EU 2008: Copenhagen, Denmark

First a little background, I got to Copenhagen late on a Saturday night having spent the previous two nights in Amsterdam. So I’m pretty exhausted, I’ve eaten very little and I’ve done next to no research on the place, all of this may have coloured my judgement of the city.
Kongens HaveOn the first night I decided to go for a wander, so I pick a random direction and head that way, later on I discover that I picked the worst direction to go, there’s nothing interesting at all in the direction. Not even any real restaurants, I’m forced to resort to a greasy burger when I realise that there’s no other options.
I head out the next day determined to find something interesting in Copenhagen, but the entire town feels sleepy. I’m not in the tourist season, but it’s only a week away and I would have thought there’d be more going on. It’s beautiful weather but even the parks and the shoreline are fairly quiet. Maybe everyone’s away for the weekend. 

I did find a crowd of people following some soldiers and a brass band, it was all a bit ‘big’ to be a regular changing of the guard but I’ve still no idea what it was. Still I followed them (top tip: always follow the crowd, they’re probably going somewhere interesting) and ended up in Kongens Have (‘Kings Gardens’). It’s a really nice open park area and there’re a few things to see here but none are terribly impressive. I looked into the Treasury that’s there but wasn’t terribly impressed, it’s OK if that’s your sort of thing, I guess 

Little Mermaid From there it’s a small walk to the grounds of the Kastellet, more lovely gardens and grounds but not much more than that. Various paths and parts were closed, I’m guessing to get them ready for the tourist season. If you walk round the grounds to the far end you arrive back at the shoreline and the statue of the Little Mermaid. It’s nice, and it was nice to finally find a decent amount of people but in reality it’s nothing that special. Coming back down the shoreline you can get to the Frihedsmuseet (Museum of the Danish Resistance Movement) which is very interesting but closes early so I only got ten minutes to dash round it. At least it’s free.

There are several boat and bus tours that go round Copenhagen but I could only find one boat tour that was actually running. It was pretty good as these sorts of tours go and covered a bigger area you might have got on a bus tour of the same length. If I’d been a week later I’d have had a lot more choice of tours, including night cruises with music and food.

At this point I’m still underwhelmed by Copenhagen and there’s only a couple more places in the guide book that sound interesting. Fortunately one of them, Christiania, is interesting enough to make up for it. From that wikipedia page:

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania (Danish: Fristaden Christiania) is a partially self-governing neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Christiania has established semi-legal status as an independent community, but has been a source of controversy since its creation in a squatted military area in 1971. Its open cannabis trade was tolerated by authorities until 2004. Since then, measures for normalising the legal status of the community have led to conflicts, and negotiations are ongoing.

So, what’s it like? It definitely has a different ‘feel’ to the rest of Copenhagen, somewhere in the middle is Pusher Street which was once an open hash market. I didn’t see any being openly sold but there was certainly a lot being smoked. The whole place is just pre-fab buildings and sheds setup in an area of waste ground populated by hippies, dogs and wannabes. No photos — there’s a big sign saying not to take pictures — but a quick google finds some that will give you an idea. 

There are cafes, barbecues and pubs set up in the various makeshift buildings, catering to the locals rather than the tourists. I wandered into one of them which turned out to be a jazz club where people were just sauntering up to the stage and giving it a go. The whole relaxed unpretentious vibe was a nice change from the tourist targets places I normally end up. 

I also had a chance to visit the Radhus (City Hall), which has some great views from the bell tower (guided tours only) and also houses the Jens Olsen’s World Clock which is pretty cool if you’re a geek (and probably even if you’re not). 

I struggled to find anything remotely resembling traditional food, a staggering amount of places where shut or only open for lunch and what was left were higher-end tourist places. Edible, nice even, but nothing special. 

In the end I’m still underwhelmed by Copenhagen, I really see no reason to go there again. I guess there’s always Tivoli Gardens (which were shut when I was there) but that’s more of a family holiday destination. In fact the whole place, with the possible exception of Christiania, feels more like a place for a family holiday. It’s not cheap to get there, stay there or do things when you’re there and overall there are other places that are far nicer. 

Copenhagen Skyline

One Response to “EU 2008: Copenhagen, Denmark”

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