We were in Copenhagen for nearly a week, and during that time we managed to cover quite a bit of ground on foot. Narrowing down the list for today’s Friday Five took considerable effort; consider this an amuse bouche, a handful of images from various corners of this picturesque city, both on and off the beaten path.
1. The City Centre.
Unless you’re interested in a forgettable walking-mall experience, avoid the Strøget. Billed as Europe’s longest shopping street, it’s basically an extra-long stretch of Soho’s Broadway, but without cars and with more meandering tourists. Instead, explore the warren-like side streets around the city’s center to be rewarded with gem-like squares such as this one.
If you’re lucky, you’ll hit it when the light is just right. For us, that was usually about 6:00 or 7:00pm; when we were there in mid-May, the weather was reminiscent of London. Overcast, chilly, and rainy until that magical hour when the skies clear and the sun begins to cast that light that makes everyone look ten times better than they normally would. Beautiful.
2. The Waterfront(s).
Home to open-air bars, crowded restaurants, and, formerly, Hans Christian Andersen, Nyhavn is Copenhagen’s historic waterfront and a launching pad for various canal tours—an epically touristy but undeniably enjoyable way to see the city. In an hour or so, get all of those palaces, government buildings, music venues, and underwhelming statues crossed off the list and put your time toward different corners of the city.
Our first evening, we were looking for Nyhavn and found ourselves in another part of town entirely. (This is when we discovered the inherent patience and friendliness of nearly everyone we met…and we met a lot of them. My uncle loves to ask for directions, then follow up with a nice, long chat with pretty much anyone who will stop to talk.)
The view from the Quay Bridge, love padlocks and all.
We were just lucky to stumble across the Harbour Park, nearly deserted on this cold, windy afternoon. Like the High Line on steroids, this former industrial space has been repurposed into something for public use, a park with an esplanade, a cultural center, and, in-season, several swimming pools in the river itself.
3. Tivoli Gardens.
One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens is said to be the inspiration for Disneyland, and with lush plantings, imaginative architecture, and rides and attractions of all stripes, you can see why. Like any other amusement park, though, it also features overpriced concessions, crowds, and many, many small children. It makes for a beautiful evening stroll, but if you’re not riding the rides, the entrance fee stings a bit.
4. Street Art.
I didn’t expect to see graffiti in a classy European city such as this one—classy European cities don’t seem like they’d be much for deviant behavior such as property vandalization—so I was pleasantly surprised. Some was awesome (see above), some was less so (see below), but it all made for a colorful experience.
From a wall-sized mural visible over the Rosenborg Palace Garden’s walls…
…to an unfinished illustration glimpsed from the water, it was everywhere. Spotting the best pieces quickly became a game of I Spy.
5. The Best Bar in Town.
Well, the best bar in town if you’re an Arsenal supporter, and I found it purely by luck—and by shamelessly asking the first jersey-wearing guy I saw where he’d be watching the game. While every other sports bar in the immediate vicinity was showing the Manchester vs. Manchester showdown, I was elbow to elbow with locals and expats at Southern Cross, shouting, cursing, and jumping for joy when my team managed to eke out the win. If you’re a soccer fan, you instantly have a conversation starter, common ground with people you’d normally never talk to (unless you’re my uncle, that is). Here, in a bar full of strangers, I felt completely at home, and it was glorious.