Two months ago, I had never even looked at Denmark on a map. But my friend was getting married in Copenhagen, so off we go. The following recommendations are based on 5 days (with wedding activities mixed in) and 30 miles of tracing the streets. I will include links and pictures after each category.
- February in Copenhagen in brisk: 40F and windy.
- The city is not huge, but there is a lot to see and do.
- Take wads of cash if you want to eat–the place is not cheap. $10 coffee anyone? I ended up grocery shopping for most of my food.
- Everyone I talked to (and you know me. . .), under the age of 60, spoke fluent English.
- Security is not a major concern. Bikes, dogs, coats, and children were all regularly left unattended. Nighttime walking was fine, and when my friend lost her iphone, it was turned into the lost and found–at the Parliament. The only place I saw a significant security presence was outside of the Synagogue.
- Towers. So. Many. Towers! I wasn’t there 2 hours before I was ready to climb every set of steps I could find.
- There is no shortage of beauty–architecture, nature, design. . .
- Popout Map: I love these little maps as a part of preparing for travel. They give you the lay of the land, a transportation overview, and some highlights you should consider visiting.
- Visit Copenhagen: Excellent website to help you plan your trip.
- The National Museum of Denmark: Start in the Stone age and learn about the history of Denmark through the ages. Excellent section on Iron Age religion, Roman influence, and the Vikings. More mummies than I have seen anywhere!
- Canal tour: I know, this is a pretty touristy thing to do, but it is worth the geographical overview. And man! Did I mention that Copenhagen is a beautiful city?! Also, the tour takes you to see the Little Mermaid statue which is literally not worth the effort to walk to.
Churches and Monuments:
- Copenhagen Cathedral, Vor Frue Kirke: Steps from the university, this neoclassical Lutheran Church was completed in 1829, one of the newer churches I visited. The pillars on the front of the building were flanked by statues of King David and Moses, and statues of the the Apostles line the side aisles, each carved with a symbol of their life and ministry.
- Reformation Memorial: This obelisk commemorating the influence of Luther’s teaching on Denmark and the country’s subsequent alignment with the Lutheran church stands in a small square just across the street from the front of the Cathedral.
- Trinitatis Church: Originally built to serve the University population of students and professors, this building was consecrated in 1656 and included the Round Tower (more on this later) and a large open room originally used for library space.
- Nikolaj Kunsthal: As is happening all over Europe, this church has been turned into a gallery. The tower is supposed to be one of the best views of the city, but I was too late to check it out.
- Church of the Holy Spirit: Another fabulous organ, dark woods, bright windows. Active congregation with cafe in the summer months and musical events year round.
- Churches I missed this time: Christ our Savior with its fabulous outdoor ramped spiral tower (only open to climb in nice weather) and St. Peters Church, also known as the Marble Church, a late 19th C. church with another tower tour.
Random elements to enjoy in Copenhagen:
- Torvehallerne: These two glass-enclosed food halls contain the best and most common of Danish cuisine. Go in the early evening to have dinner, buy some flowers, and enjoy the lights. Food is not cheap, but it is fresh and delightfully different. Two words for you: beet salad. I literally walked 5 miles to eat more beets!
- Windows: The windows everywhere are lovely. A great game with the kids would be to see how many miniature sailboat models you can find in the windows around you.
- Grocery Stores: Stop at every one! Outside of the lovely store in the Kopenhaven H Train Station, the Irma chain was my favorite.
- Patterns: I enjoyed looking throughout the city for patterns in the brick walkways, arches, and doors. So much beauty! Look around for the seashell motif everywhere. Also, the monarchy has labeled everything their hands have touched, so crowns can also be found just about everywhere.
- Royal Stables: Wander around the grounds of the Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister’s office, and you might just see the Royal Stables open. Depending on the exercise schedule, you might be able to pay for a tour, or just walk in and nose around.
- Danish Jewish Museum: To the east of the Christiansborg Palace, through the Soren Kierkegaard Garden, you will find the tiny, but significant Jewish Museum. Built in the shape of the Hebrew letters for “Mitzvah,” the uneven floor leaves you a little dizzy or off-kilter. One of the staff suggested it was to commemorate that most of Denmark’s Jews came by boat in the 17th and 19th Century. It seemed to me to be representative of the temporary nature of the Jewish people staggering toward the Promised Land. Small, but fabulous, collection of scrolls, religious artifacts, and WW2 era items.
- The Round Tower: Attached to the Trinity Church mentioned above, the Round Tower was completed in 1642 and is still used as an astronomical observatory. Just 36 meters tall, the tower consists of a spiral ramp circling a core. Part of the University library is connected here, as well, a favorite haunt of the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. Window seats along the ramp allow you to take your time and enjoy the view as you work your way up to the open air deck at the top of the tower.
Kopenhaven City Hall
I mentioned that I was in Copenhagen to attend the wedding of a friend. Copenhagen makes it easy for expat couples to get married in City Hall. Even without a wedding to attend, City Hall is worth exploring! A building tour is available, and literally every corner of it is beautiful. The tower tour is well worth the money and the climb. The guard who gave us the tour had worked there for 39 years and 8 months and clearly loved the job!
For $25 round trip, my travel companions and I hopped on the train in Copenhagen, rode it past the airport, and across the water to Malmo, Sweden. Truth be told, I was looking for Pippi Longstocking, the strong little red-headed girl who lived with her horse and monkey in Villa Villekulla. What we found was a charming city, etched with canals, and stacked with 400 year old buildings. And kitchen stores! We found lots of kitchen stores.
Things I wanted to see, but ran out of time:
- Dansk Design Center: Missing this was a poor choice, but the gift shop was fabulous!
- Tivoli Gardens: the early 19th Century amusement park that Walt Disney was inspired by.
- All the Palaces: The Danish Royalty likes to build things.
- Changing of the Guard and the Guard’s Museum: The Guards march from one palace to another.
- Viking Museum: Viking Boats, well preserved.
- Tycho Brae Planetarium: Tycho Brae was a 16th C astronomer who worked with Johannes Kepler, moon rotations, and comets. This modern planetarium had a great schedule of astronomical programs.