Roam Guide / Copenhagen, Denmark
Originally from the UK, Laura Hall moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, with her children and husband a year and a half ago. A long time lover of Scandinavia, she has spent much of her career as a travel writer, focusing particularly on Iceland, and was part of the founding team at Kid & Coe, a family travel firm unlike any other you've seen before. Laura's first children's book, One Day, So Many Ways, was published by Quarto in 2018 and covers the daily routines of over 40 children around the world. It’s lovely and so are her local suggestions in this incredible city.
When to go?
Spring, Summer and Autumn. November might be worth visiting if you love Christmas markets and ice skating, but the colder weather and dark mornings make it less of a joy for most. While parts of Italy and France can be shut down in August that’s not true of Scandinavia. August is a really good month to visit when Danish families go back to work and school on the first week of the month, after six weeks off, and the city is noticeably a little quieter. Museums are easier to get into and playgrounds are a whole lot less busy during the week.
How to get there?
Fly from the US affordably through Atlanta or Iceland. You can also fly direct from all major European cities. For extra adventure, fly to Stockholm and take the night train across to Copenhagen, that way you can hit two Scandinavian capitals in one trip. Just tell the Danes you like Copenhagen best. If you arrive by air, the train departs from beneath Terminal 3 every 20 minutes and you can be to central station, Copenhagen in under 15 minutes.
Where should we stay?
I live in Copenhagen so I don't really to stay in hotels - they tend to have small rooms (even by European standards) and are very pricey at the weekend. I would thoroughly recommend looking at Kid & Coe if you're coming to the city with kids - for a similar price to a hotel, you could stay in a city center apartment with rooms for kids, space to play and your own kitchen. I’d suggest the Christian IXTH Residence as one of the best. Tucked inside Copenhagen’s oldest neighborhood, the ‘inner city’ (Indre By), this residence is among cobbled streets, cozy cafes and designer shops. Eating out is expensive; this city in general is pricey for tourists and bagging a central apartment (likely with bikes you can borrow) is a smart choice. Kid & Coe is offering a coupon code to Ready & Roam readers for $75 off a stay at any of their 1,ooo hand selected properties in over 50 locations around the world. Use promo code READYROAM75 at checkout.
Rtip: If you’re traveling as a couple or prefer to stay in a hotel, our recommendation is to consider Hotel Guldsmeden / Bertrams. There are only 47 guest rooms, they do an incredible job with providing local insight, they serve a delicious breakfast, and WOW the beds — the beds were so comfortable, we literally walked down the street to buy and ship back all the same linens. Some Scandanavian hotels tend to be cheaper in the summer when business travel is down. This is especially true if you are staying at a chain property like Marriott’s Nobis Hotel inside the former Royal Danish Conservatory of Music - with a nice mix of amenities this only slightly larger property feels amazingly boutique.
What should we do?
Hire bikes! It’s the number 1 way to get around the city, which has wide enough cycle lanes that you can cycle two abreast and chat at the same time. There are rental options for all skill levels, ages and necessary accessories, and many shops offer both rentals and tours. It's honestly the best way to see the sights. I would cycle the harbour loop, a route that takes you along the waterfront around the whole city, past the opera and national library, past new buildings and ancient ones, and up as far as Reffen, the new open air food hall at Refshaleoen. It's a collection of food trucks and has a little bit of an anarchic spirit.
Rtip: If your prefer to see the city by boat, you can take a water cruise from the colorful Nyhavn waterfront, past the palace, parliament buildings and the Little Mermaid statue.
Hit the playgrounds (with your kids). I really love Copenhagen's playgrounds! There is a fantastic one at Skydebanehaven with a big parrot slide, a splash pad and bikes to borrow. There is another wonderful one inside Tivoli - the worlds second largest amusement park, and there is a huge urban park for adults and children alike in Norrebro - not your average playground.
In the summer, bring a swimsuit and dive in! These Vikings sure love the water. There are three great floating swimming pools, like Islands Brygge Harbour Bath, where you can swim in the clean harbour water and catch fish (if you want). You can also go swimming at the beach at Amager Strand - Great fun!
