Gap Year Days 323 – 327
We landed in Copenhagen to snow. We knew we were flying into completely different conditions to where we had come from. It was 36 degrees in Kuala Lumpur as we made our way to the airport. Here it was below zero, and we had never really been in snow before. Sure, a few flakes fell on us in Oslo last April, and there were some residual patches on the ground in Austria in July (yes, even in July!), but we had never had to walk in it or deal with it for any stretch of time.
So it was kind of exciting to get off the train and walk the 500m to our apartment in the snow. It was early evening when we arrived, so our first task was to head out to the supermarket to stock up on supplies since we had our own kitchen. It was probably about another 500m to walk in the snow, but by the time we got there conditions had deteriorated more, with wind swirling the falling flakes around – it was becoming less pleasant now. It was a no-brainer for us to stay in, get some sleep so we were ready to go the next day. Afterall, we had just had two longhaul flights to get from South East Asia to Europe!
We decided to buy the Copenhagen City Card. It represented good value as it included transport, which we would need everywhere we went. While our apartment at CPH Studio Hotel was well located right near the train line, it was not right in the city centre. It was only two stops from the airport, and about four stops from the city centre. For a budget option, I would really recommend it.
Our three days in the city included a Monday, so we sat down and researched which places on the Copenhagen City Card would be open on the Monday (often museums and attractions are closed on Monday’s in Europe). Unfortunately our planning was not exactly perfect, but we still got good value from the card.
Our first stop was the National Museum of Denmark. We had to walk about ten minutes through the snow to get there, which ended up turning into about twenty minutes as we played in the snow and looked at everything along the way. This meant I was frozen solid by the time we got there, so it was a relief to just get inside. We arrived just as a free tour of the museum was about to start. I’m not sure of the schedule of the tours as we didn’t see anything about it but were told when we showed our card at the ticket office. The tour was in English, and went for about an hour, and took us through a few of the main sections of the museum. Our guide was particularly interested in the ancient civilisations of the area, so her tour focussed on that. She pointed out some really cool displays and talked about the relevence of them, which made the visit so much more interesting. Of course there were displays right up until modern times to explore too.
Our second stop was the HC Andersen Fairytale House, which tells all about Andersen’s life and travels. In between the traditional museum displays are dioramas with scenes from his books, which, with the push of a button, tell whole stories if you have the time to stand there and listen. There were options to choose which language the story was told in too. We listened to a few of the better known stories, but there were many others I had never heard of. I actually enjoyed learning more about his life than listening to the books.
Almost across the road is the Tivoli, the famed gardens and theme park which is celebrating it’s 175th birthday this year. Unfortunately it is only open during summer, with short seasons over Christmas and Halloween, so was closed when we were there. Probably fair enough since it was snowing. Looks like a fantastic place to visit in the warm weather though.
One of the good things about using the city cards when travelling is that sometimes we end up going to see things that we really wouldn’t otherwise. In this case it was an art installation by Nikaloj Kunsthal. Now art is not my thing, and abstract art even less so, but I always find it interesting to see some of these things. I probably don’t understand it or appreciate it as the artist would like, but everything is a learning experience, right?
Next up was a boat trip around the canals of Copenhagen. The canals – and some of the sea – were frozen over, with just a path through the middle where these tourist boats go. Most of the boats tied up on either side of the canals were iced in, and wouldn’t be moving until it got warmer. There was commentary during the ride, pointing out sites on either sides of the canal. The path heads out towards the sea, turning approximately where the famous Little Mermaid statue is. I’m not sure if the boats get closer to her in summer, but due to the amount of ice, we were quite a distance away.
At this point I was still walking around in my hiking boots. These were definitely not ideal in snow, for no other reason than they were not waterproof. I had been walking around carefully avoiding any deep snow, but I couldn’t do that for the next few weeks, so off to the shops we went! I had looked for shoes in Kuala Lumpur, but everything there was crazy expensive, and I didn’t love any pairs enough to pay those prices. I found a shop having a great sale, and ended up picking up a pair of lace up, wool-lined, leather boots for a great price. With my feet sorted, it was onto the other extremities, and I picked up some better gloves, a beanie and a decent winter scarf. I was finally kitted out to deal with the winter cold. At least as well as I could be.
The next morning we made our way to the Amalienborg Palace, the home to the current ruler of Denmark, Queen Margarethe and other members of the Danish Royal family. It is made up of four buildings around a central courtyard. One of the buildings is now a museum, which is what we had come to see. We were there a little early though, and it was so cold, around -5 degrees Celcius! The palace is right next to the sea, and the wind was whipping around the buildings, so we tucked ourselves into a little nook against the building. A short-lived relief from the wind, as we were yelled at by one of the sparse guards and had to move away.
For a royal palace, these buildings seemed amazingly acessable. I could have walked up to the Queen’s front door and knocked. There were probably only about six guards in a large area, and cars could drive right past. They do a changing of the guards here everyday at 12pm, but I hadn’t come across that in my reading, and only caught the end of it through a window as we were in the museum.
