Scandimania!

Two years ago, when we came to Europe on campus tours to scope for Alex’s graduate program, we traveled to Gothenburg, Sweden. Despite not picking it as a relocation destination, we absolutely adored the town and the Scandinavian culture we encountered there.

When we sat down after New Years this year to plan out our spring & summer travels, we wrote a list of dream destinations, prioritized them, and then compared them to our respective calendars and weather predictions. Brussels Airlines was having a great deal for summer travel if you booked in January and the 4 day weekend celebrating Christ’s ascension in May seemed like a perfect time to check out Alex’s suggestion, Copenhagen.

On Wednesday night, we made the less-than-2-hour flight to CPH and got settled in our hotel, First Hotel Kong Frederik. It wasn’t really anything special but the price was right and it was close to many of the areas/attractions we were interested in seeing.

On Thursday morning, we got an easy start and headed to the Torvehallerne, an indoor farmers market, for breakfast. There, thanks to this great blog, we discovered Grod. They make the most delicious breakfast porridges & oatmeals topped with Icelandic yogurt, skyr, and have a variety of lunch & dinner interpretations, as well, ranging from risotto to congee. They even have a glutin-fri (gluten-free) quinoa breakfast porridge! We headed over to the tourist office and bought 72 hour Copenhagen Cards to ease the public transportation experience. Our cards included an entry each to Tivoli Gardens. We love roller coasters and these ones looked pretty sturdy so we paid for the unlimited rides bracelets and went nuts. We used the card to also take a canal boat ride and get a better feel for the city. After thrilling ourselves in the Denmark sun for a few hours, we headed to Bror for dinner. This was also another blog find and it was recommended as being a budget friendly dinner. Copenhagen is quite expensive and this dinner was still a bit pricey but certainly more approachable than many of the mainstream dining spots. The chef’s tasting menu was exciting and fresh with an asparagus 3 ways starter, ox heart salad, and fish for the main but the highlight for me was easily the pork-belly-fat butter and house made sourdough bread. I am not ashamed to admit that I wiped the butter dish clean with my finger. Tarragon ice cream with rhubarb caramel was a fun and playful dessert. We had a pretty early dinner reservation by European standards, so we decided to hop on a bus and round out the night with some specialty cocktails at Lidkoeb. This place is actually a house in the garden behind the main row of buildings so to get there you have to locate the little alley way and walk back through the backyard. There isn’t really any signage so we felt nervous about just opening a door to a little brick house and poking our heads inside. Lidkoeb is 3 floors with a different feel or style on each floor but we found a leather sofa to squeeze on to on the main floor and imbibed with some Danes.

Friday, we decided we would actually dedicate to some sightseeing since we really just played on Thursday. We found ourselves back at the Torvehallerne for breakfast but opted for Palaeo for a brunch wrap. We un-Paleoed after that and took a cinnamon pastry from Mama Rosas on our way out. We headed to the Kastellet, a park that is an island in the shape of a star and walked around the military complex there. We broke through the crowds at the Little Mermaid statue and then headed down the canal way towards the Nyhavn to the Amalienborg Palace for a tour. We were baffled to learn that they only alternate between two names, Christian or Frederik, for the kings. After watching the tin soldier guards change posts, we wandered back out to the canal way for lunch at Almanak. This restaurant is one of 4 in a building called The Standard and their specialty is smorrebrod, open face sandwiches with specialty ingredients. Alex quickly located the trampoline park beyond The Standard. We played there for a bit and headed down to the Black Diamond, a world-class library with photo galleries, cafe, and roof-top bar. We walked along the Stroget for a bit, in search of the perfect spring coat but decided I couldn’t bear to cough up 1,200 DKK (175 euro) for a thin black trench. We ended up crashing at the hotel to nap and rally for our dinner reservation at Kul, which means coal = meat, meat, meat, in the (you guessed it!) meat packing district. It had a really great vibe and another super playful menu. We ordered tapas style to try about 8 dishes and my favorite was the jamon iberico with fried calamari and squid ink aioli. I was actually giggling as I ate it because I was just so delighted with the creative approach. Ham with squid?Black mayonnaise? CRAZY, I TELL YOU! Alex went nuts over a local smoked stout which tasted like a campfire in your mouth at the attack, evolution, and finish.

The next day was supposed to be my 12 mile run (cough cough) but due to the rain, we opted to stay in bed a bit late. So late, in fact, that we started with lunch at Papiroen (Paper Island). This is a paper factory across the canal way in Christianshavn that has been re-imagined as an indoor food truck park. It was chilly and rainy so we thought this was the perfect opportunity to spend a few hours inside working through the options and warming up to the fireplace with a Danish beer or 2. We briefly walked through Christiania, a modern day commune where they allow all kinds of things but not cameras… We attempted to climb the tower at the Vor Frelsers Kirke, a church with a wicked looking stairway that wraps around the outside of the tower. Due to the wind and rain, it was closed so we opted to drink some more Danish beers at Mikkeller & Friends. Everything inside is blonde wood and Tiffany blue paint, including the handles of the 40 taps serving delicious local beers. The beer was excellent and the staff there is super nice and knowledgeable about the beers so this quickly became one of our favorite spots in CPH. We got dry and warm there and enjoyed such great conversation and so many great samples that we missed the normal dinner hour in Copenhagen. We had to settle for a hotel bed picnic that we pieced together at a late night grocery store, but somehow to me, those moments are more fun and memorable than the events or attractions on a trip.

Sunday was our last day in CPH, and although it wasn’t raining in more, it was quite cold. There was an icy wind and we were regretting not bringing proper coats. All of a sudden, that jacket I had previously rejected sounded not so expensive to me. We walked in the brisk breeze to Rosenborg Castle for a look at the crown jewels. This may offend animal rights activists, but the king has a throne made entirely of narwhal tusk. I have this sense that when you have a narwhal throne, you have really made it in life. We trekked back to the Torvehallerne one last time and sheepishly headed back to Grod for lunch servings of risotto with beets and Thai congee. We generally have a rule about not going to the same place twice, in order to expand our experience of a city, but we justified Grod by saying it was for lunch this time… We swapped back and forth, taking one spoonful at a time of each other’s choices, because we couldn’t decide which one we liked best. We grabbed a handmade pop tart (that’s what we’re calling it anyway) and a cinnabun from Laura’s Bakery and rounded that out with a coconut honey chai latte and black tea from Tante T.

We decided after spending our future children’s college tuition that we had done enough damage (just kidding… kind of) and should probably head for the lufthavn (airport). We had a great time in Denmark and feel drawn towards Scandinavia (maybe it is the women who are as tall or taller than me?) and feel like if we can save up again, we’ll be back. Maybe Norway or Finland next? Definitely recommend it as everyone speaks English so it is an easy vacation with little to no awkward language moments (except when everyone assumes you are from Scandinavia and approaches you in the language or asks you for directions… thanks, heritage…).

Where do you want to see next? We are taking votes, suggestions, and tips for our fall travels as we are only booked through this August so far (Scotland/England next month and then Spain/Portugal in July). Love & light to all!