København – Top 10
August 25, 2015
As you may have seen from my other social media posts or deduced from my blog posts last week I was just in København. So since we just got back last night I thought there’s nothing better than to share some stories, tips and must-see and do spots than today’s Travel Tuesday. Now this was my second trip through the Danish capital and has more or less solidified itself as one of my favourite cities in all of Europe, but it was Lindsay’s first. I spent 5 days there last year with my sister and some friends who joined us along the way and had a blast! This year we went to visit some other friends who posted up there for a month, which is really the way to do it.
Now I could obviously just do a whole post talking about which bars and restaurants to go to here (since that’s always one of my biggest focuses when exploring new cities) but instead I thought I’d share/add some other cultural tips as well. So this week I’m bringing you my København – Top 10. I of course used some specific examples and recommendations but also kept others a bit broader to give you an idea and direction but allow you to make your own choices when it comes down to it. And of course plenty of pictures for each tip.
So, in no real particular order, here we go:
#1 – Tivoli – On my 1st stop through København I decided to skip Tivoli as I was never a huge amusement park or rollercoaster/ride enthusiast. I’m not one who likes to wait in lines, battle crowds and get overcharged for everything. I decided that since everyone kept recommending it to me as one of the top things to see/do in town, I should make it a point to stop there this time. On our last full day in town, a Sunday which I expected to be packed as it was the end of summer and a gorgeous day out, we arrived to the park around 5pm. To our surprise the ticket line was almost nonexistent and we got right in. Upon entering you could immediately tell that this wasn’t your normal amusement park … in fact it is the world’s 2nd oldest such park opening in 1843 however it is widely regarded as a place that “will never be completed.” It is immaculately kept up and literally has something for everyone as you walk through the near 15 acres of rides, restaurants, sights theatres, attractions, gardens and games. And while there are a ton of restaurants and cafes inside but none really looked like anything too special and the one we ate at didn’t blow me away by any means but it did fill me up. The one thing that pleasantly surprised us however was no matter which ride we went on there were almost no lines. It probably helped that there were a few different types of rides and even more games and the fact that the rides didn’t take very long, usually 2-4 minutes max. Now this can get a bit expensive if you want to keep going on rides but the simple solution was to by the unlimited pass. The bigger, more intense rides all cost 3 ‘tickets’ and if you planned on going on 3 or more rides you’d get your money’s worth with the unlimited pass. Now my biggest recommendation is to do, at least part of your stop within Tivoli, at night because that’s when it real beauty “shines,” although not how we’re used to today. One of the rules they abide by at Tivoli is to have no neon light and “softer” feel to it by using incandescent bulbs, for everything. There are over 120,000 bulbs and 3,000 lamps illuminating the place at night. You’ll even find oil-burning candles lit throughout certain parts of the park which I found both amazing and charming. One thing to note however is that EU laws will prohibit these after 2016 so they are already having specially made LED bulbs which will meet the EU standards but provide the same feel. So after not being sure I even wanted to go, we ended up rushing around to get a few more rides in before they closed the gates at 11pm that night and on our way out we caught a bit of the light show in the middle of the park and was one of the more pleasant surprises of the trip and something to definitely add to your list. Fun side note … the oldest amusement park in the world, Dyrehavsbakken founded in 1583, is just 10km or 6 miles north of Copenhagen.
