After two months of using Copenhagen airport as my travel hub while staying in Lund (Sweden), I decided to finally explore the attractions of the Danish capital. Copenhagen’s proximity to Lund (45 minutes by train) meant that I only need to go there for a day trip. It was to be my shortest visit to a country, hopping from one country to the next and back again in just one day. All in all, I’d say it was a day very well spent.
The amazing bike culture (and why I did not get to ride a bike)
Walking away from the Copenhagen train station, my first thought was, “They really love bikes!”
From the countless bikers leisurely pedaling all around me to the road signs and even the road paint, Copenhagen is really a bike city through and through.
Unfortunately, it’s also because of this that I was not able to bike around the city. It’s the only city I’ve been to where the racks for bikes-for-rent were empty. I guess it didn’t help that the bikes weren’t really for rent, you just had to deposit a 20 krone coin and get it back when you return the bike. Free use of bikes, which I sadly could not avail. But that was alright, exploring the city on foot was also an enjoyment in itself.
My walking tour of Copenhagen
I got a map from the tourist information center and decided to do the suggested walking tour, but first I had quite the long detour to the shopping streets (but of course!) of Strøget for lunch and some souvenirs.
The suggested itinerary led me to a four-hour walk to Copenhagen’s famous sights. I stopped by the different landmarks such as the City Hall, H.C. Andersen Boulevard, Royal Theatre, Marble Church, Resistance Museum and countless squares with the biggest one being Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square).
My favorite sight would have to be the canal waterfront in Nyhavn (New Harbour). The view of the colorful houses by the waterfront is postcard perfect! I felt really happy that I got to see how lively and vibrant Nyhavn is.
There were a lot of quaint shops selling unique knick knacks and souvenirs. Across the colorful houses just near Kongens Nytorv, I found an interesting outdoor art exhibit at Kunsthal Charlottenborg (space for contemporary art in Charlottenborg Palace). There were really a lot of things to see and do!
Another interesting place is the Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Danish Royal Family. It was a big complex with a lot of nice buildings.
I tried to follow the Danish royal guards on patrol for a nice photo and maybe some reaction from them, but I couldn’t get anything more than their unflinching stern expressions while they were marching around. They must have been very annoyed at curious tourists following them around like crazy (guilty!).
Missing Little Mermaid
I couldn’t have chosen a worst time to visit Copenhagen. When I was there was the only time the iconic Little Mermaid statue was not on Denmark’s shores! That time, the Little Mermaid was shipped off to Shanghai for six months as part of the World Expo in 2010.
I already knew this from the tourist information center but since I couldn’t accept the fact sitting down, I still walked over to the site to see for myself. Yep, she was not there.
Still, the visit wasn’t a total waste. I saw some memorable sights by the shore, such as couples on dates and a horde of rowdy teenagers (un)dressed in gowns and tuxedos being chauffered in stretch limousines.
But more than those curiosities, I think what made the walk to the shore worth it was the fountain dedicated to the goddess Gefion. It’s also near the shore, a stone’s throw away from the Little Mermaid’s location. The statue is life-size, and made even more impressive with the fountain water cascading down several levels.
It depicts the story of why Zealand (the island where Copenhagen is located) separated from Sweden (because Gefion ploughed Sweden with her four sons, which she turned into oxen). Great stuff!
Early Christmas in Copenhagen
I visited in early November, and I was able to catch the start of Christmas festivities. In the City Hall square, I was greeted by rows and rows of Christmas ‘trees’ that was part of a charity activity. In Nyhavn, the Christmas bazaar was already in full swing. The window shops in Stroget were already displaying either life-sized Santas or big Christmas wreaths.
But there couldn’t be any place more Christmasy than the Tivoli Gardens. The lights, decorations, and displays really got me into the Christmas spirit. The exhibits were amusing, fake snow and all.
There were so many things to see in the very big amusement park, whether it was the big halls or the shops, and especially the rides. Since I was alone, I made do with looking around and eating a very large candy floss (cotton candy!).
I arrived back in Lund at around 10 pm, tired but very happy with the day’s activities. Copenhagen is such a vibrant and dynamic city, I would love to come back for a longer trip next time.
Oh, and I eventually found the little mermaid… in Tivoli Gardens! Only the sculpture was made of ice and the face is that of a monkey… Go figure.