If you are like me, you’ll be surprised to hear that Copenhagen is FULL of sights. There’s no iconic Eiffel Tower or Sagrada Familia, but for as much as we jam pack our days abroad with seeing as much as possible in every city from dawn til dusk, we actually didn’t get the chance to see absolutely everything we would have wanted to visit in Copenhagen.
We arrived mid-day and we took two day trips out of Copenhagen (more on those later). That left us with one full day to sight-see and the open mornings of other days. We definitely made the most of our time there, but many of the sights we saw were drive-bys from the outside, and we couldn’t make the Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery of Denmark) hours work in our schedule (museums to come in a separate post).
Our one full day of sightseeing was unfortunately also marred by torrential rain. Nothing like walking around ruins in squishy socks and shoes. But no matter! Here’s what we saw.
Nyhavn is the scene you see in most postcards from Copenhagen, and rightly so. Most of the pastel-colored buildings house touristy restaurants and souvenir shops, but it’s a beautiful place to sit on a breezy day and eat some ice cream or a hot dog by the water.
After we had lunch on our first day in Nyhavn, we visited the Designmuseum (sic., not a typo, sorry, it’s just really important to this editor that you know that). As we were wandering our way back to the hotel, Jen started talking about these “little yellow houses” that were in some pictures that we should see.
We found them. She liked them. I did not. I couldn’t say why, I just didn’t like these squat rows of marigold buildings (even though marigold is very in this fall). I thought they looked like barracks. Guess what?
That’s because they are.
Here’s the thing. We thought this was the Round Tower (even though it’s not round). It’s not. It’s a church-turned-contemporary art space.
Because we thought it was the Round Tower, and there’s not much to do in the Round Tower except climb it, we didn’t go in.
But look closely; someone liked it more than we did because someone put a ring on it.
The Not-Round Tower is at the end of the Strøget nearest our hotel. We also started our morning at Café Norden before we spent some time strolling along the Strøget.
This is Copenhagen’s Fifth Avenue, its Champs Élysées, its Rodeo Drive. Actually, I am not sure how many luxury shops were along there (I know I spotted a few), but Jen and I were much more interested in the unique Scandinavian stores like Flying Tiger Copenhagen (the Scandinavian answer to Pearl River Mart in NYC where Jen STOCKED UP on llama bags), Illums Bolighus, Hay House, and Designtorget.
OK, so this is actually one of those drive-bys I mentioned. We went here to get a replacement for my city pass card after I lost it on the first night, but we did not partake in the amusement park fun.
We planned to go back Saturday night, our last night, for the fireworks that happen every Saturday. But upon further review when we realized the fireworks happen at 11:45 p.m., our plans shifted.
Here’s the thing — most places in Copenhagen close pretty early. I’m talking shops closing around 4 each day, sometimes earlier in the weekends. There’s not much of a nightlife, which is fine for these elderly Jetlag Hags, but I was just SO skeptical that the fireworks actually took place that late in such a sleepy city. And we were getting up early the next morning to fly to Stockholm, so we didn’t go.
But the fireworks DID happen at 11:45 as planned. I heard them from my hotel bed where I couldn’t fall asleep anyway.
Across from Tivoli is Copenhagen’s city hall. On Lonely Planet’s recommendation, we took a peak in and walked around. There were couples getting married there at the end of a trail of hearts, and there’s also a crazy clock there — Jens Olsen’s World Clock.
These days, it takes me a minute to tell time on a non-digital clock face, so I’m not sure how anyone knows WTF they are looking at when they look at this thing. Courtesy of Wikipedia:
The clock consists of 12 movements which together have 15,448 parts. The clock is mechanical and must be wound once a week. Displays include lunar and solar eclipses, positions of the stellar bodies, and a perpetual calendar, in addition to the time. The fastest gear completes a revolution every ten seconds and the slowest every 25,753 years.
BUT DOES IT TELL YOU WHEN MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE?!
Look, I’d probably have better photos for you if it wasn’t a downpour and if one third of the attraction of a palace hadn’t been closed. Christiansborg is a palace, yes, but it also houses the entire Danish government (more or less). The prime minister’s office is here, the parliament is here, and the supreme court is even here. Can you imagine if all of our branches of government had to share a building?
Anyway, the royal apartments, reception rooms, and chapel were all closed when we went, but we went up in the tower and down to the ruins of palaces past underneath the present Christiansborg.
THE BLACK DIAMOND
On our way across Copenhagen, we stopped at the Black Diamond, part of the Royal Danish Library. I love a good old library. In addition to being a big-ass library, the Black Diamond also houses a concert hall and two mini museums.
We ended our day at Copenhagen’s other castle, Rosenborg Slot, visiting the crown jewels. But before we got to see the crown jewels, we were detained for some unknown reason and told ourselves that these jewel thieves who visited Sweden and grabbed their crown jewels mere weeks before our visit had come back to Scandinavia (via speedboat of course) to nab Denmark’s, but once the police left, we were allowed to go see the crown. Spoiler alert: It looks like a crown.
THE LITTLE MERMAID + AMALIENBORG
The morning before we took a day trip to Malmö, Sweden, we did a run around Copenhagen to visit the Little Mermaid statue and swing by Amalienborg, the home of the Danish royal family. The statue commemorating Hans Christian Andersen’s tale is a little bit far from most other things in Copenhagen, so we figured this would be a good way to see it.
As it happens, the Lonely Planet writer shat on the Little Mermaid A LOT. And apparently Copenhagen’s Danes are not fans either since it has been vandalized and decapitated more than once. But the Asian tour groups are big fans. They were literally all there the morning we stopped by; we didn’t see them anywhere else in Denmark. After that, we ran back past Amalienborg and watched the changing of the guard.
If you haven’t seen the Copenhagen episode of “Parts Unknown,” Christiana is a small section of Copenhagen that has a commune and basically wants nothing to do with the Danish government. The Danish government doesn’t want much to do with them either after some spats over weed around 2004.
Due to said strained relations over pot (of all things), you have to be careful taking photos there, lest an angry weed dealer get worried about the Danish cops checking your Instagram feed. Yes, I ended up getting into an, um, spirited debate with a literal communist.
These are the things I do for you, dear readers.