Welcome back to another instalment of ‘Long Weekends in Europe.’ Last time out we took a sunny trip to Mallorca to explore island life in the Mediterranean. Today we are heading north to the Danish capital of Copenhagen.
Originally a small fishing town that served both Denmark and nearby Sweden, Copenhagen as we know it today came into existence in the 15th century and has been the capital of the Danish kingdom ever since. The city has long served as a melting pot of Scandinavian culture and has attracted visitors to experience their relaxed way of life for centuries.
Cycling is a major part of Copenhagen’s tourism industry.
Where should I stay?
Copenhagen is a series of districts that each have their own unique feel, and this adds to the city’s rich cultural makeup. If you’ve never visited before then the best area to stay in is ‘Indre By’ (the Old Town). This part of the city is home to most of the central tourist attractions and is easy to access via train and the nearby international airport. Hotel prices can be rather pricy in this district, so if you’re on a budget then check out some of the well-priced hostels in Indre By as they can save you a heap of cash to spend elsewhere.
One of the best attractions to go and see in Indre By is the ‘Rundetaarn,’ a circular shaped observation tower that played a crucial role in early astronomical discoveries during the 17th century. The tower itself was part of an ambitious architectural project founded by Christian IV and is best known for its gentle ramp leading to the top. This interesting innovation was implemented so Christian could ride his horses to the top and take in the views of his kingdom.
For couples or groups of friends, who prefer to soak in the evening vibes, the best part of Copenhagen to stay in is Vesterbro. This area used to be a notorious red-light district in which weary sailors often stayed, however nowadays it is better known for its vibrant night life and wealth of stylish bars.
What is there for families to do?
Copenhagen is a brilliant city to take children to as it is filled with amazing activities for all ages. The most popular attraction is the famous Tivoli Gardens theme park that opened in 1843, making it one of the oldest theme parks in the world. The centrepiece ride in the park is the original wooden rollercoaster that first thrilled riders in 1914. The ride is still operated via a sophisticated pulley system rather than electricity, something few other parks can boast.
Aside from theme parks, there are also some iconic cultural hotspots that you should be sure to take your kids to. The ‘Little Mermaid’ statue found on the luscious Langelinie promenade is something that fans of the historic Hans Christian Andersen novel of the same name have to see for themselves. The statue was erected in 1913 and soon became a symbol of Copenhagen and its people in the following decades.
Copenhagen is known for a wide variety of culinary delights and is home to plenty of fine dining experiences, but it is the street food culture that has emerged over recent years that makes eating here so enjoyable. It may come as a surprise to hear that hot dogs are one of the most popular dishes in Copenhagen, though they are slightly different to those you may be used to. A Danish hot dog involves encasing the sausage in a sauce filled rolled so that it can be held with ease to prevent spillages. These cheap eats can be found inside most convenience stores and fast food restaurants across the city.
If you want to try a more traditional Danish dish, then you should visit one of the quaint cafes dotted around Copenhagen to give the legendary open sandwiches a go. Known as a Smørrebrød to the locals, these sandwiches are traditionally made on rye bread and topped with herring followed by other seafood, meats and cheeses. Unlike sandwiches in the UK, Smørrebrød are not to be eaten with your hands as you will almost certainly make a mess. Danish etiquette is to eat them with a knife and fork.
While talking about local delicacies I simply must discuss the beer culture in the city. Locally brewed Carlsberg pilsner is a staple of Copenhagen life. If you get chance, a tour of the brewery found just outside of the city is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. They even make Carlsberg branded soda for children, I’ll let you decide whether or not that’s a good thing.
Cycling in Copenhagen
As we’ve already touched upon, cycling is a major part of Copenhagen life. The city is renowned for its sensational infrastructure that has made it a thriving hub for cyclists. Cars are outnumbered by around five to one. The vast network of cycle paths makes cycling the best way to explore the entire city. In the morning hordes of locals fly past on their daily commute, very few choose to drive. If you can’t bring your bike with you then fear not! Plenty of bikes are available for hire, some hotels even include free cycle hire as part of the cost of a room.
In terms of racing, the largest event in Denmark is the Danmark Rundt. This short stage race is part of the UCI Europe Tour and traditionally begins just outside of Copenhagen on the Jutland Peninsula. If you want to check out the opening stage of this year’s edition, it’s set to take place on the 15th of August.
While the national tour is always a big occasion, it was the Tour de France that took centre stage in Copenhagen last year. La Grande Boucle got underway in the Danish capital and saw Yves Lampaert take a surprise TT victory in the pouring rain. This famous Grand Départ proved symbolic as Jonas Vingegaard returned to the city a hero after claiming the yellow jersey in Paris three weeks later.
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When should I visit Copenhagen?
There’s never a bad time to visit Copenhagen, however its Scandinavian location means that the winter can be particularly cold for those visiting from the south. As with most parts of northern Europe, the warmest period is between June and August though you should also expect some rain during your stay.
Getting stuck into local celebrations is something that can make a long weekend so rewarding. One of the largest yearly events in Copenhagen is pride week, one of the biggest such events in Europe. Taking place during the same week as the Danmark Rundt, this festival of individuality involves the whole city and is centred around the main square. The main stage provides an energetic backdrop to the festivities and is an excellent meeting point if attending with friends.
This is far from the only major annual event in Copenhagen though, so make sure to check the calendar to see what epic entertainment you can soak up on your visit.
This buzzing hub of cycling is one of the best places I’ve visited on a ‘Long Weekend in Europe’ and is somewhere that will make you long for a more relaxed way of life. As ever, make sure you take out cycle travel insurance with Yellow Jersey before making the trip.