Flying over Denmark into Copenhagen we saw what looked like a huge patchwork quilt of hundreds of lush colourful fields. The deep blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean surrounded a network of little islands and the mainland. From up above the countryside looked fairly flat but lush and beautiful.
As soon as we landed we grabbed our luggage and went to buy a couple of train tickets into the city. We didn’t see too many signs in English but luckily we knew after checking on the net that we had to head to Central station. Luckily the Danes’ English is excellent and they’re always willing to help. All trains lead to Central so after paying our 140DKK ($28AUD) for two returns we were soon on our way. Their trains were really nice clean and modern and they even had free Wi-Fi.
The Danish Krona is used in Denmark and when we were there it worked out so that for every 1.00DKK it equalled about .20c AUD. Denmark is pretty pricey (that might have something to do with the 25% VAT), but hey, who’s going to pay the Queen’s salary if there’s no moolah in the coffers!
About 15 minutes later we pulled into the central station in Copenhagen. It was a fairly big station and had all the usual hustle and bustle of tourists, commuters and vagrants. There were signs up every now and again warning against bag snatchers and pick pockets. Luckily we didn’t fall victim to either while we were there. We picked a hotel located only a couple blocks away from the station and after getting pointed in the right direction we were off pulling our luggage in tow over beautiful cobblestone sidewalks.
The architecture of the buildings was alluring and the streets looked really well kept and orderly. That’s why we were so surprised when we came upon a seedy district. Amongst a collection of 4-5 Star Hotels there were sex shops, strip joints and a plethora of unsavoury individuals wandering about. As we passed a darkened doorway I spotted a man in the midst of ‘cooking something’, blissfully unaware of the iniquitous nature of it?! We never had any problems with anyone but the whole situation was really strange.
Finally we found our hotel – The Clarion Collection Hotel Mayfair. It was a nice chic hotel and the room was excellent. After settling ourselves in we headed back out, by that time dusk had started to settle in so the streets were becoming even more ‘lively.’ We walked by that same spot where I had previously seen ‘the cook’ but he was already gone. Instead there were now street walkers milling about and lingering on corners. Amongst all of this the locals and us tourists just continued on our merry way as if nothing was awry …so weird!? It was nothing like what I had imagined Copenhagen to be.
Our first sightsee was on a Sunday which turned out to be a perfect day to walk around. The shops didn’t open until late and some not at all which meant that the streets were fairly empty. One of the main means of transportation there is the pushbike. The place is literally teeming with them and they have some great bike paths to go on throughout the city. Unfortunately we didn’t end up renting any this time around and thought we’d just do the ol’ankle express instead. Besides, with that many cyclists it seemed to get pretty packed during the rush hours.
The main street to stroll down is Strøget. It’s a great shopping street filled with all kinds of shops and entertaining buskers. There is also another good shopping street called Kobmagergade that intersects with Strøget. We found their bakeries to be especially delectable showcasing freshly baked artisan breads, numerous fruit and cream pastries, muffins and biscuits mmm! Along the way we also saw quite a few hotdog/wiener stands. They seemed to attract quite a bit of business but weren’t keen – I guess we still had bad memories from our last encounter with a hot dog stand in New York…yuck.
After walking down Strøget for some time it led us to the famous Nyhavn canal area. A row of beautiful brightly coloured buildings lined either side of the canal making the whole scene really picturesque. On one side of the canal was a strip of little restaurants bristling with patrons and there were line-ups of people eagerly waiting to go on a canal tour.
Being Australian we were eager to see where one of our very own (Princess Mary) was now residing so we headed off to Amalienborg Palace, home to the Danish Royal family. The flag on her house was up meaning she was home but unfortunately we didn’t get a royal wave. We did get to see the changing of the guard though! That was an interesting thing to see (just make sure you get a good spot because the piazza fills up with tourists like us). After that we took a peak at the nearby Marmorkirken (Marble Church) also known as Frederik’s church.
After all that sightseeing we thought we’d grab some lunch but didn’t want to get stung on the main streets. So we went a few streets back and found some excellent restaurant and cafés. We found the food to be pretty good and quite reasonable.
Over the next few days we went ended up going on one of those beautiful canal tours. The weather was perfect so we got quite a few good pics. Afterwards we decided to go check out a very intriguing looking building we saw on the tour called Vor Frelsers Kirke (The Church of Our Saviour), located in the Christianshavn area. The architecture of the church was attractively done in Dutch Baroque style and tipped with a golden spiral staircase reaching an impressive 90 meters.
For an entry fee we were able to climb the tower. Let me stress that this is definitely not for those who are afraid of heights – it is hard going and a steep climb. Once we got to the top of the church we found ourselves standing outside on the very narrow spiral golden staircase. The view was breathtaking and we got a really great look at Copenhagen.
Suffering from clammy hands, shallow breathing and cold sweats I very slowly climbed up and around and around the staircase (glued to the inner wall) until the stairway severely narrowed at the top. I admit I froze for a few minutes due to a terrifying wave of vertigo that overtook me. Luckily I finally managed to pull it together to enjoy the view and most importantly to get down!
Next we walked a little ways to check out a rather particular, strange Hippy area called Christiania. We asked the locals about this place but most were very curt and almost furtive about it. As we passed run down buildings, heaps of graffiti and ominous ‘No Photo’ signs we soon saw why. Christiania I can imagine in its day was probably a pretty cool, peace loving hippy haven where the exchange of pot was openly done. Well that open exchange is still the case and tolerated but the feeling we got as we walked about wasn’t exactly friendly.
We saw one tourist innocently take a photo of his wife and some big guy out of nowhere showed up and proceeded to yell at the guy and made him erase the image…totally stupid if you ask me. We also didn’t see too many ‘happy’ smiling faces either. I thought it was interesting to see once but definitely not a place to take the family if you know what I mean.
On our last sightsee we went to one of the most scenic amusement parks we’ve ever been to called Tivoli. Judging by the entrance it didn’t actually look like much but once we got inside we were amazed by the size of the park. There was a charming live theater with a big grassy area packed with day-trippers taking in the entertaining show. There were nice little restaurants and more large grassy areas with free comfy seats. The landscaping throughout was stunning – lush gardens and pretty water features.
The rides were also really good. One in particular really stood out to me – it’s called The Star Flyer and it is the world’s tallest carousel whipping people around in swings at a staggering 80 meters high. I hear that the view is pretty magnificent from up there but that’s something I’ll have to sum up the courage to do next time!
We had ourselves a pretty good time in Copenhagen. It was full of things to see and do and some things you probably wouldn’t but overall we found it to be a really interesting city. It’s definitely a place to check out. Make sure to give yourself some time so you can sit and enjoy its laid back atmosphere and don’t forget to save up – like I said, it’s expensive!
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!