Chilling in Copenhagen – November 2016
Early start in the snow.
After an intense couple of months at work a trip to Copenhagen was just what the doctor ordered. The 4.30am start on Friday was hard going after finishing work 11.30pm the night before. An unexpected snow storm made the journey to Manchester airport slow and we passed three different accidents caused by the icy conditions. We landed at Copenhagen airport at 10ish and jumped on the Metro to the city centre – Nyhaven to be precise (32 Kroner each – £4).
We navigated our way to our hotel (Skt. Annæ). It was ideally located just behind the main tourist street of Nyhaven and beautifully decorated inside. The room was small but clean, modern and good value (£85/night).
It was the opening weekend of the Christmas markets so once checked in we headed out to sample the festive fun. We meandered around the market at Kongens Nytorv which was closest to our hotel. As Christmas markets go it was okay, the usual overpriced decorations and tat, plenty of good food to choose from, but only a couple of drinking establishments, which for me is what Christmas markets are all about. So, we enjoyed a Bratwurst (50 Kroner) and beer (45 Kroner) and marvelled at the stunning decor of the Hotel D’Angleterre.
….this was one of many Christmas markets dotted around the city and most seemed similar. We did however completely forget to visit the Hans Christian Anderson one which is supposed to be the most magical.
The Little Mermaid.
One of the few things on our list of sites to see was the famous Little Mermaid Statue (free). We went for a long walk up to the harbour and joined the crowds at the monument. It is a small bronze statue depicting a – you guessed it – mermaid. It is one of the most visited landmarks in Denmark. It is nothing remarkable, but worth a visit to tick off and take a quick photo. Be careful stepping down onto the rocks though as they are bloody slippy! I nearly pushed a couple into the river as I skidded.
The early start was getting to us so we sauntered back to the hotel for a quick siesta. Three hours later we woke from deep slumbers and cajoled each other into getting up and out.
Food and Nightlife around Nyhaven and Kongens Nytorv.
The choice for dining in Copenhagen is overwhelming. There are great restaurants around every corner from basic pizzerias to Michelin Star gems. We looked through our pocket guide and trawled Trip Advisor before eventually deciding the best course of action was to just head out and find somewhere. Nyhaven is abundant with places to eat, generally traditional pub/restaurants line the canal and more contemporary places fill Kongens Nytorv.
We ate at Ravage Restaurant. We walked in at 6pm without a booking. They let us have a table on the proviso we were done by 8pm. It was modern with a warm atmosphere and pleasant staff. The tables seemed very close together at first but we felt comfortable talking and it added to the intimacy. The menu wasn’t extensive but food was excellent. Laura was blown away by the crispy Pork belly, roasted and pickled cabbage and I devoured a ribeye steak. (Food and two beers 660 Kroner).
On recommendation of a friend we went to Wall Street bar on Gothersgade, taking advantage of the happy hour prices with beers for 25 Kroner. This was the cheapest we found. A couple of beers, a few double Kraken and cokes and G&Ts were accompanied by a loopy high pitched Danish bloke who very generously bought us two Jäger Bombs each. A good bar to get your cheap beer but felt a bit like a stag do/student bar.
We merrily moved on to finish the night at a canal side bar. We chose Hyttefadet Nyhavn for the live musician. The bar was rammed full but after a couple of minutes we got a seat in the corner. We then watched a comical scene of six big Danish lads trying to squeeze on to a table for two. I offered to swap places as our table was much larger. It was a good move as they reciprocated the favour by buying us a round of beers! Great generosity, especially at these prices (100 Kroner for a pint and a half).
Shopping and Tivoli Gardens.
We woke up on Saturday excited about the prospect of Danish pastries for breakfast. We wandered through the bustling shopping streets and landed at Lagkagehuset coffee shop. Two large Americano Coffees and two Danish Pastries for 120 Kroner (about £15). The choice of pastries and cakes was huge and they tasted great. Would recommend stopping for breakfast at one of the Lagkagehuset coffee shops should you visit Copenhagen. But don’t forget to pick up a ticket from the machine as you enter (they use a number system to make sure they serve everyone in the correct order – Danish pastry bingo).
We don’t really do shopping when on city breaks, but for those who do Copenhagen is a shopper’s paradise. Beautifully dressed shops cram the long streets with extensive high end, designer and high street shops and not much of the usual tourist tat.
Once fuelled we continued to Tivoli, a small theme park and at this time of year a winter wonderland jam packed with Christmas themed attractions. The entrance fee is 120 Kroner and you have to purchase tickets for rides. We planned on going on a rollercoaster but couldn’t be bothered queuing so gave up on the idea after checking if it had died down a bit a couple of times. We had a fab day just walking around, drinking steins of beer and soaking up the Christmas atmosphere. We also had a great time playing Gallopen – although I was gutted that Laura won and I didn’t! Tivoli is well worth a visit and I would imagine fantastic for kids.
Food in Copenhagen.
There were plenty of decent eateries around the Tivoli area including over forty in Tivoli Gardens, but after much deliberation we headed back to find somewhere closer to our hotel. We fancied comfort food so thought pizza and pasta at an Italian would fit the bill nicely. We walked past numerous pizzerias that looked more like takeaways then came to an Italian called Che Fe Bio Trattoria. It looked cosy and modern and exactly what we were looking for. We were greeted by the owner Alessandro and one of the waitresses. It was about 5.30 and we hadn’t made a reservation. They said there was room as long as we didn’t mind sitting on one of the high tables. It seemed a bit strange at the time because the restaurant was pretty empty, but it soon filled up.
