It had been almost a full two weeks after packing my life up in three suitcases and flying across the Atlantic to London that I decided, on a whim, to go to Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is the most populated city in Denmark, and their people are said to be “the happiest people on Earth.” They’re very earth-conscious and cycle everywhere (not a bad idea, considering the city has no problem sucking the krones right out of your wallet).
While Copenhagen wasn’t on my original list of weekend trip ideas, it seemed like a fun, spontaneous venture with some new friends I’d only just met.
Me, being me, waited until the last minute to pack my bag. (Last minute as in the last 15 minutes before we needed to leave the building.) This proved to be not so great of an idea; jeans just don’t cut it as a replacement for the pajamas left behind in the dresser.
Our flight out of London Gatwick was at 6:30 am. I personally feel like any flight before 8 am should be illegal, but you know, student budgets call for that stingy traveler mode to click on.
The flight was quick, and luckily, I was traveling with fellow foodies who also were ready for a solid breakfast.
My friend Chantel had a recommendation for a cafe called Paludan. (Honestly, it was such a lifesaver having recommendations from other student travelers. If you’re in the same boat, give and receive these recommendations and treat them like gold - it’ll save you money, and time. Scandinavia has no mercy for us.)
On the way it was lightly drizzling (not a drastic change from London’s dreary weather), and gray. Happiest place on Earth? I remained skeptical.
Paludan is one, if not the, oldest book cafes in Denmark. It started as a bookstore for students to obtain reasonably priced books, and then they opened the cafe in the early 2000s.
I ordered the two poached eggs on toasted rye bread. It came with guacamole, goat cheese, pomegranate and almonds on top, for a whopping 89 krones - a little over a $13 meal in the States, if you don’t factor in the latte I needed just to keep my eyes open.
From breakfast, we headed to Ørstedsparken, a public park not far from where we were. What was once part of the old fortification ring in the late 1800s, now was lush greenery and a beautiful lake, swans wading through the water.
It was so odd people-watching in the park. Coming from Indiana, I could go months only ever hearing English, with maybe the occasional Spanish phrase or two here and there. Here, Danish filled the air, as well as so many other languages from fellow tourists. I absolutely loved it.
After taking some pictures and letting the food digest, we played Euchre, a game extremely popular at home, and one I’ve just neglected to ever learn. Oh the irony - I never took the time to learn it when everyone around me could play it, and yet here I was, thousands of miles away from my little hometown, tossing around cards on a stone table in Copenhagen.
After the park, we took a boat out on the canal as it started to rain harder and harder. We used a company called GoBoat, and it wasn’t too expensive when divided up by the entire group. We had some plastic cups and a cheap bottle of wine, and we laughed and told stories and waved back at the people on the street who gave us funny looks of insanity for being out in the weather.
It was an amazing way to see a lot of the city. We passed under a bridge at one point where a bunch of people were lined up along, ready to throw flowers into the water after we passed through. It was a really beautiful moment.
Damp, tired, but content, we went to the hotel. And hotel is a nice way to put it. Copenhagen. NOT budget-friendly. I think this was the most expensive place I ended up staying throughout my time in Europe, and the value was just alright. On the bright side, the location was more than ideal, near all the restaurants, shops, the bus stop, and Tivoli Gardens, so I guess sometimes you have to compromise.
CABINN City. Where do I begin? My friend Amrutha found it for us, and we each paid around $100 US. I was expecting decent service. When we got there, they told us they couldn’t find our booking. We stood downstairs for almost an hour while Amrutha went full-on Karen mode and demanded to talk to the manager. (Literally a huge shoutout to her.)
Long story short, we got inside. The girls stayed in one room and the boys in the other. We had four bunk beds and a tiny bathroom that I was immediately shocked by. The floor of the shower was the same as the floor of the toilet. I was so grossed out I didn’t use it for the weekend, although I later came to learn, through more traveling, that this sort of thing isn’t abnormal in Scandinavia.
We walked around and tried to figure out a place for dinner; reasons I loved this travel group - everyone values trying the country’s native food. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a place off the bat, so we settled for a cute outdoor restaurant with heated lamps and blankets.
