Copenhagen for Beginners: The Complete Guide

Everything you need to know about exploring the Danish capital, Copenhagen

I’ll admit that for the longest time Copenhagen was not on my bucket list. I thought of it to be expensive and similar to the many other European cities that I had previously visited. But, it was all assumption and lack of research.

For the last couple of years however, Copenhagen was pitched as the ‘Destination-to-be’ by top travel magazines including Lonely Planet, Travel+ Leisure, CNN Travel.

At first, I resisted, but thankfully I gave in and started reading up on Copenhagen.

Discovering Denmark, Virtually

The Danish capital is particularly loved for its sense of aesthetics and creations in design, fashion, and architecture. But you know what was rather exciting?

Denmark topped the list of ‘Countries with the happiest people’ in 2016 and came a close second in 2019. That is when I was briefly introduced to the Danish Hygge trend that had been taking over most parts of the world.

Hygge

Hygge (pronounced as hue-guh) is a popular practice in Denmark, often described as a feeling. You cannot describe the hygge in one word, but it refers to the feeling of cozy contentment. It’s the joy of slowing down, sinking into the moment and consciously being aware of enjoying the simple things.

To the Danes, hygge could be about watching the sunset with a beer in hand, or enjoying a bonfire over conversations and laughs in the winters.

Just the little things and the contentment that they bring along.

I can only thank God and the Internet for introducing this fabulous, much-needed concept. I stopped to think about how we have drifted away from these little joys, the contentment, and the cozy feeling. We are all chasing the bigger goals, the career success, materialistic wealth while missing out on the smaller and simpler moments which come with no preconditions except the one of being present in the moment.

I had more reasons to visit Denmark and the gorgeous capital city of Copenhagen, now that I knew what I was looking for.

They say when you’re looking out for something, the opportunity makes way on its own. And it did. After much contemplation, changing and reworking our Europe itinerary a zillion times, Copenhagen found a natural place on our itinerary.

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Oslo To Copenhagen

We were to head to Copenhagen mid-November from Oslo. Now the exciting part here was that there was a range of options available to cover this journey.

  • Train: While there isn’t a direct train that goes from Oslo to Copenhagen, we could always take the Oslo > Gothenburg- Malmo > Copenhagen route, which would’ve been extremely comfortable and cheap with our valid Rail Europe passes.
  • Ferry: The DFDS Ferries go around daily between Oslo and Copenhagen with a journey time of 19hrs over the sea. Personally, I found this to be a truly exciting option with the facility of a range of cabins, restaurants, and other onboard facilities.
  • Bus: This is the option that we chose, convenient and cheap. Flixbus operates a daily bus service from Oslo to Hamburg via Copenhagen. The bus departs at night and reaches early morning in Copenhagen, ensuring you don’t waste a day on travel and save costs on expensive accommodation for a night. We pre-booked our seats, an extra piece of luggage and still paid only about 40 euro per person (cheaper than travel tickets and accommodation costs put together).

We reached Copenhagen at 6 am. (Which also makes picking Flixbus for overnight journeys an obvious option for our future trips!)

Where we stayed in Copenhagen?

Urban House by Meininger, Copenhagen

Meininger is a very popular German hostel chain across some of the major European cities. We booked our stay directly on their website and got a good deal on it. Urban House was a fancier hostel than most hostels we had stayed in. The hostel is very well located in the city at about 2 minutes from the train station, metro station, supermarkets. It didn’t just have great hostel rooms, beds, amenities, but it also had a massive common area. The common area had a range of different rooms- TV Room, Reading Room, Gaming Room, Dining Room, and Kitchen and a Bar/ Restaurant.

For luggage storage, there were lockers for rent with an extravagant fee of 5DKK an hour, which was the only downside as there was no other storage facility for our luggage and the check-in was not until 3 pm.

In case you’re taking the Flixbus, please check with the property on luggage storage or check the Train Station Luggage storage which is likely to be cheaper.

Despite the initial few glitches, we loved our stay at the property. However, we lucked out on our last night in the city and had to pick another accommodation for our stay due to a lack of availability.

Moments Hotel, Malmo

For our last night in Copenhagen, we failed to find decent accommodation which was easy on the pocket and close to the train station for our train to Hamburg the next day.

So, we looked out for a stay in Malmo, Sweden which is only 30 minutes by train from Copenhagen.

The Moments Hotel in Malmo is right opposite the railway station and was a good deal with a private room for 60 euro night, breakfast included.

