It is indeed daylight when we open our eyes. However the sky is that flat white colour that suggests that someone forgot to flick the “interesting weather” switch this morning. We are optimistic. Well, I am optimistic. Mr Fletche is despairing, stroking his camera and mumbling about terrible light for photography. We have breakfast, watch Flying Doctors on the telly (with Danish subtitles which helped my knowledge of the language no end; I can now translate many useful Australian/medical phrases) and then head out suitably attired in many layers. Except Mr Fletche doesn’t have a warm hat so our first stop on Strøget is to purchase a woolly hat with a nice Copenhagen logo on it. Practical and a souvenir. Excellent.
A word about Strøget. It is widely advertised as one of Europe’s longest pedestrianised shopping streets. At 10am on a Monday morning it is certainly not pedestrianised. We dodge delivery trucks, refuse collection trucks, construction vehicles. This is not somewhere for a leisurely stroll, window shopping in Mulberry, Louis Vuitton and H&M. It is a game of chicken with heavy-duty vehicles. And when we do emerge into one of the squares expecting wide open spaces we find… construction. Holes in the ground. Men in head-to-toe hi-viz. There are beautiful buildings and architecture all around but it’s impossible to get a good view of any of it.
We eventually emerge at the other end; we’re about half an hour early for the walking tour so we pop over to say hi to Hans Christian Anderson. Or his statue at least. He is looking wistfully over at Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park. As am I. Tivoli opens for the season on Wednesday. We depart Copenhagen on Wednesday, so no Tivoli for us L
We grab a coffee and a juice to go from a well-known coffee chain and go to join the crowds gathering on the steps of City Hall for the Free Walking Tour. I love these tours; we did a fab one in Budapest, and in a city that squeezes as much money as possible out of you I’m a big fan of anything that’s offered for free.
Aussie Dan sorts us all into manageable sized group; and we have the lovely Lucinda as our guide, a Brit who moved to Copenhagen to be with her very own Danish Prince Charming. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable and with a typical English sense of humour this is a great tour. Be prepared for lots of walking though! We follow Lucinda and her yellow (green?) umbrella from City Hall to Christiansborg Slot to Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn (hello again!), to the waterfront before finishing off at Amalienborg Palace. We hear tales of Bishop Absalon, Hans Christian Anderson, J C Jacobsen (Mr Carlsberg) and the Danish Royal Family. We learn that all modern-day Danish kings (since 1448) are either called Frederik or Christian, making remembering their names quite easy. We learn that the swastika on the Carlsberg brewery stone elephants represent the original meaning of prosperity and goodness, before it was appropriated by the Nazis in World War II. We learn that the Danish word skat can either mean sweetheart, or tax. All in all, after two and a half hours and lots of walking, it’s been an educational and interesting tour, and well worth the £10 tip we give to Lucinda (there’s no obligation to tip, but hey, she’s just spent almost three hours trying to keep an unruly crowd of multi-national tourists engaged – worth every penny!).
The tour conveniently finishes just down the road from our hotel so we pop back to freshen up before continuing our own self-guided tour of the city. I remain optimistic about the weather, however there is no change in that flat white sky. We had intended to pick up lunch from Meyers Bagari as recommended but I was bewildered by the choice and felt pressured in such a small shop to make a quick decision – I wasn’t ready to commit without considering all the delicious pastry options carefully. The juice and sandwich bar njoy however was also right behind our hotel on Store Kongensgade, and we both opt for chicken sandwiches and a fab Summertime Juice made of orange, lime, strawberry and an unknown ingredient that my basic Danish hadn’t covered – hyldeblomst (which I’ve since translated as elderflower…)
We continue along Bredgade towards Kastellet, and sit in the gardens for an impromptu picnic. It is still grey and drizzly but we’re determined to enjoy at least one al-fresco meal. Even if we are sharing it with the pigeons and the odd duck. There is public access during the day through the centre of the star-shaped fortress, and its brightly coloured barracks. From the Kastellet it’s a short walk to Copenhagen’s most popular/most disappointing attraction. Den Lille Havfrue. Regularly voted in the top three most disappointing European tourist attractions (along with Mannekin Pis in Brussels and the Eiffel Tower in Paris), the Little Mermaid is indeed quite little. JC Jacobsen of Carlsberg fame wanted it to be modelled on a ballerina who declined to pose nude, so the sculptor used his wife as a model instead. I’m sure Jacobsen never knew the difference…
