Freedom, gender equality, and an excellent welfare model are some of the reasons that make Denmark one of the happiest countries in the world. Despite high taxes and long winters, Danes continue to rank among the happiest people in the world. We had to go there see if Denmark, and more specifically Copenhagen, was as great as everyone said it was.
Well, and it did not disappoint.
It was July, sunny and very hot. It wasn’t the weather I was expecting to find in Scandinavia. Not that I was complaining either. This girl from the Caribbean was loving it! Also, the awesome weather gave us the perfect excuse to spend as much time outside the Airbnb apartment as possible which turned out to be a less than pleasant experience. (We rented a bedroom in a shared apartment, right in the heart of the city. The location was absolutely perfect, but the room was not in an apartment shared with a family as I thought (and how it was advertised). Instead, the owners rent four rooms to tourists and all share the same bathroom. It was like staying in a hostel. The bathroom floor was always. The kitchen was under construction and unusable. The only good thing was the bed, which was comfortable and like I said, the location).
With only 72 hours to see the city, we wanted to make sure we savored as much as we could during our first visit to a Scandinavian country. My impression? Danes are highly educated, friendly, open minded and really tall. Of course one needs to be careful with generalizations, so there might be some exceptions, like in every country. But for the most part, that’s what I experienced. The only thing I was not expecting was to see so many American chain restaurants there. Just on the same street, we found KFC, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Fridays, McDonald’s, Burger King and 7Eleven, one next to each other. Luckily, there are other (much better) food options available.
Here’s our list of must see/do/eat in Copenhagen:
Do not miss Papirøen or paper island. This island is located on the east bank of the harbor, right opposite to the Royal Danish Playhouse. Here you will find Copenhagen’s best street food. All kinds, from Mexican tacos to BBQ ribs to a Crème brûlée donut (check out the video below). They also sell a humongous mojito, good for five people. And yes, my husband and I ordered one just for the two of us.
Have a Danish pastry (or many of them). Ironically, in Denmark, this multilayered pastry, filled with jam are known as Vienna bread (wienerbrød) just to confuse us.
When in Rome, I mean Copenhagen…Eat hot dogs. Hot dogs are a thing in Copenhagen. They have been sold since 1910 and are quite popular among the locals and tourists alike.
To feel like a local, have smørrebrød or open-faced sandwiches for lunch. These are found in many places. Smoked herring, salmon, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, raw beef, eggs, seafood are just some of the toppings served fancily on rye bread. Simple, yummy and relatively inexpensive (for Scandinavian standards). We had some tasty ones at Restaurant & Cafe Nytorv.
Nyhavn (New Port). This picturesque harbor is the perfect place for a sunset stroll during a summer day. Restaurants and cafes set outdoor tables inviting people to enjoy a cold drink, a snack or an ice-cream. They are also perfect for people watching. We bought a cold beer and sat in one of the piers just to see the boats navigating the canal while admiring the colorful facade of the buildings. People on the boats seemed to be having a great time, so we decided to join them and bought a boat tour.
The Little Mermaid. This bronze statue sculpted by Edvard Eriksen disappoints thousands of tourists every year. “It is way smaller than I thought” you hear people say. It is not a good idea to visit it in the middle of the day when a couple of other dozens of tourists surround the tiny sculpture hoping to take a perfect selfie with her. We decided to go there as late as possible. Since the sun sets quite late in summer, we went at around 20:30 and we had the Little Mermaid all for ourselves, well and for another couple which was perfect because they were able to snap a really good photo of just the three of us, without anyone photobombing us.
Tivoli Gardens. An amusement park perfect for kids age 0 to 99. This place was opened in 1843, making it the second-oldest amusement park in the world. This means we are not only visiting an amusement park, but also a historical place. Small children might enjoy this place more than adults, but it was still a fun experience to see the band and some characters playing music and interacting with tourists in this Disney-esque park.
Christiania. This is Copenhagen’s autonomous hippie neighborhood. There is an open-air cannabis market where vendors wearing masks sell to residents and curious tourists. Before entering, it is important to understand that it is forbidden to take pictures here. This neighborhood has been a symbol of Danish tolerance and liberalism, but that “tolerance” has its limits if someone is caught taking pictures. Actually, I’m not sure what could happen, so I’m probably just over reacting here. Still, I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to find out the consequences. If anyone has been caught taking pictures, I would like to know what and if anything happened, so please send us an email with your story to TainoTrails@gmail.com. 🙂
Things to consider
Copenhagen is expensive, not as expensive as Switzerland but still. Visiting in summer is great. Warm weather and long days, but that also comes with a price. Everyone ones to go there in summer so prices naturally go up. Consider staying a bit farther away from the city and rent a bike. This is what we plan to do next time we go. There are places on Airbnb and even hotels that offer to loan bikes to guests for free. Also, you could visit in October or March, when the weather is not as optimal, but prices go down significantly.
Scandinavia is an excellent destination for tourists who are afraid of exploring beyond English-speaking countries. In big cities, such as Copenhagen and Stockholm, pretty much everyone speaks perfect English.
To conclude, it is one thing to visit a place and another to live in there. However, judging based on the 72 hours spent there, I would say that those reports are spot on. To me Denmark felt like one of the happiest places I’ve been to.
Tak og se dig snart, Copenhagen!