Denmark was named the ‘Happiest Country’ in 2016 and hygge seems to be one of the keys behind it, or so they might like you to believe. The Danish word, pronounced “hoo-ga”, is usually translated into English as “cosiness”. But is this just a over hyped media phenomenon? We set our sights on Copenhagen to find out what this hygge business was all about and explore the delightful festive city.
Arriving late Friday evening we woke on Saturday with a mission to get our first taste of Danish pastries in our bellies asap. We tracked down a Meyers Bageri (they are in various locations) and had deliciously crunchy croissants and tebirkes (poppy seed pastries) AMAZING. With some fuel for the morning we wandered the city and stumbled on the first Christmas market of our trip at Nikolaj Plads. The markets are a great opportunity to grab a hotdog, mulled wine or souvenir.
Our next stop was the Christiansborg Palace, home to the Danish parliament. Here you can take the lift up the Tårnet Tower, the highest in Copenhagen, and get a great panoramic view of the city. The tower only opened to the public about two years ago and is free of charge. From the tower you can get your bearings and spot the city’s numerous landmarks, on a clear day (unlike our grey day) you can see Sweden in the distance.
Back into the cold we wandered into Nyhavn – the famous old port which is lined with beautifully colourful buildings. More Christmas stalls lined the streets here and we sampled some free mulled wine – a perfect winter warmer. We weren’t so blessed with the weather on Saturday but went back again the next day when the sun was shining as well – hence the contrasting skies in the photos below!
The thing I was looking forward to most on this trip was the food. Copenhagen is definitely a foodie destination, with the world’s top restaurant, Noma, located here as well as an abundance of Michelin restaurants. Though I was happy to discover you don’t have to part with a lot of money to get a tasty feed, and our next stop did not disappoint. Set on Papirøen (Paper Island), Copenhagen Street Food Market is the city’s first and only genuine place where you can sample a variety of street food. Inside this massive hall you can find just about any cuisine imaginable at a very reasonable price (by Copenhagen’s standards!).
Not far from Paper Island is the area of Freetown Christiania. This self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents has a very interesting history and has been a source of controversy with its open drug trade. The whole place kinda gave me the creeps with its derelict houses and loitering stoners – though they did have some pretty cool graffiti which I sneakily took photos of (cameras are meant to be banned here).
Day two started with more tasty pastries, this time from Lagkagehuset, which I can also highly recommend. From there we headed towards the Botanical Gardens to check out Livgardens Kaserne and the Rosenborg Castle.
We then made our way through the city towards the Little Mermaid seeing some more lovely architecture at Frederiks Kirke, Amalienborg and a toilet stop at the Design Museum, which we were almost tempted to pay for. I know this would’ve been a pretty cool musuem given the infamous Scandinavian design but we got our taste peeking through shop windows and trying out sofas and chairs in furniture stores.
Walking to the Little Mermaid along the water was very pretty, and there is still things to see along the way here too. You get views across to the Street Food Market and the Opera House and nearer to the drawcard is the star-shaped military fortress of Kastellet which is also worth a wander. Our friends told us to make sure we saw the Gefion Fountain (much more impressive than LM). Only later did I realise that I had taken a photo of it, but because there was no water around it or coming out of it I just thought it was a pretty awesome statue.
And here she is… the one that every tourist tries to visit and is usually left feeling underwhelmed. I knew what to expect and I was glad that the tide was in as I’ve heard people can climb all over her trying to get the best photos – I don’t really see the point tbh!
Onto more Christmas markets at Kongens Nytorv and the amazing decorations on the Hotel D’Angleterre and the Magasin department store – ahhh doesn’t it feel like Christmas! Another recommendation is to visit Torvehallerne which VisitCopenhagen claims “It is not a supermarket – it is a super market”. Going off a recommendation from our Airbnb host we devoured the most famous sandwich in Copenhagen – a French speciality of duck confit, bread, mustard and rocket from Ma Poule, drool!
The second thing I was really looking forward to on this trip was our visit to Tivoli Gardens, a famous amusement park in the centre of the city (and second oldest in the world). Tivoli go all out with their Christmas decorations and it really was such a magical place! We went in the late afternoon as to see it in the daylight and in the night. We opted for unlimited ride entry ticket, and while it was pricey, it was the best decision ever! I felt like a little kid again, laughing and screaming as we got thrown around on rollercoasters and dropped from great heights. We spent a good four hours here and enjoyed a mandatory mulled wine and side of jam doughnuts to keep us going.
We spent our final day eating numerous hotdogs, ice skating and visiting one last Christmas market, though being a Monday it was a bit of a sad sight – we were the only ones there! We loved our time here in Copenhagen, the city definitely gave me the warm fuzzies and I would love to return to experience it in the summertime – maybe next time we’ll check out Lego Land!