I had to drop by Copenhagen for a day of meetings close to Jule’s birthday, so we decided to make a weekend out of it. Copenhagen is one cool city. There’s water and bikes everywhere. The history is rich and the architecture blends the old with the new. Danes are welcoming and speak flawless English. If it wasn’t for the lousy winters and obscene prices, Copenhagen would be pretty much perfect. But I might be biased there: in my hometown Lisbon we’ll whine endlessly if the coffee costs more than 50 cents or the weather drops below 5ºC (34ºF).
In Copenhagen (or København in Danish) we followed our usual strategy of taking a hop-on-hop-off bus to scout out the place, walking 20km per day going from one cool to another, and then complaining that our feet hurt and that we’ll take it easy next time. Blisters and loose promises aside, it’s the best way to get to know a place.
For those that have been in Amsterdam, Copenhagen will look familiar. The similarities are particularly striking in Christianshavn, a man-made island created by King Christian IV in the early 17th century. We managed to score a super cool Airbnb apartment right in the heart of Christianshavn, perfect location!
The National Library, called the ‘Black Diamond’, perfectly illustrates Copenhagen’s old and new mashup, with a glass of wall connecting the old red bricks with the new Zimbabwe granite. The ultra modern Opera House dates from 2004 and was designed by Henning Larsen, but is arguably less striking than the Sydney Opera House, also created by a Danish architect.
Much like Brussel’s Manneken Pis, the iconic Little Mermaid is tiny but feisty: it has survived two decapitations, one chopped-off arm and several buckets of paint. Besides Hans Christian Andersen’s creation, there’s another Danish woman that has a big place in history: Gefjon, a goddess that ploughed the island of Zealand that hosts Copenhagen.
Since it’s an island, you’ll see boats and ships everywhere. The Royal Danish yacht is used by the Royal Family to tour the Scandinavian fjords every year. The HDMS Peder Skram is also famous, but not for the best of reasons: in 1982 it accidentally fired a Harpoon missile (now called the Oops missile) but fortunately only managed to hit a few empty cottages.
During the weekend, if the weather is nice, Danes will flock to the street. Besides the disproportionate amount of blonds, you’ll also notice that Danes are incredibly fit: the fact that bikes vastly outnumber cars certainly contributes to that. Bicycle parking is perhaps not as creative as in Amsterdam, but it’s pretty close.
The last two places we visited are worlds apart. The first one, Kastellet, is one of the best preserved star forts in Northern Europe. It stands right right next to Churchillparken, owning it’s name to Winston Churchill and his role on liberating Denmark in World War II. The second one is Freetown Christiania, a commune created in a squatted military area in 1971. Christiania is best known for its cannabis trade. However, unlike Netherlands, cannabis trade is illegal in Denmark and the enforcement of the law in Christiania has become stricter since 2004.
After two days walking around Copenhagen, we took the Øresund Bridge to Malmö, Sweden. The trip takes 15 minutes (a quarter of an hour to get to another country, how awesome is that?) and treats you with an incredible view of the Øresund strait and the Middelgrunden offshore wind farm. Malmö and Copenhagen’s love for architecture, culture and wildlife illustrate the close relationship between Sweden and Denmark throughout history (including a less brotherly total count of 27 wars).
This will be the northernmost we’ll be for a while, but we definitely need to come back and tour Scandinavia. Any tips on how to do this on a backpacking budget will be most welcome!