November 22 – November 25, 2015
It’s that time of year again, where the sounds of Christmas music fill the air and holiday cheer brightens spirits all around. I unknowingly booked a last minute vacation that turned out to be a European tour of the worlds most famous Christmas Markets in Copenhagen and Berlin! Let’s start with Copenhagen. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this city. I had heard mixed reviews but I absolutely loved it! My first tip is to RENT A BIKE! The city center is small enough to walk from one end to the other but you’ll be able to see much more on a bike. Plus, riding a bike is a very common thing to do in Copenhagen.
Day 1: Take the train into the city centre from the airport. It is easy and only takes about 15 mins. I stayed in Nyhavn (pronounced ‘new hound’ in Danish) at Hotel Neptun. I loved this hotel – my cozy room had the perfect little nook for sitting on some pillows and reading a book while looking out at the Danish architecture buildings through the window. After settling into my hotel, I took a stroll around Nyhvn through the Kings Square and along the Strøget making my way to Falernum for dinner just outside the city centre in Freferiksberg. The Strøget is famous for its shops like Hay House (modern Danish furniture), Nørgaard På Strøget (clothes), Illums (department store), Royal Copenhagen (china), and the Royal Smushi Cafe.
Day 2: Rent a bike! Rentals are typically 24-hours and cost about $15. In the morning, I biked to Amalienborg to see the changing of the guards, to the gardens to see a stunning view of the Copenhagen Opera House. Next, to St. Alban’s Church, and then further up along the water to see The Little Mermaid. Taking a break from pedaling, I walked through the Kastellet, one of best preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe!
Continuing my exploration of the city, I biked to the Rosenborg Castle and sat in the gardens for about an hour listening to a young man sing and play the guitar. It was one of my favorite moments in Copenhagen. I couldn’t see the man, we were sitting on secluded benches in the garden, but it was lovely. I could hear the sadness in his voice, but also the hope within his music. It was just a nice reminder that we are not alone in this world. The pain we experience, others have experienced too in their own way, and we all get through it. Pain makes us stronger.
After my morning nature walk and reflection, I made my way along Købmagergade street to the Round Tower to see a view of the city from up above and then to Torvehallerne for lunch, one of the city food markets – the other being the Copenhagen Street Food Market across the canal near the opera house. Torvehallerne reminded me of the Mercato de San Miguel in Madrid – fresh produce, sweet baked goods, and great food. I had the Skibberlabskovs (“skipper stew”) which is a traditional Danish comfort food dish. After lunch I made my way to Nørrebro. Some call the area the ‘Danish ghetto’ but it is far from that now. The area is a little gentrified filled with cute cafes, shops, and honestly, its filled character of local living.
On my way back, I stopped by the Botanical Gardens just before it closed and then spent time exploring the Danish Christmas Markets in all its lit up nighttime glory. My favorite was The main Christmas Market near the Stork Fountain. Right of front is a bar serving various types of holiday drinks and mulled wine. Gløgg, the Danish version of mulled wine, is a little sweeter and spiced with almonds and raisins. Gluhwien is the German version and is a little drier in taste but has more alcohol. Both warmed my stomach as if it were being given a cozy warm hug. I also discovered ableskivers! Small pancake balls served with jam and lightly touched with powered sugar – I’m pretty sure all my spare Danish Kronas went to multiple mugs of gløgg and plates of ableskivers.
Day 3: I had a late start on my third day but that’s also because I made time for some morning yoga. Then I started my day by having lunch at the Royal Smushi Cafe which is not only famous for its interior decor but also for its take on serving elegant sushi style smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches). Although quite expensive, dining there was a delightful experience as everything is served on Royal Copenhagen china. I spent the rest of the day and evening indulging in my inner-child at the 2nd oldest theme-park in the world, Tivoli Gardens! Tivoli is quite magical and I can see how Walt Disney may have gotten his idea of building Disneyland from his visit there. I also had the privilege of riding The Roller Coaster, yes, THE ROLLER COASTER, as in the first roller coaster in the world!
Day 4: My last day. The sun set around 3:30pm each day, so I felt like I had a full day in the city even though I left around 5:30pm to make a 7pm flight to Paris. I started my day journaling at Mormors, a traditional Danish cafe that looks like your grandmother’s closet. I didn’t make it to Freetown Christiania because of the rain but I wish I had. I thought Amsterdam was known for its cannabis but apparently it is more common in this little hippie commune with less than 1,000 people.
One thing that stood out to me in Copenhagen was how ‘green’ the city is. People are very conscious about not creating waste, recycling, and energy efficiency. At the markets, I did not see a single ‘to-go’ cup. They served you a drink in a mug and charged you a deposit. You then have the option of keeping the mug as a souvenir or returning it for your deposit. Even at Tivoli, the cups they give away were recyclable. Although plastic, you can return the cup for your deposit back in any of the multiple machines around the park! The Danish are also very friendly – it is known as the ‘World’s Happiest Nation.’
Christmas Markets to Visit:
- King’s Square Christmas Market, the famous Christmas Market next to the Stork Fountain
- The White Christmas Market located further along the Strøget near Nytorv
- The Christmas Market in Kultorvet on your way to Torvehallerne
- The Christmas Market in Tivoli Gardens