Direction Copenhagen

Vanessa and I had three and a half days to explore Copenhagen at the last weekend of May – it wasn’t enough to do justice to all the many attractions of the city.  This post tells you what we did during our visit and gives some ratings, which hopefully will prove useful to other visitors to Copenhagen.

Our favourite visits, however, were actually outside Copenhagen in nearby Roskilde and Helsingør, which are very accessible by public transport.

City of Copenhagen

Copenhagen has more than enough attractions for a weekend so we only had time to visit a few of the leading tourist spots.

Royal Danish Naval Museum

Holmens Canal

Holmens Canal on our walk to the Naval Museum

We walked in pleasant sunny weather from the city centre to the Royal Danish Naval Museum, (Orlogsmuseet), is in Christianshavn.  The museum had many wonderful models of ships, which reminded me strongly of childhood visits to one of my favourite parts of the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh.

The materials in the museum were well presented and well labelled in English in addition to Danish.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (4/5)
Vanessa: (3/5)

Freetown Christiana

Returning from Christianshavn on the Water Bus

Returning from Christianshavn on the Water Bus

Vanessa’s guidebook placed Freetown Christiana, an anarchist squatter community created in 1971, among Copenhagen’s top ten attractions. As it wasn’t far from the Naval Museum we decided to take a look.

The walk was pleasant enough, but I was a bit lost as to why Freetown Christiana should be considered a top ten attraction.  Ramshackle buildings were moderately interesting if only to speculate about the building regulations applicable in the district, a boundary wall covered in graffiti, and streets congested with parked cars (they’re not allowed in the ‘Freetown’, so are parked in the surrounding areas).

Our Ratings
Sandy: (2/5)
Vanessa: (4/5)

Vanessa’s higher rating was on the grounds that she enjoyed the walk.  So perhaps her rating is more applicable to Christianshavn as a whole.

National Museum

On the ground floor, the National Museum (Nationalmuseet) provided a guide through Denmark’s history which provided an absorbing couple of hours. There were good exhibits on the upper floors too, although by the time I got to them I was suffering museum fatigue and can’t really recollect much about them. Vanessa commented that she’d have liked to see more of the vikings in the museum, but as you’ll see, her demand for vikings was more than fulfilled in Roskilde.

Like the other museums we visited, the exhibits were well labelled in English and Danish.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (4/5)
Vanessa: (4/5)

Little Mermaid & Kastellet

Family of Geese at the Kastellet

Family of Geese in the moat at the Kastellet

Neither of us found the Little Mermaid to be very inspiring, but the walk through the adjacent Kastellet, a well preserved fortification, was very pleasant.

From there we walked to Konges Have, where we had hoped to visit Rosenborg Slot (Castle), only to find that it closed at 4.00pm. A closing time of 4.00pm was fairly common and is worth noting if you’re planning to visit Copenhagen.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (3.5/5)
Vanessa: (4/5)
Vanessa rated the Little Mermaid:
(1/5)

Tivoli Gardens

My last visit to Copenhagen was about 20 years ago on a business trip and the only sight we saw was Tivoli. We took the opportunity to visit on our return from Roskilde and enjoyed coffee and cake in one of the many restaurants on offer. There were many activities from fairground rides to a ballet performance. Vanessa summed it up as worth visiting just to say that you’d seen it.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (3/5)
Vanessa: (3/5)

Roskilde

Roskilde, the medieval Danish capital, lies at the end of a fjord and was about 30 minutes from central Copenhagen by rail. The principal reason for our trip was to visit the Viking Ship Museum.

Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibsmuseet) has been developed around 5 wrecked viking ships which were recovered from the adjacent fjord in the late 1950’s and early 60’s.

Vanessa at the harbour

Vanessa at the harbour

Excavated wrecks

Excavated wrecks

Sandy with the fjord in the background

Sandy with the fjord in the background

The viking ship museum made for an absorbing 3 or 4 hours. I particularly enjoyed the display of different types of trees and the description of how the various types of timber were used in ship building.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (5/5)
Vanessa: (5/5)

Domkirke

Roskilde Cathedral (Domkirke) is the other principal historic attraction of Roskilde and contains the remains of many of Denmark’s kings. It was worth a visit as we were in Roskilde, but not worth a trip specially to see it unless you’ve a particular interest in churches.

