Flights, Cheese & More Flights
We all know Scandinavia has so much to offer in terms of natural beauty; we’ve seen countless pictures of its Northern Lights, canyons, waterfalls and cliff edges on our social media. However, people often forget about its unique, stunning capitols. I have already visited Stockholm and Oslo in the past; so I thought it’s only fair I stop by Copenhagen this time on my way to the Faroe Islands and Iceland.
For those of you who follow my blog, you know I am not all about that city life, it’s no secret that I prefer mother nature and the great outdoors. So, the main aim of this trip was to check out the Faroe Islands & tour the great Iceland. However, it ain’t easy getting from Abu Dhabi to any of these destinations; therefore, here is how I planned it:
Fly from Abu Dhabi to Copenhagen via Amsterdam for some cheese and stroopwafels of course! I have read many wonderful things about Copenhagen so why not give it some time? Spend 3 days there and make every second count (spreadsheet game gotta be strong). On the fourth day, we’d take a flight to the Faroe Islands where we’d spend another 4 days. Of course, we would have to rent a car and drive all around the islands, can’t just spend all 4 nights in the same hotel or apartment. Finally, we’d take another flight to Iceland (ferries available too but gotta be lucky with the dates as they don’t depart daily). This time I decided to do Iceland differently; no more tours, no more hotels. I rented a couple of camper vans that will take us all around the ring road in 7 days!
Of course, there is no way I am fitting the entire two week blog in this post, so I decided each country would get its own. If you are interested in following the same two week plan I devised then just keep reading on 🙂
When: August 24th to September 9th
Where: Copenhagen, Denmark; Faroe Islands; Iceland
Arriving in Copenhagen: The City of Bicycles
We finally arrived in Copenhagen and met up with Vic (the friends we made in South Africa) who was meeting us from the U.K. at around 7 pm; so we didn’t have much time before sunset (which is around 9 pm during the end of August). Luckily, the train runs between Copenhagen Airport and Copenhagen Central Station every 10 minutes and only takes 15 minutes so we were able to catch some sunlight on our walk from the train station to our airbnb.com accommodation [Wonderful apartment in the heart of Vesterbro]. The apartment is spacious and located conveniently in the center of the city, it was also very well priced so check it out on Airbnb. After checking-in and settling into the apartment we’d call home for 4 nights, we decided to go out for a little stroll and some good food 😉
There are as many restaurants in Copenhagen as sand in the Sahara, seriously, bicycles and restaurants are the two most common things found in this city :p. Although that is generally a good thing, it does make it tough to decide where to eat. On our first night however; I decided to take a Danish friend’s recommendation and try out Gorrila Restaurant. Since it was late and a weekday, the restaurant wasn’t pact but I could tell that wouldn’t be the case on a weekend. We ordered a selection of items including rib sliders, pasta, lobster and cheese (can never have enough cheese). The portions were tiny, although to be fair we were warned by the waitress, but the food was delicious.
Day 1: Bicycles & City Vibes
My favorite thing about Copenhagen is the ability to explore the entire city on a bicycle. There was absolutely no need for public transportation or rental cars. We started off the day with a breakfast at Carlton Restaurant & Cafe before renting out 4 bicycles, A.K.A our loyal steeds :P. Certain sense of freedom in riding a bicycle across town, sun shining down on all the different colored rooftops, clouds posing in the air begging for photographers to take advantage and a slight cold breeze cooling you down as you pedal on… perfect vibes. Our first stop after breakfast was the Copenhagen Central Station, partly because we needed to exchange money, but also because it is one of the Copenhagen’s landmarks; after all, it is the largest train station in Denmark. The first railway station in Copenhagen was built in 1847 and was actually almost in the same location as the present station. It was built outside the fortification where building with foundations were not allowed, so it was built entirely out of wood. However, expansions were soon necessary so a new larger section was opened in 1864. Here is the interesting part though, even with the expansion, there was only one track leading out of the city. Finally, the present station was built in 1917 but has seen major overhauls since then. My favorite thing about the station though was it’s parking, because while we’re usually used to car parks; Copenhagen rocks this:
To continue our tour around the city, we cycled down to the Latin Quarter or Latinerkvarteret in Danish. This is a neighborhood in central Copenhagen bounded by Norregade to the west, Vestergade to the south, Vester Voldgade to the east and Norre Voldgade to the north. It is named this way because Latin was once widely spoken in and around the University, whose historic home is situated on the other side of Norregade. The area is worth visiting for its countless boutiques and cafes and is well known for its colored, picturesque buildings.
