What to Do and What NOT to Do in Copenhagen

In most of my travels, I’ve generally come in with a plan of a couple things I would like to see with some wiggle room for exploring.  This was not unlike my most recent trip to Denmark.  With such a range of activities available to us in Copenhagen, I found myself (with my husband and daughter) figuring out some of our favorite things by experimentation.  The only thing we made sure to catch on a certain date was Halloween at Tivoli Gardens, other than that we let our level of energy and the weather decide on what we would go to next.  In some cases, it was a comedy of errors, but even with that, we made some amazing memories in this city.

DO… get to Christiania.  DON’T… take photos on “Pusher Street”.

Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen is basically government land that had been occupied and taken over by squatters to become a self-governing society. It’s home to a collection of artists, activists, hippies, and builders… but also known for its open cannabis trade.  There are family-friendly areas, and a general sense of creativity and whimsy in the art installations and home design.  The one area to be aware of is “Pusher Street” because it is lined with dealers selling marajuana (as well as other drugs).  Because the area is generally non-threatening, we wandered onto this main drag almost accidentally.  My daughter, Evie, had run up to a carved pumpkin to take a photo of it and we were met with a couple middle fingers and some stern warnings.  We made our way out and went back to another retailer to make sure we figured out what streets are kid-friendly.

Pusher Street is just behind us. 

INSTEAD…

Go around Christiania and check out the homes.  Since they are self-governed, a lot of homeowners have built their own homes without the worry of building codes.  This could seem a little janky to some, but the result is free reign on the overall design.  Some homes looked like they were re-invented childhood treehouse for adults.

DO… rent a bike to get around in Copenhagen.  DON’T… turn left on a bike.

Copenhagen is the bike-friendly capital of the world, so we had to get around this city in the preferred method of transportation.  Neither Peabe or I had been on a bicycle in quite some time, and the thought of cycling in a bustling city seemed a bit daunting at first.  We were pleasantly surprised that the city is pretty well set up to make cycling as easy as possible.  Bike lanes are about 5 feet in width minimum, busier areas have one way bike paths, bike crossing lights were set up everywhere, and parking your bike was basically locking up anywhere on the sidewalk (no bike racks).  Some areas just seemed easier to get to by bike, especially if the day became colder or when it started to rain, or when walking got to be a lot for my daughter’s little legs, it was nice to be able to hop on the bike and get where we needed to go faster.  One thing that we learned when riding was the “Copenhagen left”.  The left turn can be tricky and probably what causes many cycling accidents in general, so this city found a way to help.  Turning left is a two stage process. First you cross the street straight ahead, stop, wait for green or for traffic to clear in case the intersection is unsigned, and then you cross the street to complete your left turn.  When we returned our bikes, the guy at the Copenhagen Bicycles did confirm this for us.

INSTEAD…

We rented a bike with a typical baby seat in back for the little one.  She’s pretty big now and the weight of her behind me threw me off a bit.  Maybe my bike was a little too large for me or maybe the rain made the tire slip a bit, but getting on and off the bike with her behind me was difficult.  I would feel the bike sliding with her.  Peabe had to ride with the car seat as he had more stability with her on the back. After having these issues, I had wished we went with the cargo bike rental.  The cargo bikes are found all over Denmark, most common is the 3-wheeler, made to fit 2 kids in the cargo space in front.  This looked way more stable and would give us the space for keeping our backpacks or a picnic in with the little one.

DO… eat as the Danish do.  DON’T… blow the travel budget on eating out.

So eating out in Scandinavia is expensive, so we did try to keep to simple with the meals.  All the restaurants look so great, it’s easy to get tempted, but I think the high prices actually are meant to deter eating out all the time, maybe spend some time with a home cooked meal.  We spent time eating at small food stands, cafes, and just buying quick groceries.  One night, we did want to experience some real Danish food and were lucky enough to find Koebenhavner Cafeen.  For about $30 per person, we got the “Copenhagen Platter” which consisted of roasted pork, liver pate, pickled herring, fish fillets, salmon for open-faced sandwiches, chicken salad, crackers with various cheeses and butters, all made in a traditionally Danish way.  It was a great way to experience some new foods that we’ve never tried before and it was all really delicious.  The only thing that made the meal more complete were the Carlsberg beers.

INSTEAD…

While we are on the subject of food, we would have loved to check out the World’s Best Restaurant, Noma, while we were there.  We were able to go check it out from the outside, and see the backside of Noma, where we followed our noses to find some of the cooking being done in a converted shipping container. Behind me is a stack of converted containers called the “science bunker” used for more food experimentation.  As the smells got us hungrier for some lunch, we found Copenhagen Street Food Market basically across the street.  The place was super casual, with isles of different food selections from duck fat-fried fries to organic juices.  They also have everything from Chinese to Brazilian fare, so all cravings are covered.

Cover photo sculpture and this play shipping container are just outside the Food Market.

ALSO INSTEAD…

On the same note, the Torvehallerne Market, was also a favorite find.  Much like a huge farmers market, but with food stalls of really impressive foods.  I walked up and down staring at fresh seafood, cured meats, hand-painted chocolates, rich and pungent cheeses, and ended up sitting down in front of some really great porridge at GRØD.  Seriously, after a long day of walking, with the night getting dark and cold, it was nice to warm up with a little porridge.

DO… Legoland in the home of Lego, Billund.  DON’T… go when Legoland is closed for the season =(

One of the things that was high on our list was going to Legoland in the home of Lego, Billund.  Unfortunately, they close for the winter season at the end of October, so we had just missed it. What a bummer, we all love Legos and really wanted to check it out.

INSTEAD…

They have a pretty cool Lego flagship store in the center of Copenhagen on Strøget Street.  Evie didn’t even realize what she was missing, she still had fun in the store.

LAST DON’T…

Don’t watch the World Series game for the Chicago Cubs while at a hostel and trying to catch an early flight.  As if it weren’t an already stressful game, we watched it by streaming it at the hostel around 3am, then we had a fire alarm, then everyone was awake so the internet was slow.  Then we had to pack and walk about 10 minutes to the train station, still in the dark.  We took a 15 minute train ride to the airport in silence, still catching bits and pieces of the final innings on my phone.  We caught better signal at the airport, but had to stop again to get through the security lines.  Finally, as we were walking towards the gate, I caught a decent signal and could get back to the game… and the CUBS WON!  Probably one of my highlights of 2016.  Seriously though, I really wished Danish people cared about baseball that day because I wanted to high five everyone at the airport.

You can see the tension in our faces on the train during the Cubs World Series.

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