13 September 2015

Copenhagen Day 1: Hej, København!

After short trips to Stockholm and Helsinki, Copenhagen was next on my Scandinavian travel to-do list. As I feared that the city would be prohibitively expensive, I decided to limit this first excursion into Denmark to a three-night stay, and managed to use some air miles to limit the costs. I arrived early evening on Friday and was amazed that I could reach the city centre under 30 minutes after landing. All airport transfers should be this convenient.

Once I had manoeuvred my way through the central station to my hotel — in the less gentrified part of Vesterbro — and unpacked, I was starting to get hungry. By happy (not quite) coincidence, one of my number one restaurant choices was only a few minutes' walk from the hotel. Copenhagen is famous for its high-end — and high-price — restaurants but my goal on this trip was to sample more of the casual-cool culinary choices available in the city.

Neighbourhood certainly ticks those boxes. It's a friendly bar-restaurant that specialises in cocktails and pizza, two of my favourite things. If you want to sit inside, you will probably need to book, but there are usually pavement tables available for walk-ins and it was a dry and mild, if not warm and sunny, evening, so I grabbed a spot and began scouring the menu. All of the cocktails (85 krone; about £8.50) sounded really interesting, with plenty of fresh ingredients and unusual combinations. The Waldorf Salad (most of the ingredients in the salad of the same name, in some form or other, plus gin) caught my eye, but I went for the Pumpkin Sour (pumpkin-infused rum, pumpkin syrup, lemon and egg white). I've never had pumpkin in a cocktail before and this was bloomin' marvellous: a glorious mix of sweet, sour, smooth and fruity.

The pizzas (135 krone) all looked great too and it was tough choosing just one, but in the end I continued the squash theme and ordered the pumpkin and chorizo pizza. £13.50 is a lot of money for a pizza but a) this is Copenhagen and b) it was delicious! The base was thin and crispy with a puffy, crispy crust, and the toppings, which also included pickled cherry tomatoes, marscapone and tarragon, were perfectly paired.

It was fun to sit on the pavement and watch Vesterbro go by. I also chatted with a few friendly locals, who gave me some more recommendations for the city. I had been planning to go to Tivoli Gardens, the centrally located olde worlde theme park, on Saturday night so that I could also catch the late-night fireworks display, but one of the guys I was talking to mentioned that they were filming an episode of The Voice on Saturday so the place would be jam-packed. I decided to go on Friday night instead.

It costs 99 krone to get in to Tivoli, but admission is included in the price of the Copenhagen Card. I don't normally go for these joint-admission cards, but the 72-hour pass was 589 krone, and included entry to all of the attractions I had planned to visit (plus many more) and all forms of transport in the Copenhagen area. You can also visit each attraction once per day, so I figured I could always go back to Tivoli another day if I wanted to spend more time there.

Perhaps by day, Tivoli, which is over 170 years old, is starting to show its age but by night, with all the rides and attractions twinkling with little lights, it still feels magical. You have to buy tickets to go on the rides (25 krone per ticket; some rides require two or three tickets) and I felt that the biggest rides, including the 80m Star Flyer, a 30m ride with a stomach-churning vertical drop and an impressive rollercoaster, were a little overpriced and without anyone to watch my bag, I just wandered around the park instead.

During the summer, there are usually concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. They often have world-famous bands playing but I hadn't heard of the Danish duo who were playing on Friday night. Inside the park there are plenty of restaurants and fairground games, but the best part is the atmosphere. The guy at Neighbourhood told me he had really special memories of the place because he's been going there several times a year for as long as he can remember. Even cynical ol' me couldn't help but be a little won over by Tivoli — and by Copenhagen.

Neighbourhood. Istedgade 27, København V. Website. Instagram.
Tivoli Gardens. Vesterbrogade 3, København V. Website. Twitter.

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