Copenhagen at Christmas
Here’s what not to do immediately after landing in Copenhagen- accidentally exit the country and end up in Sweden.
That’s right, we had spent no fewer than 40 minutes in festive Denmark before embarking on what we had assumed to be the train to take us 3 stops in Copenhagen central…only to discover 5 minutes in the next stop was, in fact, Sweden. An excellent start if ever there was one. As lovely as the bridge across the stormy waters was and as enthralling as the station somewhere outside of Malmo appeared, we very swiftly purchased new tickets and literally got back on track. Albeit the right one this time. Top tip- check, check and triple check you are boarding the right train, even if you’re on the right platform. And if you have a feeling you’re on the wrong train because it’s leaving 5 minutes earlier than advertised, you’re probably right. It’s not as if we’ve spent the last two summers navigating Europe by train or anything…
The journey from the airport to the central train station is actually very simple and there are plenty of easy to use ticket machines around. Three stops and 15 minutes later takes you into the centre of Copenhagen and for us a further 5 minute walk took us to our base for the next few days- the boutique Absalon Hotel. Chosen for it’s convenient looking location, modern interior and pleasing price we were very happy with our stay. Contemporary rooms with a beautifully stylish lobby, there was a great selection at breakfast each morning and the bar staff were only too happy to create an evening cocktail or two- whether they were on the menu or not. All this and complimentary Danish Pastries made for a very enjoyable time indeed.
Copenhagen at Christmas had always been on my “to see” list and it also marked my first time venturing into Scandinavia. We had no real plans for our trip other than to take in all the festive ambience whilst consuming all the glühwein. Lonely Planet eat your heart out. Copenhagen is the perfect city for such an itinerary; with Christmas markets popping up on seemingly every corner and streets that were just made for exploring on foot it was all too easy to spent a few days getting lost amongst the colourful houses, Danish Nisse and endless fairy lights.
Our first destination was the Christmas Market at Højbro Plads which I had, true to form, found on Instagram. I cannot recommend searching for destination inspiration on Instagram enough when you’re new to a city, it’s the perfect place to discover where everyone else is going. Rows of wooden cabins selling the usual Christmas trinkets adorned the square and to our delight there were ample opportunities to purchase a festive beverage.
We took ourselves on an evening walking tour along the main shopping streets passing the incredibly illuminated Hotel D’Angelterre and more markets at Nyhavn before admitting defeat to the worsening rain and turning round to head to the MeatPacking district for dinner. We had read up on Kødbyens Fiskebar and after wandering around the otherwise near enough deserted area we were thrilled to get a table. And be dry. The Fishbar was full of industrial chic touches and, as you would expect, had a pleasing fish selection on offer. The bread that was brought to the table was an incredible sourdough concoction and came with the most amazing butter I’ve ever eaten- whipped to perfection. For our main courses we ordered a Fish & Chips and Hake followed by a Nordic cheese plate. Because when else do we get to eat Nordic cheese? The staff were incredibly helpful and took great pleasure in talking us through each dish, something we noticed repeatedly during our stay. I’d definitely recommend stopping by here for a meal and then watching the chefs at work through the kitchen windows once you leave.
The next morning started bright and early with a boat trip. Leaving from Nyhavn we spent a relaxed and informative hour with Stromma Canal Tours. Apparently due to high waters we didn’t take the usual route but the one we did go on took us all around the city pointing out many highlights including the playhouse, the unfinished kissing bridge, the alternative district of Christiania and some impressively Scandi looking apartments. We did of course see the, erm, spectacle that is The Little Mermaid. But only from behind. Which by the sounds of it was probably as underwhelming as the front of it. Nonetheless, it’s a nice nod to one of the country’s finest authors and a pretty spot for a picture out of the main city.
Nyhavn is the canal district in Copenhagen- the one you see on all the postcards. Its rows of brightly coloured houses make way for an assortment of boats on the water and there are cafes, shops and (currently) Christmas stalls a plenty. It’s a must see when in the city. Under the recommendation of my Copenhagen friend Sandra, we stopped off at Vaffelbageren for a post boat trip waffle and coffee. An excellent mid morning snack, if ever there was one.
From boat to bell tower we continued walking the streets falling in love with all the things I can’t afford in all the shops luring you in with their perfect Scandinavian treasures. I’m going to go ahead and say right now that Copenhagen has to be the ideal European shopping destination. If I was ever in a position to take myself away on such a trip I would go here. The shops are beautiful and the people are wonderful and friendly- just don’t be too surprised if they see blonde hair and talk to you in Danish. My favourite discovery was Norr (an Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters hybrid) and the Molecule Perfume it stocked inside. A true scent sensation. After happily meandering we arrived at our next stop- The Round Tower. An icon of Copenhagen since 1642 it’s centrally located and for a small fee you can walk up the curved ramp interior to the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. It’s definitely worth doing, especially on a sunny day.
I’m going to save the rest of our day at Tivoli for another post because it was a Christmas dream that deserves its own micro essay/separate space for an abundance of photos. Let’s instead carry on with day three of the Christmas in Copenhagen adventure where we visited the Botanical gardens which, maybe correctly so, doesn’t sound like your prime December activity, but was actually a great discovery. We again walked through the City taking in the University along the way and admired the 50+ shades of grey we were greeted with on arrival to the gardens. However, once inside the greenhouses we were met with hundreds of colourful plants and flowers and probably the best feature I’ve ever seen in such an establishment- a staircase to the top of the trees. Maybe not one for any vertigo sufferers but an incredible walkway feature giving you the kind of plant perspective that ordinarily only giraffes or tree dwelling animals would enjoy.
After joyfully spotting a red squirrel (I won’t even offend you with the photo attempts) we crossed the road to admire Rosenborg Slot- a renaissance castle surrounded by impressively manicured, starry grounds. I imagine on a warm sunny day it would be a perfect picnic spot but even on a dull, wintery Tuesday the park made for a lovely walk.
Our final stop of the trip before heading home was the Torvehallerne Food Market, a foodie favourite where everything from popular lunchtime snack egg wraps to Smørrebrød to local meat and fish can be purchased. Keeping it local, I opted for a selection of salads from Hav2Go. Locally smoked mackerel with bulgar wheat and delicious bread- it was the perfect last Danish meal.
Before leaving Christmas in Copenhagen behind we were surprised by my friend Sandra and her boyfriend Anders who treated us to an array of local cakes and coffee before we boarded our (correct) train to the airport. Sandra and I studied/partied/spent so much time together in NYC and by a pure stroke of luck last week I got to see her in London AND Copenhagen. After three years it was wonderful to be finally reunited over one of our favourite things- good food. If anyone knows where I can get some authentic Flødebollers in the UK I would love to hear about it as the ones with caramel in the centre may be my new favourite thing.
It was a truly perfect festive mini break and with return flights for only £34 I know I’ll definitely be back in the future. I think I’m going to need a Scandinavian Christmas fix every year from now one- the Danish one of 2015 was truly, truly great.