How to have a perfect weekend break in Copenhagen

I’ve been to Copenhagen not one, not two, but three times now. In the world of weekend breaks it’s unusual for me to be drawn back to a place when there are so many new destinations vying for my attention. But Copenhagen is a city that really seems to have got under my skin. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s, well, so civilised. Not only is the city full of great design, historic charm, sparkling water and friendly people, but everything seems to work, everything is clean and everyone speaks English. If you can put up with the high prices (Wow! £7 for a beer?) then it’s the lazy traveller’s dream destination.

This time my excuse for a long weekend in Copenhagen with my husband, Guy, was Copenhagen Cooking that forms part of the Wondercool festival including a fashion week, jazz festival and design events as well as the largest food festival in Northern Europe. Of course, we know that festivals like these are really a way to attract visitors and add a little cultural buzz in freezing February when no-one would otherwise visit, but even so there are plenty of innovative events to keep your mind off the chill. So if you fancy a weekend break in Copenhagen, here’s my diary of this trip (with more than a few photos to keep you in the picture);

Friday evening – checking in to the Andersen Hotel

Arriving in Copenhagen on Friday evening, we hop on the super-efficient train and 30 minutes later arrive at the Central station which is just 5 minute walk from the Andersen Boutique Hotel in Vesterbro where we’re staying. The sex shops and Asian takeaways we pass aren’t promising but then Vesterbro is Copenhagen’s red light district as well as the trendy place for restaurants and nightlife. Entering the Andersen Hotel reception area is a relief from the grey evening outside with glowing pink lights, chess sets laid out at the bar tables and friendly faces at reception. This hotel was completely renovated a couple of years ago, using Designer’s Guild furnishings, and we’re pretty impressed with our Junior suite on the 4th floor, which has a ‘Mermaid’ colour scheme and a turquoise and white Philip Starck bathroom.

Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen

Dinner at Bio Mio in the Meat-packing district

Asking for restaurant recommendations at reception we head down the road to Bio Mio, an organic  all-day diner that’s in the meat packing district where the meat processing still goes on but the trendy restaurants are also moving in. We find Bio Mio by the large neon Bosch signs and settle into the bar stools at the high wooden tables with a view of the chefs at work in the open kitchen that runs the length of the restaurant. We’re feeling experimental on the drinks front so I have an elderflower cider and Guy has a dark Alt bier which looks like Guinness but is far more fruitilicious. We order from the specials board and I try the fish of the day which arrives piled high on a square of mashed potato, topped with a swirl of raw fennel (200 DKr) and Guy goes for the beef casserole (175 DKr) which he also enjoys. Outside the rain is drizzling but inside the atmosphere is cosy with soft jazz playing and candles in jars at the window.

Bio Mio Organic Restaurant in Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bio Mio Organic Restaurant in Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Saturday Morning – Exploring Vesterbro

On Saturday morning we explore the area of Vesterbro around Andersen Hotel, a working class neighbourhood that has become trendy as students and arty professionals have moved in. It’s also the red light district of Copenhagen with more than its fair share of massage parlours and sex shops selling fishnet underwear and fetish toys.

Red Light district, Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Red Light district, Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Veering away from Istedgade where much of this seems to be based, we pass the Mikkeller bar, known for its micro-brewed beer, past the graffiti covered heart sculpture and onto Vesterbrogarde where the shopping is far more mainstream.

Heart sculpture in Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heart sculpture in Copenhagen

We are on the look-out for the trendy designer clothes shops we’ve read about but it feels as if we’re looking in the wrong place and then Guy gets diverted into a cycle shop where he enjoys a chat with the fellow enthusiast about the joys of cycling in Denmark and buys some cute bike lights. We come across the Museum of Copenhagen, where we look around for a bit, learning how immigration has affected Copenhagen, admire the colourful painted shooting targets on the stairs and discover the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in an exhibition that explores the theme of love.

The Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbro, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Museum of Copenhagen, Vesterbro, Copenhagen

Saturday afternoon – a gastro-cruise around the harbour

By lunchtime we are heading towards the harbour and the Royal Library, also known as the Black Diamond, where we have are booked on a gastro-cruise as part of the Copenhagen Cooking festival. As we’re there in good time, I take myself up the upper floors where you can look down through the full height of the building and admire the canal opposite framed by the wall of glass.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Royal Library, Copenhagen

At 1.00 we get a welcome talk and board the tour boat that takes us to six different restaurants around the harbour, where we try a different course in each. This gastro-cruise showcases one seasonal ingredient and this year it is the turn of the humble mussel, once the working man’s food, to be elevated to new heights by inventive chefs. Our first course of canapes from Soren K in The Black Diamond is eaten on the boat, with an explanation from the chef as he serves us with the accompanying wine, while at other restaurants we get off the boat and are seated in the restaurants to try the different dishes.

Gastro cruise in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gastro cruise in Copenhagen with Copenhagen Cooking

While it’s all about the mussels, each chef manages to come up with a unique interpretation of this ingredient; from the creamy soup at Restaurant Salt, to the chilli and coconut flavours from Southern India at Verandah, to the retro tartlet like granny would make at Lumskebugten, to the purple carrots and frothy soup served with sea buckthorn juice and snaps at Spisehuset 56. The cruise is over by 6pm when we arrive back at the Royal Library for a cup of coffee and a chocolate before walking back to the hotel, where we collapse to digest our gastronomic afternoon. Read the full account of our Copenhagen Cooking gastro-cruise here.

Mussels at Verandah as part of our gastro cruise with Copenhagen Cooking Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mussels at Verandah as part of our gastro cruise with Copenhagen Cooking

Sunday morning – art and culture in Copenhagen

While our Saturday had a foodie theme, our Sunday is an opportunity to explore the art and culture of Copenhagen and we start at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, just a 10 minute walk from the Andersen Hotel. This delightful museum houses the art and sculpture collection of the 19th century brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen and is perfect for a winter day, full of classical Greek and Roman sculpures as well as those turn of the century marble figures on allegorical themes by Danish sculptors.

Ny Carslberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Classical sculpture at Ny Carslberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen

We wander through the impressionist galleries upstairs, packed with Gauguins, Van Goghs and Cezannes and enjoy the Degas ballerina series including the petite bronze of the Little Ballarina similar to the one in Musee d’Oray in Paris. At the heart of the museum is a winter garden with glass roof and tropical foliage, overlooked by a cafe where we are tempted to stop, but it’s a bit early for coffee so we just buy a few postcards before we move on.

Ny Carslberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Winter garden at Ny Carslberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen

Shopping on Stroget

Our walk takes us on down the length of pedestrian shopping streets that are collectively known as Stroget, towards the shopping heart of Copenhagen by the Stork Fountain where the “Big Three” of Copenhagen’s designer shops are located. We’d enjoyed looking around here on our previous visit and now have an aspirational wander around the Georg Jensen flagship store, with covetable silver jewellery on the ground floor and homeware downstairs. I’ve been lucky enough to have a private tour of the Georg Jensen silver workshops where the heirloom pieces are made, but sadly the room where these are normally on display is closed. I also love the Royal Copenhagen store next door, where the instantly recognisable blue and white porcelain has been reinvented in many different designs and the gorgeous Flora cup and saucers are planted with spring bulbs. Although I’d love to bring back a souvenir, I decide that £40 is just too much for a coffee mug and we move on to the much more affordable Illums Bollighus which the perfect place to shop for Danish designs.

Illums Bollighus, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Illums Bollighus, Copenhagen

The Round Tower in the Latin quarter

Having got our fix of Danish design we turn left down Kobmargergade and into the Latin Quarter, where we walk to the Rundetaarn or Round Tower. Built in the 17th century by King Christian IV as an astronomical observatory, it’s a surprisingly easy stroll to the top as there is a brick ramp that was designed for the easy transportation of astrological instruments.

Round Tower Rundertaarn in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Round Tower Rundertaarn in Copenhagen

From the viewing platform at the top we get a 360 degree view over the red rooftops of Copenhagen, but the kissing seat near the top is already taken by a family having their picnic so we can’t stop for that romantic snuggle at the window. The other nice feature of the Round Tower is that half way up you find the doorway to the enormous space of the old library, which once housed 10,000 books but is now used as an art gallery and concert space.

