no queues, and practically no people apart from the staff. We took the escalators straight to the top and opened the doors, and there was our view.
Nobody forced us to buy anything (and we wouldn’t at those prices) and we were ultimately undisturbed. We made sure to drop by just as the department store opened on a weekday, and so that might have been why there were no crowds or angry staff members wanting to charge us. But if you can, try and get there at a quiet hour and try not to bring too much attention to yourself. That being said, we were chatting in English with giant cameras around our necks, and the staff members still didn’t care!
The last place we visited was a tip off from one of the girls we were sharing a room with. Right at the top of Christianborg Palace is a free view that stretches so far that you can even see Sweden on a clear day. We were going to that view. Be mindful that this part of the palace is only open to the public Tuesday – Sunday (we noticed that Monday seems to be Copenhagen’s version of a Sunday, as a lot of attractions and even some cafes were closed) and so make sure to plan before you go to it. But it doesn’t take long, and if you get there early, the queue is miniscule.
BUT THE VIEW IS NOT.
This would be the view I recommend the most. Just visit it. It costs nothing, and once again, the palace is right in the centre of the city with minimal effort into getting there!
And of course, potentially the most important part of your trip away; where are you going to rest your head for the night? You can opt for a hotel, sure. But when travelling around Scandinavia, you don’t want to be racking up costs just for lying in a bed for an evening. The idea of staying in a hostel was scary enough; you’ve heard of the horror film with the same name, you know you’ve got to share your space with some random people, and then leave the room to go to the communal showers.
But actually, hostels are probably one of the most underrated places to stay when it comes to holiday booking. Especially if you’re planning to stay in a city or somewhere heavily populated. Hostels were created for solo travellers to meet like-minded folk and create a safe space where you can relax, hang out, and sleep at a price that doesn’t blow your bank account.
My first hostel experience? I was nervous. But with the help of Hostelworld and speaking to others who’d stayed in verified, popular hostels, I was able to find a place in Copenhagen that offered female only rooms with en suites. Granted, you might not always be as lucky when it comes to exactly what you want, but there’s no harm in giving it a go. My friends and I stayed in a chain hostel called ‘Generator’, where the atmosphere was very much like a hotel with an added social aspect. The three of us stayed in a six bedroom female dorm with our own bathroom included. Our bed came with a reading light and a plug socket (so no fighting for who’s charging their phone first) and the room also included a hand towel, hair dryer, and mirror area with stools and a counter. The three of us being together was a bit of anomaly, as the other girls were either on their own and in pairs, and some even left and new ones arrived during our stay. So, whoever we were sharing with at the time, it was usually for one night only. But it was still great to chat and talk about what each other were up to. Sometimes there might be a language barrier (luckily the girls we shared with always seemed to be American) and sometimes the conversation might become a little odd (one of the girls asked if Danish Krone was real money. ???) but all a hostel needs to be is comfy and safe, and that’s exactly what Generator hostel was!
Downsides to the hostel were the fact that there was no kitchen facilities which you could use yourself. While I’ve never been to a hostel before, I was aware that the whole point is to use the communal space to socialise but also do your thing. The only way to get food in the building was to buy it from the bar (which could sometimes be a little expensive). There was also a problem with breakfast. We assumed it was included with the room and so went down in the morning along with the masses and dug in. It wasn’t until we got back to our room did we realise we were supposed to pay for it. Nobody stopped us; there was no supervision and anyone could literally go down and just take some toast or a bowl of cereal. No one checked receipts or breakfast tokens. So, if you do stay here, THE BREAKFAST IS NOT INCLUDED. Storage units for each bed don’t come with locks either, so either bring one or buy one at reception. Or, like me, carry around your valuables with you and just place a lot of trust in your roommates!
And so, my first amateur guide comes to an end! I hope you enjoyed my not so little post on one of the best city breaks I’ve been on, and tune in next time I decide to pack my stuff together and just go. I’ll be tweaking around with the layout and format of this series as I go along so right now, it’s still in it’s prototype phase.
Let me know where you’ve been recently or where you’d LOVE to visit in the comments and I’ll daydream with you.