Happiest City On Earth: Copenhagen

Nyhavn

It’s still brutally cold in New York right now, but just as I was about to complain about the freezing temps, I remembered my recent trip to Scandinavia. I think my skin has literally toughened up since I survived a week in bone-chilling Denmark! I think the difference was that when I was there, Copenhagen was a beautiful winter wonderland, complete with giant snowflakes and sparkling lights on every tree in sight. Not exactly the disgusting grey/brown sludge that we try to sidestep in NYC. And the Danes were so helpful and friendly; my sister asked 1 person for directions and 3 different strangers chimed in (with adorable Danish accents) to give tips on buying transportation fare! And that was only on day one!

Some of my favorite moments/things about my stay in Copenhagen, Denmark:

  • The view from the hotel

IMG_4437

I’m a sucker for a great view. It’s not just that it’s romantic and pretty to look at, I like looking at new places from above because it gives me a better idea of the city’s layout and design. Also, we wouldn’t even have been able to see this view if it weren’t for…

  • The friendly people

 

rundetårn
Rundetårn

 

The hotel staff moved us to a giant top floor suite when they realized our rooms were separated, which is something we didn’t even mind. Everyone seemed? to be in a good mood, at least when I was there. The man standing next to me in the picture above was more than happy to let me take my sweet time looking through the giant telescope at the Rundetårn, and tried his best to get a shot of the moon even though it was a cloudy night.

You might be thinking, “okay, but those are all tourist destinations,” which leads me to the next thing:

  • The ubiquitous Smørrebrød

 

fried cod smørrebrød at Almanak
fried cod smørrebrød at Almanak

 

Reindeer smørrebrød at Almanak
Reindeer smørrebrød at Almanak

 

smoked salmon smørrebrød at Almanak
smoked salmon smørrebrød at Almanak

 

We ate a lot of open-faced sandwiches, or smørrebrød, while we chatted and people-watched in cafes and restaurants. The vibes were chill and relaxing – no one seemed in a rush to get food, eat it, pay the bill, and get going. Every waiter and waitress took a lot of time to explain the unfamiliar foods, garnishes, sauces on the menu. At one place (Fiskebar) the chef himself came out from the kitchen to ask us where we were from. At another place (Bror) the waitress went out of her way to find an outlet I could charge my phone in, with my giant voltage-converter attached to it and all.

Overall, if I had to describe these eateries in one word, it would be cozy. (Or as the Danes would say, “hygge!“)

  • The historic details

 

The Danish Royal Regalia
The Danish Royal Regalia

 

Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens

 

Nyhavn
Nyhavn

 

This is probably something that you’d experience anywhere in Europe because America is so “young” in comparison, but everything felt so old! It was like being transported back in time, if you don’t pay attention to any of the cars or the great public transportation system. I really enjoyed the lovely little history facts/details that I picked up while touring the city. Facts like: what the difference is between open crowns and closed crowns, where Walt Disney was inspired to build Disney World (see picture 2), and what used to be a really shady area much like Times Square used to be (see picture 3).

But of course, Copenhagen isn’t just for enjoying cobblestone streets and old harbors. There’s plenty of modern architecture and urban planning to admire, which leads me to the last point:

  • The loveliness of bike heaven/ urban planning

 

Bycyklen
Bycyklen

 

bike parking
bike parking

 

They weren’t kidding when they said Copenhagen is the cycling capital of the world. I’ve never seen so many bikes in my life, and this was in the middle of winter which is the best excuse not to be out on a bike. But it wasn’t just the sheer amount of normal people riding normal bikes in normal clothing, it was the infrastructure that really impressed me. I saw lots of separated bike lanes, stop lights that gave cyclists the right of way, uninterrupted/connected bike lanes, bike racks everywhere, lots of pedestrian streets that were closed to cars AND bikes. In fact, Copenhagen is also home to the longest pedestrian street in Europe, also known as Strøget.

It seemed like when they were planning the city’s infrastructure, they were trying to make it a truly walkable/bikeable city so that communities could spend more time out in the air and less time inside a car. Even their bike share system (Bycyklen) is an upgraded version of most; each bike is equipped with a tablet, an electric motor, 2 racks, and a built-in locking system. You don’t even have to shove it into a dock if you’re in a designated “drop-off” area. You can just leave the bike (lock turned on) and walk away! New York’s Citibike could learn a lot from this…

 

We were lucky enough to be there during the exciting build up to New Year’s Day; people were winding down from Christmas fervor, but still slightly buzzing from eagerness to ring in 2015. Speaking of which, Happy Lunar New Year/ Year of the Goat!

p.s. I’ll be traveling again soon (this time to good ole Los Angeles). Eagerly looking forward to some sunshine and warmth after being in all these cold places!