About 2 years ago, I wrote a post about my 5 favorite cities – and Copenhagen was one of them! So I was looking forward to my return visit.
I also was looking forward to meeting up with my friends Kris and Ane, whom I met first in the Philippines last year and then later in Katmandu. I was expecting a week of fun and that’s exactly what I got!
Here’re my 7 recommendations when hitting the Danish capital Copenhagen:
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Christiania. This self-described hippy commune comprises 84 acres on the island of Christianshavn in the heart of Copenhagen. It was founded in 1971 when barricades to an old military installation were broken down by drug users, vagabonds, and artists, looking for a safe haven.
After its founding, Christiania quickly became known for its counter-culture vibe, especially the open sale of cannabis. The residents of Christiania developed their own set of rules, independent of the Danish government, including forbidding stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, and hard drugs.
In recent years, the original “no hard drug” policy of Christiania has been challenged and serious drug trafficking, accompanied by gang warfare, have emerged and marred this once peaceful demonstration of Danish openness and tolerance.
Kris, Ane and I rode our bikes over one Sunday to have coffee amidst the pot plants. The area has lost a lot of its original flavor and is now little more of a stop on the tourist track. (In fact, we saw many camera-touting tourists wandering around with maps in their hands).
Should you go? If you do, you’ll only see a hint of the former free-thinking colony.
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Rugbrød. This dark, sour rye bread is the mainstay of the Danish breakfast (so unlike the sugary sweet “Danish” Americans know and love.) The bread is incredibly healthy and very low in fat, containing no oil or sugar. It is rich in whole grain and all the fiber you could possibly want.
Interesting in baking a loaf of Rugbrød? Here’s a video showing you how.
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Malmö. I know Malmo is in Sweden and not Denmark, but it’s a short half-hour train ride from Copenhagen, and some actually consider it part of the great Copenhagen cosmopolitan area. As Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö is known for its architecture. We spent the day visiting museums and cafes (and running between rain storms). Nice afternoon!
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Danish Design. Known throughout the world, Danish design is a melding of functionality and streamlined simplicity. I love the look’s clean lines, careful craftmanship and attention to materials.
Danish design was developed in the mid-20th century and is heavily influenced by the German Bauhaus school. Its distinctive aesthetic is seen most often in furniture and household objects, but also major architectural wonders like the Sydney Opera House.
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Bike! While visiting, Kris lent me his extra bike so I could wheel around all I want. So I joined the literally millions of other Copenhageners and headed out to explore each day.
More than 35% of all commuters in Copenhagen go by bike, covering more than 1.3 million kilometers a day (that the equivalent of cycling to the moon and back – twice!). Luckily, the city is incredibly bike-friendly, with wide paths and special light signals for cyclists. I didn’t even get lost once!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Immigrant Inclusion. Great news! Recent studies over the last 30 years have shown that Danes are becoming increasingly more tolerant toward immigrants, which make up to 10% of the Danish population. This more inclusive attitude is somewhat contrary to the strident political language politicians are using concerning the country’s immigrants, indicating that Danish politicians may be out of step with Danish public opinion.
I admit, I was surprised to see the large immigrant populations in the city and many women wearing full burqas. In the neighborhood where I was staying, there was a large North African community, with many ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and travel agents.
In talking with my friends, they noted the positives aspects of the recent increase in the country’s immigration. Number one advantage in their eyes: better food!
ENJOY (Extra Fun) –Little Mermaid. No tour of Copenhagen is complete without a Little Mermaid sighting. I saw her during a canal cruise on my first time out, which is a great to see the city’s landmarks. The boat rides are usually about 2 hours and weave through the city’s maze of canals.
The final verdict after a week of chilling in Copenhagen? The city is still one of my favorites!