25th- 27th April, 2015
This three day Scandinavian visit nearly didn’t happen. We had been looking forward to our long weekend in Copenhagen and our dreams were crushed when, a few days before our trip, I twisted my ankle while jogging! It was enormously swollen and black and blue! I could barely walk and was cursing myself for not just sticking with the Pilates I had planned!
I was on my back, leg elevated, for three days straight, hoping the swelling would go down, which, thank goodness it did (kind of!) I was still in a bit of pain but there was no way I was going to miss out on that fairy-tale city. So I hobbled onto the plane and away we flew!
Man, am I glad I limped my way through it because Copenhagen is one hell of a city! It’s the perfect combination of quirky and classic, it has amazzzing dining options and the people are wonderfully friendly!
We arrived in the early afternoon and made our way to our b&b. Let me tell you, if there is a race of people more German than the Germans, it’s the Danish! Talk about efficiency! We were off the plane and at our apartment within about 30 minutes. The airport was so clearly signed. They have time markers on the floor telling you how far away (in minutes) the exit/gates are. There is a ticketing system to buy tickets for the trains and said trains run like clockwork! Insane!
Our apartment was spectacularly located on a street called “Værnedamsvej”. Now, I knew that they referred to the street as the ‘Little Paris’ of Copenhagen on account of the gorgeous little shops that line the street. What I didn’t know was that it is also known as the ‘Gourmet Street’ of the city. Happy, happy days for us! The street had some of the most gorgeous artisan food stores that we thoroughly enjoyed exploring (I am still dreaming about the heavenly chocolate store!)
Our first stop would be lunch at ‘Granola’, a lovely little French style café right next door to our apartment. We slowly savoured our lunch with no particular plan in mind for the afternoon. After devouring our steak tartare and eggs in cocotte and taking in the atmosphere of our lively street, we ventured out for a walk.
As we meandered along, Kristian and I both agreed that so many aspects of the city reminded us of Berlin. We were filled with nostalgia as we remembered our eight month stay in the German capital city. We haven’t yet been back to our ‘once upon a time home’ but I am sure we will make it one day.
Without any maps or direction, our afternoon stroll brought us to Friederiksburg Gardens where we spent some time people/duck watching. We accidentally discovered the most charming Danish tradition in the form of a beautiful tree laden with dummies and handwritten notes from children. We soon discovered that it is a ‘coming of age’ ritual for three-year-old children to leave their dummies hanging on the tree.
There were literally hundreds of dummies and letters from the children who once possessed them. After a bit of research, I found out that the scribbled notes (written in Danish) contain messages such as, “Good bye. My best friend. I love you. I’ll miss you but I’m a big girl now”. Something as insignificant as a dummy is so special to a baby and I thought that it was wonderful for the community to publically celebrate one of the first milestones of ‘growing up’.
This sense of community and togetherness of the Danish population was prevalent throughout our three-day stay in Copenhagen. It was the following day, as we partook in a bike tour with straight talking and down to Earth local, Mike, that we found out more about the Danes.
Free university, progressive attitudes to gay rights and gender equality, state funded child and health care and a 34 hour work week, it became very clear to us why Denmark has been ranked by the UN as one of the happiest countries on the planet! Danes are also very trusting, something which became quickly apparent to Kristian and I as we observed many solo prams and strollers outside shops with happy, sleeping babies inside. They really do look after one another. Yes, the taxes are a lot higher in Denmark than they are in a lot of other countries, but as Mike explained the locals are beyond happy to pay their dues as the majority goes right back into the community. We were only in the country for a short time, but from what we heard and what we could see the system is definitely working for them!
Keeping all this in mind, I’m going to tell you about a very interesting place within Copenhagen that is known as ‘Freetown Christiania’. It is an autonomous neighbourhood in the borough of Christianshavn, in the centre of Copenhagen. The small ‘commune’ is housed within the walls of former military barracks which were taken over in 1971, supposedly as a political protest. The inhabitants ended up staying, writing a ‘mission statement’ for their small, left-wing community that states:
‘The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the wellbeing of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be’.
After hearing about this very intriguing, independent and free community, I was extremely keen to investigate. I was expecting small organic gardens, people selling homemade goods and a real sense of community and belonging. But we didn’t get those ‘happy, hippy, free love’ vibes we thought we would find. Instead, we found a rather intimidating place that, although interesting to visit, was far from what we anticipated. As we walked under the ‘Welcome to Christiania’ sign, we felt anything but welcome. Just beyond the entry was The Green Light District, also known as ‘Pusher Street’, lined with dodgy stalls covered with camouflage nets and men in balaclavas. The sign at the start of the street had us a little worried:
“Dear friends - There are three rules in the green light district: Have fun; Don’t run- it causes panic; No photos- buying and selling hash is still illegal”.
We certainly didn’t feel ‘free’ or ‘uninhibited’ during our time in ‘Free town’. Although, in theory, their ideals are great, Christiania from our perspective has lost the principles on which it was built back in 1971. It does raise a lot of questions about society and politics and it had Kristian and I reflecting on our own ideologies about life and ‘community’ so I would certainly still recommend visiting.
The rest of our time in Copenhagen was spent riding hired bicycles through the quaint streets and taking in the atmosphere. Also, using said bicycles as a means of exploring the city’s food scene, which is very scrumptious indeed! We rode to every corner of the city discovering the edible delights it offered. During our time we explored two wonderful food markets, several little cafes and coffee shops and a few great restaurants (I will go into more detail below).
