Denmark: Meandering Through The Boulevards Of Copenhagen
It seldom happens that you visit a place which is so complete in itself and so comfortable in its own history that it facilitates an intricate blend of its old self and modernity. Copenhagen presents a view to the world that is at once evocative of its past and instills a sense of dernier cri in its spectator.
That’s the feeling which encompassed me when I first saw the city from the skies. We flew into the city on the Air India flight to Copenhagen from New Delhi. The 8 hour journey was anything but tiring, what with the amazing company of the cabin crew and brilliant service. We stepped out to cool breeze and temperatures pleasing to our sensibilities after the characteristic September heat of Central India.
The Kingdom at a glance
Situated lowermost amongst the Scandinavian countries, the Kingdom of Denmark shares a 42 mile land border with Germany. Additionally, it is connected to the UK in the West, and Sweden and Norway in the north via maritime routes. Denmark has experienced Viking dominion during the 9th – 11th century which has shaped up its culture over the ages. The seat of power during the middle ages in the European region, it got included in the EU in 1973. Copenhagen is the capital of the country, who’s Danish name København is derived from “merchant’s harbor”. Not to mention, the lively port with sparkling waters and squabbling sea-gulls is undisputedly one of the most beautiful European capitals.
I was surprised by the climate that welcomed us to Denmark. We had been warned of rains and skies overcast enough to make sunshine a distant probability. The city, however, had different plans. We were lucky enough to be greeted by warm sunlight coupled with a very slight drizzle and refreshing cold breeze. True to its reputation, the weather is anything but predictable. It is hence advisable to dress as the locals do, in layers. High necked jackets, on occasion teamed with warm scarves, are perfect for the brisk winds of the country around this time.
Staying at the heart of the city
Commuting in Copenhagen is easy if you know where to stay and the means of commute to use. The center of Copenhagen surrounding the City Hall is a perfect location to find hotels or hostel accommodation. While taxis are available in designated areas, the entire city is covered in train, metro and bus routes. Using these is made even easier by the Copenhagen City Card available online. The physical cards can be collected from the Copenhagen Airport, Copenhagen Visitor Service, Tivoli Box Office or Copenhagen Info Centers. It enables you to travel across the city free of charge in trains, buses, harbor buses and metros. Additionally, it allows admission to 79 museums and places of interest along with attractive discounts on restaurants and entertainment hubs.
We chose the best means to travel across the city: by wandering through the city’s fabric of streets. You can do that either on foot, or, as the Danes do it, on the pedal. The streets are extremely pedestrian and bike friendly with biking being assuredly the most preferred means of transportation. That’s what brought me closer to the city and induced a reverie that I could have perpetually remained in.
Epicurean delight in every morsel
Copenhagen is by far the largest city in the country. Not only does it have a menagerie of architectural masterpieces, but also a street life that suits every gastronome alike. The life in the city is arguably relaxed for it being a capital and commercial hub of the country. The quaint cafes that dot the lanes are a delight to ramble through at leisure for the entire day.
The country swears by its delightful Nordic cuisine offering meat, vegetables and bread groomed to perfection. Its viennoiserie and delectable danish pastries leave a mark on you which is difficult to shake off. The city boasts of being the hub of the Nordic Food Revolution pioneered by Artist Chef Claus Meyer. The one thing that I miss most is starting my day savoring glazed bacon and Danish pastries baked to perfection. Trust me; you really don’t want to miss that.
Art by the streets
It’s impossible to fully appreciate the contribution that some of the greatest architects and designers of the world have made to the city. Every path we took stunned us with some of the best pieces of art ever seen. The fluidity with which varied styles of architecture, as discerned by our limited knowledge, fuse amongst each other is fascinating. With a long and exquisite history in architecture, some of the most illustrious names in the field hail from Denmark. It is hence no wonder that Copenhagen is stippled with monuments. Be it the contemporary Opera House and The Royal Library, also known as The Black Diamond, or the redbrick renaissance castle of Rosenborg.
Wandering amidst masterpieces
Copenhagen has a plethora of interesting offerings for a wanderer. From the amusement park and pleasure gardens of Tivoli dating from the mid 19th Century, to museums and galleries of art, they all take your breath away. The Amalienborg palace, the royal residential quarters, aligned alongside the Frederik’s Church is a marvel to look at and explore. We seemed to have stepped back in time the moment we stepped into the 18th century church. The intricately designed dome led me to stand staring up in reverence for the enormity and scale of the byzantine sanctuary.
