A WONDERFUL WEEKEND IN COPENHAGEN – CITY BREAK GUIDE
Boarding the plane for our Copenhagen weekend trip I had little more aspirations than to maybe sample a few Danish Pastries and perhaps try the local delicacy of Smørrebrød. But apart from that my expectations were low. I was expecting this little Copenhagen weekend to be no more than a light immersion into Scandinavian cuisine and culture. And, to be fair, I was very content with that prospect. It seemed like a decent way to while away the weekend.
I wasn’t prepared to be blown away, but blown away I was!
Let us introduce you to Copenhagen and hopefully you can have the wonderful weekend in Copenhagen that we did…
How To Spend A Weekend In Copenhagen
Did you know, the Danes are apparently the happiest nation in the world? To the point where they’ve even made up their own word for this heightened state… Hygge. It means a quiet, happy, cosy atmosphere of people having a good time, a ‘make the most’ way of life.
And, as soon as we arrived for our weekend trip to Copenhagen we felt like we’d been embraced by the Hygge hug. People smiling, welcoming hotel staff, (including the cleaners) and before we’d even got to our hotel some guy had offered to let us borrow his apartment for the weekend! What a lovely bunch.
We’d been led to believe by the guidebooks that a weekend in Copenhagen would consist of a visit to the Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid sculpture, and a look at some colourful buildings by the canal. Yet after 3 days we still don’t feel like we’ve scratched the surface of wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. And, if we’re honest – the Little Mermaid was quite underwhelming!
So let us tell you about some of our favourite bits from our Copenhagen weekend and hopefully help you with your itinerary…
Copenhagen Weekend Ideas
1. Visit The Nyhavn Canal
The area of Nyhavn in Copenhagen is the place you will see in all of the photographs, particularly the colourful buildings. But Nyhavn is more than just the Ballamory of Denmark, it’s a bustling waterside neighbourhood with great places to eat and drink and a buzzing atmosphere.
The beautifully crafted homeware shops and posh restaurants are a far cry from the busy harbour of the 17th century, filled with beer-drinking sailors.
Check out number 9 Nyhavn – a totally unaltered townhouse from 1681. And number 20 – Hans Christian Anderson’s home for a while, in fact it’s where he wrote The Princess And The Pea. And dessert from the insta-famous Vaffelbageren is a must!
2. Take A Boat Trip From Nyhavn
One of the first things we would advise you to do at the start of a weekend in Copenhagen is to take a boat trip from the Nyhavn canal. It’s inexpensive, great fun and gives you your bearings for the rest of your trip.
It only takes an hour, costs a couple of quid, but you’ll see a different perspective on some of Copenhagen’s main attractions, like the palaces and museums. Plus, it’s an opportunity to see the Little Mermaid sculpture from the water and there’s no need to go elbow-bashing fellow tourists. (I’m really glad we didn’t walk to see this famous bronze sculpture – I thought it was quite underwhelming!)
3. Lunch In Copenhagen
We have 2 fab recommendations for lunch in Copenhagen – Copenhagen Street Food venue, Reffen, and the more central Torvehallerne food market.
You will have seen the outdoor street food sellers at Reffen from your boat cruise. It’s quite the walk, but in this household, we’ll always walk miles for tacos!
You’ve got no excuse to miss Torvehallerne however. Only 5 minutes from the Nyhavn canal, you can take-out and go, or you can indeed sit in and eat. It’s the perfect place to try the famous Danish Smørrebrød, or open sandwich, with all of the trimmings. Washed down with a bottle of beer from Mikkeller next door.
4. Walk Around The Slightly Unnerving Freetown Christiania
Across the water from Nyhavn/Indre By is the area known as Christiania. A self-governing commune or ‘free town’, known for its liberal inhabitants and different way of life. It has its own set of societal rules completely independent of the Danish government.
I’d read beforehand about how it’s cool to just roam the area and take it all in (by ‘it’ I presume they mean the constant aroma of hash!). One sign read ‘We have 3 rules; Have fun, Don’t run & No photo’s‘. Personally, though, it just made me feel like breaking one and legging it!! I hated it. I’m glad I’ve seen it but my inner conservative angel wanted to reach the EU asap and absorb the hygge again – I don’t do well with the seedy side of life.
5. Visit Illums Bolighus – The Worlds Most Stylish Department Store
Don’t question me, just go. We all know how cool Danish design is, I would actually save my Arne Jacobsen armchair in a house fire before the cat! So when you enter Illums Bolighus on the famous shopping street, Strøget, just try not to let your jaw drop on the floor.
Exquisitely beautiful homeware and knick-knacks bat their big baby eyes at you and convince you to ditch that spare pair of shoes you brought to make room in the suitcase. Just go. You’re never going to understand the beauty until you see it. You’ll thank me later.
TIP: Ilums Bolighus has a cafe on the top floor where you can get great views of Copenhagen.
6. Check Out The University Neighbourhood
Our hotel was in this area. It’s still classes as Indre By (translated inner city), But just south of the Norreport tram stop is a cool neighbourhood surrounding the university. Relaxed brunch spots, independent clothes shops, and people just sauntering about on bicycles. We really loved this area. I’m not sure it’d be my area of choice next time as I think staying somewhere around the main station is probably more central to everything. But, being as there is a university nearby, it did mean we could find some pretty cheap bars and coffee shops – something which you do have to search for in this city.