#2 – Torvehallerne – This is probably my second favourite spot in København (behind any of the Mikkeller spots) not only because I love good food but a wide variety of it as well. The market seems to get bigger each time I go and again but most of the others I’ve visited to shame. It now encompasses 2 large covered permanent halls with 3 rows of vendors in each. The other rows each hold 10 stands and the middle row has stands on both side so about 20 in total. Times that by 2 and you’re looking at a grand total of around 80 stands however since some of them encompass multiple stands as their space there are about 50+ vendors inside and 20 or so outside. It’s an amazing variety of spots to grab a bite to eat, be it a smørrebrød, pizza, taco, porridge, sushi, etc. Then they have spots for sweets and desserts as well as coffee and tea stalls, including a Coffee Collective which is arguably one of the best roasters not only in København but the world (they have 2 other stores in town as well in the Nørrebro and Frederiksberg neighbourhoods). Finally you have some stalls which are more take home or picnic items such as a deli, cheese board or fishmonger. A newer thing I noticed this year, as they continue to expand, was a larger number of food stands in between the 2 buildings which expanded the food selection that much more. Finally you can also buy your farmers markets fruits and veggies there as well to take home. Truly a must for a snack or meal during the day or if you’re planning a picnic in one of the parks or on the water.
#3 – Mikkeller – Last week I wrote about my slight obsession with Mikkeller for my Thirsty Thursday post however I cannot stress enough how great his beers are and cool (and yes hipster) his bars are around town. I realised that while I mentioned his 3 main ones in my post last time, The Original Mikkeller in Vesterbro, Mikkeller & Friends in Norrebro and Mikropolis in København K … I neglected to mention his newer collaborations including a brewpub with 3 Floyds called Warpigs Brewpub in the Meatpacking District just outside of Vesterbro as well as his restaurant collaboration next to The Original Mikkeller called Øl & Brød (Beer & Bread) in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. If you are the slightest bit a fan of beer then you’ve got to get to at least one of these spots. If you aren’t a beer fan I’d still recommend going as all of them also serve spirits including a lot of Mikkeller spirits which they’ve also started producing over the last couple of years. Here the simple breakdown of each (along with a few pictures of each bar because I have way too many to post more):
- Mikkeller Bar – the original with a lively atmosphere with cozy indoor and outdoor bench seating; 20 taps as well as spirits, their cherry wine and a couple other Mikkeller wine creations such as his Beer Geek Riesling and of course some rarer bottles; they also have some snacks (crisps and sausages) and are located almost next door to Øl & Brød
- Mikkeller & Friends – the largest of the Mikkeller spots with a couple different rooms/sections of indoor seating as well as small benches outside and park benches across the street next to a park where you can enjoy your beer in the sun; they have a whopping 40 taps here situated along 2 walls and a great selection of bottles too; this one also has their bottle shop where they sell a huge selection of take away bottles from them and, as the name suggests, other “friends” plus some glassware and clothing
- Mikropolis – their newest namesake bar in Copenhagen and also the smallest but with maybe my favourite feel to it; they have 10 taps and 10 drinks made with the Mikkeller spirits to choose from as well as a selection of other bottles and options for drinks; it includes 2 smaller rooms and bar seating and of course you can take you beer outside but there isn’t any seating to speak of; if you’re not that into beer this should be the first stop of the 3 main ones
- Warpigs Brewpub – this collaboration bar in the meatpacking district is essentially a large hall with long communal tables for seating both indoor and outside as well; the music is loud and heavy but there are 22 taps with a wider variety of brewers as well as American BBQ being served up from Andrew Hroza
- Øl & Brød – while this place has still eluded me (don’t ask) I’m going to highly recommend it based on everything I’ve heard and read about it plus we stopped in to see the usual outdoor park bench seating as well as the more sophisticated yet smaller inside dining room; I’d recommend it more so for lunch than dinner as they have snacks and smørrebrød for lunch but only a prix fixe menu for dinner service; of course great beer pairings from Mikkeller and like I mentioned it’s literally down the street from Mikkeller Bar
- Besides Copenhagen they also have Mikkeller Bars in San Francisco, Tokyo, Stockholm, Bangkok and Seoul; Mikkeller & Friends in Reykjavík (which I will be visiting later this year)
#4 – Food – So I could go on and on about this category as well but I’m going to keep it rather short here and will certainly expand on my Foodie Fridays for more specific recommendations. Of course there are a massive influx of high-end, Michelin-starred, Relais & Chateaux, etc restaurants gaining fame all around København from noma to Relæ to BROR to Höst to Amass to Kiin Kiin, etc, etc, etc. While the exchange rate is probably not favourable from most countries and it can be difficult to eat on a tight budget, there are plenty of middle of the road spots that aren’t tourist traps and still serve very good food. A wonderful website to visit to help you on your quest however, until I start posting more in-depth reviews, is the Visit Copenhagen site.