When people wax lyrical about the Little Mermaid and her Disney depiction, they forget that she ended up a mute, in pain with her new legs and loveless. Hans Christian Anderson wasn’t one for a happy ending. Take that Ariel, Sebastian and Flounder…
It’s still drizzling as we walk back down the waterfront. This would be a beautiful walk in finer conditions, with views over to the Copenhagen Opera House, as it is it’s a tad chilly as we negotiate the construction round by the theatre. Again, I’m sure it will all look magnificent when it’s finished…
We find ourselves back round at Nyhavn. It’s time to take the weight off our feet after all this walking but we’re reluctant to spend £15 on a couple of drinks. Many of the restaurants offer a take-away service (i.e Carlsberg in a plastic glass for the measly sum of 35DKK – just under £4). If only the sun would come out and we could sit on the harbourside… And lo and behold, for the first and only time in Copenhagen, the sun peeps out weakly through the veil of whiteness. And what a difference it makes! I send Mr Fletche off in search of takeaway beer and find a suitable spot for sun-worshipping and people-watching. There are musicians playing, everyone is smiling – now I understand why Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world! I even loosen my scarf, remove my hat and undo my jacket. Mr Fletche comes back with a plastic vessel of Carlsberg and then I make the fatal mistake. I put on my sunglasses. It’s like a curse. Sunglasses on – sunshine disappears. For good this time. Mr Fletche tuts at me. The people who’ve just ordered their al fresco lunch tut at me. The musician packs up his instrument and tuts at me. I tighten my scarf, put on my hat, zip up my jacket and tut at myself.
Next stop on our whirlwind “let’s see all the sights in one day” tour is the Round Tower. A tower. That’s round. And has no steps so that one of the King Christians could ride his horse all the way to the top. Although technically there is a flight of stairs leading up to the final observation platform – I’d like to have seen King Christian and his horse tackle those. Its 25DKK per person – about £3 = so again, it’s another low cost activity for when you’ve spent all your money on food and drink. The views are good from the top, although there are taller towers in Copenhagen which would probably give you much better views on a clear day. As it is, with today’s fleeting sunshine all but a distant memory, the Round Tower probably gives as good a show as any. We’ve packed lots into our day, despite the weather so it’s time to go back, have a rest and see if Flying Doctors is still on the telly.
Mr Fletche leaves me in charge of where we eat and drink tonight – although he is hinting on a return to Heidi’s Bier Bar. We shall head towards the lakes I declare and find somewhere to eat around the Norreport area. We take something of a convoluted route as we so often do, although we do get a marvellous sunset over Rosenborg Slot whilst hiking through Kongens Have. This is the only time that Mr Fletche does not have his camera with him. And the only time that the sky does anything approaching interesting. By the time we approach Sortedams Sø, dusk has fallen and there are some fab reflections on the water of the bridge and the neon lights of Norrebro. Mr Fletche is eager to come back tomorrow with camera in hand, although for now we’re content with lots of mobile phone, Instagram-friendly pics and selfies.
Mr Fletche now wants to know exactly where we’re eating and drinking and I confess I have no idea. I have a handy list (back in the hotel room) and a copy on my phone (no Wi-Fi) but in reality we’re just walking up and down a bunch of streets which appear to have either no eating establishments, or very pricey eating establishments. We stumble upon Torvehallerne. Yay! It’s closed. Boo! I point out the McDonalds by Norreport Station – that may be our last option. How, in a town chock-a-block full of gourmet restaurants, Michelin stars and foodies, can we not find a decent looking, reasonably priced place to get a bite to eat that’s not a hot dog, burger or slice of pizza? I am getting very annoyed and find myself tutting at me for the second time today.
We find ourselves at Kultorvet and two things strike me. Firstly – here’s a public square with no construction! And secondly, there are restaurants! We head for Restaurant Kultovert and discover a nice simple menu of Danish cuisine at reasonable-by-Copenhagen-standard prices. There’s only a handful of customers on a chilly Monday evening at 9pm, and the service is fast, friendly and efficient. I have the veal, Mr Fletche has the pork tenderloin, we have a beer and a red wine, and we are highly satisfied with all the fare on offer. Total cost is around £35, much more acceptable for a good main course and drinks. (On a side note, nachos here are 79 DKK – almost half the price we paid at Nyhavn last night).
We don’t find anywhere that entices us in for a drink, and despite Mr Fletche’s best efforts to convince me otherwise, we’re quite a distance from Heidi’s so we make our way back to the hotel. Tomorrow is Mr Fletche’s birthday, it’s going to be bright and sunny and we’re off to Sweden!