In general, food is only slightly more expensive than in Britain, and certainly no more than in London or Paris, but having the student haunts on your doorstep comes in handy if you want to save a bit here and there. My favourite spot in this area, definitely worth a mention, was a little establishment called Paludan. Simple fare and great sweet treats were served in a makeshift library with comfy chairs and sofas, we went back one night for a beer too and the atmosphere was so chilled and relaxed.
7. Visit Copenhagen’s Museums
It was pretty cold on our weekend in Copenhagen so we opted for a few museum tours. Our favourite was the National Museum of Denmark. Honestly, this was one of the best curated museums I have ever been to. We took an audio-guided tour of an exhibition about the Danes in the 2nd world war. And, whilst Mr MLLH loves all things World War related, it’s not usually my bag. BUT, I was captivated. This was only a temporary exhibition but if their curation was anything to go by, I believe the National Museum of Denmark could interest me in any subject!
We also visited the Carlsberg Museum. I’m calling it a museum down to its extensive collection of beers, but really it was just an excuse to do a tour and drink beer! We had fun, learnt a bit, and got to have lunch in this gorgeous historical building. Mr Carlsberg was a keen collector of sculptures too – another highlight for me.
One place thats on my list for our next weekend trip to Copenhagen is the Medical Museum on Bredgade Street. I love a formaldehyde head just like the next person. A history of medicine from the last 400 years. I think I might have to leave the other-half in a bar though for this one – Mr MLLH doesn’t have the strongest stomach.
8. Visit One Of The Oldest Theme Parks In The World
If your 2 days in Copenhagen falls between April and September, make some space for Tivoli Gardens. It’s the 2nd oldest Theme Park in the world and you can absolutely see how Walt Disney got half of his design ideas from this place – it’s absolutely magical!
We revisited Copenhagen with the kids and spent a whole day soaking up the atmosphere and enjoyed every minute. Each section of the park is designed beautifully and the rides are framed by some of the most exciting, or exquisite, backdrops.
Make sure you ride the worlds oldest wooden rollercoaster, have lunch in the Tivoli food hall and don’t miss the fireworks display every Saturday evening.
There is loads of other entertainment and excitement too so check out their website for programmes and practical information.
9. Where To Eat In Copenhagen – Kødbyen
If you’re into your food like us, you won’t believe the quality and quantity on offer. Copenhagen boasts 39 Michelin stars from its restaurants and locals will tell you that every day a cool new place opens up.
You could book yourself a special treat at world-famous NOMA, one of only 2 restaurants in the world to claim 3 Michelin stars. But if sea moss, forest greens and a £700 dinner isn’t your thing, make your way over to the Meat Packing District of Copenhagen to discover the Michelin-trained sous chefs who are cutting their teeth on brand new ventures.
Imagine a load of basic warehouses, all looking identical to the next, but each with a speciality that they’ve vowed to master. In our opinion these are the best places to eat in town, buzzing with atmosphere at prices everyone can afford.
We stumbled across a Texan BBQ joint cum brew-pub called WarPigs, ran by a guy who’s cooked for the likes of Slipknot and Van Halen. We enjoyed our pulled pork, brisket and mac’n’cheese sat amongst the huge copper beer vats that were quietly nursing the contents of 22 different brews. The decor might be reminiscent of the slaughterhouse it used to be, and the hundreds of mini cacti do nothing to soften it’s face but all of that just adds to the cool of it.
We also flung off our belts and helped ourselves to food offerings at Fiskebaren (Bib Gourmand), Tommi’s Burger Joint, and lasagne at Mother. There are so many different cuisines on offer here in Kødbyen, you really just need to take a wander.
10. Where To Stay In Copenhagen
Whilst we absolutely loved our stay at Hotel Skt Petri – it was stylish, designer and probably one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in – I wouldn’t choose this area next time. It was very convenient for the central area of Nyhavn and the famous shopping street Strøget. And, as I mentioned earlier, only a stone’s throw from the University streets and cheap cocktail bars. However, next time I would stay more central to Kødbyen (the meatpacking district), as this was where we preferred to eat each evening.
For the best deals at Hotel Skt Petri, click here.
Hotel Skt Petri
For our next weekend break in Copenhagen, we intend to stay at Coco Hotel, recommended to us by some friends. It looks like something straight out of a Wes Anderson film and I loved the fact it’s a small family-run hotel with the most attentive staff. But mostly we want to stay here because of the location – right next to Kødbyen. Then it’s not too far to stumble home with full bellies!
For the best rates at Coco Hotel click here.
Coco Hotel, Copenhagen
So there you have our recommendations for 2 days in Copenhagen. There is so much to see in this wonderful city – it definitely amounts to more than a Smørrebrød lunch and the Little Mermaid. In fact, we returned in the Summer with the family because we couldn’t wait to show them around too. And even then, I still don’t feel like we’ve scratched the surface. But I hope we’ve helped if you’re in the planning stages of your itinerary for Copenhagen.
And, if you are planning to visit Copenhagen with kids, have a read of our family friendly suggestions in this post
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