In the past several years, it feels as though elements of Danish culture have been thrust into the limelight, particularly in the UK, with author, Helen Russell, publishing her books, the Year of Living Danishly and most recently, Gone Viking. We can also thank Meik Wiking for his Hygge and Lykke books, which became a prime feature on many influencer social accounts and some of my favourite books from the past few years. I found that the more I read or heard about Danish culture, it further fuelled my wanderlust and absolute need to visit the country. So earlier this year, I booked a trip to Copenhagen to experience ‘hygge’ and the Danish culture for myself. After much anticipation and planning, I wanted to share with you my top tips for spending a long weekend in the capital city, to help you craft a fantastic experience, if you choose to visit.
What to see
How often do you visit a city that has its own theme park? Well Copenhagen certainly does in the form of Tivoli Gardens. Officially opened in 1843, the park is continuously developing and is said to change every year, giving visitors a reason to keep coming back. There are rides suitable for visitors of all ages from the Demon with all of its twists and terrifying turns, reaching 28 meters at its highest point; to the mine where you can score points against your partner; to the balloon ferris wheel. We visited during ‘Winter in Tivoli’, which runs from February 1 to February 24, seeing Tivoli transformed into a Winter Wonderland with a picturesque ice rink, fake snow, thousands of sparkling lights and more. However, other seasons will see the park transform including Easter, Summer, Halloween and Christmas, but it does close during some points of the year to help get preparations in order, so make sure you check the website before visiting.
The Little MermaidA typical tourist shot, this bronze statue unveiled in 1913 was created by Edvard Eriksen and is said to depict a mermaid becoming human. Based on the waterside of the Langelinie promenade, it’s said to receive more than one million visitors a year. However, it hasn’t always been particularly popular with the locals, who feel it’s far from the Little Mermaid that Hans Christian Andersen famously depicted in his fairytale, so it has been vandalised on several occasions seeing her loose a head, arms, you name it. But even still, the mermaid stubbornly remains a permanent feature on the city’s waterside and I would argue it is well worth a visit to see up close, particularly on a sunny day in Copenhagen.
NyhavnProbably the most recognisable part of the city, Nyhavn was once a commercial port seeing ships from all over the world dock here. But now, its colourful houses are home to great food, culture and a picturesque canal. The area is also famous for its ties to Denmark’s beloved Hans Christian Andersen, who once called Number 20 his home when he wrote The Princess and the Pea, Little Claus and Big Claus and more. Although many visit this area for the Instagrammable shots, you won’t be short of options for food and drink or entertainment in this area.
Rosenborg CastleBuilt in the 17th century by Scandinavian King, Christian IV, Rosenborg Castle is set in the heart of the King’s Garden in central Copenhagen. Here you can visit Denmark’s crown jewels, alongside three life-size silver lions standing guard. The castle also boasts historic works of art, including portraits of Portraits of Caroline Mathilde and Struensee. Adult admission price is 110.00 DKK (children can enter for free), but if you just wish to admire the castle in its splendour and the surrounding areas, entrance to the gardens is free and you can wander around the castle at your leisure.
Where to eat
During our trip to Copenhagen, National Dining week was in full swing, which meant that we were able to take on three-course dinners at fantastic restaurants for a much smaller price than usual. Please keep this in mind when reading the below.
If you have a sweet tooth, you cannot afford to miss a visit to Conditori La Glace. The oldest confectionery store in Denmark, this venue was established in October 1870 and has been passed through six generations, bringing mouthwatering cakes to Copenhagen and its visitors ever since whilst maintaining a fantastic reputation. However, I will admit that you do pay for the quality of what you’re consuming – for two cakes, a hot chocolate and a coffee, we paid just over £33. But if you’ve got the budget to do so, I’d recommend a stop here but be prepared to queue, particularly during high-season or prime times of day.
BibendumAs Copenhagen’s first wine bar, established in 2001, Bibendum offers delicious food inspired by French and Spanish cuisine. In a cosy setting with a very established Hygge vibe, you can come here for an intimate date night or a warm atmosphere for an evening with friends. If you do decide to visit, I’d recommend opting for a vine pairing, after all, the team here really know their stuff and are incredibly accommodating. Plus, they offer sherry which is an obvious bonus.
Aamanns 1921 Serving Danish cuisine developed with fresh ideas and an innovative approach to dining, packed with flavour with a colourful aesthetic, Aamanns 1921 is a fantastic dining stop for any occasion. With dishes including ‘Gravlax’ with beetroots and capers; chicken with baked onions and glazed pork with kale; and lemon mousse with granola, you won’t be short of options at Aamanns 1921. The setting is a perfect mixture of cosy and classy and to me, personified Denmark just wonderfully.
PonyAs my restaurant of choice for Valentine’s Day, Pony showcases delightful, seasonable Danish cuisine. As a relatively small venue, this restaurant can only seat around 30 diners at any one time, meaning that if you want to visit, I’d recommend booking ahead. Whether you want to undertake its Pony Kick – the four-course set menu which changes with the season (which is incredible) – or if you simply want to try one course by itself, you have the option to do so. This isn’t a stop for those trying to keep a low budget, but I can promise that you are paying for quality, tasty food and an experience when exceeds expectations.
The Union KitchenJust a short walk away from Nyhavn, tucked into a small side street is the Union Kitchen. As a cafe/ bar, this is a great place for a lunchtime venue to stop a refuel. Relatively affordable , the Union Kitchen has options for a light lunch, vegetarian/ vegan diners and something a little bigger if you’re particularly hungry. We opted for pulled pork, with a poached egg, spinach, avocado and peas with a side of fries and truffle oil. Aside from the fries (obviously), this felt like a pretty healthy lunch for a reasonable price.
Meatpacking districtPreviously home to Copenhagen’s meat industry, this district is now home to some of Copenhagen’s best street food. With meaty burgers from Tommi’s Burger Joint to tacos at Hija de Sanchez, there’s something for everything in this area. In the summer and on weather-friendly weekends, this is a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike. Take a stroll here and sample some of your favourite cuisine from Copenhagen’s talented chefs.
Where to drink
LidkoebCopenhagen definitely isn’t short of its cocktail bars, somewhere you can cosy up with a nice drink to shelter from the traditional Scandinavian weather. Set over two floors with an entire floor dedicated to whiskey, Lidkoeb is hidden away from the busy main streets of Copenhagen. With a range of cocktails on offer, ‘Rome with a View’ was my personal favourite, made up of Compari, dry vermouth, lime and soda. With a welcoming environment and a working fireplace, Lidkoed is certainly a place for a hygge afternoon of drinks and cosiness.
Democratic CoffeeNo matter where I go, coffee is always a priority, and I’m sure many of you will feel the same. Located in Copenhagen’s main library, Democratic Coffee offers dairy free milk options as well as mouthwatering pastries, including a buttery jam-filled Danish, like the one I opted for. Stop here if you’re looking for some quiet downtime, a caffeine hit and a slight sugar rush. _______________________________________________________________________________________
All-in-all, Copenhagen is a gorgeously picturesque city, brimming with personality which is evident from the moment you take your first stroll, or cycle, through the city. From its adorable coffee shops, innovative dining experiences and historical sites, there’s so much to experience in the Danish capital and no doubt, you’ll struggle to cram everything into a long weekend, as I did. After spending some time in the city, I quite quickly grasped why its residents have been named some of the happiest in the world – I look forward to another long weekend (or more) of living Danishly.