Watching Nyhavn at sunset, sitting in one of the city’s cozy coffee shops, I realized I could easily live in Copenhagen, Denmark. Clean air, little traffic, nice cafés, beautiful museums and picturesque houses. Above all, many green spaces where to go for a walk in the lazy Sunday afternoons. For some funny reason, I have always seen the city at its best, under a shining sun in different seasons. So I have no idea how it might look in a rainy, misty day. I’ve been told it is not as poetic as I imagine. Anyways, Copenhagen is a lovely place to me. I enjoy wandering in the nice streets of the city center, peering into antiquarians and design shops. I love to stop at one the many coffe shops for a cup of tea and a Danish pastry. Every city has its own smell, and Copenhagen smells of butter and sugar.
The colours are warm, vivid – orange, yellow, cerulean – or delicate, less intense – light blue, pale salmon, light green. When you go back to a city you’ve already visited, the most beautiful thing is to wander without a map, without a plan. This time, my wanderings bring me from my hotel (next to the train station) to the Library. This wonderful place hidden behind the walls of Christianborg Palace is a peaceful oasis where the only sound is that of the chirping birds. Not elegant, but imposing; covered in vines and with a dignified, ancient atmosphere. It’s Saturday morning and people are relaxed. It’s easy to enjoy the Danish sweet life here.
NYHAVN AND ITS COLOURS
Not far from Christianborg Palace grounds is Nyhavn, perhaps the most photographed place in Copenhagen. The 17th-century waterfront is lined by brightly coloured townhouses and restaurants. During the day, the sun makes the water shine and highlights the red, blue, white façades. But the sunset is the perfect moment to be here. The light, reflected in the water, makes everything magical.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
From Nyhavn, heading North-east, you can cross Amalienborg, the winter royal castle. Then we get to Den Lille Havfrue, or the Little Mermaid. And don’t be fooled by those who say it’s far from the city center. It’s a matter of perspective. If you come from a big city, Copenhagen will appear to be a small, lovely town where every spot can be easily reached on foot.
I’ve always had a weakness for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, so I wasn’t disappointed when I saw the little statue on the rock for the first time. The girl has such a melancholy expression, she really seems to be waiting for someone who will never come back. From there, it’s worth walking through the Kastellet, a star-shaped military fortress with its red houses, bridges and paths. You can’t skip a stop at Kafferiet (Esplanaden 44), a cozy little place with a view of the park. It can be very crowded as it has only a few seats, but it’s the best place for a coffee & cake in the area.
In the streets between the Kastellet and the royal palace of Rosenborg, you will walk among coloured houses, elegant buildings, churches, bakeries and hidden gardens. Once inside the park, you’ll enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the gardens which surround Rosenborg, one of my favourite places in town. The castle was built by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV, in the early 17th century, and it features a collection of splendid art treasures in the royal halls. Portraits, statues, china, jewels and Venetian glasses can be admired inside, in a fascinating journey through time.
Design and Danish Coffee Shops
Around Copenhagen University, west of Rosenborg, the streets are lively and full of youth. In the evening, you’ll find pubs and restaurants. During the day, you can grab a coffee in one of the many nice cafés, or go shopping. Shops are also great in Copenhagen. I mean design shops, a paradise for those like me, who love Scandinavian style. Cups, mugs, towels, chairs, pots, clothes, hats, shoes. They’re so different from those we find in the big cities all around Europe. I even found a Victorian style shop in one of the small streets of the city center, full of boxes, teapot cozies, notebooks, and all types of objects you can think of which have something to do with tea. My personal world of wonders.
DET LILLE APOTEK & herring
When we drove all the way up to Sweden, we stopped for a couple of days in Copenhagen. This is when we discovered Det Lille Apotek, in Lille Kannikestraede. This little restaurant is the oldest in Copenhagen, and it’s always crowded. It’s easy to understand why: the atmosphere and the dishes are what you might expect from a typical Danish restaurant. Their herring platter is definitely worth a dinner. They also serve open-face sandwiches every day from 11:30 to 5 pm. And their homemade apple dessert is a temptation you will be happy to give in to.
HOTELS & COFFEE BREAK
It’s incredibly easy to find a cozy place where to sit for a while, with a cup of coffee or tea and a slice of cake. The cold weather invites us to stop frequently, so I’ve been to many cafés. I will write about this in another article. All around town, for a quick sandwich or breakfast there’s Emmerys, a grocery store with bakery and coffee shop known for its organic bread and cakes. I would’t order matcha tea again; I would go for a cup of coffee instead. But their homemade sandwich with salmon, rocket salad and cream cheese are really good.
If finding a nice café is easy, selecting a good hotel may be harder than it seems. The problem is that in Copenhagen prices are very high and even expensive hotels may be mediocre. Booking with Airbnb might be a good idea. If you don’t mind staying out of Copenhagen, Hellerup Park Hotel is a very nice place in the small town of Hellerup. It may be a good opportunity to see how Danish people live in small towns by the sea, where the atmosphere is so relaxed. Besides, the hotel is in a lovely area. But if you prefer staying in the city center, I would recommend Hotel Phoenix, next to Amalienborg Palace.