I know the Coronavirus has everyone on high alert and afraid to travel, but I hope this fear lifts soon. Traveling has been life-changing for me and I would be so sad if we can’t continue these adventures worry free.
In my opinion, there is nothing better than getting on a plane and landing in a whole other culture. Even better when you can arrive somewhere and melt into whatever happens to be going on.
This is exactly what I experience when I visit Copenhagen, Denmark– where the people are nice, the food is delicious, and living is just simple.
Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, is frequently rated the most “livable city in the world,” and Danes constantly rank among the world’s happiest people–perhaps because of its great mix of old and new culture, architecture, design, arts, food, neighbors, and hygge.
“Hygge” is a word I actually had to look up, in spite of the fact that I see it popping up more and more in American marketing campaigns. According to the dictionary, hygge means “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment.” I think this captures the heart of Copenhagen perfectly.
How to Get There
Traveling to Copenhagen is easier than ever as Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has non-stop flights from Chicago O’Hare. And before I skip too quickly over this airline, I have to mention what a mindful one they are. SAS is a sustainability pioneer in the airline industry. When they say they’re making choices that are good for the environment, it’s well beyond eliminating single-use plastics. They consider the paint they use on the exterior of their planes, the amount of water consumed when they’re washing them, the type of fuel they’re flying with…the list goes on. They are a small airline but one that is pushing the envelop of things to consider for larger carriers. Additionally, if you have a Scandinavian destination in mind, see how competitive SAS can be with airfare. They sometimes offer specials where children under 12 fly free (I know!!!).
Once you’ve landed, downtown Copenhagen is just a short cab ride away. Or, if you’re feeling brave and a little bit smarter than the average tourist, purchase a Copenhagen Card and take the train. With a Copenhagen Card, you can also visit more than 80 museums and attractions during your stay for free and use the public transportation system for free as well. You can buy your Copenhagen Card online and download it to your phone.
To lessen any worries, nearly every Dane speaks perfect English. Exchanging US dollars for the Danish Krone is super simple as there are ATM machines on every corner. But Credit cards are the preferred currency—even at the food carts on the street take them. And while Danes often dress on the trendier side of style, the atmosphere tends to be casual (although it’s a good idea to leave your tennis shoes home when dining out).
Where to Stay
I stayed at the recently updated Nimb Hotel. Located adjacent to the Tivoli Gardens, one of Copenhagen’s most historic landmarks and amusement parks, the Nimb has 38 uniquely decorated rooms and suites—boasting the best of Scandinavian design with Asian touches throughout. An exclusive boutique hotel like no other in the world, the Nimb debuted 21 new guest rooms in November 2017, with most providing open, birchwood fireplaces, large elegant bathrooms with an abundance of Danish-produced amenities (toothbrushes, face masks, and bath bombs to name a few), as well as balconies overlooking Tivoli Gardens.
Then in 2018, the Nimb also opened a rooftop terrace with a heated pool (a first in Denmark!) as well as the state-of-the art Nimb Wellness Center.
If the magnificent rooms (sporting fresh spring flowers even in the dead of winter) and chic dining spaces don’t win you over upon check in, Nimb Wellness will. In addition to providing an exceptional workout facility, Nimb Wellness has a full-service spa offering personally customized massages, acupuncture, guided meditation, body wrap, and facials. No treatment begins without a thorough interview between the specialist and guest, as it’s important for them to understand your goals and areas of concern. And understand they do.
I took advantage of a 30-minute quick fix massage that was booked to focus on my neck and shoulders. But after sharing a little bit about my life with my masseuse, she quickly went to work on my neck and shoulders as well as my legs and lower back using luxurious lotions and oils from the Danish skincare line Meraki.
My trip to the spa ended with a trip Nimb’s gorgeous Moroccan Hamman. The Hamman is free to all guests and can be used as frequently as you like during your stay.
Where to Eat
Denmark is one of the food capitals of the world where they pride themselves on using fresh, locally sourced, and organic ingredients. The recipes are simple but the flavors pack a punch. Here are some of my favorite places to eat when I’m there.
