For a year or so now, Copenhagen has been on the list. I feel like it’s been growing in my periphery for quite some time, with my Instagram feed peppered with visits and more and more of my friends becoming enamoured with the food and culture, or rather Scandinavian food and culture more broadly. So when it came to choosing a short and sweet autumn adventure, Copenhagen was already at the top of my list. Thankfully Jack is happy to trust my wanderlust whims and the prospect of a weekend of Copenhagen was made all the sweeter to him with the promise buns, of which we ate several.
In just under 72 hours, we covered a lot. This was partly thanks to a meticulous itinerary and an enthusiasm for the city that kept us going on very little sleep (there was just too much to see to lie dozing in our hotel room!). This post is the first instalment of three. I’m afraid I don’t have the self-control to skimp on the retelling, nor the desire as we really had such a wonderful time.
After an early arrival, we hit the ground running (and hungry) with an 11.45am lunch at Aamanns. Smørrebrød was high on our list of food items to try and Aamanns popped up in every Google search. Giddy with adventure we ordered the tasting menu and two glasses of homemade snaps – apparently a must for a complete experience at Aamanns. The smørrebrød, the Danes’ famous open-faced sandwich, was delicious. We slowly ate our eight sampler smørrebrød, as they were smaller than we’d normally serve our greedy selves.
The first was a classic pairing, mature hard cheese with an apple, date, malt and onion chutney; second was chicken salad with celeriac, apple, lettuce and chicken skin (genius!); third was grilled sirloin of beef with béarnaise cream, tomatoes, pickled cucumber and crispy potato to finish; and finally egg with smoked halibut, dill and pickled and raw fennel. My favourite switched between the chicken and the beef with each bite but Jack, ever the traditionalist, favoured the cheese. In hindsight, the snaps was a frivolous piece of ordering for a before midday lunch, but it was good fun if not nose-tinglingly strong! Plus it’s hard not to be impressed by the choice – strawberry leaf, citrus, rhubarb, horseradish, ginger and lemon, all of which are homemade.
Fortified, we headed back into the quiet city centre, which we soon realised was incredibly small. This is no criticism, though, as we like to explore a city on foot. So that’s what we did. It rained relentlessly from the moment we finished lunch until we went to bed on our first day, so exploring Copenhagen on foot, dipping in and out of shops and sights with the occasional bun stop seemed like a good idea indeed.
We also visited the vividly green botanical gardens in the rain too. Even though they were set against a grey sky, the gardens surrounding the impressive main greenhouse were vibrant and the water soaked plants were almost defiantly bright with colour. But our favourite part of the gardens was undoubtedly the impressive Old Palm House.
Inside a tropical micro-climate hits you full in the face. Coming in from an 8c day with coats heavy with rain we started steaming up immediately. Once my lenses (camera and glasses) had unfogged I took as many photos as I could. It was incredibly beautiful, interesting and other-worldly – I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Jurassic Park theme tune started to play and raptor or two had shifted in the distance amongst the palms. Even if you’re not particularly interested in botany, I’d highly recommend a visit for the spectacle alone, or to pretend you’re Dr. Montgomery Montgomery from A Series of Unfortunate Events, as I did.
For cacti enthusiasts there are also superb cacti greenhouses to inspect. When peered into from the rain-flecked outside, these over-crowded, softly lit grottos reminded me both of Professor Sprout’s greenhouses in Harry Potter and Christmas, which is something of a soul-warming combination.
Walking on from the Botanical Gardens (via the gift shop, another haven for cacti enthusiasts especially) we headed toward The Little Mermaid, a tourist checkpoint. Another reason why I’m evangelical about walking my way around a city is you stumble across these sweet residential spots that tour guides and trip advisor neglect to mention. These sunset-hued houses of Nyboder stand in rows, a bike or two standing sentinel in front of each. I couldn’t help but stop and pretend I lived there for a moment. That is until someone who really did live there came to their window, clearly wondering what I was doing, and I hot-footed it away, British and red-faced.
We arrived at The Little Mermaid and I can report she is what she is. Although it is worth the trip for the beautifully bleak backdrop, opportunity to stand near the icy black Baltic sea and watch the sea grass wave in the gentle tide.
After 30,000 steps around Copenhagen we made a pitstop at our hotel to briefly flop on the bed and hair-dryer our jeans before heading out to supper. I’d heard good things about the street food at Paper Island so we headed out into the still-raining night. After being struck by how quiet Copenhagen by day was, I wondered how busy it might be – perhaps Copenhagen is just less busy than other cities, I thought.
But no, I was wrong. Papirøen was packed to bursting. It’s a little like Street Feast in London, but busier and friendlier, full of families and with dancing too. I felt as if we were rubbing shoulders with the locals, who had ventured out into the rainy night after a day sheltering at home to meet friends for dinner, drinks and conversation, all to be enjoyed by candlelight.
We ate well. After much deliberation including three loops of the (not small!) collection of vendors we settled on our feasts of choice. I plumped for freshly made pasta: carbonara cooked in front of me, made with pork cheeks and finished with lashings of Parmesan. Jack decided on confit duck legs served with duck fat chips, green beans, spiced tomato ketchup and homemade garlic mayonnaise. We both opted for beer. We sat at the end of a long table filled with other couples of friends and slowly ate our way through the lot by the light of twinkling fairy lights and flickering candles. Very hygge.
After dinner came dessert. Jack, whose kryptonite is cheesecake, was seduced by a salted caramel slice whilst I went for a rhubarb crumble cake. Both were sumptuous and rich with delicious dairy. We ate them standing, watching a revellers learn to salsa dance and once we’d finished, had a go ourselves. We’re not good dancers, but were very happy to be involved and to be welcome.
We walked hand-in-hand back to our hotel, full with food and experience, tipsy with alcohol and joy and ready for a second day in Copenhagen, which we already felt so welcomed in, and somehow familiar.
In the second instalment of our trip, you can expect porridge, navigating Copenhagen’s train system and hunting down Thomas Dambo’s spectacular Forgotten Giants.