Travel to a cold country, lesson number one: bring a SECOND pair of shoes, or maybe just one pair of really warm ones!
Exploring Copenhagen on foot over Christmas is magical. It is also extremely cold. While you traipse around slushy cobbled streets I guarantee that slush will seep through the bottom of those Converse All-Stars and leave you shivering til the sun comes up. There’s nothing attractive about blue shivering lips. Comfort trumps fashion, trust me. Once you learn this frosty lesson Copenhagen is quite lovely during the holiday season.
Downtown is easy to get to from the Airport, it’s a quick 20min train ride that connects straight from the main terminal. We arrived early evening on Christmas Eve. Copenhagen was our first AirBnB experience. AirBnB is a great alternative to hotels and hostels especially when travelling in a group. It can be cheaper and more comfortable plus you get a unique peek into local lifestyle. It can also be a crapshoot since you don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you turn that key and walk in. I convinced the husband that it would be nicer to spend our first Christmas together in a house rather than a hotel, even if it was one in a stranger’s house in a strange city. Luckily it turned out to be a great choice! It was a five floor walk-up in the hipster neighborhood of Vesterbro with no creepy host hanging about (I’m looking at you weird lady listening through the door in Brussels). We pack light on our trips so the top floor wasn’t an issue and it afforded a beautiful view out across the snow-capped rooftops.
Not sure if you realize this, but on Christmas Eve everything is closed. Thank goodness for hipster living! We were a few blocks away from a couple “red-light” district streets and a number of middle-eastern restaurants so we were bound to find some establishment that was open. We successfully navigated to a warm Pakistani restaurant which turned out to be the first Pakistani restaurant ever opened in Copenhagen. This would be a theme of the trip as we also ate in the first Chinese restaurant ever opened in Copenhagen. Both served delicious food and were solid choices! I wouldn’t have imagined that the best sesame chicken I’ve ever had would be in Denmark.
After satisfying our hungry bellies we were warm and happy again. This led to our decision to take the long way home. We weaved through the vacant streets and reveled in the silence. As we passed through the neighborhoods the soft glow of Christmas trees poured out onto the sidewalks. Peering inside, much to my surprise, that soft glow was cast from legitimate candles hung on the trees! Open flame, real, waxed candles! I’d say this was an anomaly except that house after house displayed this fire hazard! Perhaps it’s that added element of danger that made it that much more beautiful.
Waking up Christmas morning we found a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. Beautiful to the eyes, torture to the toes. We were ill prepared, to say the least and I will take responsibility for the husband’s misery, I picked out his shoes… We walked a lot! This is one of our favorite ways to see the city particularly because it affords us the freedom to escape to the side streets. Tourist attractions are nice to see but once we’ve laid eyes on the famous we expedite our exit from the crowds. A positive of sightseeing on such a popular holiday is that the majority of the world is nestled up in cozy rooms tearing into mountains of presents.
A great way to see Copenhagen is obviously by boat. With all the canals that wind through the city you not only get a nice perspective on the beautiful architecture but you get the stories of the impressively multi lingual (5 languages to be exact) tour guide to go with it. A bonus being that you get to snuggle up with a cup of hot cocoa under a glass topped boat away from the bitter winds. We saw the far reaches of the city including the famous Little Mermaid statue and the colorful street of Nyhaven. Just a heads up, or more like a heads down, bridges are low across the canals. At high tide even the flattened boats barely skate through with only inches to spare. The boat captain yells at unaware tourists standing at the back of the boat to duck in hopes that they don’t become decapitated. Copenhagen is one of the husband’s favorite waterfronts thanks to the crisp architecture that seamlessly turns into the sea.
Still frozen after a long day of touring we found ourselves at the gates of Tivoli Gardens. Face pressed between the iron bars, I stood amazed, just in awe of the multitude of lights. It was magical. The streets of the park were lined with displays of Nordic craftsmanship. I wanted everything! I settled for just touching everything from the reindeer leather gloves to the fluffy sheepskin rugs. We bought our tickets and took off screaming on the roller coasters. Tivoli is centered in downtown Copenhagen so that coaster gave us an amazing view of the city. The sunset streaked wintery sky fell across the twinkling lights of the city. It lasted only a few seconds before we plummeted down the tracks but it was amazing! So we went around again. The park was spectacular at night. We strolled along the park’s lake admiring the trees draped in crystal lights and finally settled into a waterfront bar to enjoy a Carlsberg.
Copenhagen was our first Christmas together. It was the most untraditional Christmas I’ve ever had, no ham at Grandma’s, no presents under a tree and no morning cinnamon buns with Mom’s hot cocoa. I don’t think our toes ever actually unthawed during that trip but it was perfect!
Just me and the husband bundled up in the Scandinavian cold. What more could I ever ask for?… well maybe a warmer pair of shoes.