This also gave us the opportunity to venture out and get a glimpse of Malmo. PS. If you’re hoping to shop for chocolates for back home, please head to Malmo from Copenhagen. You’ll land a much cheaper deal at the supermarkets.

You can also buy a whole lot of the Swedish Daim Chocolate, which is an absolute hit with its salted caramel flavor.

Did You Know?

Copenhagen in Denmark is connected to the Swedish city Malmo by the Oresund Bridge. Trains, buses and cars operate regularly on this route making the commute extremely easy. Do keep your passport handy, there are random checks at border control.

Exploring Copenhagen

Coming back to our time in Copenhagen, we started by getting ourselves the Copenhagen City Card to be able to access unlimited public transport in the city and gain free entrance to some popular museums. We sure did refer to some basic tourist guides, but out of sheer excitement and the need to explore the concept of hygge, we decided to not rush through attractions and explore the city at leisure, as per our liking.

Getting Around Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s one of the most impressive aspects is the city’s connectivity. For a widespread city like it, Copenhagen has excellent public transport system. Excellent not just for its connectivity, but also the speed, frequency, and condition of these machines.

The metros connect all major routes in the city and have a frequency of as much as 3 minutes for a train.

The buses connect the interiors of the city more intimately and have wider connectivity in the outer circles of the city.

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You can also opt for the trains, wherever necessary.

Copenhagen is also a close competition to Amsterdam on the list ‘bike-friendly cities.’ You can always rent a bike and go around exploring this gorgeous city.

Copenhagen City Card vs Copenhagen City Pass 

To save costs while sight-seeing in Copenhagen, you could purchase the Copenhagen Card/ Pass to help you save some bucks if you’re planning to explore extensively.

Copenhagen City Card by Wonderful Copenhagen

The city card issues by Wonderful Copenhagen is the card that we opted for. This card comes for under 100 for 72 hours gives unlimited access to public transport for the duration of the validity of the card. It also gives free/discounted access to over 87 museums and tours in the city.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

This card gives you the flexibility to explore by yourself.

Copenhagen City Pass by Stromma

The Copenhagen City Pass by Stromma tour company is a more tour focused card with provisions like free entrance to attractions, free tours and access to Hop on- Hop off buses, free Copenhagen guide book.

This pass does not give you access to Copenhagen’s public transport. This pass can be more suitable if you’re planning to go all touristy.

What did we do in Copenhagen?

It was half-past November and Christmas markets had already begun in Copenhagen. I had been wanting to visit Christmas markets for some time now, so this popped us as a lovely surprise for us. Our first stop was Nyhavn, another Copenhagen landmark spot that I had hoped to see.

Copenhagen Nyhavn

Visiting Copenhagen means visiting the postcard that you see on the cover of the city’s guidebooks. That postcard destination in the city is Nyhavn or the New Harbor. When we reached there, we also found the Christmas market in full swing, street musicians enchanting crowds with their tunes, with the sunset getting closer, the lights had begun to light up.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

The view and the vibe form the Nyhavn is probably my most vivid memory of the city. It was simply gorgeous.

To add to this happy mood, I kept strolling through the Christmas markets. At one of the stalls, I was invited to sample some gløg, Parichay had some Hot Chocolate at another, then we got treated to some candies and chocolates. Was there any reason to not love this?

Oh, Copenhagen!

The next morning, I was back here during my canal cruise, not much had changed as I continued to stare at the flying birds and the reflections of the colorful harborside buildings. There is something, super special about this city.

Canal Cruise

Our Copenhagen City Card includes a free Canal Cruise. We chose the one with Stromma, as also recommended by the tourism office. In a 2hr cruise, we got the most gorgeous view of the picture-perfect Copenhagen and we also ventured out in the sea, to spot the Mermaid Statue and other viewing points and industrial areas of the city.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

Personally, there’s nothing as special as being up close with the city, but the canal cruise further helps you admire how lovely and well-designed this city is.

Guinness Book of World Records Museum

We’ve all heard do the Guinness Book of world records, but it was in Copenhagen that we discovered that there is a museum dedicated to it.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

Thanks to our Visit Copenhagen City Card, we got free entry and set out to explore the museum out of sheer curiosity. It was indeed a great decision, simply for the way the museum was set out. It wasn’t your regular text and preach museum. To give you a practical understanding of the matter, there were interactive displays and games, making the museum experience fun for all age groups. We ended up spending over 3 hours at the museum.

Tivoli Garden

Now we weren’t exactly lucky with the Tivoli Gardens, a key attraction in the city. The Tivoli Garden is actually a theme park that also houses the best Christmas Market in the city. While the place was shut for prep during our stay, we got just a little and a very gorgeous glimpse of it.

