Copenhagen, also known as the “Merchant’s harbor” was once a port town, and now the capital of Denmark. It’s an easy flight from most places in Europe, and nowadays, Norwegianair flies direct from NYC for very cheap. Being the first Scandanavian city I’ve visited, this area of Europe has its own distinct feel from the rest of Europe. While there still exists the beautiful renaissance architectures, castles, churches and your usual suspects,
Cost of things
As many already know, Scandinavia is among the very top for richest and most expensive places in the world. The Danes have a good standard of life and it shows when you walk around Copenhagen. Naturally, prices of goods will also be among the most expensive as well. Eating out is not cheap, and there’s no 3 euro half liter beers to be had here. The Danish Kroner is a strong currency. All in all, I found Copenhagen to be about as expensive as New York City. Dinners at a decent restaurant would cost me ~25 euros, and beers are about 6-8 euros. Turns out, the Swedes come to Copenhagen to take advantage of the fair prices, and the Norwegians go to Sweden to take advantage of their prices. So technically, those making Copenhagen their first Scandinavian visit are traveling budget.
Getting In And Around
As I expected, with all that money Denmark has, their public transport system is pristine. It’s one of the easiest, cleanest, and most well kept transport metro system I’ve ever seen. Copenhagen is a small city and walking is the primary mode of transportation. I only caught the metro once (to go to Christiania) while I was in Copenhagen. The rest of the time, was either by foot, or by renting a bike as Copenhagen is very much a biking city as well, similar to Amsterdam.
Airport to the city
Doesn’t get much easier than in Copenhagen (except perhaps Hong Kong). The train metro station is pretty much inside the airport so it’s a quick walk from the gate to the driver-less trains. From the airport, it’s a quick 20 minute ride into the city center. The metro system is fairly small, which is perhaps why it is so nice, and will take no time at all to master. From the airport to the city costs 36 DKK (about $5) and within the city limits is 24 DKK.
There is also the option of purchasing a Copenhagen Card, and includes unlimited metro and bus use, free admission into almost all the museums in the city, and discounts on restaurants. However, the price is 359 DKK for 24 hours I feel is only worthwhile if you’re planning on visiting every museum in 1 day. Like I mentioned, I only took the metro once in 48 hours because the city is so walk-able.
Copenhagen is very much a biking city and the Danes are avid bikers. There are clear biking lanes on all the roads making it safe and easy even for tourists. My hostel had bike rentals for 100 DKK for a day. With a bike, I could pretty much visit all the main sights within 15 minutes.
What to eat?
Danish food isn’t the world’s most exciting food, and the Danes will be the first people to tell you this. When asking the locals where I could eat some good local Danish food, most couldn’t come up with an answer. Truth be told, there is not much of a Danish cuisine, and whatever is “Danish” could just be normal food in some other cuisine. Don’t worry though, for all the foodies, Copenhagen has one of the best food scenes in Europe. Modern danish cuisine is all about innovation and precision so fans of fine dining will love this city.
I didn’t find my doner kebab places like in Germany but Denmark is famous for its version of the hot dog which I’m sure came heavily influenced by its German neighbors to the south. These are regularly available at numerous street vendors and surprisingly, they are actually pretty damn good. The ingredients are high quality unlike the mystery meat we get served up in America.
In English, we would pronounce this as “Smorgasbord” which is a word everyone’s familiar with. Whenever I heard the word, I just took it meaning a copious amount of different foods in a festival like atmosphere. As far as Danish cuisine goes, this one is probably the most recognizable. It’s just an open faced rye sandwich (so only one piece of bread) with whatever else on it; fish, shrimp, cold cuts, chicken etc. I suppose you could just take a pastrami sandwich, throw out a piece of bread, and call it smorrebrod? Either way, I had a fair helping of these little sandwiches and perhaps it was the freshness of the ingredients but I was a big fan of them. I went to Gitte Kik restaurant for lunch to eat these. The restaurant was very nice and rustic inside with only a slight tourist feel. The smorrebrod were as much pieces of culinary art as they were of deliciousness. I ended up wolfing down a few of these with a beer and I paid around 250 DKK which is a little ridiculous even for Denmark standards. There must be a place that serves budget smorresbrod even if these aren’t street food style items.
I suppose the best way to describe this is deep fried thick cut bacon. Yes it sounds good, and it tastes even better. This is uniquely Danish and I’m happy I made the extra effort to find this dish. It should be renamed to the heart attack special but my goodness was I satisfied. Being on vacation, this was easily justified but I’m not sure how the locals could eat this stuff on a regular basis (and they do not).
Herring is the popular fish of choice in Northern Europe. There are numerous restaurants, especially in the touristy areas that do a herring buffet (around 250 kroner per person). Herring is not my favorite whitefish, but it is tasty nonetheless and these buffets are the perfect way to experience all the different “styles” Denmark has to offer. From pickled herring, to fried herring, to seared herring, to herring with more herring on it (you get the idea), there is bound to be some form of herring that you will enjoy. I was hungry after walking around for hours, that I probably ate 3 or 4 whole herrings to myself. I went to Nyhavns Færgekro to have this buffet.
Curb your excitement here, you will not be reading a review of the world’s highest rated restaurant from me. There are a large number of multiple Michelin star restaurants in Denmark. Noma is one of those places, rated top restaurant in the world. Reservations need to be made here months in advance to even stand a chance. Like most ultra fine dining experiences, it’s more about the experience spread out through 20 courses than the quantity of food. From reading TripAdvisor reviews, the standard price is about $400-500 a person with drinks. Not budget travel friendly, that’s for sure.