Advantages Relaxed and lovely
Disadvantages Expensive and not a huge amount to do
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
It didn't take a whole lot of thought to come up with our next choice: Copenhagen. To be honest I'd be hard pushed to think of things to see and do in Copenhagen off the top of my head; Tivoli Gardens and the Little Mermaid is as far as it goes really but I always thought it looked a nice place and as we hadn't been to Scandinavia before it seemed a good opportunity.Denmark is one of those annoying countries that have not moved to the Euro (we know who we are) so you will not be able to use up that little stash you've got tucked away in your sock drawer. The national currency is Danish Kroner (DK) and as a rough guide currently runs at 10DK to the pound, keep this in mind as most prices I quote will be in DK. Having said that, there are some places that will take Euros but you won't get away without plenty of local currency.
Warning #1 ~ The inconvenient truth
Copenhagen is hideously expensive. As someone who has lived and worked for many, many years in the City and West End areas of London you'd think I'd be used to inflated prices but even I blanched at some of the bills I was presented with. It's obviously possible to see Copenhagen on a budget but you'll be eating fast food and not seeing any of the paid for attractions, and don't expect to drink in any of the bars around the centre of town.
Warning #3 ~ Guide Books
As with any city break it is advisable to have a good guide book to hand. What I would advise is NOT to invest in the Time Out guide as it's rubbish. I should have known better, going by the publisher, but it really is little more than a listings guide with hardly any opinion or advice. It covered most of the things we'd look for in the city but concentrated more on detail (address, opening times) and less on opinion and advice.
There is a regular train running from the airport to Copenhagen's Central Station, leaving every 15 minutes. The journey time is just over ten minutes and costs 30DK per person. The trains are predictably clean and punctual; they are also spacious so you'll have plenty of room for your baggage. This is a ridiculously easy transfer and you'd want a very good reason to take a taxi instead.Getting around ~
Like many European cities it is a place that has grown over the centuries and this is what gives each zone its personality, be it changes in architecture or usage. While the centre is surrounded by busy arterial roads, inside it is fairly quiet and traffic is light. Several of the main shopping streets are entirely pedestrianised and cycling is popular.The Copenhagen people are helpful and polite but refreshingly restrained. They don't go overboard with the customer service but are efficient and genuinely eager to ensure you get what you need. Spoken language is not a problem as everybody seems to speak perfect English, and I mean perfect with barely a hint of accent. Most will switch effortlessly between Danish and English mid sentence without missing a beat, once they see the look of incomprehension on your face. It's a funny thing but listening to Danes speaking their own language they often sound like they're from the north of England, even Geordie sometimes, must be a Viking thing. Written language is a different matter, most of the place and street names are unpronounceable and very hard to remember so asking for directions to Kobmagergade or Kongens Nytorv (both of which you'll want to see) is fraught with embarrassment potential so make sure you have a good map to hand.
Tivoli Gardens ~
I'll start with arguably Copenhagen's most famous attraction: The Tivoli Pleasure Gardens, located between Radhuspladsen and Central Station
I found the gardens small and lacking in open spaces, it isn't a place that's easy to relax in. Perversely the rides manage to be out dated without retaining period charm, unless you hanker after early 80's rollercoaster's.The Little Mermaid ~
Yes, the statue is small and unprepossessing. It's certainly not in the same ascetic league as Michelangelo's David in Florence or Gaudi's works in the Park Guell Barcelona but of itself it is an attractive and enchanting work.Yes, it is a far way from the centre of town and a brisk twenty minute walk from Nyhavn to see a four foot statue may not be everyone's idea of time well spent. However that doesn't take into account that that walk is in fact a very pleasant stroll along the waterside with wonderful views of the local scenery and several interesting buildings, both modern and historical, along the way. These range from the impressive palaces and cathedral in Frederiksstaden to the splendid modernity of the new opera house. In between you have old warehouses converted to apartments and art galleries and the stark contemporary design of the Maersk offices.
Taken as a whole this trip is well worth going and those twenty minutes can easily spread to a pleasant couple of hours. You can get a bus directly to the statue but then you'd miss a lot of the good stuff.Nyhavn ~
Historically Nyhavn was one of the main ports in the city and had a reputation to match. Roughneck sailors and dockers mixing with the working girls and gangs synonymous with such ports all over the world it was a lawless area not to be entered lightly. As is the way of the modern world the ports fell into disuse before being reinvented as very attractive waterside properties, complete with bars and restaurants.The buildings were renovated and colourfully painted, traditional boats were given moorings and canal tours were started. The result is the centre of tourist Copenhagen but it still manages to easily stay the right side of tacky and is genuinely a nice place to hang around and have a beer or bite to eat.
Hotels and eating out ~
It is possible to stay in a dormitory hostel in Copenhagen, with prices around 130DK a night. Hotels start at around 450DK on the outskirts or by the airport and rise to 3000DK nearer the centre of town. There's plenty of choice but you won't find many nice places in good locations for under £100 a night.
There are several cinemas in the area around Tivoli, mostly showing the films we'd be watching at home and given the local language skills it's no surprise to find that these are invariably shown in English with (probably largely unread) Danish sub-titles.Shopping ~
The main shopping area is a range of pedestrianised streets running between the cities two main public squares; Radhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv. Collectively this area is known as Stroget. Starting from Radhuspladsen the shops are down market and a little scruffy but they gradually get posher the further you travel towards the other end. There is a welcome lack of tacky gift shops and the two department stores of Illum and Magasin are well worth visiting.Castles and Palaces ~
Botanical Gardens ~
The Botanical Gardens, about a mile north of Kongens Nytorv, is a little gem of a place and something of a treat in that it is free to enter. Smaller and less grand than its cousin Kew Gardens it is well worth a visit. The grounds are thoughtfully laid out, spiralling away from a central lake there are areas for a surprisingly wide range of flora.
Dansk Design Museum ~
One place I'd emphatically advise you to avoid is the Dansk Design Museum, I don't think I've ever felt more ripped off in all my travels. The premise sounded so good as well, a museum dedicated to the innovative and distinct history of Danish and Scandinavian design. The reality was far less interesting.
Soon after paying our 50DK entry we realised that that room was, to all intents and purposes, the whole museum. There are four main rooms but that was the only space that was worth spending time in. A second room on the same floor had a small selection of grocery items with a very brief description of the product, but strangely no mention of the packaging design or its evolution.Down a floor into the basement and more disappointment loomed. One room contained an art installation commenting on the issue of waste and recycling and the other a display of design icons from the twentieth century: Concorde, an Olivetti typewriter, a Dyson vacuum cleaner and Model T Ford. All very interesting, but none of it Scandinavian.
I learnt nothing about local design, its history or style movements. Who the big names and major influences were remains a mystery, as far as I could tell a complete waste of time. Stay in the street where you can see the only interesting display for free. In Stroget one of the department stores, Illum, has a sub outlet selling designer items for the home and this is a much better option although the prices are pretty shocking.Carlsberg Art Museum ~
Located beside Tivoli Gardens on HC Andersens Boulevard the building is almost as much of an attraction as the displays. From its beginnings it was intended to exhibit the relationship between art and architecture and regular remodelling over the years has maintained this. Through clever use of light and line the environment is as interesting as the art, with an impressive atrium as its centre piece.There are 10,000 works of art housed here, broadly split into two principle collections; one of works from the Mediterranean cradle of Western culture, the other of Danish and French art from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Entry is 50DK, although it is free on Sundays so you can guess which is the busiest day.Final Thoughts ~
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