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City Hall

Right opposite the Tivoli Garden was a gorgeous building, the City Hall. We wasted no time and ventured straight in to look through the Danish architecture that was to be found inside. After wandering off the corridors, spiraling through the pretty old staircases and exploring through the fine nuances of the design, we were glad that we made it in here.

Søndermarken Cistern

The last time I had visited an underground cistern was in Istanbul which was indeed a mind-blowing experience. So, I was all up for the experience here in Copenhagen. Compared to most attractions that I had visited through my trip, this one seemed distant. Yet it was easy to get to with the well-connected transport system of the city.

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The cistern was in Søndermarken, opposite the good looking Fredrikberg’s Palace. We wandered around the gorgeous garden and headed to the cistern.

Our Copenhagen Card granted us free access.

There was an art installation by the group Superflex. At the entrance, we were instructed to wear gumboots kept downstairs and not turn on our torchlights.

We were curious and did as instructed.

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When we were recently in Copenhagen, we decided to checkout the Sondenmarken Cistern in the Danish Capital. After exploring the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul, I was truly excited about this one and was expecting something similar, TBH. But this was Copenhagen, the city of design. How could anything exist here without a touch of modern Danish design? We got free entry with our Copenhagen City Card. At the entrance we found out that there was an exhibition in the cistern by @superflexstudio . I don’t think we had processed what was possibly in store. So we went in, changed to gumboots stores below, as instructed and started walking towards what seemed like an entrance. There was no light. Just spooky sounds. There was water below but we could only keep walking to figure it all. And so we did. There were some bizarre sights, like a locked up toilet, flickering light. And then, there we found this message lit up in blue neon on the far end- IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. — #AwaraInDenmark @visitcopenhagen @superflexstudio . . . . . . #AwaraDiaries #shotoniphonexs #travel #instatravel #travelgram #tourism #instago #passportready #travelblogger #wanderlust #ilovetravel #writetotravel #instatravelling #instavacation #travelblogger #instapassport #postcardsfromtheworld #traveldeeper #travelstroke #travelling #trip #traveltheworld #igtravel #getaway #travelblog #instago #travelpics

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In a dark spooky setup, with water beneath we were clueless as to what we were up to. After wandering about and exploring the dystopian vibe a bit, we found in blue neon letters-

IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD

Were we spooked? Hell yes!

The set-up of the cisterns had been amazingly used to create a thoughtful and reflective piece of art.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

After much thinking & discussion, we came decoded the installation which basically meant that climate change could lead to the end of mankind, but that doesn’t mean that it would be the end of the world. Just like climate change was the end of dinosaurs, but the earth survived, so would be the cases when humankind would not be able to adapt to the climate on the planet but a new form of life could find its way here.

Palaces of Copenhagen

We also got a good glimpse of the Fredrikberg’s Palace which was right opposite the Cistern and the Christiansborg Palace near Gammel Strand Metro. These looked stunning and very different from the regular European palaces. If only we had more time in the city, visiting to check out the interiors was on the top of our list.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

Did You Know?

Denmark is originally known as the Kingdom of Denmark and is still ruled by the Danish Monarchy system and Margrethe II of Denmark is the present Queen of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Christmas Markets

Mid-November, the Christmas Markets had only just begun to set shop. But even the few Christmas Markets that we got to see had us joining in the Christmas Cheer. Sweets, Glühwein/Gløg, Warm clothing and lit Christmas trees are all exciting. But to see loads of people joining in, enjoying conversations and laughter over the incoming cheer is an unparalleled vibe that made the city look happier and friendlier.

Copenhagen, Denmark 2019 | Awara Diaries

Here’s a list of the Christmas markets we visited:

  • Nyhavn Christmas Market
  • Kongens Nytorv Christmas Market
  • C. Andersen Christmas Market
  • Højbro Plads Christmas Market

While the vibe had us in a different high, we absolutely loved the aroma of freshly cooked delicacies, gorged on some super Churros, Hot Chocolates and sampled some yummy bakes.

Walking Around Copenhagen

Like always, walking around gorgeous cities is our favorite way to truly explore and experience the many cities that we get to visit. We took every chance we could to walk around and explore the different areas and outdoor activities in Copenhagen, sometimes with a cup of coffee or with a glass of Gløg. Copenhagen is such a charming city, a real revelation to the world that is only just discovering it.

As a tourist, they key Copenhagen neighborhoods to explore are the City Centre, Vesterbro, Fredriksberg, Norrebro, and Osterbro.