The streets led us to the Christiansborg palace, on the island of Slotsholmen. The seat of the parliament is flanked by the Thorvaldsen Museum and the Børsen, The Stock Exchange on either side. It boasts of a history dating around 800 years back in time. Strolling through the Strøget Shopping Mile you can walk up to the Rundetaarn or The Round Tower. The Rundetaarn is the second highest tower in the city, the tallest being the tower at Christiansborg. Needless to say, it affords breathtaking views of the horizon.
The new harbour or Nyhavn lies behind Amalienborg. It hosts a collection of idyllic colorful buildings that house some of the finest restaurants and cafes of the city. It is also where ferry and boat services start. These are tenably the leading means of exploring the city coastline. The dock has something different to offer all round the year. It charms you during the summers and is known to equally mesmerise you with its Christmas fervor.
The land of fairies, witches and mermaids
One of the world’s favorite fairy tale writers, Hans Christian Andersen, lived most of his life in Copenhagen. Known as the father of fairy tales, the distinguished author was venerated by the royalty and commoner alike. There is no better testament to his memory than the bronze sculpture of The Little Mermaid (Den lille Havfrue). The iconic statue created by Edward Eriksen in 1913 was commissioned by Carl Jacobson. The statue is placed at the Kastellet, a 17th century fortress. The citadel constructed in the shape of a pentagram is considered the best preserved star shaped fortress in the region. At the south gate of the age old stronghold can be seen St Alban’s Church. Framed by the grand Gefion Fountain, the church is located in the Langelinie Park on the city’s harbour.
For the lover of Baroque architecture is the Church of Our Saviour. Its tower that has a winding staircase can be climbed to the top to get dramatic views of the city. At a two minute walk from this marvel lies the Freetown of Christiania. While it assumably does not suit everyone’s taste, it is one of the most loved tourist attractions of the city. It is a functioning alternate society with a controversial history of an idealistic social experiment and hippy settlement. The Freetown, established in 1971, has approximately a thousand residents. Its famed Pusher Street is lined by vendors and dealers with a caboodle of what you may call hippie paraphernalia. It has small cafes to relax in while mingling with the peace loving and friendly locals.
The city that welcomes one and all
Copenhagen, in my experience, is a city that is easy to fall in love with. It has an overabundance of offerings for everyone, no matter what they come looking for. The country is home to Scandinavians, Inuits, Faroese, Turkish, Polish and many more ethnic groups. This amalgamation has lead to establishment of a society that has marched out of puritanism and blended within itself globalization. For a wanderer, help is available everywhere. The friendly locals are extremely approachable and more than happy to assist whenever required.
The best of the Scandinavian/Nordic experiences can be garnered in Copenhagen. It takes you back in time but also roots you to the present. Perhaps the city can be well described in the beautiful Danish actress Connie Nielsen’s own words:
If Copenhagen were a person, that person would be generous, beautiful, elderly, but with a flair. A human being that has certain propensities for quarreling filled with imagination and with appetite for the new and with respect for the old – somebody who takes good care of things and of people.
Planning a trip? Let us help you out!
Best time to visit: The country has something to offer throughout the year, however, the best time to visit is around summer and spring from May to August. The months of September and October are generally rainy and not to mention that’s when the winters set in. November to February is cold.
Network and Internet Connectivity: WiFi is available at all public places. For mobile phone connectivity, you can get local prepaid sim cards at the airport itself or get a value added service from your current service provider.
Language: Although Danish is the national language, English is spoken everywhere.
Commute: Copenhagen is extremely well connected through trains and metros. All you need is the Copenhagen city card available on its website here and an activation of it with the first time you use the card. It is advisable to get the card before hand while you are planning and booking for the trip. The Copenhagen international airport is at Kastrup which is at a distance of roughly 7 kms from the city centre. You can easily avail a taxi or use the metro or buses available to travel to the desired location. You can book your direct flight from Delhi to Copenhagen with Air India which is the most convenient and the quickest way to reach the city from India.
Visa: You need your passport and a schengen visa for your visit to the country. Please apply with VFS global well in time for a timely delivery of the document. They will need all your booking details prior to granting you the visa.
Currency: While usage of credit cards and ATMs are easy across Copenhagen, you could consider carrying a little cash in Danish Krone for your trip. Consider getting the cash at the Delhi airport for a good conversion rate.
Shopping: The Stroget shopping mile has the best of brands lined along the cobbled streets. You’re in for a gala time if you love shopping.
Food: The meat and patisserie are to die for. If you’re a vegetarian, you need not worry much; you have some options available too. There are innumerable eateries for the foodie to binge at.
Miscellaneous: Do visit the Visit Copenhagen Website for more information on the places to visit, dos and don’ts, where to shop or stay etc.
Thoughts to words by Ishita Ganguly