Round Tower Rundertaarn in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View from the Round Tower or Rundertaarn in Copenhagen

Sunday afternoon – The fairytale castle of Rosenborg Slot

Another place on our list to see, which is conveniently close to the Round Tower, is the fairytale castle of Rosenborg Slot, set in the park known as Kongens Have or King’s Garden. Before we look around the palace it’s time for lunch and we stop at Orangeriet, a restaurant set, as the name suggests, in the old orangery of the palace. We love the light atmosphere, all pale Scandinavian painted wood and fragrant spring bulbs, where the lunchtime menu of Smorrebrod is surprisingly affordable by Copenhagen standards. Guy orders the smorrebrod of steak tartare with beetroot and horseradish which is red and succulent, while my choice is the chicken salad with mushrooms, apples and celery which is a creamy mixture with a colourful red and green vegetable garnish. We’d like to stay longer but the castle is closing at four so we hurry through the gardens, crossing the bridge over the moat and pass the soldiers guarding the treasury, trying not to look too suspicious.

Lunch at Orangeriet in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch at Orangeriet in Copenhagen

The castle is full of richly decorated rooms with marble, gilt and ornate furnishings, each one set in the period of a different King of Denmark. On the ground floor is a case displaying the bloodstained shirt worn by King Christian IV during the naval battle of Kolberger Heide in 1644 where he was wounded by cannonball fire and lost an eye. The king himself ordered the shirt to be put on show and thereafter adopted the motif of a pelican tearing out its heart to feed its young, as a symbol of his sacrifice and had the bullet fragments made into earings for his mistress to wear.

Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen

Before the palace closes we just have time to see the Treasury in the basement, protected by a heavy steel door guarded by soldiers. Even so we are able to get surprisingly close to the cases containing all the precious crown jewels including the sets of glittering emeralds and the crowns themselves.

Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Rosenborg Slot in Copenhagen

Coffee and cakes at Torverhallerne

We leave the palace at closing time and walk to the nearby Torverhallerne food halls, which leaves us salivating at all the stalls selling artizan foods. These two market halls were under construction on our previous visit two years ago, when we stayed at the nearby Ibsens Hotel, but now they are packed with interesting and delicious food finds, with raw fish, meat and vegetables in one hall, while the other seems to feature chocolates, deli counters and food to take away.

Torverhallerne Market Hall in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Torverhallerne Market Hall in Copenhagen

There are plenty of stalls selling food to refresh the weary sightseer like us, from Coffee Collective that we visited last time in Norrebro to the Granny’s House cake stall where we perch at a small table and order some coffee and cakes served on pretty pastel china.

Torverhallerne Food Hall in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Torverhallerne Food Hall in Copenhagen

After our late afternoon coffee break we spot an appetising deli counter where we buy dips, olives and good Danish sourdough and rye bread from a bakery stall. We carry it all back to Andersen Hotel where we pass up the delights of the Meat Packing District for a night in watching TV, drinking wine and eating our picnic in our room, weary after our busy day’s sightseeing.

Torvehallerne Food Hall in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Torvehallerne Food Hall in Copenhagen

Monday Morning – Exploring the harbour

On Monday, as our flight isn’t until the evening, we take advantage of Andersen Hotel’s Concept24 policy which means that we can keep our room for a full 24 hours and check out late in the day. Leaving our cases in our rooms, we head for the harbour to explore the area of Christianshaven across the bridge, where houseboats are moored along the canal.

Harbour in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View towards Christianshaven in the Harbour in Copenhagen

We stop to look at the beautiful Church of Our Saviour with old wooden pews and chandeliers where an organist is practicing, before walking on to the ‘free state’ of Christiania.

Church in Christianhaven, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Church in Christianhaven, Copenhagen

This neighbourhood of Copenhagen was an old military barracks that was occupied by squatters in the 1970s who wanted to create a community life together, but became known as an area where soft drugs were freely available and the police would not go. The residents of Copenhagen have mixed views about Christiania and although drugs are no longer sold openly, we found that the area had a run down feel, with groups of men standing around stalls selling souvenirs and drug related paraphanalia. Perhaps the atmosphere is lighter in summer than on a cold February day and although the signs exhorted us to have have fun (but take no photos), we didn’t feel like lingering long.

