I didn’t intend this blog to be a travelogue but Denmark surprised me enough to want to feel the need to shout about it.
I’m not sure what I expected of Copenhagen other than a change of air and maybe something akin to Amsterdam. In fact although there are canal-side walks which ressemble the Dutch capital and plenty of historic sites, it was the new juxtaposed to the old which took my eye (how could it not with all that glass and water!) and hinted at those famous design brands and concepts to have come from this small country.
On our first day we walked along the picture-post-card Nyhaven to be confronted with the geometric blocks of the Royal Danish Playhouse. Without seeing any of the three stages I was smitten by the interior of the Cafe Ophelia not to mention the equally fabulous view. Later we saw it from every angle from a harbour boat trip which took in every era including modern nods to the past in Chirstianshaven and the absolute modernity of the Black Diamond, home to the national library.
Later that day we ambled up the spiral path of the Round Tower built in the seventeenth century and showing its age in only good ways. The beautifully lit exhibition space half way up was a superb home to some contemporary installation art. And at the very top an observatory. In this modest monument there really is something for everybody.
The benefit of an airbnb not far from the centre was our proximity to the main city park where we admired Rosenborg from a distance but instead chose to visit the Botanic Garden with its huge traditional Palm House. Like many parts of Copenhagen this area is being refurbished with a new Geological museum. If we go again we’ll also benefit from a new Metro line and, hopefully, not quite so much traffic to dodge in the centre. Clearly modernity demands renewal and this is not a place to let the grass grow under its feet.
For us Copenhagen wasn’t a city with a list of ‘must see’ places (we managed to miss the Royal Place of Christiansborg completely), but one with a fascinating culture and vibe. And since we found the same eclectic mix of sights and experiences outside the city I’d assume this applies to the rest of the country.
At Helsingor (that’s Elsinore to Shakespeare buffs) we had a Saturday morning coffee in the small harbour town followed by a couple of hours in the excellently managed Kronborg Castle. After a lunch in the sun we realised this unassuming place had its own modern glass creation housing exhibition spaces, galleries and a very eye-catching library.
At Helsingor we could have visited the new Maritime Museum (cunningly concealed in an old dry dock) or popped over to Sweden for a few hours. But instead we headed for the Louisiana Modern Art complex which was an easy walk from Humlebaek station (on the line back to Copenhagen) and an absolute joy to visit for the views, the gardens and the huge number of families availing themselves of a flourishing kids program which ranged through several exhibitions and in the lake garden.
There was plenty of ‘weird art’ on show, but all of it made accessible (and welcoming) by the split-level buildings which invited us in from the gardens despite ourselves. This is one of the most poular attractions in Denmark, so I think we can say it’s a success.
Expensive? Yes, as we expected, but we benefited from the Copenhagen Card which paid for all our entrance fees AND public transport (including the boat trip) for three full days and encouraged us to go in and take a closer look rather than walking on.
The cards cost around £80 each (small discount from Expedia) which we considered money well spent. As well as everything mentioned above we visited Tivoli, Amelionborg, Der Bla Planet Aquarium and the elegant Carlsberg Glyptotech without forking out on the day.
Food was not cheap but there were many decent budget options and a wealth of ‘hipster’ food bars.
Pastries? With a bakery two blocks down from our cute apartment I can honestly say we had a few.
Looking for a mention of the famous fairytale statue? Yes, we saw it too, but Copenhagen – and Denmark – were all about the present day – and the unexpected.