On our way to the Rosenborg Slot, or castle, we ran into a couple of interesting people and events. Firstly, we met a few graffiti artists who were working on the wall of a new music hall; they were the ones who told us about the Carlsberg anniversary party that was taking place the next day as they were going to paint there too. I’ve always been entertained by cool graffiti work so it was nice seeing the actual process of it.
The real surprise though was Denmark’s Got Talent! I spotted a big sign advertising it at a theatre hall so of course, I parked my royal steed aside and went in to discover more. It turned out to be the final audition round, and it was free to attend so we did. It was a good laugh but we didn’t understand 90% of what was being said; a couple of songs were in English though. We also witnessed one man getting buzzed out which was hilarious, he really was not talented whatsoever; he tried making music out of pots and stuff but failed miserably.
After an hour or two of trying to understand what the judges were saying, or at least making up our own derivation of what’s happening, we decided to sneak out of the theatre and continue on to the castle. The Rosenborg Slot is a renaissance castle originally built as a country summerhouse for Christian IV’s in 1606. It was built in the Dutch Renaissance style and has been expanded several times until it reached its present day condition by the year 1624. After being used as a summerhouse, the Danish regents used it as a royal residence until around 1710. However, after the reign of Frederik IV, Rosenborg was only used twice as such, both were during emergencies. First time was after Christiansborg Palace burned down in 1794, the second was during the British attack on Copenhagen in 1801. When you get to the castle, take the time to enjoy its beautiful garden; perhaps pack some sandwiches and have a picnic by the river that runs through it. Rested and rejuvenated, take some pictures of the magnificent structure and continue your city tour.
Unfortunately, we didn’t pack anything to eat so we were pretty hungry by this point. So, we decided to check out Nyhavn in hopes that we’d be able to pick up some street food there. We did find a little market that offered everything from steaks, pancakes, juices, clothes and souvenirs. Blinded by excitement, we all ordered steak sandwiches before realizing that the steak was cooked along side bacon, which meant we could not eat it. From sheer excitement to utter disappointment, we made our way to Papiroen before any of us got hangry. Nevertheless, we couldn’t help but stop along the way to admire the beauty of Nyhavn. This picturesque canal was constructed by King Christian V from 1670 to 1673. It was dug by Swedish prisoners of war from the Dano-Swedish War (talk about free labour). Nyhavn serves as a gateway from the sea to the old inner city where ships handles cargo and fishermen’s catch. Interestingly enough, it was not always a classy area bustling with restaurants and upscale bars; it was once notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution. Nowadays though, tourists visit from all around the world to catch sight of this beautiful harbor with it’s countless options of fine dining and differently colored houses. You can also take the canal tour from here; I’ll be talking about that in day 2.
Papiroen is every food lover’s very own little heaven on earth. This warehouse like structure is just pact with a variety of street food. You’ll find burgers, Turkish, Indian, Mexican, Danish and almost any other kind of cuisine you can think of. My only piece of advice here is: don’t settle for the first booth you like. Take a walk around the entire place before deciding what you want to eat… you don’t wanna choose too fast and end up regretting your decision (yes I take food that seriously, you should too). I personally went for a Turkish kebab, an ostrich burger and then some cheese cake to top it all off. Now that the hangry threat was over, it was time to visit Nyboder.
Nyboder, which literally translates to ‘new, small houses’, is a historic row house district of former Naval barracks. Although Nyboder is very much associated with their yellow color (Nyboder yellow is actually a Danish expression which refers to their hue of yellow), the original color of the development was actually red and white. Thank God they changed their minds, I don’t think that would’ve suited them 😛
While we were there, we saw quite a few soldiers entering and leaving the establishment which confused us, since it is a former Naval barracks. However, after a little bit of research I discovered that they still house enlisted personnel of the Danish Navy, Army and Air Force; although since 2006, priority is no longer given to them. There were several proposals to sell the houses but so far they have all been rejected. In fact, in 2009 the A.P. Moller Foundation made a donation of DKK 50 million to refurbish some of the houses. Nevertheless, I am afraid the proposals will just keep coming until one of them gets approved, so go visit this beautiful district before it is too late and it becomes part of yet another business transaction.