Christiania in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Christiania in Copenhagen

Just across the river it is a different world from the hippy, overgrown Christiania to the perfect, painted merchant houses and picturesque sailing ships of Nyhaven, that feature on all the postcards. In summer this must be a tourist trap worth avoiding, but on a sunny winter’s day we enjoy our walk along the canal and skirt the harbour towards the palace of Amalienborg, residence of the Danish Royal Family.

Nyhaven, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Nyhaven, Copenhagen

Most people time their visit for midday when the royal guards march from Rosenborg slot and arrive at Amalienborg for the changing of the guards. The central square is surrounded by four palaces with an imposing statue of Frederick V in the middle looking towards the dome of the marble church.

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen

Lunch back in Vesterbro

We head back through the Latin quarter to meet with Henrik from Wonderful Copenhagen who has promised to take us out for lunch. As we don’t have too long before our flight we decide to stay close to the Andersen Hotel where we’ll need to collect our bags and stop at the Claus Meyer deli on the border with Frederiksberg to try the smorrebrod and other light lunchtime dishes. I order the smoked salmon with beetroot and horseradish cream, which is one of the prettiest dishes I’ve ever seen, while Guy enjoys the hot Danish pate topped with bacon and an apple and parsley salad on the side. This deli is one of  three in Copenhagen, but Claus Meyer is well known as a food entrepreneur and has plenty of other gastronomic enterprises such as a couple of bakeries, The Standard jazz club and a part-ownership of Noma. This deli is definitely worth noting in your address book in you’re a gourmet on a budget, serving delicious and  affordable dishes from breakfast through to early evening.

Claus Meyer Deli in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Claus Meyer Deli in Copenhagen

Close by we stop to have a coffee in the Central Hotel and Cafe, dubbed the “Smallest cafe in the world” with just a counter and a bench to sit on, while the “Smallest hotel in the world” upstairs is a single en suite room for couples who want to be truly alone. Both enterprises are owned by the owners of the retro cafe Granola, just around the corner, where breakfast is served for hotel guests and all good children are rewarded with a lollipop the way out.

The smallest hotel in Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Central Hotel and Cafe in Copenhagen

There are a couple of other Copenhagen landmarks I want to squeeze in before we head for home, one of which is The Royal Hotel, now owned by Radisson Blu, which was designed by Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen in the 1960s, using many iconic designs like the Swan chairs in the lobby. Suite 606 is kept as an example of the original furniture and designs created by Arne Jacobson and we sneak up to the 20th floor to take a peek at the gourmet restaurant Alberto K, where every table has a view over the city.

Alberto K restaurant, Royal Hotel, Copenhagen Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Alberto K restaurant, Royal Hotel, Copenhagen

The other place on my wish list is Nimb, a luxury boutique hotel with only 17 rooms that overlooks the Tivoli gardens. Even those who can’t afford to stay there can experience the magic in summer, with an al fresco meal on the Brasserie terrace overlooking the gardens. Remembering that it’s freezing February, however, we pop upstairs to the ballroom bar which is a special place to have a cocktail or drink, especially in winter with the fire lit at one end and the candles flickering around the room.

Nimb Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen

Sadly we’ve run out of time and head back to Andersen Hotel and wheel our bags to Central Station where we take the train for the airport and home. We’ve had a great time eating and sightseeing and are already planning our next trip back to Copenhagen, preferrably in warmer weather when the Copenhageners are out enjoying the parks and harbourside in the long, light days of the Scandinavian summer.

Visitor Information for Copenhagen

Our gastro-cruise was part of the Copenhagen Cooking festival, one of the biggest food festival in Northern Europe which takes place in August and February. Look out for the summer edition of the Copenhagen Cooking festival in August.

Heather and Guy stayed at the Andersen Hotel in Vesterbro, Copenhagen’s Red Light District and trendy neighbourhood for restaurants and nightlife. Thanks to Andersen Hotel who provided a complimentary stay for our weekend visit.

