Trip 1 – Copenhagen

Copenhagen. What can I say about Copenhagen? It is a city I have long looked forward to seeing, perhaps the most out of any Scandinavian city. I was told that it is a capital city with a small-town attitude and a more lax policy than its other Scandinavian capital counterparts. For instance, in Stockholm, clubs close at 2am and drinking is forbidden on the streets. In Copenhagen, clubs close at around 5-7am and drinking is allowed in public. Minor things like these add up to make Copenhagen much more outgoing and laid-back than the other capitals.

Before I say anything else, a word must be said about the people I went on this trip with. I traveled with an awesome bunch of people, and oddly enough, we were all Canadians and Americans. These guys totally made the trip for me and we shared some good laughs together. I’m definitely glad I went on the trip with these guys.

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We first arrived at the Kopenhavn C train station and took a bus to Kongens Nytorv (their main city center metro stop much like Vancouver’s Granville or Burrard) to get checked in to our hostel.

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Our hostel was about a 5 minute walk from Kongens Nytorv. Since I haven’t stayed in many hostels, I cannot compare Generator Hostel to other ones, but I can say that it was definitely better quality than many hotels I have stayed in. The place has a bar, lounge, foosball table, pool table, tv that played NHL hockey (I know), and a very friendly staff and front desk (whom my friends and I had a conversation with from 3-5am). I can only hope all hostels I’ll stay at are like this.

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After we dropped our bags off, we rushed on to Stroget to get to City Hall where there was a free walking tour of the city. Stroget is the longest pedestrian-only shopping street in all of Europe, so you can basically find most of the brands you love here (on one end is the high end LV/Gucci stuff and on the other end there are more affordable shops).

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When we got to city hall, we realized we had been too late. The tour started at 1pm and we got there around 1:05 or 1:10pm. However, we later found out that the daily tours actually started at 11am. Total novice move.

Note that Tivoli is right beside city hall. Tivoli is Copenhagen’s famous amusement park that Walt Disney was inspired from. Think Vancouver’s PNE, except much more famous.

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The nice thing about their city hall is that they have a sort of small-scaled (and I stress small) Time Square right across from it. You can’t really see it in the pictures below, but at night, these buildings and the ads on them light up and you can see them from across the city.

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At city hall, we saw a guy pull up in his electric car, charge it in a matter of seconds, and drive away. You don’t get labeled as one of the world’s most sustainable cities for nothing.

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After this, we went to the National Museum in Copenhagen for a bit and then the group split into two. Half of them went to Christiania, and the other half of us went to go sightseeing in the city.

But first, a bit more on Christiania. As described by student-life-saver Wikipedia, it is “a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood”. This “neighbourhood” is walled off and only has 2-3 ways in and out, and it has been a huge topic of controversy in Denmark in the last decade. The reason for this is because selling and using drugs (mostly marijuana) is tolerated–or rather, something the city takes a blind eye to. A buddy of mine described it as a “hippie ghetto”. You can think of it as a sort of mini-Amsterdam or even a touristy and less dire version of Downtown Eastside in Vancouver.

I went to Christiania a week ago and, I must say, I got a slightly off-kilter vibe being in there. They have several odd rules you must follow (third picture below): no taking photos, no running, and apparently no standing next to other peoples’ fire pits. I’m serious. We got cold so we stood by a fire pit, when suddenly a nice gentleman beside us breathed out four ominous words: “stand somewhere else, guys.”

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Anyways, back to sightseeing. We came upon this very nice palace/castle (later found out it was called the Christianborg Palace), and one of my friends and I were in awe of the grandeur of the architecture and marvelled at which famous people have walked in the same space as we did hundreds of years ago. Being in Europe for the first time, I get goosebumps just thinking about that.

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We went back on Stroget in order to get to Nyhavn, but not before stopping at this delicious chocolate shop called Roast+Conch. Honestly, I had some of the best truffles and hot chocolate (it was more like pure liquid cocoa) in my life.

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Building after building, we were stunned by Copenhagen’s architecture.

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And then suddenly, as we turn the corner…

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Nyhavn. When we first saw this, I think there were a few seconds where no one said anything. I mean, it’s quite hard to talk when your jaw is dropped. What can I say about this place? Or rather, what even needs to be said? Touristy or not, it is definitely my favorite spot in Copenhagen. Sorry for that last picture. This place has gotten me feeling all viking n’ stuff.

After this, we went to Amalienborg Castle where the Queen and her royal family lives. It’s basically 4 buildings facing each other in a circle: the Queen lives in one, her royal children in another, the rest of the royal family in another, and the last one is a guest house (which is just as nice as the other 3, hah).

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Adjacent to the Castle is the Marble Church. Gorgeous stuff.

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Up until this point, all of the sights were relatively close to one another, with everything being within a 10-15 minute walk from each other. That was before we ventured to find the Little Mermaid. I was told that it was the most famous sight in Copenhagen, so we walked for at least 30 minutes trying to find it, and probably spent another 15 minutes being lost and trying to navigate our way in the dark (it was now 5ish and the sun had set). After enduring the brutal cold and windy climate of Copenhagen (along the water, of all places), climbing numerous stairs, passing through gates that may or may not have locked behind us, and sliding down slippery hills lined with thick bushes, we finally made it to the Little Mermaid!

And boy was it a let down. I snapped a few pictures, but it was definitely not worth the trek to get there. I later found out that the Little Mermaid was one of the top 10 most overrated sights in the world.

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At night, we went to The Sugar Bakery, where ESN had organized a pub night just for the exchange students. We got free entrance and unlimited drinks all night for 100sek (~$15cad). However, not too many exchange students went so the place was quite empty since the lounge was only for exchange students. So after a few drinks, I was about to head out.

As I walked out to the lobby area to claim my coat, I saw a sea of Danish people in line for coat check and countless others waiting to get in. Those that were in all walked down this hallway, so I followed them to see where they were going. Apparently there was a club upstairs and it was totally packed with Danish people. So all of us exchange students migrated upstairs for the duration of the night – I had originally planned to leave at around 11ish, but I didn’t end up leaving until 3ish.

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The next day, we went back to Amalienborg Castle to see the changing of the guards. The queen was not in the city that day, or else there would have been more guards, music being played, and the flag being raised.

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After the changing of the guards and a few churches, we went on Nyhavn for lunch. I usually don’t post pictures of food, but this restaurant had such good food that I couldn’t resist.

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And that’s that! Copenhagen was definitely a fun city and I will be going back very soon.

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