We didn’t get the pizza we were craving as there was a set menu. The only choices were meat or fish, three courses or five courses. It was more expensive than we hoped but well worth the money (about 1300 Kroner). The service was excellent, the atmosphere comforting and welcoming. The wine was the best Sauvignon Blanc we have had the pleasure of drinking and the food was sensational, especially the arancini with red rice, white rice and Gorgonzola. All the food is organic and although pheasant, handmade pasta with deer and truffle may have been a long way from our planned pizza, it was sensational. This is a gem of a place, we enjoyed every bite and I would highly recommend.
Copenhagen is overflowing with high class outstanding restaurants including 16 Michelin star establishments and plenty of gourmet and contemporary culinary treats. If our experience at Che Fe is anything to go by then this place is a foodie’s paradise.
Drinking establishments near Nyhaven.
We immediately brought ourselves crashing back to reality by moving from the high end expensive Italian to three gritty, low brow dive bars where the drinks were cheap and atmosphere cheerful. Whilst in Stereobar, a pub crawl filled the bar and took over. When they left, it went from bustling to empty in an instant. We moved on to Aloha Beach Bar which we had spotted the day before. Unfortunately, the bar crawl was also in there and space was at a premium. It seemed a decent enough little place though. We moved to Freud Bar but didn’t really like the sullen vibe. All these bars were along Gothersgade Street – a good place to focus if you are looking for a cheap (for Copenhagen) and boozey weekend without the trimmings as there were quite a few similar looking ‘pub crawl’ bars in the area.
We had blown the budget a little at the Italian so concluded that a reckless ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ attitude was in order and finished the night at the trendy called K-bar. It was a decision we didn’t regret as K-bar was a treat! It is an intimate, stylish and chilled out cocktail bar with a cool, relaxed ambiance and impeccable service. There was nothing showy or pretentious, just bloody good old fashioned mixology and outstanding cocktails. We took a bar seat to watch as the Bar tenders quietly and meticulously worked their magic. I started with a Tiki Island ice tea which combined four different rums and ginger beer, Laura had a Bulldog Gin with Liquorice and lime. Both were fantastic. I then had a Spicy Rum Martini which was awful but Laura had a sensational and mouth-watering Lemon Meringue cocktail that was stupendous!!! If you visit Copenhagen then visit K-bar and enjoy the creativity and professionalism of the fantastic mixologists. (Cocktails 80 to 155 Kroner).
Copenhagen is a bit of a hub for trendy cocktail bars and if you had more time and deep pockets you could have an amazing weekend trying them all out.
Top of Sunday’s ‘to do’ list was a trip to the Freetown Christiania commune. It was about forty minutes’ walk from the hotel with a breakfast stop at another Lagkagehuset coffee shop along the way. It’s an interesting place with hand crafted houses, art galleries, cafes, market stall/shops, eateries and a central stage area. Its set across 84 acres on an old abandoned military base and was founded as a social experiment in 1971 by squatters and artists. There is vibrant street art and creative recycled art around every corner. In the past the inhabitants considered themselves outside of Danish law and there is a sign at the entrance declaring entry and exit to the European Union. Conspicuous Cannabis dealers lined the entrance of this colourful place but it didn’t feel unsafe or threatening. However, whether you would enjoy visiting depends largely on your outlook and comfort in a gritty and alternative environment. I found it fascinating. Laura wasn’t so sure!
History, culture and Danish cuisine.
We ambled back to Nyhaven with one goal in mind – try Smørrebrød – a Danish open sandwich made from sourdough rye bread and whatever topping is on the menu. This should have been simple as it is sold in most of the restaurants/cafes around, but we are both very fussy and neither of us particularly like fish. This vastly reduced out options as the two appear to go hand in hand. We eventually found a beef and horse radish salad Smørrebrød at a cosy little restaurant called Heering. It was worth the search as it was delicious.
Next we hurried to Rundetårn before darkness fell. It’s a 17th-century tower with a spiral ramp to the top – designed to enable horses and carts to reach the library and observatory at the top. The tower itself was worth a quick visit, but the free exhibition called “the museum of broken relationships” was engrossing, captivating and somewhat bizarre. You move from one mundane bit of relationship memorabilia to another and read about its relevance to some ill-fated relationship. Intriguing, funny and sad all in one!
More food and nightlife.
As with all our city breaks a shot of culture has to be washed down with a beer or two. We made our way to Charlie’s bar. It is a cosy little place with a British pub atmosphere. Friendly staff, friendly punters and a good selection of beers. We then went for a bite to eat at a pizza place and did our best to avoid eye contact with the Italian band serenading guests.
A swift pint at a nice Jazz bar called Charlie Scott’s was followed by a final last hurrah at Mojo Blues Bar. The entrance was discrete and we almost missed it, but we were glad we found it. The dark, gritty setting was perfect for the unassuming artist to entertain us with the blues. People were smoking inside which always seems so alien these days. It was like a throw-back to bars of yesteryear. We spent two days trying to get the stench of smoke out of our coats. The bar and music was great though.
Final thoughts on Copenhagen.
We have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit of late, and Copenhagen is right up there in terms of places to visit. The whole vibe and feel of the city is relaxed, everything feels close enough to walk and the people welcoming and friendly. Good quality food and drink establishments are in abundance and those that like to shop wouldn’t be disappointed. The only downside is that all this comes at a price. It is an expensive city and not somewhere to go on a budget!Tags: Christmas Market, City Break, Copenhagen, experience, Tivoli, travel, Xmas Market