You can download the ‘Know Your Bro’ app to unravel the local secrets and stories of the Norrebro and Vesterbro areas on a self-guided walking tour. Norrebro is home to famous Danes like Hans Christian Andersen, Niels Bohr.

Eat at Falafel House

Although Copenhagen is home to some of the best restaurants across Europe, we didn’t really opt to explore much of food. Fine dining was not exactly suitable for our budget, especially in Copenhagen.

Plus, we needed to find Parichay vegetarian food.

So, thanks to Google, we found a Falafel place which was both inexpensive and awesome. We ended up going there twice in 3 days.

Falafel House is a small Doner place in the vibrant Kobmagergade near the Gammel Strand Metro station.

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The Falafel Sandwich for €4 is filling for 2 for an evening snack and makes for a good lunch option. Their Chicken Shawarma Sandwich is delicious too, with real juicy and well-roasted chicken. The highlight here was the spicy Chilly Garlic Hot Sauce.

Highly recommended for a good meal!

Coffee Shops

It’s typically me to explore the coffee shops in every new city that I go to and Copenhagen was going to be no different.

Intentia Coffee– In the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen, this place had some great coffee and the perfect environment to work or have work meetings

Democratic Coffee Shop– One of Copenhagen’s best, Democratic Coffee is clubbed with the city’s library which makes it just the perfect spot to enjoy the perfectly brewed cup of coffee and enjoy a wide range of books too!

Studenterhuset- is especially for students studying in the city, who get discounted costs on food, beer, and coffee on presenting their ID cards. If you’re lucky to find a place in here, you can also enjoy relatively cheaper coffees and beers here.

Coffee Industry– Coffee Industry is a Swedish coffee chain that offers a wide range of good brews and cakes.

Honestly, there were so many more concept coffee shops that I was really looking forward to exploring. While the Danes don’t have a preference coffee type, but the coffee in the coffee shops in Copenhagen is likely to please you!

Supermarkets in Copenhagen

To save costs, especially on beers and food, we made frequent visits to the supermarkets in the city-

Lidl: As always, Lidl had the best rates and a wide range of local products to offer

Netto: A local chain with a wide range of Danish products- bakery items, beers, sauces, packed foods and other essentials at competitive rates.

Irma: A Scandinavian supermarket chain, Irma had a good stock of products from the region, decent prices and had multiple outlets across the city.

A supermarket trip is highly recommended to get an idea as to where you cut your costs!

First Impression of Copenhagen

While I loved being in Copenhagen, I can tell that there were some facets of the city, that particularly left a striking impression.

Design of Copenhagen

Now I’m no design expert, but even a novice like me could not help notice the predominant design element in everything Copenhagen- the architecture, the clothing, the interiors, the historical and modern buildings and more.

This obviously made the city very pleasing to the eyes and the camera.

Vibe of Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a Scandinavian city with the vibrancy of top European cities like Berlin, Vienna, Prague. At no point did the city come across as too crowded to me, yet the cheer, the pleasant people, the peace with the liveliness was admirable. The vibe stays!

Expensive

I used to think that Copenhagen is an expensive basis for what I had read up. But when I traveled to Copenhagen, on the same trip that included Amsterdam, Oslo, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen still felt expensive even with the cheaper alternatives (Only Oslo was more expensive). Of course, you can pre-plan a budget-saving strategy, but to be out and about in the city, you got to keep a larger chunk of money aside from the rest.

Hygge Effect

The idea of exploring Copenhagen was also to explore the Hygge effect. And while I knew that it would be difficult to do so within the city, I could still feel the energy around.

The thing is when as citizens, you’re well provided your securities, it becomes easier to follow the system than to rush for the limited seating in an opportunity.

I think watching the people so calm and happy, not in a rush, gave me the much-needed calm to explore the city at my own sweet pace. In some way, the Hygge effect was rubbing off on me.

Copenhagen to me was full of elements and vibes that encourage a healthy and prosperous livelihood. The design, the infrastructure, people’s attitudes, perspectives and the way this city function inspires productivity. It’s hard to pick one particular factor, but it’s the little things in Copenhagen which making it lovable, livable and makes you want to stay, to come back when in need of positive vibes!

So, I guess, Copenhagen I’ll definitely be seeing you again, soon. Just to be!


Disclaimer: This trip was partially supported by Visit Copenhagen. As always, the opinions, experiences are genuine and personal.

I live in the movies (in my parallel world). I travel in search of stories. So I explore- experience- express my trysts with people, places, food, culture and their stories!

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