By this point, we were pretty much racing sunset. We still had a couple more things to do in our itinerary and only an hour before we lose the light. Once again, we hopped on our loyal steeds (still referring to the bicycles) and made our way to the famous Little Mermaid of Copenhagen. Den lille Havfrue is a bronze statue created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, making her 104 years old. She is 1.25 meters tall and weights 175 kilograms. Although that doesn’t add up well on the BMI scale, she is still an icon in Copenhagen and models for hundreds of tourists everyday, so go check her out. Like every other star, she’s had many haters over the years and the statue has been victim to vandalism countless times. She lost her arm and head in two different occasions but my favorite incidents are as follows:
- In 2004, the statue was draped in a burqa (type of Islamic dress) in a protest against Turkey’s application to join the EU
- In May 2007, it was found again draped in a Muslim dress and a head scarf
On the way back from the little mermaid, we stopped by a windmill for some pictures and to just chill on the grass for a while. Although it wasn’t part of the plan, we spotted it on the way down and were drawn to its charm. I do recommend that you stop by it too, and don’t worry you’ll be able to find it easily on the way back too. Spend the rest of the day there and enjoy sunset with a picnic. It was a tiring day full of different adventures and the best part was: we did it all on our bicycles. If you’re still up for it, end your day with a fancy dinner at Pluto or just grab a pizza and head back to your apartment/hotel. Get plenty of rest as tomorrow is gonna be an eventful day too!
Day 2: Can’t Call it a Trip Without Some Music
There was no need to wake up super early in Copenhagen, it was a good chance to get in some good sleep before The Faroe Islands and Iceland (sleep was a scarce resource there). We all woke up with a crazy case of hunger for some reason so we went straight to Nyahvn for some breakfast. Unfortunately, we did not find any breakfasts that tickled our appetites so we ended up having burgers, yes burgers for breakfast… did not regret it one bit. To make matters worse, we also had waffles and churrios for dessert!
With full bellies and happy hearts (that’s a lie, our hearts were probably cursing us), we took the boat ride out of Nyhavn. The ride takes you through the many canals of Copenhagen whilst a tour guide explains more about the history of the city, it’s definitely something I would recommend, even though the food I had got the best of me and I ended up napping a little during the ride, guilty! The boat goes all the way down to the little mermaid (but the view you’ll get from land is actually much nicer) and then back through Christiana (I’ll talk about that later). You’ll get to see many different and unique house boats on the way which is pretty awesome, definitely got some great ideas for when I become a millionaire and can afford one. Highlight of the tour though was spotting some guys randomly chilling on a wooden platform in the middle of the sea.
Since it was a Saturday, Nyhavn was just pact with street performers, weekend tourists and locals. There was a music performance right by the beginning of the harbor, so after getting off the boat, we sat and enjoyed the local bands for a little bit. I must say, we were still trying to recover from all the food we’ve eaten and not going back to the apartment for a nap was an internal struggle in itself!
When we met the graffiti artists yesterday, they told us that Carlsberg (beer brand) was celebrating its 140th year anniversary today; the celebration would involve a bunch of different graffiti artists and even international music icons… best part is: it’s free! Once again, we hopped on our bicycles and made our way through the bustling cities of Copenhagen towards the Carlsberg Museum where the festivities would take place. On the way there, we rode past loads of people with wet suits on which really got my curiosity going, 5 minutes later, we saw this:
After around 20 minutes of cycling, we finally got to the area of the event. However, I must condemn the person who put up the signs because we ended up going around in circles for around an hour without finding the actual festival! The people working there were no help either, one of them actually told us to go in the complete wrong direction, which was frustrating because we bumped into her later and she pretended it was the right direction all along. Anyway, rant aside, we finally got to the celebration and it was totally worth it. There were loads of graffiti exhibitions and an RnB artist named Phlake was performing; he is originally Danish but almost all his songs were English so we did not feel left out. His music is pretty good too so check him out.
PS: Everywhere in the world, you get food trucks; in Denmark though, you get food bicycles! Check out this awesome chef who transformed his bicycle into a kitchen on wheels 😉
Phlake was awesome to watch live but it was time to head back home and get ready for our night at the OPERAAAAA (I hope you read this as I intended). You cannot possibly visit Copenhagen without including Tivoli Gardens in your plans. This theme park opened on the 15th of August, 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the entire world! Don’t worry though, the park’s attractions are well maintained. Besides the park’s crazy rides and rollercoasters, it hosts a ton of restaurants, cafes, bars, lounges and a theatre. So if you’re planning a visit, check out Tivoli’s Theater to find out all the upcoming shows and music performances. We attended an opera by Danielle de Niese; we were possibly the youngest group in the audience, but it was fun acting all sophisticated for a night (must admit, we all fell asleep at one point or another).
Day 3: Graffiti, Hippies & Castles
In my opinion, there is no better way to view a city than from up above; that bird’s eye, aerial view. This is particularly true for Copenhagen because of its colorful rooftops and the way the canals cut through each neighborhood like veins in the human body; almost like they’re the city’s own blood supply. So this morning, we made our way to the Vor Frelsers Kirke, which literally translates to the name most of you might already know it by: ‘Church of Our Saviour’. This church was first inaugurated in 1695 and is most famous for its helix spire with an external winding staircase that can be climbed to the top; giving you that view I was talking about. It is also noted for its carillon, which is the largest in northern Europe and plays melodies every hour from 8 am to midnight. Personally, we did not enter the church itself; however, it is meant to be nicely decorated so you might want to check that out too.