Copenhagen's famous for design - and art too. I strongly recommend art-lovers should take the train out to The Louisiana, a modern art gallery in stunning surroundings overlooking Sweden, where you'll find art for all tastes. A little south of the city, you’ll find another modern art museum called Arken and that’s great too. A third option is the national gallery of Denmark, SMK. It’s supposed to be fabulous, although I haven't made it there yet. All of the above have interactive studios where kids can make and draw and paint, which really adds to the fun.
Rtip: If you wanted to add in some historical landmarks, we recommend the Rundetaarn (or round tower) for its 17th century architecture, built as an astronomical observatory in 1642. Also consider the 400-year-old Renaissance castle Rosenborg Slot and the surrounding grounds.
Where should we eat?
Pølser are a big thing here. On most street corners, you'll see a sausage cart - order one for a snack and load it up with remoulade, mustard, ketchup, dried onions and gherkins, to be like a local. Eating out is ferociously expensive, especially if you have picky children. I like the Mikeller bar on Viktoriagade, which pairs exquisite furnishings with an American-style brunch with waffles. If you want options I’d also steer you to Torvehallerne, a food market with lots to choose from (I typically go for an open sandwich/smørrebrød but the Brazilian stall has plenty of fans too). In the meatpacking district, also known as Kodbyen, you’ll find a cozy restaurant with great seafood by the same name, Kødbyen. One of my favorites. You’ll also find Hija de Sanchez a Danish taqueria, I mean are you kidding me?
What should we drink?
There is good coffee everywhere. Coffee makes Copenhagen go round. Check out the many coffee bar locations from the Coffee Collective. Coffee Republic is a good chain to look out for, and Emmerys coffee house and bakery has multiple locations.
For cocktails, there are some wonderful places around the vintage shops and art galleries of Jaeggersborggade, like Gilt. You could also try the cozy and rustic Lidkoeb, a cocktail and whiskey bar on Vesterbrogade. My final suggestion is Ruby, in the oldest part of town, facing the parliament buildings and Thorvaldsens museum. It’s a danish institution as far as cocktails go.
Rtip: Hard to find on tap in the states is the Danish treasure Carlsberg. While the brewery is closing to rebuild in 2019, there are plenty of places you can get a taste for the craft beer scene. If you are into local microbrew check out Brus, where most of the tap is brewed onsite. For a wider assortment, Fermentoren offers some of the best Danish and international craft beers in town.
What is the one can't miss item on your itinerary?
Get outside, rain or shine. Rain doesn't stop play here: just bring the right clothes, grab a bike and keep on rollin'.
Tell us something we don't know?
The Little Mermaid is lovely! People really do give it a lot of s**t. It's a statue of a young girl, so yes, it's small, and it's really well known, so there are a lot of tourists looking at it and photographing themselves beside it. Go see it at 6pm or at 8am if you want to avoid the crowds.
Where can we shop?
Turn up with half empty suitcases and hope to find a Loppemarked - a flea market - on a Saturday morning. They tend to run from 9am to about 2pm from about March to September and you can search Fleamapket to find out if there will be one near you. Full of Danish design, bric a brac and vintage fashion, they are a really fun way to spend a morning.
Rtip: Denmark is home to some incredible and unique womenswear brands, including Bruuns Bazaar, Malene Birger, Moss Copenhagen and Munthe. If you see a brick and mortar storefront, just go in you won’t regret it. We also love Pilgrim sunglasses and there is a shop at the airport.
What should we bring back with us?
You may also want to bring back Palaegschokolade - slices of chocolate that you can eat like ham on a piece of bread - you can't find them anywhere else. You must also bring back some Danish cheese but don't put it in your luggage without wrapping it well first. My favourite shop is Helga's Ost on Vaernedamsvej, which is a beautiful street with a French atmosphere. Helga's has plenty of cheese to choose from and staff who can guide you and help you taste out what you like. Otherwise you can just head to Irma, one of the city's main supermarkets, and find it there. That's where you'll also find palaegschokolade, The Toms brand is my favorite.
What should we pack for the trip?
Nobody puts on much color over here so you’ll see a lot of people in black, grey and taupe in the winter. If you don't want to advertise that you're a tourist, blend in with dark clothing and go with the flow. Bring comfortable flats - no one wears (or bikes) in heels. And finally, a raincoat is essential, as is a small handbag or fanny pack. The one below from RAINS.dk. is shown in black, but if you’re feeling like you want to mix it up they also offer a vibrant purple. It's a European city just come as you are, own it and have a good time!!
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