Even though it was the first night in a new city, no one really felt like going out. The weather, the travel, and full stomachs made the janky hotel seem kind of home-y, so we went back and ended up spending a couple more hours playing Euchre on the floor of the room in our pajamas. (Well, I guess not me, considering the packing incident. I digress.)
The bunk beds, the cards, the excitement of a new country - it reminded me a lot of when I went to Europe in 2016 on my high school’s Europe trip. Spending nights in cramped hotel rooms with my friends, telling dumb stories, waiting for some adult chaperon to kick the boys out of the room - it was the best kind of nostalgia, especially since I’d met my two best friends through that first visit to Europe.
I really think there’s a beauty in youthful traveling, in not having a lot of money to throw on expensive restaurants, hotels, transportation. It’s a different kind of trip, and I knew that night that the next three months were going to change me and think about things in so many new ways.
Day 2: Brunch at an outdoor strip of small restaurants. We all kind of got our own thing, but I got Tandoori chicken with naan bread, cooked right in front of us. The plate was supposedly edible. (Don’t be fooled - it might not be digested like cardboard, but it sure tasted like it.)
We took some typical tOuRIstY pictures at Nyhavn, where all the boats sat along the canal. The buildings were beautiful; I was shocked at the range of color.
My favorite part of the trip came next - Freetown Christiana. The inner hippie in me felt like Disney World had opened its gates and welcomed me in.
Christiana is an “anarchist district” at the location of an old abandoned military base. Some Scandinavian hippies took it over and made a little community of under 1,000 people.
Today, it’s covered in artistic graffiti, their self-proclaimed red and yellow dotted flag, and cannabis vendors lined up along the street, ready to bolt at the sign of a cop rolling up. (And I don’t mean rolling up a joint.)
No, it’s not legal to smoke there. Yes, half the store owners I saw selling souvenirs were holding a spliff.
It was fun walking around and just taking the whole vibe in. You have to be careful, because if you snap a picture of the wrong thing, you’re likely to get yelled at by one of the locals - no documentation of the cannabis trade can exist, for obvious reasons.
I got a few souvenirs - a new pashmina (a decorative scarf) and a new ring being my favorites.
In the evening, we went to Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park literally a five minute walk from our hotel. Built in 1843, the park inspired Walt Disney in a lot of ways, and he incorporated them into the production of Disneyland. I could totally see the resemblance; Tivoli had small sections of the park that were supposed to emulate different parts of the world, similar to Epcot. The rides were fun, although a little small. (What can you really expect from a park built in the 1800s, though?)
We got sushi at this cute little restaurant in the middle of the park, overlooking a small pond that had bumper boats on the move. The lights were lit up since it was dark, and the weather was decent. The only hard part was trying to figure out how to split the bill - first figuring out who owed what, and then converting it to US dollars.
At the end of the night, we saw a fireworks show and had waffles/ice cream. Very much a vibe. We ended our time at Tivoli in this “German” biergarten, but I didn’t get anything because, for the life of me, I can’t seem to enjoy beer.
Everyone was singing and one very intoxicated man stood up on his table, ripped off his shirt, and belted his heart out. Honestly, relatable.
Our last morning, we went to an outdoor market and all had cinnamon rolls (apparently a very big thing in Scandinavia) and it did not disappoint.
So, Copenhagen. In the 48 hours I spent there, I blew through my money, barely slept, and felt grungy as ever in my shower-less skin and slept-in jeans.
I’d have no problem turning back the clock and doing it all over again.
(Just maybe pack earlier than 15 minutes before leaving.)
Places to Eat:
- Paludan (https://paludan-cafe.dk/en/headline/)
- Indian Dhaba Street Food (https://www.dhabasw11.com/dhaba)
- Letz Sushi at Tivoli (https://www.tivoligardens.com/en/mad+og+drikke/spisesteder/letz+sushi)
- CABINN City (https://www.cabinn.com/en/hotels/cabinn-city-hotel/)
- use the local transportation! We used the buses and the underground.
- GoBoat (https://goboat.dk/en/)