Copenhagen Card – we used the Copenhagen Card during our stay for free public transport by bus, train and metro as well as free admission to 75 museums and attractions. We used the card to get free entry to many of the sights we visited on this and previous visits such as Ny Carlsberg Typtotek, Rosenborg Slot, The Museum of Copenhagen, The Harbour Cruise and Tivoli Gardens, as well as for getting around on the metro and train.

For more information about visiting Copenhagen, see the Visit Copenhagen official Tourism website. Thanks to Wonderful Copenhagen who sponsored our weekend visit to Copenhagen.

Heather Cowper shares her travel stories, videos and podcasts at Heatheronhertravels.com and you can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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  • Reply
    Barbara Weibel
    March 3, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Wow! Never really considered Copenhagen to be an interesting travel destination, but your article just changed my mind. Will have to check it out someday.
    Barbara Weibel´s last blog post ..PHOTO: Dragon is the centerpiece of Yi Peng festival decorations at Thapae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 11:35 am

      @Barbara Copenhagen is one of my favourites, the only downside are the high prices

  • Reply
    Kathryn Burrington
    March 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    What a wonderful combination of things to see and do! I’ve never even thought of visiting Copenhagen but it’s on my radar now.
    Kathryn Burrington´s last blog post ..All aboard for an Arctic adventure with Hurtigruten

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 7:10 pm

      @Kat I’m so glad if you’ve got it on your list – let me know if you need any more tips

  • Reply
    Jackie De Burca
    March 3, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    This is a great piece Heather, on a city that I would like to visit at some stage. The contrast between Christiana and Nyhaven is pretty stark, I wasn’t aware they were so close.
    Jackie De Burca´s last blog post ..Alcossebre-Alcalà de Xivert Travel Guide

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      @Jackie Copenhagen isn’t very big so everything is quite close – I found Christiania had a rather menacing air but it was a rather cold day so perhaps its just me

  • Reply
    Paul (@luxury__travel)
    March 3, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve been to Copenhagen quite a few times, but always just passing through on my way to (or back from) Greenland, so rarely seeing much beyond my hotel room and maybe a couple of bars. It would be good to visit and see a bit more some time – it looks like there is plenty to experience.
    Paul (@luxury__travel)´s last blog post ..Experience the waterfalls of the Kimberley, Western Australia

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      @Paul Next time you definitely need to schedule a longer stopover there

  • Reply
    March 3, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    wow what a foodie fest – now that is my kind of vacation…loved seeing all the attractions and highlights especially the historic sites….I’m really hungry looking at all this amazing dishes you sampled!
    noelmorata´s last blog post ..Aloha Friday photo – A Big island Life

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      @Noel The food really is outstanding in Copenhagen, there’s a bit of Noma effect going on where chefs train at the top restaurants and then go on to set up their own.

  • Reply
    Chris Boothman
    March 3, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    I am really intrigued with Scandinavia in general and after reading this post on Copenhagen this makes me want to visit there even more. The Andersen Hotel looks amazing and would love to stay there as a perfect spot to go exploring the city. I am not sure what it is in particular that appeals so much, maybe the overall Danish culture or maybe just because of the cleanliness and beautiful architecture you associate with a city such as Copenhagen.
    Chris Boothman´s last blog post ..Gretna – The Gateway to Scotland

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

      @Chris Yes, I’ve spent some time in both Copenhagen and Gothenburg and really enjoyed both – as you say there’s something about the Scandinavian culture.

  • Reply
    Mark H
    March 3, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    I’ve been there twice and it is one of my fave European cities and I am not sure why. I think it has such a lively feel, has a wonderful variety of historic, natural, interesting and cultural places to visit and experience and is a nice cross roads between Scandinavia and mainland Europe. Really enjoyable article.
    Mark H´s last blog post ..The Westminster Abbey of Florence (Italy)

  • Reply
    Lee Briggs
    March 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    A cooking festival, a gastro cruise, the Torverhallerne – all great reasons to visit Copenhagen. All of this supported by the other places you write about sure make Copenhagen inviting.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      March 4, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      @Lee yes many reasons I’ve found to visit Copenhagen and keep going back there

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