Lillie Bakery: An artisanal bakery created with the goal of putting the most flavorful and nutritious bread back on the table at affordable prices. I LOVED their jelly-filled donuts. I would go back to Copenhagen just for them. They had other special “danishes” that day, in addition to a limited menu of yummy breakfast and lunch items.
Lumskebugten: Offers traditional Danish cuisine in a maritime-themed setting. Best known for their traditional Danish lunch of smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich topped with fish or cheese (never both at the same time) or pickled vegetable placed in a way only the Danes can understand.
Øl & Brød Restaurant: Another great place to try smørrebrød—avocado with pickled egg, steak tartar with smoked cream cheese, or shredded chicken with mushroom and onions—if you can dream it, they can build it. But go hungry. Be sure to save room for dessert—their vanilla mousse that’s served with peanuts and dark chocolate is unforgettable.
Uformel: Means “informal” in Danish, offers a casual take on New Nordic cuisine. Great for dinner where you can expect a friendly staff to explain the ever-changing menu of local, seasonal ingredients transformed into impressive dishes.
Mielcke & Hurtigkarl: Located in one of Copenhagen’s most beautiful settings–The Royal Danish Horticultural Gardens–has always been a favorite among Danish food critics. We were treated to a 16-course tasting menu the night we visited but I know a much simpler menu would be equally memorable. There are peacocks that live in the gardens and wander the grounds around the restaurant freely. It adds to the ambiance. This is a perfect place for a special dinner.
Restaurant Relæ: As chic as its neighborhood, Restaurant Relæ offers four-and seven-course tasting menus with wine pairings. They publish new menus daily, protecting the element of surprise for those who dine with them. Even their place settings are unexpected, tucked in streamlined drawers beneath the Scandinavian-designed tables.
Torvehallerne Food Market: This the most amazing food hall where you can try the best of Copenhagen. I loved visiting early in the morning but I think it would be wonderful any time of day.
And it would be a huge mistake not to mention the rich “hot dog” cart culture in Copenhagen—street food carts nearly on every corner containing this organic fare. Try a Danish hotdog “med det hele,” with everything and then dip in the delicious Danish sauces they provide.
What to Do
Once you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you’re encouraged to “do as the Danes do” and jump on a bicycle. With environmental consciousness always top-of-mind in this country—Denmark is leading the world in many green initiatives—Copenhagen is a bicycle-friendly city, with bike lanes as prevalent as ones for cars. In fact, to the mere observer, it appears that there are more bicycles on the road than automobiles, making it extremely important to adhere to the rules of the road, refraining from doing anything that might make you miss an oncoming bicycle (don’t even think about texting and walking). One of the most touching and memorable sights are families taking their children to school on their bicycles, often having an oversized, custom-made cart carrying their children in front of them. Free city bikes are available from mid-April to mid-December all around Copenhagen, some have built-in touch screens and GPS.
With your Copenhagen Card, catch the train at Nørreport Station and head to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The museum overlooks the Øresund Sound with views of Sweden and some of the most-talked about modern art exhibitions in the world. End your visit in the museum’s café with a truly delicious lunch. The curated collection offered in the museum’s shop is not to be missed.
For a lighter afternoon, use your Copenhagen Card to visit Tivoli Gardens. Founded in in 1843, it is all-year-round national treasure. It’s as beloved by Danes as it is with tourists for its rollercoasters and seasonal attractions.
One off-the-beaten adventure that made my trip was a cooking class Trine Hahnemann, a chef and best-selling author who owns a combined bakery, cafe, cooking school under the name Hahnemanns Køkken (køkken means kitchen in Danish). In our class, she taught us the Danish way to make smørrebrød and pastry like the Danes. It was the best afternoon of my visit.
Lastly, one attraction I would have loved to try had we had more time was the CopenHot. These are hot-tub like spas and saunas in the harbor, right under the open sky that are used all year long. Embracing the canals is such a part of Copenhagen for the locals that this is definitely on my list for a future visit.