From Amalienborg Palace we could see a cathedral. It was in the right direction, so we called past to have a look. It was Frederick’s Church. It has the largest dome in Scandinavia and reminded me a lot of St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. I wanted to go in and have a look, but it was Sunday and the services were on, so entry for those just wanting to look was restricted until later in the afternoon.
We continued on our way to go and visit Copenhagen’s most famous landmark, the Little Mermaid. It was so cold in the wind as we walked I almost gave up on seeing her as she is in a relatively isolated spot. I am so glad we went though, as we got to see her in a slightly different environment that all the photos I have seen on the internet. During our visit she was completely surrounded by ice. The cold meant there were only about twenty people milling around to take photos, so we didn’t have to stand there very long to get a shot. My fingers were so cold I could barely have my gloves off long enough to take the photos anyway.
As we walked back we marveled at the nearby frozen lake and the swans still swimming around in the small patches of water left. I was getting colder just watching them, and soon just had to get inside. The nearest place we found was a small, Seven 11-type supermarket, so we ducked in to defrost slightly. It was a bit weird hovering around, not buying anything, just to get warm. I was waiting for someone to ask what we were doing, but then realised it was probably fairly obvious I was freezing!
We jumped on a bus and made our way to Rosenborg Castle. This one was built as a summer house back in the seventeeth century, now it houses a museum containing many items relating to the history of the Danish royal family, including the crown jewels and throne. While it’s warmer than outside, it’s still pretty darn cold in the castle, so it reallly shows how uncomfortable it must have been living in these big old buildings.
Monday’s are always tricky in Europe for visiting museums and attractions, and this time we thought we had done our research right and knew exactly what was open. We knew that Christiansborg Palace was closed, but it seemed like the stables and kitchens were open. Once we arrived there, we discovered that was not the case! We did enjoy walking around the area, it was so beautiful all covered in fresh snow.
We walked back through the main part of the city, warmed ourselves up with a coffee, and noticed we were not far from the The Round Tower. This is the oldest, still functioning observatory in Europe, and on a clear day provides fantastic views across the city. During our visit, it was not clear, but snowing, and we knew we would not get that great view. Entry was included on the Copenhagen Card so we thought we would go up anyway. It was interesting to see how big the tower was inside, and that there was a ramp all the way up instead of stairs. There were also a couple of small museums and displays in side rooms, and a cafe too if you would like a bite to eat.
Attached to the Round Tower is a church, Trinitatis Church. As always, we ducked inside for a quick look, and found it simple but really beautiful. I loved the brightness, the white and gold made it seem so much more pleasant than many of the darker churches.
Just down the street we came across a second hand book store called The Book Trader. Simon had only a few pages left of his current book, so we went in to see what we could find. This place is a real treasure trove, shelf after shelf of books, many of them in English. I decided it would be best not to look too closely because I already have a couple of books in my backpack and didn’t want to carry anymore, but Simon gave into temptation and left with four books!
One of Simon’s favourite things to do is to visit aquariums. I’m not such a fan, I mean, fish are just fish! Sure some are pretty colours or a bit strange, but mostly they are all the same. But at least they are inside, so I was happy to spend the afternoon there.
The weather had deteriorated even more by the time we left, so we retreated back to our apartment for dinner and an early night, knowing we had a morning flight onwards!
I really liked Copenhagen. We were like little children as we experienced snow for the first time, but our Aussie thermostats didn’t cope so well with the cold. I would love to go back to Copenhagen in the summer, as I imagine it will be so beautiful. Many attractions are also only open from April to October, so there were things we missed that we would like to see sometime too.
Copenhagen is not cheap! After coming from South East Asia, I think we were really in awe of the prices of some things. I was really happy with our accommodation for the price, especially since we had a kitchen so could cook our own meals. The Copenhagen City Card was really good value. Sometimes these cards aren’t, but I highly recommend this one, especially if you will be using public transport. (See here for my full review and breakdown)
Wifi was abundant and fast. I was planning to pick up a SIM card as soon as I arrived in Europe so that I could use it for the next two months but I didn’t see a kiosk at the airport (they probably are there, I just didn’t notice them) and I coped just fine without it.
We used trains and buses to get around the city, and they were fast and efficient. We were using the Copenhagen Card, but trips were approximately 24DKK ($5.10AUD/$3.80USD) each. The trips I checked we short, only a few stops, I presume longer trips may be more expensive.
CPH Studio Hotel
Krimsvej 29, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark
$599DKK ($128AUD/$96USD) per night including breakfast
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Josie is a forty-something budget traveller. She only discovered travel in her late thirties, but since then has travelled extensively including taking an adult gap year. She is now based in Australia and loves sharing all she has learned about travelling on a budget but with the comforts a Gen Xer requires.