Welcome back to Copenhagen! Join us on day two of our adventures…
Although our first rain-sodden day in Copenhagen had been a joy, my heart was fluttery and light at the sight of clear skies as we woke up the following day. We dressed quickly, bundled ourselves in scarves and headed out into the kind of city break weather one can only dream of: deliciously sharp, vibrantly blue, cold and clear.
First on the agenda was breakfast. As someone who eats breakfast usually within half an hour of rolling out of bed, having to walk for my first meal of the day is something I only associate with being on holiday and somehow this makes it all the more exciting. We were making our way to Grød, a little café that serves only porridge, and thus my dream eatery (did you not know I’m obsessed with porridge?). As we were heading out of the city centre on the train after breakfast we visited the second branch at Torvehallerne by Nørreport station, but Grød’s parent branch can be found in trendy Nørrebro.
As a rule, eating out in Copenhagen isn’t cheap, but Grød bucks this trend a little as it serves up immensely warming, hearty bowls of oats for lesser prices than I’d expected, and for an equivalent meal in London I’d have paid more.
We plumped for Oat Porridge I, a luxurious combination of homemade caramel sauce, fresh apples and roasted almonds, and Oat Porridge II, a comfortingly familiar mix of apple-vanilla compote, skyr and Grød’s homemade granola. Both bowls were left clean.
Before hopping on our train out of the city centre, I explored the neighbouring fruit and vegetable market whilst Jack bought buns for our adventure to add to the packed lunch nestled safely in our rucksack.
And oh the produce! Carrots of every colour, plump heritage tomatoes, frilly mushrooms, swollen squashes, fat bundles of greens and all of this piled high before it was swooped on by customers. We just don’t get this kind of produce in the UK, I automatically thought, although of course I was wrong about that. There’s just something different about seeing varied and abundant produce when you’re traveling that feels more tangible.
I try to keep experiences like this in perspective: there are equally lovely offerings at the likes of many central London markets, but somehow when you’re abroad this rich plenty feels more authentic, more accessible, more integrated into a city’s everyday eating culture. Who knows if it is or not, the stalls at Torvehallerne may be akin to those of Borough market: beautiful stands primed for tourists to romanticise and photograph. Romanticise I did.
Once I’d taken my fill of carrot photos we headed to the train. We successfully navigated the ticket system (this is not hard in Copenhagen, but we felt somewhat worthy of a pat on the back anyway) and headed out of the centre into greener, more suburban Copenhagen.
We were heading to find three of Thomas Dambo’s Forgotten Giants.
I’d read about these magnificent sculptures before we visited Copenhagen and decided, that rather than spend the day in galleries in the city, we’d head to the outskirts to enjoy a different kind of art. Something wilder, more accessible and in my opinion, more awe-inspiring.
Thomas Dambo found homes for his Giants in the natural areas surrounding Copenhagen and our first target was up a pretty steep hill for someone who had greedily eaten more porridge than perhaps was necessary. Reclining in a clearing of trees we found the aptly named Thomas on the Mountain, looking completely content and without a stitch (I assume he ate an appropriate amount of breakfast before making the climb himself).
It was really very exciting to come across such a structure in the wild, as if we had indeed stumbled upon a real giant. We inspected every nook, clambered upon Thomas and took photos from all angles before tracing our fingers along our map to the next gargantuan indigeneity.
Little Tilde is a neighbour of Thomas on the Mountain, both of them inhabiting the beautiful Vallensbæk park, which is simultaneously acts as a community area, collection of nature trails, venue for adventure sports and setting for Danish families to wile away a Sunday together. It was idyllic. As before with the market, I had that feeling of being short-changed by the UK, even though we have equally lovely open spaces. I had been taken by Copenhagen to the point of bias.
Thomas Dambo describes Little Tilde, who also happens to house 28 birdhouses ready for when the Danish winter sets in, as a guardian of nature. She looks out across a body of open water from the shade of a thick wood. I can only imagine what it might be like to spot her from across the water, especially if you were unawares of the Forgotten Giants’ existence! We sat with her for 20 minutes or so, enjoying our flask of tea and the two stashed buns we’d picked up in town.
If you wanted to sample a couple of the Giants, these two would be a great combination thanks to their proximity and situation in the lovely Vallensbæk park, in which you could picnic and spend the rest of your afternoon. But forever greedy, we wanted to squeeze in one more. We walked to our final Giant, through suburban, then rural, then coastal scenes. Compact Copenhagen seems able to shape-shift from street to street.
Plus we made some friends on our way, too.
But before we tracked down the last Giant on our list, lunch was due.
I find coastal capital cities quite astonishing. In my mind it somehow doesn’t compute for a city, complete with museums, cathedrals and bustling with life, to be lapped at by the sea. I think it’s because I’m used to quaint British seaside towns and villages, but Copenhagen’s city coast made it all the more covetable to me.
We set up temporary camp in the sand dunes and spread out our packed lunch on my coat. Unarmed with cutlery and plates, we’d plumped for fresh bread, ham, cheese, grapes, strange foreign crisps (which are a must when travelling, in my opinion) and our trusty flask of tea. We tore the bread apart with our fingers, assembled rough sandwiches with the cheese and ham, and popped grapes and crisps into our mouths as we stretched out on the sand. It was so quiet and wonderfully uninterrupted.
Our third and final Giant was a short walk from the beach in Ishøj. It took us a little longer to find Oscar as he was inconspicuously hanging on for dear life under a bridge. It was his gripped hand that gave him away.
While we saw three of Thomas Dambo’s Giants on foot in a day, I think you could do them all if you wanted, using a train day ticket and/or on a bike. In Dambo’s words, each Giant is set in ‘beautiful and often overlooked nature spots’, so the discovery of each is an adventure in Denmark’s beautiful wild and green spaces. We loved the opportunity to break up a conventional city break, strap on our walking shoes and eat lunch with our fingers, sat on the sand.
With three out of three giants spotted we headed back to the city. As we’d bought a day pass for the train, next on our itinerary was a trip to the coiled Kastrup Sea Bath. As we were visiting out of season, sadly the bath wasn’t open for swimming, although I (who have been known to swim in the British sea in all weathers) would have loved a bracing dip.
The spectacle and peace of the place is worth the trip alone. Frequented only by the occasional dog walker, we mostly had the place to ourselves and we sat with swinging legs on the jetty, walked to the very edge to witness the lapping, black Baltic sea and watched the blazing afternoon sun sink, bleaching the sea bath gold as it went.
We finished our second day in Copenhagen back in the city with a fish supper from Hooked, a stylish but welcoming little restaurant that serves up affordable and delicious offerings from the sea. After another day of over 30,000 steps we both plumped for hearty portions of fish and chips (you can take the Brit out of the UK…) complete with minted mashed peas, tartar sauce, ketchup and Jack plumped for a black garlic mayo too. We covered the lot in vinegar salt, which is quite frankly a genius invention, and washed it down with a beer for him and an elderflower presse for me.
The fish and chips at Hooked were different to the version we’re used to, but mouth-watering in their own right. The fish is thick and succulent, breaded and flavoured with something that tasted like curry powder. The chips are more familiar, but Hooked’s range of excellent condiments makes them something quite exciting too. After a day buffeted by Scandinavian wind, we gladly ate our fill of the lot.
And after that, we were quite ready to sleep. Once we’d wandered back through the city our heavy-eyed heads hit the pillow and were asleep in record time. This is fortunate, as I’d planned to be up before the sun the following day to experience Copenhagen at dawn. Join me next time to see just how beautiful it was.