I started planning my around-the-world adventure based on a $315 plane ticket on Norwegian Air that would take me from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Copenhagen, Denmark. I knew absolutely nothing about Copenhagen or Denmark at the time. But when you see a cheap flight and want to explore the world, you book it and figure out the rest later! My plan was to fly into Copenhagen around noon local time, spend the next 24 hours exploring the city, then catch my flight to Valencia, Spain the following evening.
Arrival in Copenhagen
It was my first time alone in a foreign city. I was exhausted from flying overnight and a bit nervous about being by myself in a place where I didn’t speak the language. After retrieving my checked bag, I made my first big mistake: I took cash out of an ATM without having a proper understanding of the exchange rate. I knew I wasn’t going to need much cash, just enough to get me to my hotel on the train and some food & beer. I selected the option for 1,500 Krone, due to it being the second lowest denomination on the screen. When I checked the currency converter app on my phone and realized I just took out over two hundred dollars! Now, I knew Denmark was going to be expensive but there was absolutely no way I was going to spend that kind of money in 24 hours.
Next step was getting on the train that would take me to my hotel. It was confusing trying to figure out why the names on the ticket I bought didn’t match anything on the screens. Apparently, any train I got on would get me where I was going, so I just hopped on and enjoyed the ride. The train system in Denmark is beautiful. Much nicer than anything I’ve experienced in the US; but I have a feeling that’s the case in much of Europe (I can confirm that’s true in Spain as well).
After checking into my hotel and getting cleaned up, I punched the Little Mermaid monument into my GPS and hit the town. I knew I was heading to a tourist spot (not my cup of tea), but with only a day to explore, I figured it was worth braving the crowds. The 30-minute walked provided me with the two main impressions I now have about Copenhagen:
- There are a lot of bikes here
- Damn, this is one gorgeous city!
I fell in love with the beauty of Copenhagen almost instantly. The streets were clean and filled with more bikes than cars. The architecture and monuments strewn about the city were stunning. The waterfront is massive and adds a layer of natural beauty to the city. The funny part was, I hadn’t even seen the best part at that point.
As I was trying to snap photos of the monument between little kids climbing all over it, I heard a familiar sound…English! It was there that I met a young guy from Michigan (Grant) traveling with his cousin (Jessie) who lived in Switzerland. He told me about the Nyhavn neighborhood and that they were heading that way for dinner. Some of my other travel friends had recommended I go there, so I decided to do the same. We went our separate ways, but before I was even halfway through my first beer, we bumped into each other again. We decided to grab some food and sit down along the channel with our beers.
Whenever you see a photo of Copenhagen online, it’s usually of Nyhavn. The reason is simple, it’s absolutely adorable; with the buildings lining the waterway painted in bright, bold colors. They’re incredibly picturesque. Nearly all of them have a restaurant/café on the first floor with large outdoor seating areas and bars. We sat there for about an hour eating our pizzas and drinking various beers. We even witnessed a drunk guy fall off his boat into the channel and have to be fished out by his fellow seamen. This would have been funny, but it was a chilly night and that water was undoubtedly much, much colder. Fortunately, an ambulance arrived shortly after he was back on land and he seemed to be in decent shape, albeit probably a bit embarrassed and cold. Nyhavn is definitely one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of Copenhagen.
Not a Place to Drink on a Budget
It should be common knowledge that Scandinavian countries aren’t cheap. That means drinking in Scandinavian countries isn’t cheap. Beers were about $6 each in Nyhavn for a basic domestic pilsner-type brew. To save our wallets from catching on fire, my new friends and I did the smart thing and bought a 6-pack at the nearest beer shop then singles at 7eleven later on in the evening. Drinking at bars and restaurants here could easily run you $100 per night out. Fortunately, our “cheap” purchases left my wallet only $43 the following morning; and that included snacks. Speaking of food, I didn’t do any fancy Denmark-specific eating while there so I can’t comment on the food costs. Chicken on a stick from 7eleven satiates one’s hunger late at night though.
Walk the Walk
We spent the majority of the rest of the evening walking around the city. If Copenhagen is one thing, it’s walkable. It’s not so big and overwhelming that it’d take you hours to walk across. Being right on the water, Copenhagen benefits from the natural beauty that the sea provides. The interior of the city is a perfect balance of old architecture and modern new buildings. The parks and squares provide countless opportunities to relax in the grass or grab a bite to eat from a street vendor. We just wandered aimlessly down small alleys until we found a hookah bar. I hadn’t had shisha in years so we decided to sit down and relax. It was the perfect end to an enjoyable day in Copenhagen.
Though that wasn’t the end of my adventure in Scandinavia. I accompanied the cousins on a 1-hour train trip to Helsingør to visit Kronborg Castle in the north of Denmark. For lunch, we took a 20-minute ride (about $8 round trip) on the ferry to Helsingborg, Sweden. I mean, why not?!
Copenhagen is a city I would consider living in if the cost of living was lower and there were some mountains nearby. Denmark’s capitol city made a great first impression. If you enjoy the duality of classic and modern architecture or if you just prefer to drink outside surrounded by boats and brightly colored buildings, check out Copenhagen.