Danny Kaye sang this in the 1952 movie Hans Christian Andersen. The description stuck and Neil Braidwood finds the city lives up to it
Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, is only an hour’s flight from Edinburgh Airport. We decided to spend five days there in March, flying with Norwegian. The airline is operating a number of flights to Scandinavian countries from Edinburgh and there are some great deals to be had. Far from being a budget airline, we felt quite pampered, with plenty of legroom, free Wi-Fi and a generous baggage allowance.
My wife, Maureen, had booked us into an Airbnb apartment in the up-and-coming meatpacking district of the city. Although not strictly central, it was within walking distance of most attractions, and definitely within cycling distance. A new metro line is under construction, and a station will be opening here soon.
On arrival, it was easy to find the metro station within the airport itself, and the helpful assistant sold us tickets to our destination. You can use your ticket on the metro, train or bus systems, and they are valid for two hours from time of purchase within the zones you have bought for. We had to change from the metro to a bus to get to our destination, and I must admit I felt a bit stressed about making the change – but in reality it was quite straightforward. English is spoken by almost everyone, so asking for help is easy.
Our apartment was in a quiet street, and close to shops. We were keen to get going, so once we had dumped our bags and had a nose around, we navigated our way to the centre of town, and booked ourselves on a boat trip to see the sights.
Copenhagen has a number of canals that connect to the river, and our hour-long trip allowed us to get our bearings for the rest of our stay. Many of the bridges are quite low, so we were encouraged to stay seated during the trip, which took in the Little Mermaid statue on the edge of the city. The bronze sculpture is indeed little, and altogether not that impressive. Nevertheless, she was being photographed incessantly. Planted on a rock there in 1913, the famous siren has been vandalised a few times, but luckily, the original moulds still survive, so she can easily be repaired.
By the time our tour was complete, we were famished, so strolled up the picturesque old port of Nyhavn, (main picture above) to find something to eat. At first glance, most of the bars and restaurants here look to be ‘just for tourists’, however we saw and heard many Danes having a popular herring lunch, washed down with an akvavit (local spirit flavoured with herbs). We settled ourselves in a sunny seat outside and watched the people go by while enjoying delicious flavoursome pickled herring.
We headed back into town, and found one of the longest pedestrianised streets in Europe – Stroget. Cars were banned here in 1962, and since then many of the adjoining streets have become pedestrianised too. With its mix of high-end brand retailers such as Royal Copenhagen and Georg Jensen, there are also budget shops, restaurants and cafés. After all our walking, we were on the lookout for Conditori La Glace – one of the oldest patisserie cafés in the city. Tucked away in nearby Skoubogade, the 19th century café is always busy, but we found a table quickly, and then went to order our treat. I opted for a slice of the Karen Blixen cake, named after the famous Dane who wrote Out of Africa. She had a coffee farm in Kenya, so the cake is made from coffee mousse and mocha truffle, decorated with coffee beans. Maureen had a pot of decadent hot chocolate (free refill if you finish it!), and picked away at my cake.
Refreshed, we headed back to the apartment, and made plans for dinner. We had passed a lot of interesting restaurants on our travels, but actually, didn’t need to go too far from our flat for our meal. Our apartment was in the old meatpacking district of the city, and although some of that trade still exists, a clutch of trendy eateries, bars and nightclubs has appeared in the former warehouses and shops. We chose to eat in Kødbyens Fiskebar – a bustling fish restaurant in an old meat hall. The meal was the most expensive we’d had, but my hake with Jerusalem artichokes, fermented pear and pearl barley was certainly one of the most interesting. Washed down with a local red rye beer, we reflected on how the area had reinvented itself, and seemed full of optimism.
Copenhagen feels full of positive people, and that attitude is infectious. Before long we were dreaming of a life here. Maybe one day…