The trip to Copenhagen
Copenhagen was not my actual destination. I was traveling through on my way to Kristianstad in Sweden. Nevertheless, I decided to make the best possible detour and plan my trip so that I would have as much time as possible for Copenhagen’s main landmarks. I managed to squeeze that “as much as possible” in one day divided into halves: the afternoon after I arrived and the morning next day.
I know from a reliable source J, that many people dream of visiting the Scandinavian countries. Everything we have heard and read about them is enticing: attractive nature, high living standard, social economy, developed democracy and happy people. I could see that myself firsthand in spite of my flying visit.
I had left enough time for planning before I left as I knew my time would be short but wanted to visit as many places in Copenhagen, Kristianstad, and Malmö as possible. I think that I managed and that my efforts were not in vain.
It turned out that all websites of the Visit Sweden type recommend the Danish capital, Copenhagen, as the most easily accessible starting point to visit Sweden. The low-cost Hungarian Wizz Air proved without an alternative in the choice of an airline – direct Sofia-Copenhagen flights five days a week (in May 2018) and an affordable price compared to the at least two or three transfers, all-day travel and high prices offered by the regular airlines. The flight takes approximately two hours and twenty minutes.
The advantages of the Scandinavian countries have their price. The authorities in Copenhagen have taken this into consideration with a number of solutions to ease tourists. One of the principal ones is the cOPENhagen Card (you can see this type of spelling in many places and this is not by chance) (https://copenhagencard.com/ ). The card has its own website where it can be bought online in advance and I decided to use this opportunity to save time on the spot. The price was EUR 54 for 24 hours.
You can choose between 24, 48, 72 or 120 hours. The cards for children between 10 and 15 cost less. When you buy the card you enter the precise time (by an hour) when it will be used and confirmation to begin using it is done at the first visited site.
I confirmed my card showing the printed voucher at the Information desk when I arrived at Copenhagen Airport. In return, I was given the card itself, as well as a small booklet with information about:
- all 86 free entrance landmarks (including Tivoli Gardens, the National Aquarium Denmark (Den Blå Planet), museums, palaces, and other tourist attractions) with a detailed description, working hours and websites for more information;
- urban transport, also free (buses, trains, metro), not only in the city but also in the suburbs;
- as well as about the places (including catering and entertainment establishments) offering discounts to cardholders.
I promptly used my new acquisition and took the train from the airport to the Central Station near which I had chosen a hostel.
The instructions specifically say that the Copenhagen Card cannot be used on the territory of Sweden. Sounds logical, but only at first glance. The border between Denmark and Sweden exists only on the map, not in the daily life of the people here.
I will just mention some examples:
I had exchanged Swedish krona (at a rate of 1.00 BGN to 5.00 SEK) in Bulgaria but I did not have Danish Krones (1.00 BGN to 3.81 DKK). I went to buy a ticket to Kristianstad via Malmö directly after I arrived because I wanted to be sure I would have transport to Sweden on the next day.
I was still tense – tired from the trip, a new place and so on – so I didn’t even remember I did not have local currency. Watching what the people around me were doing, I boldly went to try and buy a ticket from the machines all around. I failed at both my first and my second try. I decided the fault was mine and looked for a ticket office. The woman there accepted the large Swedish krona note, explaining she could give me back the change in local Danish Krones. At first, I didn’t realize why she was telling me that. She repeated and only then I realized I was trying to buy something in Denmark with Swedish krona! As I learned later, this proved possible at many other places in Copenhagen.
It seems the two rich Scandinavian states have developed their own currency union stepping on the natural footing of their well-developed economies and democratic societies, not an artificially created one like the euro. The local currency is valued here and there is no public debate on inclusion in the European Economic and Monetary Union and adopting the euro. Besides, Danish coins are made with extreme attention to detail – their form and design make them look like a veritable treasure. 🙂
I also felt the same unity on the way back from Malmö to Copenhagen Airport. The train was full. There are lots of people who take this trip at all times, be it business or just going out. No one came to check our passports (we were crossing a state border, after all, although within Schengen) or our tickets. In spite of that, I am sure there were no free riders.
This trip was not my first in using Booking.com (https://www.booking.com ), Hostelworld.com (https://www.hostelworld.com ) or Airbnb.com (https://www.airbnb.com ). Interestingly, in this case, I managed to combine all three platforms J. In Copenhagen I booked a room at a hostel, in Kristianstad I trusted a room for rent and in Malmö I opted for a hotel. I will write more about the second and third options in my next travelogue entry.
The hostel I chose in Copenhagen was Annex Copenhagen. It is literally not more than a ten-minute walk from the Central Station which is very near to one of the main landmarks, Tivoli Gardens, as well as to the centre of the city. The hostel’s description in the platform is precise as it can be – clean rooms with shared bathrooms and TV sets (small they may be, but who chooses a hostel to remain in the room…), WiFi and a kind smiling staff. I chose a single room. In addition to the option for accommodation at dormitories (most frequent at hostels) bathrooms and toilets are shared but there are enough to spare any worries. The reception desk is open round-the-clock.
You can see the location of the hostel on the map below, directly next to Copenhagen Central Station, followed by Tivoli Gardens, and further a shopping street with a number of landmarks, canals with landings for boat rides and, finally, the statue of The Little Mermaid. All the while you pass by shops, catering establishments, cafes, and tourist shops.
What I did manage to see
Seen through the eyes of a tourist, Copenhagen with its 1.2 million residents is an exceptionally beautiful green place with a pleasant atmosphere and peaceful, smiling people. It was no chance that Copenhagen was declared European Green Capital 2014. In 2008 it was voted the best city in the world for quality of life and in terms of infrastructure, it ranks third after Singapore and Munich.
