For Tim’s Christmas present, instead of a pair of socks, I organised a surprise weekend away to Copenhagen. Neither of us had been before and I knew it offered both history and culture to keep Tim happy. So when I saw some bargain easyJet flights in early January, I jumped at the chance to book them.
Last Friday, we finished work early and headed to Gatwick to start our 48 hours in Copenhagen. Here’s how we spent them.
Sleeping in a designer hotel
The Absalon Hotel in Copenhagen is one of the largest and oldest in the city. Having recently undergone extensive refurbishment and interior design by the Designer’s Guild, it’s a stunning hotel decorated in blues and greens, with welcoming sofas, funky lighting and digital fireplaces in the bar where we enjoyed delicious cocktails on both nights at the hotel. If you’ve heard anything about Copenhagen, I bet it’s that it’s expensive. Now, this is true, but the drinks at our hotel were reasonably priced and you could get a pint of beer and a (very) large glass of wine for under 100DKK (about £10). That’s London prices to us Brits, so nothing we weren’t already used to paying back home.
The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from central Copenhagen train station, so within easy walking distance to most of the major sights including Tivoli Gardens (which is unfortunately closed until April) and City Hall.
Overall, it’s warm, inviting and the perfect place to thaw out after a freezing January day in Scandinavia. Speaking of which…
Sheltering from the cold
We had heard Copenhagen was going to be cold in January, so we prepared with lots of layers, winter boots and thick coats. Trouble was, we were travelling with carry-on bags only, which meant we had to wear most of our luggage on the plane! After a very warm flight, the Danish air actually came as a refreshing change until we realised just how cold it was.
However, most of Copenhagen’s beauty is on the outside – the picturesque parks and fine façades of buildings – so it’s a shame to spend all your time inside. So we put on our layers, stiffened our upper lips and felt grateful not to be at work. It must have been somewhere between 0 and 1°c, as the ducks were able to both swim and walk on the moat surrounding Rosenborg Castle.
To avoid freezing completely, it was necessary to find refuge every so often in perfectly heated museums and bars. Everywhere has coat hooks and lockers to leave your coats so that you don’t end up ironically overheating once inside.
We were also lucky enough to see snow on our last day, just as we arrived at the airport to leave (impeccable timing, Denmark!). It was very impressive that nothing seemed to grind to a halt like it does in the UK. The airport simply revved up its de-icing machines and started to clear the runway as if it was just a normal day in the office. The Brits could definitely learn a thing or two from the Danes when it comes to snow!
Devouring Danish cuisine
Copenhagen is a foodie hotspot with some of the best restaurants and Michelin starred chefs in the world charging gastronomical prices (Ha. See what I did there?) Yet, we wanted to stay modest and see what we could get for less than 150 DKK (£15 a head) per meal. You’d actually be surprised at the quality and amount of food available!
Here’s our pick of the bunch:
- Danish pastries for breakfast at Absalon Hotel. Danish pastries are probably my favourite breakfast item of all time. Whenever they form part of a hotel breakfast buffet, I always eat one. Or twelve. Actually known as Viennese pastries in Denmark, they’re a Danish adaption of an Austrian recipe, but delicious all the same. Breakfast at our hotel was a plentiful cold buffet with cheese, ham, yoghurt and fruit, but I survived on Danish pastries alone. Total price: Free!
- Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) at Peder Oxe. This was probably my favourite meal of the whole trip, Tim and I shared 3 open sandwiches from their list for lunch – smoked herring with sour cream and dill, shrimp with creamy dill sauce and two cheeses with chutney. We had a cosy table next to the open fire and couldn’t have been happier with our delicious sandwiches washed down with two glasses of Danish beer. Total price: 240 DKK (£24)
- Fish and chips at Kodbyens Fiskebar. The meatpacking district is one of the most popular areas to eat in Copenhagen with great quality food at very reasonable prices. After a bit of research, we chose Kodbyens Fiskebar, which promised an extensive fish menu in a lively restaurant. We hadn’t booked a table and were nearly turned away at the door as it was packed. Lucky for us, a couple hadn’t turned up for their table and we were very glad they hadn’t! We were able to take their seats and ordered water, beer and two choices from their ‘middle’ menu, mussels in a cider sauce and fish and chips. The fish had a smoked Danish twist and was served with deliciously seasoned chips. Yum yum yum. Total price: 300 DKK (£30)
- Danish beer at The Taphouse. The Taphouse has 61 beers on tap from around the world in a very cosy room decorated with sparkly fairy lights. It was a great find, just around the corner from the Town Hall so perfectly located to take a break from sightseeing in the most European way possible. In choosing our two small glasses of beer each, I randomly picked numbers from the board while Tim was much more considered about his decision, selecting based on his love for pilsner. We both enjoyed our beers along with two packets of salt and vinegar crisps. Total price: 182 DKK (£18)
Seeing the sights
Copenhagen has loads of things to see and do, but before we booked our trip, we didn’t actually know what any of them were! After researching using travel blogs, guidebooks and the Copenhagen card, here’s what was on our ‘must do’ list:
- Canal boat tour. Our Copenhagen card got us free travel on the canal boat tour that took us along the canals to the neighbourhoods of Nyhavn, Christiansborg and out to the sea to get a good view of the new Opera House and the Little Mermaid’s back
- The National Museum of Denmark is free to visit and houses collections dedicated to Denmark’s history and culture. We learnt about the Vikings, Nordic traditions and culture, as well as exhibits from other continents and countries so there’s always something new to learn
- City Sightseeing bus tour. I love a bus tour. I think it’s a great way to see the City from the comfort of a seat, but still affords you the opportunity to hop on and off to visit the sights you must see up close. The mermaid tour took us past some of the most famous buildings and statues in Copenhagen with an audio guide that gave us more insight into life in the city
- The Little Mermaid is a statue based on Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. The statue is a bit out of the way of most other sights, so we were very grateful when our bus tour stopped at the sight for 5 minutes to let us all get off and take photos. Otherwise, I’m not sure we would have made it!
- Rosenborg Castle was built for King Christian IV as a hunting lodge and summer house. Of course it was. It’s simply not big or imposing enough to be his everyday residence, right?! In all seriousness, it’s a magnificent building quite typical of Danish architecture. The Castle is now home to exhibits from Christian’s life, the crown jewels and beautiful grounds. Plus entry was included in our Copenhagen card, so everyone’s a winner!
- Rundetårn is a great way to see the whole City from above thanks to its viewing platform at the top. Plus, with a slope winding its way all the way to the top, it’s not even strenuous to get up there! The core of the tower is hollow, and there’s a glass floor near the top for people brave enough to stand on it. I only just managed it by holding Tim’s hand and taking very tentative steps!
- Nyhavn is probably the most photographed area of Copenhagen, and certainly one of the most recognisable. It’s a lively area with good restaurants and bars but, scared of falling in to a tourist trap, we avoided them. For us, it was a nice place to wander and take photos of the sailboats moored up alongside colourful and disorderly terraced buildings
- Amalienborg Palace is the winter home of the Danish royal family and has been turned into a museum with exhibits from the royal family’s lives. To be honest, the building is more impressive than the inside, but as entry was included in our Copenhagen cards, it was worth a visit
- Tivoli Gardens was on our must-do list, but unfortunately it is closed in January. It’s worth checking opening hours and days before you book so you don’t miss out. There’s still plenty to see without Tivoli, though!
Wasting time in the airport
It wasn’t until we had raced through airport security and eaten dinner at gorms restaurant that we checked my easyJet app to find out our flight was 2.5 hours delayed. Oh no! Turns out there was a technical problem with our plane so we had to wait for another one to become available from Finland. I’d rather that than fly on a dodgy plane!
We wasted time by shopping around for souvenirs, spending our easyJet meal voucher on chocolate and searching for a seating area (they’re surprisingly rare in Copenhagen airport!) until it was finally time to get going.
In the end, we landed about 3.5 hours later than scheduled, but this wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits after a wonderful weekend in Copenhagen.
Overall we had a fantastic 48 hours in Copenhagen and it was enough time to see and do everything on our ‘must do’ list. It was also a great way to kick start 2016, which is set to be my most travel filled year ever! I just hope it won’t be the last European mini break of the year…
Have you ever been to Copenhagen? What were your favourite places to visit?