At long last, I finally visited Copenhagen. I had been to the airport several times before, but always on my way to nearby Malmö. Never actually into town. But this year’s mother-daughter-weekend was two nights in Copenhagen. Since mum had never been there either… well actually, this was her first visit to Denmark. And what could be better than a Christmas weekend in Copenhagen?
In recent years Copenhagen has become a rather popular destination. There are plenty of direct flights available to CPH. And it is less than two hours flight from London and other European capitals, perfect for a weekend trip. Let me tell you what you can see in two days in Copenhagen.
Why did we decide to go to Copenhagen in November of all times? Surely summer would be nicer (definitely warmer). All true. And there wasn’t any particular reason why we decided on November. Other than the fact that it suited our diary best. When we originally started with our mother-daughter-weekends, we usually went for the August bank holiday. But the last couple of trips were all in November / early December and I must say, it was rather nice. Christmas markets in Vienna, thermal baths in Budapest and Paris before Christmas have all been lovely. Despite the wintery weather. And who could do winter and Christmas better than the Danes? After all, this should be the ultimate hygge experience.
Ok, enough small talk, let’s get started with our weekend in Copenhagen.
* Just to be clear, this is not a sponsored post. Any places mentioned are my own personal recommendation and I paid for everything myself.
Two nights in Copenhagen: Friday
As we had done on previous mother-daughter- weekends, mum and I would meet directly at the airport. We had picked similar flight times when booking our weekend in Copenhagen. Mum was due to arrive 20 minutes before me, but given her slower walking speed, chances are she wouldn’t have to wait too long.
My flight was delayed by almost an hour, but since mum’s was also late, it all worked out.
Once landside, we managed to find each other straight away and we then headed into Copenhagen together. We opted for a 48-hour ticket for public transport, so we wouldn’t have to worry about buying individual metro tickets during our two nights in Copenhagen. Getting from Copenhagen Airport to the hotel was super quick and easy.
Where we stayed for our weekend in Copenhagen
Since this was our first time in Copenhagen, we wanted a centrally located hotel. And the one we picked was slap bang in the middle, along the iconic Nyhavn.
We stayed at Hotel Bethel, a 3-star hotel on the quieter side of Nyhavn. We went for an economy double room. Since we weren’t planning on spending much time in there, this was absolutely sufficient. Yes, the room might have been a little on the small side, but it did the job.
For our two nights in Copenhagen, we paid around 300 GBP / 340 Euros including breakfast. Yep, sorry to say, a weekend in Copenhagen doesn’t come cheap.
Once we had checked into the hotel and dropped our bags, we went out to explore Copenhagen.
The downside of a weekend in Copenhagen in November? Very limited daylight. The sun set at four, so it was already starting to get dark as we left the hotel.
We got as far as the other side of Nyhavn when we stopped for a little pick me up. A coffee for me, a hot chocolate for mum. Paired with a selection of yummy looking baked goods to share. Rum balls and some kind of pan cake balls, served warm with icing sugar and strawberry jam. I need to find out what those are actually called. They reminded me a little of the poffertjes we had in the Netherlands, although not as flat.
Once we had fuelled up, we finally started exploring the area. Including the Christmas market along Nyhavn and on Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square).
Since it was already dark, we decided to stay ‘local’. After the Christmas market, we continued with a little stroll along Strøget, Copenhagen’s pedestrianised shopping street and a visit to the Magasin du Nord. A large department store at the edge of Kongens Nytorv (and the first thing we saw when we left the Metro earlier). Although I must say, the Magasin du Nord left me a little disappointed. With all the lights and Christmas decorations around, I was envisioning a big Christmas department full of Nordic treats. Similar to the Christmas departments at Harrods or Selfridges in London, or the Grandes Magazines in Paris. What we did find was a bit meagre in comparison. But the deli section in the basement was rather pretty.
For dinner we headed to Nyhavns Færfekro, a Danish restaurant along Nyhavn. As we only had two nights in Copenhagen (and it was mum’s first trip to Denmark) the aim obviously was to try as many Danish dishes as we could. Therefore, it was a fish fillet with potatoes and parsley sauce for mum that night. And Danish meatballs with potatoes, red cabbage and a creamy sauce for me.
