One March a few years ago, I had a crazy idea to take a day trip abroad; somewhere other than Paris or Belgium. Somewhere no one would think to go just for the day, because we are lucky in the UK that we have the opportunity to even do that. Browsing different destinations on easyJet, I shortlisted a few cities for the adventure where we could depart early morning and return that evening, giving us enough time to explore the place for a whole day.
Bizarrely, I chose to get away from our winter chill by going to an even colder destination – but at £40 return, it seemed like a no brainer.
Three weeks later, we were boarding the plane to Copenhagen, with a grand plan to visit not just one city, but two countries. It would be the perfect mix of city culture, quaint town life and an interesting journey between the two, over the 8-mile long Øresund bridge separating Denmark and Sweden.
We landed to a bright but fresh morning after some pretty awesome views over the Danish coastlines, but before we ventured into the city, we popped over the border on the train to the small town of Malmo in Sweden. (city hall pictured above)
This business-oriented town is the third largest city in Sweden but feels like a homely market town with traditional old-fashioned bill boards and a charming town square where buskers frequent around the fountains and statues.
And if you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist taking the ten minute walk over to the more industrial business district of the town, dominated by the unique building of Turning Torso. It’s the tallest building in Scandinavia, and edge-of-space skydiver Felix Baumgartner once parachuted onto the top of it. There’s a fun fact for you, I’m here all day!
Tucked away beyond the square too, are local cake shops that are perfect for a quick breakfast or mid-morning snack. I could have happily spent more time in this town, but we had come here to explore Copenhagen.
We did, of course, take some stupid pictures before we left, though.
Mature, of course!
We were able to get back to the city centre of Copenhagen on our return ticket from the airport, taking in the views of the Sound again as we crossed back over the border.
Copenhagen is a fairly spread-out city and the easiest and certainly most popular way to travel is by bike. Luckily it couldn’t be easier to do as you can hire one from various outlets to begin your exploration of the cultural city. Naturally, I decided to walk instead, as I always do, which was a mistake.
From the station, we headed towards the coast via the main shopping street of Strøget (stopping at the flagship Lego shop obviously), passing by the Carlsberg museum, the vast town hall, and eventually landing upon a huge star-shaped park where ducks were walking on ice.
Our timing meant that the huge fountains were unfortunately turned off, but even as statues themselves, they were impressive enough to be worth stopping for a look.
We passed through the park via the Danish Defence “village” – a 17th century fortress – and were rewarded with a group of incredible angel statues leading up to the infamous Little Mermaid.
The Little Mermaid is tiny in real life, perhaps to make her seem more real, and her copper disposition ensures that she doesn’t stand out too much. In some ways she is completely anti-climactic; in others, she is perfectly understated. Nothing too dramatic, just a curious mermaid watching passers-by, and it’s enough to satisfy your wonder of catching a glimpse of the sea people.
Having seen “the” landmark, we headed back towards the centre to soak up the culture with crepes, pastries and drinks. If you have time, check out the Tivoli Gardens next the train station, an amusement park with lots of rides, shows and activities. Sadly we missed out on this because we went out of season and it was shut.
We did take some more silly pictures though.
Copenhagen is not cheap when it comes to shopping, eating out or accommodation, so a day trip is an ideal way to experience the city without turning it into a costly holiday. And as it wasn’t really a city on my list, it was the perfect excuse to go.
My verdict? I wasn’t a huge fan of the city. It didn’t seem to have a huge amount of character to it when you compare it to other European cities. For me, it was completely overshadowed by Malmo. I feel like this is a very strange opinion to have, but I could have spent more time there than in Copenhagen itself. But could that be down to the time of year we visited? I think it may well have been.
But also I don’t think I researched enough. For someone who prides myself on finding all the best things to do and seeing everything in a short space of time, I didn’t plan our walking route very well and we missed a lot (should have hired a bike!). This was the first “crazy day trip” I took (of many!) and I learned a lot from it – you can definitely see everything in a day if you plan it right.
So I’m sorry Copenhagen, for walking away almost five years ago without a second glance. I think it’s safe to say I’ll happily give you another chance one day.
(if just to take pictures with a better camera!)