Copenhagen easily became one of our favorite cities. The city just feels so livable: a place where bicycles remained unlocked outside the main train station; a place where families walk arm in arm along the main pedestrian walkway; a place that has a large amusement park in the middle of the city.
Even in the dark of January when days are shorter and there’s snow and thick ice, the people are warm and the city is alive.
The history of European royalty finds much of its genesis with the Danish royal family. Christian IX is referred to as the father-in-law of Europe. His descendants married into and had children in the royal families of Russia, England, Greece, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Belgium. All current kingdoms in Europe today descend from Christian IX and Queen Victoria except for the Dutch royal family. This important role in European history is oft-repeated in each of the gorgeous palaces in Copenhagen.
Each of the following are walkable from one sight to another.
Christiansborg Palace is located on the island of Slotsholmen and is the seat of government. The building contains the Danish Parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of State.
Amaliensborg Palace is the winter home of the Danish royal family. The large square has a daily changing the guard.
Nyhavn is a neat little spot to grab a drink or a quick meal on the way to Rosenborg Castle. Rosenborg is an old medieval castle with all the antlers and crown jewels that you would expect for its age. It is over 400 years old and colder inside than the weather outside. Stay bundled.
With impending darkness, we went inside to the Statens Museum for Kunst contemporary art museum. The museum is very cool and gives insight into Danish realism art.
The city is a beer lovers paradise. Both Carlsberg and Mikkeller hail from Copenhagen.
Carlsberg is in an old section of town and the brewery feels like a step back in time.
Carlsberg offers an awesome tour to see the history of the old brewery, the old labels, the delivery systems of yesteryear, and the Carlsberg horses.
And, like any good brewery, they reward you at the end with a beer.
We didn’t go to the Mikkeller brewery, but instead we found the Mikkeller bar near the Copenhagen Meatpacking District. The beer list is extensive. The bar is below street level. Don’t be put off by the crowded entry way or the prices. Everyone speaks English and its perfectly fine to ask for a sample to help make up your mind before spending NYC prices for a beer.
The open faced sandwich called smorrebrod is a Danish staple. Smorrebrod usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a dense, darkbrown bread. Pålæg, the topping, can refer to commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads. Pålæg is placed on the buttered bread, and then pyntet (decorated) with the right accompaniments, to create a tasty and visually appealing food item.
We had two different and incredible lunches with smorrebrod. First, we found Meyers Deli in the basement of the Magasin department store. The smorrebrod was huge. A second opportunity was near the art museum at Aamans. Make a reservation for lunch or head to the deli for “takeaway.” We didn’t have to leave; the seating is first come, first serve.
We also had two amazing dinners. The first was in the Meatpacking District at Mother. The pizza is one of legend; the yeast culture being the legend. The atmosphere was lively.
Copenhagen is also home to world’s number 1 restaurant, Noma (currently ranked number 3). Jesper Kirketerp, former sous chef at Noma, opened his own spot near the city’s old radio house and conspicuously named it “Radio.” Radio was a tremendous experience finished with carrot ice cream.
Getting out of the city
An easy train ride north of Copenhagen are a few places of interest. Kronborg is the famous Hamlet castle in Helsingor. Along the coast is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. We chose to head to Hillerod and the Frederiksborg Palace, which houses the Museum of National History.
The palace is incredible with the Castle Chapel at its center. The walls have many Danish families’ crests, with a few non-Dane surprises: Dwight Einsenhower, Nelson Mandella.
We stayed at the Marriott Copenhagen along the water and just a ten minute walk from the main train station. The hotel is gorgeous and comes with a lavish brunch that kept us going as we acted like tourists. The best part? Early check in from an overnight flight from the USA. All we did was request it in advance and the staff accommodated us by getting us a warm shower and encouraging us to have breakfast.
SAS has direct flights from most U.S. cities to Copenhagen and features an upgrade policy where you can purchase a business class upgrade for a fraction of the cost if it becomes available. Best prices are in off-seasons (read: winter). The Copenhagen airport is a wonderful shopping mecca and the 20 minute train from the airport to the main train station departs every ten minutes.
Why we’ll go back
Nyhavn in the summer.