#5 – GoBoat – We decided to get out on the water again this trip to København but in a different way. Instead of taking a canal tour we went with the GoBoat which you rent by the hour and get to drive yourself. The boats aren’t fast by any means, on purpose, but offer you full control of where you go, what you see and allow up to 8 of people to enjoy some time together on the water. We obviously decided, and highly recommend, bringing a picnic of some sort as all the boats have a nice table in the middle just begging to have a nice spread of food (maybe from Torvehallerne) and some drinks (maybe from Mikkeller) on it. We did an hour which was enough to see some of the main sights from where you pick them up and drop them off in the Islands Brygge area but as we got to the halfway point we realised that we probably should have done more time to continue exploring. My one recommendation is to definitely book in advance though as there are only a limited number of them and, especially on nice days/weekends, they can book up.
#6 – Canal Tour/Bus Tour – I’ve had a few discussions about this recently with people and after hearing some cons but mostly pros have come to the decision that while this is maybe the touristy thing to do, you absolutely should do at least one if not both. After all you are a tourist and deserve to get the full picture as it’s an easy, convenient and efficient way to see everything that you “should” see while leaving time for other more local or off-the-beaten-path things later on. My biggest recommendation for this is to do it early in the trip for 2 reasons. First you can get a good feel for the layout and space of the city and secondly you can not only cross certain things off your list that you only need to see once (Little Mermaid Statue) but get a better plan of things you may want to make time to go back to and explore more (Kastellet, Paper Island, Opera House, etc). There isn’t one specific canal or bus tour I recommend over the others as they all seem to cover the same stuff for the most part and give you a lot of history and insight into the city so be sure to pay attention and learn something instead of just snapping pictures.
#7 – Green Space/Parks – København, a lot like London, is known for its parks and green spaces and on a nice day (which we just saw the entire time we were there luckily) the parks are full of people. There is everything from elderly people taking a stroll to families playing and getting some exercise for the little ones to young people congregating to have some beers and socialise to tourists walking through to take in the sights and maybe take a quick break or nap in them to some locals having a picnic. There are definitely too many spots to list but here are the main ones I’ve seem to hit on both of my trips:
- Kastellet – one of the oldest and the most well-preserved star-shaped Citadel in Europe offers some neat views of the water as well as back into the city; take a walk along the top of the wall and stop at the large Dutch windmill for a photo-op
- King’s Garden – one of the most well maintained and busiest parks in town as it is right in the heart of everything and bordering Rosenborg Castle, which is another spot I’d highly recommend taking a tour of (especially if you have a rainy day you want to do something inside)
- Assistens Kirkegård – located over in Norrebro this massive green space is actually a cemetery where everyone seems to congregate on nice days to relax on the lawns, take a stroll or pay their respects; there are some famous people buried here including Hans Christian Andersen, Niels Bohr, Søren Kierkegaard and many more; Warning: be sure to ride your bikes (if you have them) only on the designated paths as we found that one out the hard way last year after we were stopped and lectured by an angry and proud Dane who was not too fond of us Americans who were always in a hurry and rushing around a bit too much for his liking
- Botanical Gardens – another gorgeous spot on the opposite side of Rosenborg Castle from King’s Garden which is free to enter and walk around plus plenty of spots to hang out and enjoy the views; on the other end of the park is an entrance to the National Gallery of Denmark as well
- Frederiksberg Gardens – not only is it located next to the Zoo but it is a massive amount of area near the heart of town dedicated to green space; I highly recommend a boat ride through the river to really get a feel for its massive size