Our Ratings
Sandy: (2.5/5)
Vanessa: (2/5)

Helsingør (Elsinore)

On our final day in Denmark we took a train to Helsingør, about 40 minutes north of Copenhagen. The town sits on the Øresund, the narrow strait between Denmark and Sweden.  We began with a very pleasant walk to Kronborg Slot (castle), where Denmark once dominated the strait and taxed all shipping.

Kronborg Slot

Kronborg Slot, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back to the 15th Century. The Kings of Denmark owed much of their wealth to “Sound Dues” a tax on shipping passing through the Øresund. It’s also known as the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

There were many interesting exhibits and Vanessa was impressed by the large extent to which the interior was open to the public.

Vanessa with the Øresund in the background

Vanessa with the Øresund in the background

Kronborg Slot

Kronborg Slot

Guard duty

Guard duty

Our Ratings
Sandy: (5/5)
Vanessa: (5/5)

Aquarium

After visiting the Castle we walked to Copenhagen University’s excellent aquarium, Øresundsakvariet, featuring sea life to be found in the Øresund.  Although the aquarium is relatively small, it had a great deal of interest and is certainly worth a visit if you’re in Helsingør. Courtesy of another visitor, who had some vouchers, we even got in for free!

Our Ratings
Sandy: (4.5/5)
Vanessa: (5/5)

Accommodation, etc.

Hotel Maritime

Nearby Nyhavn with its cafes and bars is a popular location

Nearby Nyhavn with its cafes and bars is a popular location

We spent three nights at the 3* Hotel Maritime, which is rated 18 of 122 hotels in the city by the users of Trip Advisor. Although our single rooms were fairly small they were perfectly comfortable and reasonably clean – I appreciated being able to have a ‘smoking’ room and a decent Internet connection! The hotel staff were always friendly, and the buffet breakfast included in the room rate was adequate. The room rate was competitive in the context of the hotels I researched in Copenhagen before booking.

For me, the biggest plus for Hotel Maritime was its location in the centre of Copenhagen close to the waterfront, attractions, and public transport (Kongens Nytorv Metro Station, bus stops close by, water bus stop Nyhavn). Here are our ratings for Hotel Maritime:

Criteria Sandy Vanessa
Location: (5/5) (5/5)
Comfort & cleanliness: (4/5) (4/5)
Friendless: (4.5/5) (4/5)
Breakfast: (4/5) (4/5)
Price: (4.5/5)
Overall Score: (4.4/5) (4.2/5)
Vanessa found it a bit chilly eating out of doors in the evening.

Vanessa found it a bit chilly eating out of doors in the evening.

Restaurants & Bars

Central Copenhagen is well supplied with restaurants and bars serving a fairly wide variety of cuisines. Prices for food were reasonable in a European context, although beer and wine was relatively expensive.

We didn’t visit any memorable restaurants, although we did have a very pleasant and reasonably priced lunch of couscous salad at the Royal Library, which is on the waterfront close to a water bus stop.

Travel & Transportation

The city has excellent public transport and we made use of the water buses, trains and metro during our visit.

Vanessa on the Water Bus

Vanessa on the Water Bus

As a resident of Warsaw and a regular cyclist I was very envious of the bicycle lanes which were wider in one direction than our Warsaw bike lanes are for both directions.

Copenhagen Card

Vanessa’s guide book suggested that the Copenhagen Card was of dubious value, but she didn’t tell me until after I’d bought them! They provide free access to around 65 museums and other attractions and free public transport in the Greater Copenhagen area.

You can buy a Copenhagen Card at the Tourist Information desk in the Arrivals Hall at Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport. They’re offered in 1 and 3 days durations for adults and children (under 10 free if accompanied by an adult with a Copenhagen Card) and costing around €64 each for the 3 day adult cards we purchased.

 

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