As could be expected, cycling is the favoured means of transport which is supported with top level infrastructure. Young or old, parents or children – there are no restrictions. I am aware that that is precisely how an environment-friendly conduct with respect for what surrounds us is formed. This becomes possible with the efforts of all. City Hall has done its job and has created opportunities, and the residents use those in an appropriately sustainable way. The outcome is that everyone benefits.
The Tivoli Gardens amusement park is on the must-visit list in Copenhagen. I found myself in front of its gates almost unexpectedly at the beginning of my stroll. I did not have to pay the 120 DKK fee as the entrance is free for Copenhagen Card holders.
Visitors have the feeling they have found themselves in heaven – beautiful gardens with blooming flowers and trees; lush greens appropriate for picnics and games; a duck pond with boats; a variety of places to eat catering to every taste; attractions for young and old including a pantomime theatre and a concert hall, among others.
It is no chance that the park has been a favoured place for recreation for the city’s residents and guests since it opened in 1843. They say Hans Christian Andersen was a frequent visitor of the gardens.
You can spend all day here losing all sense of time. Regrettably, I did not have much of that on my hands and headed towards the centre after two hours or so.
It was not difficult to reach one of the canals by strolling along Strøget (1.1 km). It is considered one of the longest pedestrian shopping areas in the world, actually uniting five separate streets and three squares.
Just on time for the opening of the Guinness World Records Museum. The museum in Copenhagen is part of the franchising chain of the company and presents thematic exhibitions after the book of the same title.
Strøget begins from the central City Hall Rådhuspladsen square to the west (near Central Station) to the new royal square to the east, Kongens Nytorv.
The largest square of the Danish capital, it was laid out by King Christian V in 1670 as part of the extension of the city. This led to a move of the city centre, at that time a medieval marketplace around Gammeltory, towards the new royal square surrounded by parks – a concept inspired by 17th-century urban planning in Paris.
Today, the square is flanked by the Royal DanishTheatre (1874); the Charlottenborg Palace (1671), which houses the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts; and the Thott Palace from 1683 (now the French Embassy). There is an impressive statue of King Christian V in the middle of the square.
At 11:30 am every day the King’s Guard march along the shopping street to the royal palace for a change of the guard.
It was nearing 7:00 pm and I was wondering whether I would manage to reach the canals and the boat ride I had planned on time when I came upon Nyhayn or Nyhavn (New Harbour in Danish).
This is the most picturesque part of the city with its brightly-coloured houses standing at attention around (Hans Christian Andersen lived and worked in some of them), probably Denmark’s most popular image we see on postcards.
The harbor was built in the 17th century, again by Christian V, and was a busy trading centre in the 17th and the 18th century. Today, the surrounding streets are lined with numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes, which has earned it the nickname of “the longest bar in Scandinavia”.
The boat ride continued for about an hour and cost me 40 DKK, not the regular 85 DKK.
It includes a tour of the canals during which one can see distinctive buildings like:
The Copenhagen Opera House, one of the most modern buildings in the city.
It is built by the harbor, across the new royal square and the Amalienborg Palace there, the home of the Danish royal family.
The Royal Library with its new wing, The Black Diamond, called so because of its black granite and glass cladding. It houses the National Museum of Photography and the National Museum of Cartoon Art.
From there the statue of The Little Mermaid can only be seen from the back, but I decided to make a point of visiting it the next day.
The Royal Danish Naval Museum
The Old Stock Exchange
City Hall Tower – with its 105.6 m the tower is one of the highest buildings in the Danish capital. Overcome the 300 steps and you will be rewarded with an unforgettable view of the city.
The Church of Our Saviour, one of the most famous churches in Denmark, is another place allowing a bird’s eye view from the top of its spiraling tower and the peculiar golden globe reached after climbing 400 steps. The last 150 form an external winding staircase that is really a challenge. The tower is open to visitors from March to November and is closed for security purposes during bad weather.
The Danish Architecture Centre
We slip under Stormbro, one of the oldest bridges. The boat passes about 2 cm from the walls and we have to bend under the low-hanging arch.
On the next day, I decided to stroll along the waterfront alley and see The Small Mermaid up close. The mermaid from the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen which was first published in 1837. The statue was erected in 1913. We know that the little mermaid was doomed to unhappy love in the fairy tale, but it turned out her fate as a statue was not an envious one either. Vandals decapitated it (literally) on several occasions or destroyed its right hand or painted it in various way, but the authorities restored it on every occasion.
The Little Mermaid stands in Churchill Park, named so in 1965 in gratitude for the help of the British army in Denmark’s liberation from German occupation during World War II.
The St. Alban Anglican church is also located there,
directly next to the Gefion Fountain, the largest in Copenhagen, dedicated to the Norse goddess Gefion and her sons who are depicted as oxen.
Legend has it that Gefion won the heart of the Swedish king Gylfe who promised he would give her as much land as she could plough in one day and one night. Gefion took the challenge and transformed her four sons into immensely powerful oxen whom she made plough the Swedish land deeply. In a day and a night, the goddess ploughed so deeply that she raised land which she threw into the sea and that is how the island of Zealand, on which Copenhagen stands today, was formed. The place where the land was ploughed formed what is the lake Vännern in Sweden.
The Copenhagen Citadel is in the same area – a fortress built in, used as a prison in the 19th century. At times of war the complex was used as military barracks and offices, but now these are part of the park and are open to visitors.
My time ran out only too soon. I had to go back to the Central Station and catch the train to Kristianstad. Twenty-four hours are extremely insufficient for a city like Copenhagen. I was determined I would return to enjoy it I full.