We stayed for four nights in Copenhagen at the Avenue Hotel. The hotel had won awards for being the best boutique hotel in the city and was comfortable, the crisp linen and beds being a nice change after camping, but wasn’t quite as plush as for example where we stayed in Berlin last year. Anyway, we were on holiday and looking forward to seeing the sights so weren’t planning on hiding away in our room so the absence of fluffy dressing gowns was a minor matter.
Cycling is the best way round the city and the hotel rented us a rickshaw to ferry OMB round in to go with my 40th birthday present Brompton folding bike which had been sitting neatly behind the front seat of the car for most of our trip to Denmark. Although the city centre is not huge it would have tested OMB and our patience (not to mention my shoulders as he’d have wanted carrying and is still just about light enough…) to have walked. Cycling was easy due to the flat terrain and the extensive cycle lanes which segregated bikes from pedestrian and car traffic. The city is probably even more friendly to bikes than Amsterdam if only because of the lack of trams. Curiously while drivers, knowing that bikes had priority, were patient even as I wobbled along when turning while getting the hang of the rickshaw, some cyclists were a little less so. But as with Denmark generally, this never became anything as unseemly as rudeness of the sort you would routinely encounter from non-Boris bike bikers in London.
We saw a few of the living statues that seem to be the staple of most tourist cities and are always a favourite of OMB’s, even if none quite matched one we saw in Barcelona which we still haven’t worked out how it stood up.
Our first destination was Christiania. This is a hippyish commune in central Copenhagen which took over a disused army barracks about 40 years ago and was just left to get on with things by the authorities. Think of Occupy taking over an empty Kensington barracks and spreading into Hyde Park in London and then do a double take as this actually happened without troops being mobilised. Apart from the wave of dope smoke that hit you on riding in and the dustbin lorry which looked like it had just come from Kolkata, complete with ethnic paint job, and the place seemed very peaceful and domesticated. Perhaps more Glastonbury festival than the unwashed of Occupy.
After cycling through Christiania we meandered round the various canals and waterways until we stumbled upon Nyhavn. Perhaps a sign of the openness of the city and country was the way in which we managed inadvertently to cycle straight through the middle of a complex of government departments without anyone batting an eyelid.
Nyhavn is a touristy canalside street with picturesque houses on the other side of the canal (apparently these were once brothels). As with many places in Copenhagen it had a lot of the feel of Amsterdam. But, with the crucial difference for a family holiday of not having any of the grittiness, or seediness of that city. The atmosphere and food were so good that we came back for another meal on our final evening.
Leaving aside places like the two Michelin Star Noma, Danish food is fairly simple and plain. As a non fish-eater I missed out on a lot of the local specialities but meat dishes like frikadeller or steaks had very good quality meat. Portions everywhere tended towards the hearty to massive. Wine is fairly expensive (not really much below £25 a bottle in any restaurant) but not as much as expected. Below is the “Shooting Star” Mrs B and OMB shared in our first visit to Nyhavn.
The Little Mermaid
The statue of the Little Mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen’s story is one of the famous sights of the city. It is rather smaller than I was expecting. More surprising was the story itself. We bought OMB an anthology of Andersen’s tales. I’m not sure a children’s author bringing a proposal for a story where the heroine has her tongue ripped out to allow her to be with her Prince and then is faced with the choice of murdering him and his wife or herself dying would get a kind reception from a publisher today!
One of the many surprises of the city was how central the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park was. The Pleasure Beach at Blackpool is further out! Watching The Killing with its focus on Copenhagen town hall it was slightly strange to think that just across the road from Sarah Lund’s investigations people were having fun on rollercoasters. Although Mrs B will disagree about how much fun those on the ludicrously high flying chairs would have been having. One tip I have is not to bother with the “co-rider” ticket which allows an adult to ride with a child. The lady at the ticket counter meant well in selling it to us as it meant that OMB could go on a ride with either of us. However, if we wanted to go on things all together, we needed a separate ticket as we did if one of us wanted to go on something while OMB and the other waited (such as rides unsuitable for young children like the aforementioned flying chairs). We quickly went and bought another, very reasonably priced ticket (190 DKr, about £20 for a day of unlimited rides).
Tivoli Gardens isn’t just about the rides and it also had nice gardens and a stage with concerts through the afternoon. The local musical theatre stars doing Andrew Lloyd Webber hits were fine if you like that sort of thing. The Double Bass festival opener with a piece featuring 100 double bassists was, er, an acquired taste.
National Art Museum
We normally like to see a little bit of culture on our breaks. However as the weather was so nice we only spent a little while at the National Art Museum and saw only the children’s exhibition “Life and Death”. This was impressive in not patronising children and covering an unsettling topic in an engaging way. Had we visited on a rainy day we could have spent a lot longer there.
One thing which we wimped out on was swimming in the pool made in the river. Sorry to OMB who did brave the icy water.