#8 – Street Art – Like many other European cities, street art can play a big part in the culture or counterculture movement in a city. Now maybe I’m a big fan of street art and find it amazing both because I don’t have that sort of artistic talent or because of the messages they can sometimes get across. There is a massive difference between street art and tagging and just about anyone can tell the difference. Now this is one of those things that you sort of stumble upon as you round a corner or take a detour off the main streets and touristy areas. So I have a few spots in town which have some great street art but I’d love to hear feedback from others who have been there and what any favourite spots they may have. Here are a few cool spots to get you started on your hunt:
- Nordbanegade – a long wall of street art along Nørrebroparken
- Westend & Vesterbrogade Tunnel – this is a famous tunnel our Airbnb host pointed out to us last time which changes quite regularly from some famous local artists
- The bartender from Mikkeller Bar also gave us the an of an area a little southwest of the city in the Sydhavnen area and told us to go find Lokomotivværkstedet and we’d stumble upon some cool stuff under the tracks
- And obviously all throughout Christiania
#9 – Christiania – So this is one that I recommend everyone visit at least once but it is obviously not going to be everyone’s favourite. This enclave set on the back of Christianshavn, which is essentially a chain of small islands connected to the main section of København by the a bridge, is a self-governing, self-sustaining autonomous “commune” society of around 900 residents. There are signs as you enter and exit also reminding you that they are not part of the EU so the rules there are a bit different/non-existent in certain areas. The main one of course being the sale and use of marijuana and hash. The Green Light District in the middle of Christiania allows for the “legal” sale of cannabis/marijuana, hash, edibles but that’s it. One of the main things that Christiania does not tolerate is the use of hard drugs, in fact there are quite a few signs inside with either broken needles or a needle with a strike through it and there’s been a pseudo-crusade against it there since 1979. They are however, as am I, an advocate of marijuana and they also sell food and beer. To be able to survive they also have other goods shops set-up where they sell the touristy items like t-shirts, posters, jewelery, etc some of which is hand-made as well as bars, food stands, a general store and more. As you walk around the area you can also escape this section and walk through the area where they live. Many are somewhat rundown houses that seem to perpetually be under construction and have a family or more living in them. Then you think that they’ve lived like this since it’s formation on September 4th, 1971 when it was originally formed by squatters on an abandoned military area and just a few years ago got electricity. So again it’s quite the interesting thing to see but don’t disobey the ‘No Photo’ law in the Green Light District or you’ll be quite sorry, and kind of just a dick.
#10 – Rent Bikes – While I’m a big fan of getting around a city on foot because you can accidentally stumble upon a cool street, festival, pop-up, bar, etc that you may not otherwise, bikes in København are the way to get around. It is arguably one of, if not the most, bike-friendly cities in all of Europe and the world so far and their goal is to be both the #1 green city as well as the #1 bike-friendly city by 2025. There are a huge number of bike rental companies in every neighbourhood which are a great deal so again no real recommendation on who to rent from. There are also the new city bikes with GPS that can be found and rented around town. The bike lanes cover just about every road there and are almost as wide as the roads themselves and kept up even better than the sidewalks. So do yourself a favour and rent a bike for a day (or more) and explore the different neighbourhoods that way, you won’t regret it.
So as you can tell it was yet another amazing trip and our first real excursion together, outside of London, since we’ve been living abroad. There will be plenty more for us, and I suppose you vicariously, to look forward to in the coming weeks, months, years we’ll be out here. Plus we’re back just in time as my parents get in on Friday so it’s time to prepare for their trip and get ready for playing tourist right here in our backyard with few days outside the city as well.
If you’ve been to København yourself then you know how amazing of a city it is … if you haven’t been yet do yourself a favor and plan it into your next weekend trip or European vacation, depending on where you’re coming from.