A Swedish classic was crossed off the list today, with a trip to IKEA on our way to our next stop of Copenhagen. Before we knew it we were cruising over the Oresund bridge that links Sweden to Denmark and after a quick check-in at our campsite, we caught the train into the city ready for an afternoon of exploring.
As we got off the train we had high hopes for what we were about to find in this historical city, known for its design and architectural prowess. We would like to say that we weren’t disappointed, however after 45 minutes we were starting to wonder where this lovely city was. We headed for the much lauded Tivoli Gardens, looking forward to walking around, snacking on some popcorn and soaking up the atmosphere, however when we got there we found that we had to pay to get in and then for any rides on top. A little deflated we walked on, passing a large square where there was a stage set up blasting out bad Turkish music at part of a poorly attended event, surrounded by tacky stalls selling even tackier souvenirs – so far so bad! Undeterred we turned into Strogert – Europe’s largest pedestrianised street – once again we were underwelmed! It was a bad mix of all the worst parts of Oxford Street and Covent Garden, with masses of tourists and nothing but more souvenir shops and chain stores. We made a right turn off the street from hell both wondering what had gone wrong and hoping that in the words of Professor Brian Cox (and D:Ream) things can only get better, and to our relief they did!
We hit the river front and wandered along to Nyhavn; the architecture got interesting, the water gave us a sense of space and the city began to grow on us. On turning the corner to Nyhavn our spirits lifted, a pretty harbour bathed in sunlight full of people sipping coffee, drinking beer or enjoying a bite to eat. We stopped to soak up the atmosphere and take a few photos before crossing the river in sear of the Church of our Savior.
What a structure, a beautiful church tower complete with a gilded external staircase you can walk up! We climbed the tower stairs, scrabbled through the roof timbers and emerged onto the spiral staircase to expansive views of the sun-drenched city. It was great to be able to make sense of the city, taking in where we’d already been and where we planned on going.
Having oh’ed, ah’ed and snapped away we came back down and headed in the direction of Christiania – or hippy-ville as I’ve has been calling it.
Having read about Christiania we (well me more than Rob) were intrigued to visit it; started as a commune for alternative thinkers in 1971 it consists of 34-hectares of ‘free city’ which have morphed from hippies selling seasonal veg and raising their children in an organic kindergarten to a lawless society where hash is sold openly on the streets. Parts of it had a free spirited atmosphere that we loved; walking down the hotch-potch streets we emerged in a square where a band were playing on stage and people stood around drinking beer and eating food. It had the smells, sounds and general feel of a festival and didn’t feel like the drug-ridden place the guidebooks hinted at. Yes the smell of weed lingered in the air, but there were no pushy dealers or dodgy transactions. We carried on walking and stumbled upon the not so friendly ‘pusher street’ where true to what we’d read there were stall after stall setting hash, skunk, brownies or whatever else took your fancy from your ‘friendly’ balaclava wearing dealer. It certainly felt less ‘free love’ and more ‘lose your mind’ with a weird sense of commercialism and exploration for the original cause!!
From Christiania we headed back to the river and to a bar we’d walked past earlier to enjoy an evening in the sunshine eating pulled pork, moules et frites, drinking beer and chatting to locals. A semi-boozy train ride later and we arrived back in at the campsite and fell into bed 🙂
Day two in Copenhagen started slowly (something to do with all that beer the night before) and we didn’t make it into the centre until late morning. On the recommendation of one of the locals we met last night we headed in the direction of the Black Diamond – Denmark’s central library – to check out their photography museum. On route we came across a series of playful bridges, that jutted over the water for no apparent reason other than to provide entertainment to kids big and small!
The Black Diamond was a very interesting building, glass fronted to the waterfront with bridges over the road to connect it to the older part of the structure. We have a brief look at their current photography exhibition before heading across the road to Christian IV Brewhouse, home to nearly 400 sculptures and statues, however unfortunately it was closed on Mondays so we carried on in the direction of the Design museum not knowing a theme for the day was starting to appear.
Peering through an alleyway we spied a fantastic square (and fountain) which we think was part of the official parliamentary gardens. Once again we wandered, admired and snapped away. Just outside we came across a very interesting exhibition focusing on child pregnancy and spent some time reading about teenage mums from Africa, Asia and America.
We continued onwards to the Design museum only to find this was closed on a Monday too! After a brief stop in the grounds of the city’s old fort, now open as a park offering great views of the city, we realised we were very close to the Little Mermaid statue and despite our better judgement went to have a look. It was as we expected – tour buses, souvenir stands and a queue of people wanting to have their photo taken in front of it!
Making a swift exit we headed to Ostre Anlaeg park and the Fine Art museum, only to find it was three in a row for closed museums which we had to laugh at! We carried on to the botanical gardens – which were actually open!! – to find an amazing (if stiflingly humid) palm house you could walk in and up! In need of refreshments after all the heat we walked down to Torvehallerne – a covered food market – where we grabbed coffee (Rob) and ice cream (me) and sat to watch the basketball at a nearby square.
Despite the three closed museums we have a wonderful time in Copenhagen. We learnt not to judge a city on first impressions and head away from the masses as soon as possible to start exploring the real city. It’s definitely a place we’d recommend others visit and would come again – with enough cash to enjoy Tivoli Gardens!