With the first rays of sun, my airplane is flying over Øresund and the first place I see, is the 8 km long Øresund bridge, which was opened in 2000, connecting Sweden to artificial Peberholm island in the strait. Then from Amager, a 4 km long tunnel, connecting the island to the city, making Malmo reachable from Copenhagen by car. This is the bridge that was on the news at the peak of the immigrant crisis, when refugees started to cross it on feet. Later I also got a chance to see the most famous Danish Storebæltsbroen or the Great Belt Fixed link, one of the five connections between Zealand and Funen, the longest suspension bridge outside of Asia. The thousands of birds I see there make we want to come to Denmark again some other time too!
Copenhagen is the city of Christmas for me. I have always visited it around Christmas, and often at the airport, transfering to some place else. In my mind it is one of the most beautiful European airports to be at during the holidays. You can catch Christmas mood in Denmark already in mid November, and some Christmas markets open even at the beginning of the month! It is popular to visit Christmas markets all across the world to get the feeling of Christmas, usually you hear of tourists going to Germany for that, but actually Denmark is full most charming large and small markets! Tasty and unusual souvenirs can be found here – the candies, hats and freshly cooked meals are at your disposal! I am especially surprised by the beautiful ceramics.
I don’t have much time for my visit, so I decide to head to the opera house right away. The locals recommended I see it for the modern architecture as well as the view from there. The taxi driver asks me twice where exactly I want to go, but still takes be to KGL Teater instead. So I start my walk from the middle point of my planned itinerary, at the Christmas market of Kongens Nytorv. It is not too busy during the day, but you can get all the treats anyway! Delicious foods cooking right there on the open fire and beautiful chandelier lamps really set a nice mood. Hotel D’Angleterre just across the street adds to the mood even more, as it looks like a royal castle, not a hotel! This hotel is famous for paying special attention to Christmas decorations. This year it is dedicated to the famous Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen, whom most people know for his fairytales. The building is transformed into giant Advent calendar, and every day at five o’clock one more window opens to showcase a character from the stories. Some people even say that the true Christmas spirit comes into town when the facade lits up! No wonder thousands show up for the first one every year.
Next I am headed to Nyhavn or the New Port, one of the most beautiful places in the city, the real postcard view. Danish-Swedish war prisoners dug the channel in the 17th century. As the ships grew bigger, the need for the port diminished, and after World War II even smaller vessels stopped using this port. It was decided to renovate the area in the sixties, and these days it is no longer a trading port, rather, a place to enjoy a pleasure ride. Both sides of the channel are lined with small colorful houses, where some of the best restaurants in town are. This place is a real tourist magnet, and no wonder! Christmas is an especially nice time to visit, as the location is transformed to one large Christmas market. Nyhavn also has a connection to Andersen, as he wrote The Princess and the Pea, The Tinderbox and Little Claus and Big Claus, while living in house Nr 20. He has also lived in other houses nearby for many years.
Walking in Nyhavn I feel the true number of bicycles in the city, as they are everywhere! Parked, chained, but mostly – driven! As a tourist you have to keep on the lookout not to wander into the bike line! I would even say watch out for bikes more for than for cars! There are so many of them that I feel like in a dystopian novel where suddenly the cars have disappeared.
Next I am headed to Papirøen or Paper Island over the Inderhavnsbroen bridge, opened last year. The view is beautiful here, and I see some house boats too. Those seem to be as popular as in Amsterdam! I get a feeling that in Denmark the houseboats are more fashionable, and no wonder, if Danish design is so important! Staying in one is a nice way to feel the atmosphere of the city.
I continue walking and see the most famous baroque cathedral Vor Frelsers Kirke. 60 000 people take the 400 steps every year to the top for the best views in the city! There is a legend that the architect jumped off the tower when he understood that the spire is turning counter clockwise. This is not true, as the serpentine was built 50 years after the cathedral was finished, and the second architect died in his bed 7 years after the tower was done to completely unrelated reason. If you plan a visit, consider that it is tricky to get to the top, as in December it is more often closed than open, and then reopens only in March.
Next I am headed to Paper Island to see “Copenhagen Street Food”. It is a large hall that was left over after Danish Press Association moved out. The unique location sees its last month, as it is to be closed for renovation. At the time of my visit it is a modern environment of numerous small stalls offering everything from Middle East to Asian to Italian food. Chicken at Angry Birds themed cafe, a dancing cook mixing something Italian in the rhythm of the music and drinks in the jars, this is that kind of place!
I have my dinner plans ready, so I head to restaurant Salt, where I enjoy a five (!) course meal. Modern Danish cooking, known ingredients but unusual combinations of those, the most extraordinary being beetroot cookies with ice cream, caramel and wood sorrel. I like how the waiter presents every dish, describing in detail what I am going to have! Most likely I would have never chosen any of those dishes on my own! The servings are not large, and that is probably the only way how to finish all 5! It is a real tasting menu with matching wines too. Some restaurants even offer 7 course meals!
Next I am headed to Strøget, the main shopping street in the city. There is a Darth Vader playing hurdy gurdy collecting “money for a new death star” and many stores, some more expensive and some really affordable. Of course, one more Christmas market, Højbro Plads, awaits. I stop at a charming cafe and chocolate store Hotel Chocholat. Hot chocolate turns out to be real hot chocolate! When the waiter asked me what size I wanted, of course I took the largest one, but now I am unable to drink it in my gluttony, how strong it is! In the end I only manage a few sips, but I get wonderful Christmas feeling in this place! There are plenty of beautiful chocolates for presents too, but more in the expensive price range.
Soon I have reached the City Hall, and this is where the main Christmas tree is every year. It is also right next to one of the most famous Christmas places in Copenhagen – Tivoli. It is a season amusement park and many Danish people recommended it as the best Christmas destination. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world (opened in 1853, and turns out the oldest one is also in Denmark, in Bakken, built in 1583). Not only one of the best Christmas markets in the world is right here (according to CNN), it is an unusual place, as it takes up 80 thousand square meters and is right in the middle of the city! It was named after Parisian Jardin de Tivoli, which in turn was named after Tivoli not far from Rome, where famous UNESCO world heritage sites Villa d’Este and Villa Adriana are. Villa d’Este is what inspired the park in Paris. I visited Tivoli in Italy this year, and I was in Paris as well, unfortunately, the park in Paris no longer exists.
Turns out, Walt Disney visited the park in 1951, taking notes, and then opened Disneyland four years later! Don’t expect that much speed and noise from Tivoli, but it will be definitely worth your time! It is not the cheapest place to visit, as entrance is roughly 16 euros and you have to pay extra for the rides. For 30 euros you get all the rides included in the ticket. Tivoli is also the best place to see St.Lucia procession and Christmas and New Years fireworks.
I leave Copenhagen on the day of municipal election. Every lightning pole and bus stop is filled with posters of candidates. I later learn that social democrats have won. Despite the election taking place on a Tuesday, 70.8% voters show up, which is a lot, whichever country you compare it to! I will remember Denmark as a beautiful, orderly country and a place I did get the Christmas feeling I long for every year!