A weekend in Copenhagen: Saturday morning
When I checked my weather app a week before the trip, the forecast was mild temperatures, but rain. Instead, we had just over 0 degrees and clear blue sky on Saturday morning. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not complaining. But since the weather in the UK had still been rather mild for November, I definitely wasn’t used to icy winds just yet.
After breakfast, we wrapped up warm and started our Copenhagen sightseeing tour.
First up was the Marmorkirken (marble church), aka Frederik’s Church. It was only one stop with the metro, we decided to walk instead. Since it is much nicer to actually see something, rather than pace from one stop to the next without any context.
Don’t be fooled by the name Marmorkirken. The ‘marble church’ actually wasn’t built in marble, although that was the original plan. Instead, it was mainly done in limestone. It has the largest church dome in Scandinavia with a 31m span.
We started early, so when we arrived at the church, it wasn’t open yet. It was barely nine o’clock and the church wouldn’t open for another hour. Never mind.
We had a look around the exterior, then continued to Amalienborg opposite. This is the current residence of the Danish royal family, and we could see guards outside the buildings. When checking what things there are to do in Copenhagen, watching the changing of the guards at mid day was one of the activities recommended. However, since we have our fair share of royals and guard changing in London, we weren’t that bothered about it (also it was far too early anyway).
After the Amalienborg, we continued walking towards the Kastellet (citadel) and eventually the Little Mermaid.
I guess the Little Mermaid statue is one of those Copenhagen landmarks, that you must include in your itinerary. But truth to be told, it isn’t that spectacular. The statue is relatively small and there were plenty of people around, all waiting to climb down the rocks to have their photo taken with the statue. We patiently waited for the opportunity to take a photo of the Little Mermaid without other people invading the photo. Mission accomplished; we headed back. Not the least because it was very windy and icy cold by the water. It even started to snow a little.
We briefly considered taking the Harbor Bus (a kind of water taxi) to continue our Copenhagen tour, but since the next one wasn’t due for another 30 minutes we changed our mind.
Instead, we opted for a coffee break in a cute little cafe. Before making a second attempt of visiting the Marmorkirken. As it was well after ten by now. Only to be greeted by a sign informing us that the church would not open to the public before 12.30 now. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.
Rather than wait around, we hopped on the Metro and headed towards Rådhus (City Hall).
I read about the Jens Olsen world clock during my Copenhagen research. And since we knew it would be shut on Sunday and would only be open between 10 and 1 on Saturday, we decided to check it out before it was too late.
Entrance into the city hall and for the world clock is free of charge, which was perfect.
The Jens Olsen world clock is the most precise mechanical clock in the world and has been going since 1955. Reading about it at City Hall, it turned out that Jens Olsen was actually inspired by the astronomical clock in Strasbourg, that he saw and intensely studied in younger years. Sadly, Jens Olsen didn’t live to see his clock completed, he died 10 years before.
An amazing snippet of information about this clock: its slowest gear completes a circle every 25.000+ years. So, it has barely moved since the clock started almost 70 years ago (and most likely will never complete a full circle)
Two nights in Copenhagen: Saturday afternoon
We decided to spend the afternoon in Tivoli Gardens. Opened in 1843, Tivoli is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world (the third oldest, after another one in Denmark and the Prater in Vienna). It is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland. Who would have thought.
At 155DKK (18.50 GBP / 20 Euros) a person, the entrance to Tivoli wasn’t necessarily cheap. Especially since that didn’t include any of the rides or activities. Those would need to be paid extra (either pay per ride or a flat fee for unlimited rides). But we weren’t really interested in the rides anyway. We wanted to see the gardens and the Christmas market.
The timing for our weekend in Copenhagen was perfect. Since it coincided with the start of the Christmas season at Tivoli. And the big Christmas tree would be switched on at 4.30 that afternoon. Our original plan was to head into Tivoli around 2.30/3, walk around the gardens for a little while, then see the big switch on before leaving… but then we started a little earlier. And were eventually so cold that we decided to leave. Also, the nearer we got to the switch on, the fuller the park (and especially the Christmas market area) became, and we didn’t enjoy it much any more.
