Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Posted on 07. Jan, 2014 by in Denmark, Destinations, Europe Travel

72 hours in Copenhagen

Nyhavn

More than just a Nordic city within a keen interest in all things cycling, Copenhagen truly fits the bill in regards to hedonistic travel. Between the futuristic architecture, the carefree attitude, the world-class restaurants and the royal palaces that would make anyone green with envy, the Danish capital often tops the “Best Cities to Live In” lists — and after spending quite a bit of time there in the last fall, I can definitely see why.

In other words, it is very hard not to like Copenhagen.

And while a lot of people are deterred by Scandinavia’s cost of living (not to mention the winter weather!), Copenhagen is a value destination that will definitely be worth your while, namely for its distinct culture of cosyness -namely hygge-, quality infrastructures (including transportation links and free wifi) and how each element that defines the city comes together in an eclectic mix of extremes and contrasts.

For Copenhagen is not a homogeneous city. Some portions are forward-thinking and innovative, and others are deeply rooted in ancient Danish traditions. Some other portions are so hip, even hipsters haven’t heard of them yet.

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Classic and Iconic Copenhagen: Strøget

exploring the contrasts of copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Inside Christiansborg Palace

For me, a visit to Copenhagen must start at its core center: Strøget. This pedestrianized neighborhood is where most of the historic attractions are located, which provide a necessary insight into Danish history and culture. The ultimate Copenhagen postcard, thanks to the wonderfully preserved Renaissance architecture, the iconic Nyhavn waterfront and the unobstructed view from atop the Rundetaarn.

The two Royal Palaces of Copenhagen, namely Amalienborg (which has a public Changing of the Guard every day at 11:30) and Christiansborg, are located nearby, as well as Rosenborg and Charlottenborg Palace.

Lastly, the winding streets around Kultorvet and Nytorv are particularly quaint and lively, day and night, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

Extremely Alternative: Freetown Christiana

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Entering Freetown Christiana

While not a hidden gem by any means — it is, in fact, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city - Freetown Christiana is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of about 850 residents which has every aspect of a commune. The area feels more like a highly intoxicated parallel universe from the 1970s rather than a neighborhood in one of the hippest cities on the globe, and yet I wouldn’t picture it anywhere else.

This extremely contrasting destination is a perfect reflection of the open-mindedness of Copenhagen, and its acceptance of things that aren’t quite like the others. Despite its highly active drug market and colorful characters, visitors should rest assured that it’s a safe place to walk through during the daytime. Remember, though: no pictures allowed!

Post-Modernism in Copenhagen

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

The Royal Danish Playhouse

Copenhagen may be a Nordic city with a remarkable amount of historic buildings, but it is also famous of its “Danish design” heritage sites. In fact, there have been so many new, shiny, contemporary installations -whether of the architectural or decorative kind- over the last few years that they have become attractions in their own right. The Danish attention to detail is absolutely outstanding and makes for striking sights.

From the “Black Diamond” that is the Royal Danish Library to the Royal Danish Playhouse by Nyhavn, from the Tivoli Concert Hall to the Mountain Dwellings apartment complex in Ørestad, the Danish imagination for innovation truly knows no border. These buildings are but a few from a vast selection spread across town.

Also… since Lego blocks are technically Danish, this means a visit to the flagship store is in order!

In terms of decorative arts, Danish design aficionados will be delighted by the selection of shops like Designer Zoo, Illums Bolighus, Hay CPH and Casa Shop, as well as the Danish Museum of Art & Design’s gift shop. Granted the purchases fit into a suitcase, that is.

Whimsical and Hedonistic Copenhagen

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens at night

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Appetizing pastries abound!

Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen

Beer tasting at the Carlsberg Factory

A visit to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without a sample of its legendary culinary scene. Because only a handful of us can afford a meal at Noma -much less get a reservation- gourmet travelers should definitely look into eateries like Haché for incredible burgers, the Nørrebro Bryghus microbrewery and restaurant, Cap Horn for vegetarian meals, hell, even the Carlsberg Factory for the freshest pint of lager in the world.

However, whimsical Copenhagen doesn’t get much more fun than at Tivoli Gardens. It was, in fact, one of the highlights of my visit. And although it is quite popular with tourists and locals alike, the park’s reputation is not sugar-coated and is well worth a visit despite the crowds, especially after nightfall.

Disclaimer: Visit Copenhagen partly sponsored my visit by offering me a Copenhagen Card. I traveled to Copenhagen courtesy of Eurail.com. All opinions are my own, as always.

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6 Responses to “Exploring The Contrasts of Copenhagen”

  1. Katharina

    07. Jan, 2014

    These contrasts remind me of the contrast scenes I lived in Zurich, Switzerland. It was so formal and classic, yet occasionally really quirky and alternative. I love it when cities have both. Copenhagen sounds (and looks) amazing!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      09. Jan, 2014

      It really is amazing. I don’t think it is as formal as Zurich but it definitely has a quirky side to it.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Cheryl Howard

    07. Jan, 2014

    Awesome guide and tips.

    I’ve only been to Copenhagen for a layover. I really want to visit so badly, especially Freetown.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      09. Jan, 2014

      You would love it in Copenhagen! So many street art pieces everywhere, and a very cool urban vibe.

      Reply to this comment
  3. I’m SO excited for my trip to Copenhagen in April!! I’m definitely going to eat pastries every day :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      28. Jan, 2014

      You won’t have any trouble finding pastries, Danes are quite the glutton bunch!

      Reply to this comment

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