Greetings from the land of the giant blondes on bikes! Your small, dark-haired globetrotters stick out quite a bit as we explore the streets of this immaculate city filled with fashionistas clicking the cobblestone in high heels as they tower over us. Temperatures continue to cool as we headed North from Amsterdam, with strong winds that make it difficult to bike across the wide bridges, crossing the lakes scattered throughout the city. It’s Summer in Copenhagen, and while the Danish men and women all sport their preppy shorts and tank tops, we are bundled up for what feels like a US Northeastern Fall.
Copenhagen is clean, colorful and classy. In the evenings you will find streets covered with club-goers, dressed all in black (the color of choice, it seems, for late-night attire) with platinum heads bobbing to techno-tunes until dawn. We weren’t able to enjoy the famous Copenhagen nightlife as much as we’d hoped. A dose of bad luck left me sick in bed for much of our time, a real shame because my long list of things to do became impossible with each passing day (i.e. Bry made me stay in bed). Our two week stay turned into one week of activity, followed by one week of recuperation… and I’m quickly learning how important it is to listen to your tired body regardless of how exciting a new, temporary ‘home’ may seem.
Our neighborhood (Nørrebro) turned out to be my favorite in all of Copenhagen, certainly for quality of life. Nørrebro has historically been a part of the city that has taken in immigrant populations, creating an eclectic, international environment. Each street is filled with artisan shops and ethnic restaurants. The area has a hip vibe that can be attributed to its trendy inhabitants, a large portion of which are students, artists and musicians. I enjoyed being across the big bridges from the more touristy Old Town, which is in the heart of Copenhagen, though this area is worth spending time in as well – it’s fun to explore the maze of alleyways and squares that are scattered among old monasteries.
There are other neighborhoods worth exploring as well, along with many other sites and activities to enjoy. Although our time here was short, we still managed to fit in, what we could consider, the best of Copenhagen! Here’s a list things you shouldn’t miss!
Bike the city. Copenhagen was a nice transition after our time biking Amsterdam. The bike culture is just as strong, with streets that accommodate cycling to any location, but far less cluttered making it easier to maneuver.
You will find electric white bikes available for hourly rental, including a touch screen monitor mounted to the handlebars – I recommend you skip this silly, tourist contraption and rent a real bike. It’s a much more fun way to get around, get some exercise, warm up in the chilly temperatures, avoid looking silly and getting made fun of by the locals 😉
Stroll through Freetown Christiania. This highly controversial, autonomous neighborhood in the middle of Copenhagen is in a world of it’s own. Picture a unique wonderland of trippy art, hippies, hash and creative homes. Freetown Christiania has quite an interesting background that led to a community of inhabitants (Christianites) that live by their own set of rules, contradicting the Danish State; however, the two opposing forces have found a way to live in harmony.
I found this community so unique, and the story behind the controversy so fascinating, I just had to share details! If you’re interested in learning more about this creative community and, more importantly, if you want to discover why it’s 100% worth a visit, click here to follow me on a walk through hippie wonderland!
Picnic in Assistens Cemetery. I recommend biking to the cemetery (bike everywhere!) but be mindful once you enter as many of the paths aren’t open to cycling. Jump off and walk your bike as you explore the gorgeous headstones woven into beautiful gardens, and find a nice spot to picnic.
There are many cemeteries in Copenhagen – sadly, the plague epidemic of 1711 lead to severe overcrowding and the need to provide more burial space. Assistens was built for this reason in 1760, just outside of the original city walls, intended for the poor. In the 19th century, many leading figures requested to be laid to rest in Assistens (including Fairytale writer, Hans Christian Andersen), and others followed, turning this cemetery into a uniquely popular place for visitors and picnickers – Assistens is full of life!
The grounds are beautiful, with lush gardens and detailed stone carvings providing a peaceful ambiance for a summer afternoon.
Enjoy the view from Church of Our Savior Spire. There are a few popular lookout points in Copenhagen, the most famous being the Rundetaarn and the Church of Our Savior Spire. My advice is to skip Rundetaarn and make your way up the much taller, more architecturally beautiful Spire of The Church of Our Savior for a dramatic view of the city.
Your circular climb spirals upward until you can’t bear to go any further or (quite literally) can no longer fit on the narrowing staircase!
Indulge in the royalty of Rosenborg Castle. As you stroll through the luxurious grounds leading up to Rosenborg Castle, winding through multi-colored roses and across perfectly manicured lawns, keep in mind that this was Christian IV’s Summerhouse in the ‘country’. It’s good to be the king!
Rosenborg is simply gorgeous. I especially loved the detailed architecture of the large, wooden doors that lead you into various chambers throughout the interior of the castle, and the large, black, white and red tiled floor that created a dramatic affect in the room full of mirrors leading to the royal throne.
The crowned jewels can be found in the basement, along with other decorations made of precious metals and stones.
Booze it up with a side of fish n chips at Nyhavn Harbour. This is the most colorful, picturesque area of Copenhagen! The canal is lined with restaurants, all of which will be slammed with tourists on a sunny, summer day, but there’s no need for a table!
There are tons of takeaway spots along the water, and I recommend getting your beer and (necessary) fish n chips to go. Find a nice spot where you can enjoy a view of the historic, wooden ships. This is a great spot to spend a full day people watching and socializing in a setting that looks pretty enough to be a painting.
It’s also a popular evening spot, though I recommend getting a reservation if you’d prefer to observe the harbor nightlife. Either way, don’t miss a visit during the day, when the sun lights up the vibrant colors of this Copenhagen hotspot.
Experience the secret Tivoli Gardens. What’s the secret of this popular amusement park and international attraction? There’s something for everyone!
We’re not a fan of most amusement parks – waiting in lines for head-spinning rides and the sound of thousands of children screaming is not typically my cup of tea. I read about Tivoli before our visit, and learned that Hans Christian Andersen and even Walt Disney fell in love with the gardens – still not sold. Despite our skepticism, we decided to “at least go for a drink” one evening – Tivoli is supposed to be at it’s best, all lit up on a summer night.
The secret of Tivoli Gardens rings true – there is indeed something for everyone. For me, it was the beautiful scenery and exotic architecture. The lush gardens and historic buildings that are illuminated with thousands of colored lights.
We couldn’t deny our pleasant surprise, or fail to recommend that you take a walk through this unique, fairy tale atmosphere and, if you’re lucky, catch some live music as well!
For more Copenhagen recommendations, including restaurants, bakeries and other treats, here’s a map of our favorite things to eat, do and see!
Copenhagen marked the end of an incredible 90 days in Europe, and the extension of our digital nomad status as our journey continues, hopping over to the Middle East. If you’re curious about how life on the road has been our first 90 days, and want to hear the pros and cons (it’s not all sunshine and rainbows!) of living out of a suitcase, in a state of constant mobility, check out our post: Learning to Live as a Digital Nomad.