Are you guys ready for me to gush about one of my favorite cities in one of my favorite countries with some of my favorite people? Copenhagen is a design-lovers dream and visiting will make you want to grow six inches and bleach your hair blonde.
I actually studied in Denmark when I was in college, at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Århus. I knew nothing about Denmark before moving there, and once I got past the incredibly short days in the winter and the Scandinavian shower situation (ours was a shower head on the wall with a drain in the floor next to a toilet), I fell in love with the country and it's people. Their intense beer consumption definitely didn't hurt.
Copenhagen and most of Scandinavia kind of fly under the radar next to other big European cities, but it's totally worth a visit. If you're a new traveller, almost everyone in Copenhagen speaks English and the city is fairly small (though has so much to offer) and incredibly easy to get around. If you're a more nuanced nomad, Denmark has so much beauty to offer.
It's hard to narrow down all my favorite things about Denmark, but if I had to list them it would probably be the beautiful, tall, well-dressed people, the impeccable and inspirational design, the brightly-colored buildings, the access to beaches and water in most cities, and the huge appreciation for beer, tied to their incredibly lax drinking culture.
There's a word in Danish called hygge that can best be explained by just stepping foot on Danish soil, but the closest English equivalent is cozy. However, it's more than that — it's a general feeling that is exuded by a place and people, kind of like a nice evening by the fireplace surrounded by your family at Christmastime. The Danes live by the code of hygge, and you'll find it in bars and cafes and interior design stores and in people's homes when you do visit and want to bring hygge to your own life once you return home.
If you visit Denmark, the best time to do so is definitely in the summer. The days are long and full of beautiful sunlight, the weather is perfect (as in, not crazy hot) and the days are filled with beautiful Danes drinking beers in the park. There's almost no better place to spend summer than in Denmark — I much prefer it to hiding out under the air conditioning during July in Italy.
And make sure you do visit. It doesn't have a ton of monuments to gawk at, which I love, with the exception of the Little Mermaid, which yes, is overrated but I know you'll still go anyway, and that's okay. The best thing to do in Denmark is just soak in the Danish way of life – park your bike, grab a beer, lounge by the canal or on the beach, soak up that sun that won't set, and have a hygge afternoon with your friends. There's a reason the Danes are the happiest people on earth, and you deserve to find out why, firsthand.
WHAT WE DID:
- Biked anywhere and everywhere: Denmark is one of the most bike-friendly countries around. They have an incredible system set up for bikers and it's flat as hell — perfect for your wobbly American thighs. With metro tickets around $3 a pop, biking is definitely one of the most cost-efficient ways to get around the surprisingly small city. We were able to rent bikes for $10/day through our Airbnb, but there are bike rental shops all over the city, plus the city has a bike-sharing program, too! If you want to really blend in with the Danes, get your Cycle Chic on — any outfit is a bike-friendly outfit.
- Lounged at the most amazing garden cottage Airbnb: You guys, I can't even tell you how obsessed I was with our Airbnb in Copenhagen. I know you've heard me sing praises of the home-sharing service before, but our Danish cottage was perfection. Our host, Gert, was so very sweet and it was such a cozy (hygge!) place to spend the week, surrounded by a gorgeous garden and traditional white Scandinavian walls. Don't forget this referral code for $25 off if you decide to use Airbnb!
- Took selfies at Nyhavn: This canal is probably the most-photographed place in Copenhagen, and is definitely worth a stroll. The multi-colored row houses are wonderful to look at while you enjoy an ice cream or most likely an overpriced beer (restaurants along the canal are expensive because of so many tourists). Definitely go when the weather is nice, grab your own six pack from the corner market (open containers are accepted — nay, encouraged!) and people watch the day away.
- Shopped 'til we dropped on Strøget: You can't go wrong with an adorable pedestrian-only shopping street, with no pesky cars to inhibit you from spending your money. Pop into the ever-popular Hay to get some fancy stationary and design items, but only if you didn't already spend all your money at Monki and TopShop.
- Explored unmentionables at Christiania: Christiania is an interesting place. The neighborhood is a sort of anarchist annex from the city of Copenhagen, and is run by its own laws separate from that of the city. But it's most well known for being a place where you can buy and smoke hash. That being said, it's just a cool neighborhood to see, with lots of art and a beautiful lake to walk around if the weather is nice (after a toke, if you like!)
- Food truck feasted at Torvehallerne: One of the biggest things we miss in Italy is food from different cultures, and this trendy spot in the Nørrebro neighborhood, right off the Nørreport metro stop, did not disappoint from providing us a wide array of foods. Torvehallerne features two large buildings that host different kiosks that act as mini restaurants or markets, and between them are also pop-up shops and food trucks. We made an afternoon of the place and stuffed our faces with Pad Thai, tacos, fresh strawberries and pastries. If you want something more traditionally Danish, opt for a smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches) or some fresh fish.
- Swooned over chairs at Design Museum of Denmark: If you fawn over mid-century modern chairs like we do, the design museum is the place for you. Cruise through row after row of beautifully-crafted Danish design, because no one does furniture like the Scandinavians (we forgive you, IKEA). Best part is, if you're under 26, the museum is free!
- Shopped for Danish design on a budget: The best part about Denmark is looking at all the beautiful, carefully designed things — you feel inspired around every corner. The bad part is, a lot of these can be pricey investment pieces, and the fact that the Danish kroner (their currency) is so strong doesn't do you any favors. However, just pop into our very favorite store, Tiger, or the purse-friendly Søstrene Grene. They're Scandinavian dollar store paradises, and you'll walk out of there with beautiful cheap things you probably don't need but that are so cute. And the best news? Tiger is now in the U.S.!
- Celebrated Midsummer on Solrød Strand: One of my bucket list items was to celebrate Midsummer in Scandinavia, and it finally came true with this trip! Midsummer — Skt Hans, as it's known to the Danes — is a celebration for summer solstice — the longest day of the year, which is super long up north in Scandinavia. The sun doesn't set until around 10:30 p.m. (sometimes later) and the Danes celebrate with bonfires, carnivals and drinking on the beach all night long.
Photos and text © Katie Currid, 2015. All rights reserved.