Discovering Why Copenhageners Are So Happy
Collaborating with LGBT-friendly destinations that include Stockholm, Copenhagen, Antwerp, and Germany, Out Traveler helped send two lucky Americans to Europe to explore the continent and report back. The winners, who made a compelling Instagram video to win their European getaway, sent their first travelogue back from Copenhagen. Here's what Brooklyn couple Kevin and Kenny did during their time in the idyllic Danish capital.
In New York, cars have the right of way, pedestrians have the right to sprint in front of them and bikes have the privilege of dodging them. In Copenhagen, bikes rule — about half of locals leisurely bike through the compact, flat city. Whether walking or riding, it’s easy to navigate the cobblestone streets of this casual, laidback metropolis.
We dropped our bags off at The Anderssen Hotel, a convenient and comfortable space with bright, modern features and a delightful staff, before heading out in the morning.
Since there might not be a more food-focused city in the world, our first order of business was a good lunch. We walked across town, which takes 20 minutes, to head to Amaans Smørrebrødsdeli to try a modern, sophisticated take on the classic open-faced sandwiches ubiquitous in Denmark (read the menu and try not to salivate).
We found ourselves the small but opulent Rosenberg’s Castle, built 400 years ago by Christian IV. It’s currently home to the Danish crown jewels, and why turn down a chance to see a diamond-studded scepter?
Dinner was at Manfred’s & Vin in Nørreboro, a neighborhood anchored by a short street of hip artisan shops selling jewelry, pottery, coffee, and vintage housewares. The staff was happy to chat with us through a seven-course tasting menu with a natural wine pairing.
As we made our way back to our hotel, we couldn’t resist the blinking incandescent lights of Tivoli, the second oldest theme park in the world. Throughout the decades, Tivoli resisted neon lights and flat-screen monitors, opting instead to preserve its classic architecture, cobblestone streets and rides that focused on simple but effective thrills. It must have seemed out of touch for a time, but now it’s downright magical. The experience of soaring above downtown Copenhagen in a flying swing as the sun rests just above the horizon can’t be recreated.
Our second day started with a morning boat tour in the harbor before climbing the four-hundred winding steps of the black and gold tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke for another sweeping view of the red roofs of the city.
Copenhagen is perfect for walking — we were able to stroll through the candy-colored waterway at Nyhaven, past the royal residences at Amalienborg Palace, and into the breathtaking Marble Church, all before noon.
There’s a reverence to the past in Copenhagen, but also a persistent desire to innovate its urban landscape through art and modern architecture. Trampolines built in the sidewalk, a sandy beach with palm trees and lounge chairs setup by a highway, an old shipping container converted into a pop-up World Cup bar alongside an outdoor screening area — simply by walking the streets you’re bound to find interesting experiences and installations.
The downtown area is also packed with shopping; streets full of effortless and modern fashion, like men’s boutiques Wood Wood or Nag Central, along with every major designer — we even spotted the boys of One Direction dropping by for lunch, after being tipped off by the blood-curdling scream of a teenage girl.
For lunch we ate in the garden the Royal Smushi Café, a fashion-industry destination for sushi/smørrebrød hybrids served with wine or local beer. The décor and food are opulent and whimsical, like if The Mad Hatter opened a Michelin restaurant, and the desserts are not to be missed.
After so much sightseeing, we were ready to do what Danes do best, relax outside. We rented two bikes and headed to the South side, to the Harbor Baths at Island Brygge, where locals slip into bathing suits or just strip to their underwear and dive into the icy brackish waters. I would never consider jumping into the Hudson River, but the water in Copenhagen is crystal clear and the mood so idyllic that the temptation outweighs the ice-cold temperatures. It was cold and it was awesome.
Keeping with our laidback vibe, we ventured by foot into Vesterboro for dinner to experience the youthful neighborhood in the former meatpacking district. Bars and restaurants are scattered along the main boulevard where groups of friends relax on the grass, play Ping-Pong, or simply sit and chat. We grabbed a seat at the picnic tables outside of Dyrehaven for unfussy yet delicious meal at the hipster café before venturing down the street to Fermentoren for craft beer.
As the long summer day continued to 10 p.m., you can’t help but notice how relaxed the Danes are. When they aren’t biking, eating or drinking, they’re simply sitting and enjoying each other’s company. Copenhagen is said to be the happiest city in the world, and by the looks of it, the secret to happiness just might be a combination bikes, good food, and sitting on the grass. After only two days, it certainly is contagious.