The climb to the top was surprisingly easy so don’t worry if you’re not in shape! The first few flights of stairs are your typical church bell towers set-up and could get a little claustrophobic during peak hours. Expect a few stops along the way to allow other tourists to squeeze past you before you can continue the climb since the steps are extremely steep and narrow at some points. However, you’ll soon find yourself stepping out onto the external staircase which is beautifully different. It is no longer claustrophobic; instead, it is cold and refreshing with scenic views that accompany you along the way to the top. Moreover, it’s spiral shape gives you a 360 degree panoramic view of the city so it basically changes with every step you take. There is no platform at the top though, the stairway kinda just gets narrower and narrower until it comes to an end; so take your pictures along the way in order to cover all the different angles!
Whether you’re a hippie, an art enthusiast, a pothead or just your average sightseeing tourist, Freetown Christiania is a must see. This self-proclaimed autonomous anarchist district of about 850 to 1,000 residents covering 84 acres is home to several cannabis booths, bars and some of the most creative graffiti work I have ever seen. It is worth noting that the area was temporarily closed by residents in April 2011 while discussions continued with the Danish government about its future. Christiania has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Despite what most tourists may think, cannabis is actually illegal in Denmark and the law applies to Christiania too. This wasn’t always the case though and cannabis was initially tolerated by the authorities until 2004; hence the controversy. Proponents claim that the concentration of cannabis in one area would keep the trade under control and hinder people from resorting to ‘harder’ drugs while advocates argue that there should be no differentiation between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs. What are your thoughts on this matter? Feel free to express your opinion in the comments section below 🙂 Nevertheless, the area was nicknamed the ‘Green Light District’ and the cannabis trade continues to thrive as it is a major attraction for many tourists. So don’t get it twisted, it is illegal but the authorities are reluctant to forcibly stop it. Drugs aside; visit Christiania for some hilarious people watching (Maddie, Mustafa and Vic will know what I mean) and some cool shots of the awesome graffiti work.
If you have been to Copenhagen before, you are probably wonder how on earth we haven’t visited the meatpacking district yet; well the time has finally come. This district consists of three separate areas, referred to as the White, Grey and Brown Kødby for the dominant color of their buildings. The brown part is the oldest, dating back to 1883 when it was a stabling place for 1,600 cattle before slaughtering; though it has been changed into a new ‘creative cluster’ with galleries, art cafes, nightlife and small creative businesses like studios and architecture firms in 2000. Funny enough, there ain’t that much meat packing in the meatpacking district no more; however, it is still a great place to visit for some delicious street food. I recommend a beef burrito or a steak sandwich… or both! However, if beef isn’t your thing, don’t worry because there are plenty of chicken and vegetarian options available too. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures here because I was too busy stuffing my face 🙂
Alas, it was time for one of the saddest goodbyes of my entire life; I still get shook up thinking about the moment I bid my loyal steed goodbye (yes I am talking about returning the bicycles we rented three days ago). To make matters worse, we had to walk back to the apartment; walking never felt so boring and tiring before this day… you never know what you’ve got until you lose it 😦 Seriously though, we were ‘bicycle-less’ for like 30 minutes and hated our lives, so trust me, bicycles are the way to get around this beautiful city.
For our last night in Denmark, we decided to visit the city of Helsingor for its picturesque bay which overlooks the city of Helsingborg in Sweden and the magnificent Kronborg castle where William Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ is set. Getting from Copenhagen to Helsingor couldn’t be easier, there are trains out of Central Station every 5-10 minutes and the ride is around an hour long. You don’t need to worry about the way back either as trains run throughout the entire night too. Although we couldn’t actually see the sunset from the castle, the burning orange sky reflected off the North Sea leaving us with a spectacular scene; so we decided to spend the rest of our day just lying in the grass enjoying the cool breeze with the castle to our left, Sweden to our back and the endless sea to our right.
Day 4: Goodbye… Farvel
Easily one of my favorite cities in Europe (along with Amsterdam and Florence) but it was time to say goodbye. With and Iceland ahead, there was no time for sadness, only sheer excitement as the adventure was only just beginning.
I realize this blog was a bit longer than the rest but there is just so much history in this city that I could not neglect, I do apologize. For a summarized spreadsheet itinerary including all activities and timings, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoyed this blog, read on to discover more about our adventures in The Faroe Islands and Iceland (road trips and camper vans away from all city life). Moreover, feel free to like, comment, share and subscribe to get notified whenever new posts are shared 🙂