Although I’ve been to Europe on many occasions and have been fortunate enough to explore many different corners of the continent, there remain some places – entire countries – that I have somehow missed. Denmark was one of those countries, which is one reason why I decided to start my vacation in the capital city of Copenhagen. To be honest, I was certain I would like Copenhagen before I visited, but what I didn’t realize was just how much I would enjoy my time there. In this first post of many about my time in Denmark, I want to share some initial thoughts and observations about spending time in Copenhagen.
A surprisingly difficult term to define, hygge in large part came to define my time in Copenhagen. Hygge is many things; it’s a feeling of coziness, contentment and being at peace. Enjoying a picnic with friends in the park can be hygge, but so can a well-designed row of townhouses. It’s easier to experience than to define, which is one reason why I was happy that I actually booked a hygge tour. For a few hours, we were led around central Copenhagen learning more about the city’s history, but more importantly Danish culture and how central a role hygge plays in everyday life. From cozy coffee shops to colorful streets, hygge was better shown to us than explained, and the perfect jumping off point to launch our own Danish adventures.
Easy to Explore
What I didn’t know about Copenhagen before I visited was just how easy it is to explore on foot. The city center is very compact and everything I wanted to see and do was within easy walking distance. Sure, they have public transportation, but honestly I only used it to get to/from the airport. That being said, since Copenhagen is on the water, the first thing I did was join an hour-long sightseeing boat cruise. While it may seem like one of those hokey tourist activities, which it kind of is, I also think it’s a fantastic way for any first-time visitor to better understand the city very quickly. There are a number of different ways to enjoy Copenhagen from the water, and there were different companies listed with the Copenhagen Card we used throughout the trip, but ultimately I opted for the 1-hour overview that took us from the docks downtown to colorful Nyhavn and even out to see some of the newly reimagined neighborhoods across the water. It was a fun way to try to combat some of that first-day jet lag exhaustion.
Tivoli Gardens played such an unexpectedly important role in my trip to Copenhagen that I just had to include the world’s 2nd oldest amusement park on this list. Opened in 1843, the fact that it’s not only still around but it that it’s still incredibly popular is what amazed me the most. More than 4.5 million people visited Tivoli just last year, thanks to its location within the city center and the fact that the park offers new and really fun rides. Walt Disney himself was inspired after a visit to the park, and many elements of Tivoli are echoed throughout Disneyland. I spent a lot of time in Tivoli not only because it was fun, but thanks to my hotel – The Nimb. Routinely named one of the best hotels in the world, its location adjacent to the park ensures unique access and experiences available only to guests. Complimentary entry and unlimited ride passes offered by the Nimb meant I could come and go as I pleased – a perk I made great use of. I think though that I loved Tivoli so much thanks to its own inherent beauty. Embracing nature and its location, it felt like being in a lavish garden instead of a small city amusement park, a unique experience for sure and it’s probably for that reason more than anything else that has kept it such a popular place to enjoy.
So Much More to Say…
This post is an extremely cursory overview and, almost more than anything else, has been a way for me to wrap my head around Copenhagen and start to dissect those individuals elements I enjoyed the most. However, in so doing, I’m missing something bigger. More than the people or fun activities, it was Copenhagen as a whole that appealed to me so very much. It was all of these discrete aspects, many more, that all contributed to my enjoyment of the city. It was my first bite into an open-faced sandwich just as much as it was a rollercoaster in Tivoli. They came together to synthesize what can be rare in the travel experience, a perfect trip. I can’t say that others will enjoy Copenhagen as much as I did, but I also can’t imagine anyone walking away from the experience without a smile on their face and many fond memories.