With or without the lights switched on, we did enjoy the Christmas decorations at Tivoli and admired the massive Christmas tree in the centre of the park. We had a look around the Christmas market stalls, glanced at the decorations for sale (I even bought myself a little ornament to go on my Christmas tree) and had some gløgg. Although not the kind of Danish gløgg that comes with almonds and raisins and lots of port wine in it. Instead, we had mulled cider.
A weekend in Copenhagen: Saturday night
For the evening, we had booked ourselves tickets to see the ballet. They were performing ‘A midsummer night’s dream’ at Det Kongelige Teater (the Royal Danish theatre).
I booked the tickets a while back, to ensure we had decent seats. After the mishap with restricted view seats at the Vienna opera house, I learned my lesson. Whilst it wasn’t a big deal in Vienna (an opera is more about listening than watching), it would have been a bit annoying if we couldn’t see anything during a ballet performance.
We had front row seats on the first-floor balcony and had a decent view of almost the entire stage. At 690DKK per person (around 80GBP / 93 Euros) the tickets were at the higher end of the price spectrum. Restricted view would have started somewhere around 200DKK. But we didn’t mind. The performance was amazing and definitely a highlight of our two nights in Copenhagen.
When I originally booked the tickets, I thought the performance was at the Copenhagen Opera House (their website was a little confusing since I don’t speak Danish. As not everything is translated into English and even the tickets were all in Danish). Eventually I worked out that the ballet would be at the Old Stage, not in the Opera House. Which worked out well actually. Turns out the Old Stage in the Kongelige Teater is on Kongens Nytorv, so just a short walk from the hotel (as opposed to the other side of the water, where the Opera House would have been).
Two nights in Copenhagen: Sunday
Our flights back weren’t until the evening, so we still had most of Sunday to go and explore Copenhagen a little further.
We checked out of the hotel and stored our bags to pick up later.
Our first stop this morning was Christianshavn, so we headed straight to the Metro (after all, we had that 48-hour city pass that we had hardly used yet).
As we exited the metro, we headed to the Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of our Saviour), to see its amazing helix spiral tower. Sunday morning probably isn’t the best time to visit churches (unless you actually want to attend mass). Not much of a surprise that the church was closed for visitors until later. We could have gone up the tower, but the idea of endless staircases and icy winds at the top quickly convinced us otherwise.
From here we continued to Christiania. The freetown in the centre of Copenhagen was only a few steps away from the church, so it made sense to combine it.
We were curious to see what it was about. After a short walk through Christiania, we left the free town and headed back to good old Copenhagen.
The next stop on our Copenhagen tour was Christiansborg and Børsen. Checking the map, we worked out that there wasn’t much point using the Metro for this journey. So instead, we walked until we reached Børsen (the old stock exchange). To be honest, it wasn’t necessarily the building itself that we wanted to see, but the dragon tower on top. A steep roof with four dragons spiralling down.
Adjacent to the old stock exchange is Christiansborg Slot, one of several castles dotted around Copenhagen. Christiansborg Castle is not only a royal palace (housing the royal stables and royal reception rooms), but it is also the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s office and the Supreme Court.
If you are interested in visiting the castle (rather than just looking at it from the outside as we did), you can buy a combined ticket for all areas (costs 160DKK for adults). Or you can buy an individual ticket, if you are only interested in one part of the castle (60DKK per adult for the stables, ruins or the Royal Kitchen, 95DKK for the Royal Reception rooms).
One thing we still wanted to tick off our list during our two nights in Copenhagen, was smørrebrød for lunch. Heading back towards Kongens Nytorv, we opted for lunch at the Magasin du Nord, that just happened to have a smørrebrød restaurant on the fifth floor (with beautiful views from above).
Smørrebrød (which translates as ‘buttered bread’) is an open sandwich, usually prepared with dark rye bread and plenty of topping (to the extent that you can’t actually see the bread below).
I opted for a smørrebrød with roast beef, shredded horseradish, roasted onions and pickles. Mum had one with salmon and horseradish.
We had another walk around the Christmas market and the Nyhavn area, then it was eventually time to pick up our bags and head back to the airport.
We might not have seen all there is to see in Copenhagen, but we definitely enjoyed our two nights in Copenhagen. And who knows, we might be back for another weekend in Copenhagen, preferably in summer next time.
Have you been to Copenhagen? Did you like it?