Copenhagen, Denmark

We arrived in Denmark by train, and it's only a ten or fifteen minute walk from København H train station to the Danhostel Copenhagen City where we were staying, located on H.C. Andersens Boulevard. The guy at the counter told us cheerlessly that there was an additional fee for staying at the hostel as we didn't have hostelling membership cards. Including this non-membership fee, the price per person at the Danhostel worked out at £37.57 per night, for a room with two bunk-beds and a double bed. The Danhostel was a decent place to stay, in a good location, and my friends made the most of the breakfast buffet costing 69kr (£8.11 based on the exchange rate we paid for our Danish kroner).

Copenhagen's old town is a nice place in which to wander. Gammeltorv and Kongens Nytorv are only a kilometre apart, and offer nice photo opportunities, not least of the Caritas Well and of Nyhavn, the harbour of brightly painted façades and neat lines of boats and yachts. The road that joins these two old squares is a pedestrianised route called Strøget which is littered with shops selling fashion, food, electronics, and other goods. Not far from Gammeltorv is the University of Copenhagen on Frue Plads, and not far from there is the Rundetårn (round tower) a fine-looking astronomical observatory on Købmagergade that admits visitors for a small fee.

If you want to head further out of town, Langelinie is worth a look. A park area that stretches along a good length of the waterfront, Langelinie is home to several places of interest. The Museum Of Danish Resistance can be found on the southern side, on Churchillparken, and tells the story of the Nazi occupation of Denmark, the fightback by the resistance, and the brutal response from the Nazi forces. Also on Churchillparken is Gefionspringvandet (The Gefion Fountain), topped by a sculpture of the goddess Gefion driving her oxen sons to plough the land that became Copenhagen.

A photo of the entrance hall of the Museum of Danish Resistance.
The Museum of Danish Resistance.
A photo of Gefionspringvandet.
Gefionspringvandet in Churchillparken.
A photo of Marmorkirken, showing its classical pillars and large dome.
(The Marble Church).

Once you're at Gefionspringvandet, you only need to walk a little further along the waterfront to reach the famed statue of The Little Mermaid. The mermaid really is little, but it attracts a lot of tourists who jostle to get a photograph, or paddle a short way into the water to touch the statue. The museum, the fountain and the statue are all just outside the edge of a five-pointed island called Kastellet, a military fortification still used by the Danish military today, though pedestrians can wander about it so long as they obey the rules posted at each entrance.

A little to the south of Kastellet is Amalienborg Palace, a royal residence of four palaces formed into a grand square. If you reach Amalienborg from the waterfront, you'll know you've arrived when you reach a large fountain framed by four unusual pillars, and a view of a grand, green copper-domed church, Marmorkirken (The Marble Church, or Frederik's Church) in the distance. You're permitted to enter Marmorkirken so long as you're silent, as it's an active place of worship. The inside of the church seems to reach up rather than out, and the scale of the stone walls and dome is impressive.

Across the bridge to the south you'll find Christianshavn and, not far from the spiral-spired Vor Frelsers Kirke (Church of Our Saviour) you'll find the bizarre Freetown Christiania. Photography is prohibited in Christiania by the surly types who sell drugs out in the open, because the drugs (mostly cannabis) are illegal in Denmark, though the authorities reportedly turn a blind eye to their sale and consumption in this part of Copenhagen. Allegedly the authorities are beginning to change their stance, but we saw no harassment of the men selling the drugs while we were there. I didn't enjoy being in Christiania as it had an air of lawlessness, though to be fair the people sat outside the numerous bars seemed good enough, and the area even seemed to attract elderly patrons.

A photo of the Dobbeltporten (The Double Gate) on Ny Carlsberg Vej.
Dobbeltporten (The Double Gate) on Ny Carlsberg Vej.
A photo of Nyhavn, with boats lined up along the harbour next to brightly-painted shop fronts.
Nyhavn seen from the water.
A photo of Børsen, brick walls topped with green copper roofing, and a curling spire.
Børsen seen from the water.

To the west of H.C. Andersens Boulevard, just over three kilometres (forty-five minutes on foot) from the Danhostel, is Ny Carlsberg Vej, home of Danish brewer Carlsberg. While their modern headquarters building is smart enough, the real attraction is towards the top of this gently inclined road. Here you'll find Dobbeltporten (The Double Gate) and then The Elephant Tower, grand old redbrick structures that once used to act as chambers for the brewery. At the base of The Elephant Tower is The Elephant Gate, guarded by four life-size stone elephant sculptures. Once you've seen the sights on Ny Carlsberg Vej, you can wander north to Gammel Kongevej where you'll find a bar called Vinstue 90. Here, for 48kr (£5.64), you can get a "slow beer", a tall glass of Carlsberg that takes fifteen minutes to pour, and comes with a big foamy head.

A nice way to see the waterways is a boat tour. We took a Netto-Bådene tour from Holmens Kirke, but you can also start the tour in Nyhavn, and we paid 30kr (£3.53) per person. Apart from Nyhavn, the tour provides views of the Copenhagen Opera House, passes through Holmen, stops briefly at Langelinie so you can see the Little Mermaid (though you can't see her face from the water), passes Vor Frelses Kirke as you travel along Christianshavn's Canal, and takes Frederiksholm's Canal to give you views of the bridges, the statue of Absalon, Sankt Nikolaj Kirke, and the old stock exchange Børsen.

Copenhagen is a very nice city to visit for two or three days. Healthy citizens walk or cycle around town along intelligently organised sidewalks and cycle paths that shame the shambolic cycle paths of other cities. The old town is rich with sights, and there are plenty of bars and shops to visit between sightseeing. Graffiti is rife in Copenhagen, which is a pity because it's such an otherwise clean place, but we saw no signs of any greater disorder. The only other problem with Copenhagen is how expensive it is to a visitor from Britain (and presumably to visitors from many other nations). Each beer costs in excess of five pounds sterling for a serving that can be anything from half-a-pint to almost-a-pint (500ml). Even modest restaurant meals will cost around twenty pounds. And at nearly forty pounds per night, even the hostel was expensive. But, if you can keep costs down by limiting your trip to two or three nights, Copenhagen is worth visiting.

Prices from summer 2009.