Our last evening in Copenhagen was spent at a Jazz bar called ‘La Fontaine'. Every Sunday they have a ‘Jam Session’ where the resident pianist and drummer welcome musicians from all around the world to come up and share the stage.
What you get is a wonderful mix of talented musicians and an amazing night out! Those of you who know us well understand we are definitely not party animals so when we say we didn’t get in until 2am (that’s a wild night out for us!) you know it’s worth a visit!
Kristian and I have been to our fair share of big cities, rural villages and seaside towns over the passed few years. Although our time in Copenhagen was all too brief, I would definitely say it is one of the best cities that we have been lucky enough to explore. It has the open-mindedness of Berlin, the charm of Paris, the multicultural food scene of Melbourne, the friendly natured locals of Reykjavik and the quirkiness of San Francisco all rolled into one. And it’s bike friendly! What’s not to like?
The first few places I have listed here are located on the gorgeous ‘gourmet street’ Værnedamsvej. Located between the areas of Friederickburg and Vesterbro, it is only tiny, but one of the hidden gems of the city. Known as the ‘Little Paris’ of Copenhagen, it is lined with charming specialty shops and restaurants. Head here for great food, quirky independent stores and a generally charming atmosphere.
Granola- Værnedamsvej 5, 1819 Frederiksberg
Cosy, little French café in the the ‘Little Paris’ of Copenhagen. We loved our late lunch here. The price is not so unreasonable (for Copenhagen!) and the food was delicious. I had the steak tartare with balsamic and truffle oil. The crunchy jerusalem artichoke chips it came with were the perfect flavour and texture to accompany the tartare as was the truffle and parsley mayonnaise.
Kristian loved his eggs in cocotte, saucy and spicy and flavoursome. The café itself is very cute. They are famous for their breakfast which we unfortunately didn’t get to try. When we walked passed at opening time, there was a line out the door so you may want to get there early if you go in the morning.
Summerbird Choklaterie- Værnedamsvej 9, 1819 Frederiksberg
The window display at Summerbird should definitely be enough to entice you in. The beautiful counters are laden with perfectly formed chocolates that make choosing just one or two very difficult. They are well known for their flødeboller, a baked marzipan base topped with creamy marshmallow covered in chocolate. The delightful girl at the counter gave us two free flødeboller chocolates to try because the gorgeous, pillowy filling had ever so slightly trickled out. Simply divine! All Summerbird Chocolates are 100% Danish and handmade on the island of Funen.
Lagkagehuset Bakery- Værnedamsvej 1, 1819 Frederiksberg
One of the oldest and best bakeries in Copenhagen. They are known for their heavy, dark rye bread and sandwiches. But we came here for the pastries. To die for! As good as the ones in Paris (but don’t tell the Parisians I said that!) We sat at the bar at the window and watched the world go by (but mostly, I was preoccupied with the pastry!)
Torvehallerne -Frederiksborggade 21, 1360, Copenhagen
80 stalls in a glorious undercover farmer’s market…ummm YES PLEASE! We spent a little too long in this place, walking around and devouring as much as we could. You will find Hallernes Smorrebrod within the market. Offering the traditional open-faced sandwiches (Smorrebrod) that the Danes are famous for. They were pretty delicious and made for a super post bike ride feast.
We couldn’t leave the market without devouring several items from Laura’s Bakery. After a luscious brown sugar and cinnamon swirl, a strawberry tart and a ‘strawberry cheesecake’ cupcake, we dragged ourselves back to the apartment.
You should definitely visit this market. Full stop.
Copenhagen Street Food- PapirØen//The Paper Island, Trangravsvej 14, Warehouse 7/8
So…we rode our bikes here and pretty much ate (almost) everything in sight. We started with the Danish sausages (of course!) Surprisingly similar flavours to what we found in Iceland (although not really surprising because it is a similar part of the world, right?) The Scandinavians love their crunchy onions, and so do we! REALLY DELICIOUS SAUSAGES. There’s not much else to say. They came highly recommended by Mike, our bike guide, and for a good reason.
Next on our hit list was the Korean stall ‘Bulko’. Really delicious noodles with tender shredded beef and spicy Korean flavours. The owners were so lovely. They make kimchi everyday and my word it was delicious!
The market itself is really well set up. There are food stalls galore and plenty of places to sit for a while and enjoy your feast. They even have open fireplaces, which made it super cosy. If it’s a sunny day, you could even head outside and sit by the harbour in the sunshine.
Be wary of:
BioMio- Halmtorvet 19, 1700 København
We headed to BioMio, an organic restaurant in the meatpacking district. It had pretty great reviews and looked promising. The set up is great, the décor is great, the service is great, but the food- not so great. It was very bland and the best way I can describe it is that there just wasn’t ‘love’ in it. It lacked in flavour, the textures were wrong and the presentation was abysmal. It was essentially cafeteria food with a high price tag. It kills me when our ‘splurge meal’ goes awry. It’s bound to happen sometimes. You can’t win them all. But take my advice, go elsewhere!
One good thing that did come out of our visit here was the location. The meatpacking district is an incredible place to visit. Old, industrial buildings that were once abattoirs and butchers now house some incredible cafes and restaurants that would certainly be worth exploring. It’s such a shame that we picked the wrong one!