Copenhagen: The Best Easter, Birthday Weekend
I'm a late-March baby. Which among various fun attributes such as my spirit animal officially being a panda, means that every now and then my birthday falls across the glorious long weekend that is Easter. I like to think that this wonderful occurrence makes it permissible to celebrate for four days straight (minimum).
I love birthdays. A lot. They are the perfect excuse to eat delicious food, savour time with my favourite people and over-indulge. Plus no one can argue with my chosen locations, because it's my birthday and it's the one time of the year I can't be admonished for acting spoiled or picky. All things said, I like to have my birthday at home and so wasn't entirely convinced by a suggested Easter / birthday trip to Copenhagen leaving behind everyone I wanted to eat, drink and celebrate with. Oh how wrong I was. Copenhagen, you stole my birthday heart and I sincerely hope to be back soon.
With an array of sights, sounds and tastes to delight the senses Copenhagen ticks all the boxes for a weekend getaway. The city entertains on many levels: A foodie mecca, boasting some of the best chefs in the world; An architectural gem offering antiquated castles next to sleek modern designs; A cosy retreat of candle lit bars and boutique hotels; A residence of cultural idiosyncrasies, peppered by a rich past and an evolving present; A vibrant, living city compact enough to be accessible on foot, bike or boat. Planning what to do and where to go was almost too simple: I was told to do the boat ride, have reservations in a handful of excellent restaurants and then wander around. Done.
What I especially loved was the city's relaxed, chilled vibe. While the has world tried to imitate hygge with some success, we haven't quite managed to capture the achingly cool air of the Danes. This effortlessness seeped into the holiday: Everything was easy, enjoyable and a delight. The long weekend seemed to stretch out even longer - somehow we fit in a day trip to Malmö, Sweden for a mini-spa break. But nothing got stale, there was no boredom. I found myself saying on more than one occasion that I could imagine myself living in Copenhagen, because it really was just, so, live-able.
Lacking an itinerary, I can't walk you through my weekend with the same ease that I explored at the time. I truly did for once just wander around in the (freezing) crisp spring air, stopping wherever the mood and catches of sunshine took me. Instead I have collated a photo diary of sorts, which I believe is infinitely better in describing a long week weekend in Copenhagen. Since a picture paints a thousand words and my words fall short of cool and effortless I hope you enjoy!
First on my list, as I am a history nerd and love all things that transport me into the past, was of course Rosenborg Slot. Built by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV, in the early 17th century and now home to artefacts spanning 400 years of history I had to be dragged away to explore the here and now. (I'm a hoarder and love 'stuff', to the extent that I actually studied the history of objects at uni, so take me to a castle crammed with a collection of trinkets and you will lose me for hours on end.)
Before leaving Rosenborg Slot I visited Denmark's oldest royal garden in which the castle is situated. Here you can stroll around pretending to be from any era of your chosing, another of my favourite past times, although it was severely hampered by the bobble hat and huge coat required for the damp weather Europe calls spring.
A visit to Copenhagen wouldn't be complete without photographing the sherbet coloured buildings that adorn Nyahvn's waterfront. Whether you consider it iconic or clichéd there is a reason why so many people flock to this area and if you don't, can you even say you were in Copenhagen? The launch point for the highly recommended and not to be missed Canal Grand Tour, it is also known as an excellent spot for coffee and people watching. Aboard the boat, you can experience Copenhagen from a different perspective, which is more cold, but also more enjoyable and more beautiful than merely walking the sights.
The bold Danish architectural design scattered throughout the city made me stop in my tracks on more than one occasion. Impressive glass constructions such as the Black Diamond Library rise above the historic, brick structures. A love letter not just to the wonders of modern engineering, this iconic building also celebrates its natural habitat reflecting both the sea and sky on the mirrored surfaces.
When I visited there was an oversized, temporary eco-friendly dome adjacent to the Black Diamond library. Serving a dual purpose as a greenhouse, this was a warm and inviting coffee shop as well as an art installation to explore and roam among the pretty plants and flowers.
A must-see, must-do is the semi-autonomous district of Christiania. Described as a Freetown, I had expectations of a mellow-grunge-boho-chic neighbourhood, somewhere between London's Camden and Australia's Byron Bay. Nope. Although there was the distinct aroma of weed wafting through the main drag, this hippie paradise was mostly comprised of tourist paraphernalia touted from (bizarrely) army camouflaged shacks dotted around. While it wasn't the organic foodie, street art enclave I had imagined, as a self-governing experiment in the middle of a modern urban population Christiania remains a curiosity worth seeing.
The food found in Copenhagen deserves a dedicated post, detailing its exemplary chefs and culinary masterpieces. Whether it be street food grabbed in haste, a casual and trendy brunch canal side, or a more gastronomic affair, you are spoiled for choice. My foodie nose sent me for pizza at Mother in the Meatpacking District (Kødbyen), a range of cuisine in the food markets of Torvehallerne and Papirøen and to the well-established 'fine dining' at Relae. This was the only difficult part of the weekend: Differentiating between the countless, critically acclaimed options available.
Copenhagen knows its food and drink and the brunch doesn't get much better than that served up at Parterre on the canal's of Christianshvn - with coffee from the Swedish roaster Koppi and creamy avocado on dark, nutty rye bread. Deceptively simple and immensely satisfying, it opens earlier than most breakfast spots, permitting you the best seats equipped with fluffy blankets to keep warm and cosy while watching passersby.
For my birthday dinner and one of my most memorable meals to date, I sampled the tasting menu with a generous wine pairing at Relae. Sent here on the recommendation that the bread was the best I would ever try, the entire restaurant is a triumph. Established by two former chefs of Noma, Relae is a big hitter without any airs or graces. The friendly service extends to the open kitchen, with chefs' love for their craft on visible display and are happy to interact with the diners. With an unassuming sommelier on hand, I opted for the wine pairing which was most definitely the correct decision, I can only agree that the flavours danced around my mouth to compliment and enhance each other.
With a stripped back attitude to ingredients of both the menu and restaurant aesthetics, there is no room for error and there is a sense that every decision was carefully made to enhance Relae's food and ambience, mindful to not introduce pretensions.
In addition to dreamy restaurants and cafes, Copenhagen has a bar for every occasion. My favourite was Ruby. Hidden behind an unmarked door, this charming cocktail bar is one of the city's worst kept secrets. A place to start, end or spend the evening, reservations are recommended - especially if you want to get a prime spot, sinking into a plump armchairs. Situated in the oldest part of town in a grand old townhouse from 1740, the bar is sophisticated and sensual with heady scents and dim, moody lighting from flickering candles and heavy lampshades.
After all the eating and drinking in Copenhagen, the promise of a traditional Swedish spa in Malmö was too tempting to miss, given that a short 20 minute train ride is all that separates the two cities. Ribersborgs Kallbadhus is on the Scandi tourist map given its envious location and views but has few visitors from outside the region. Be prepared for locals who think nothing of striking up a conversation while everyone sweats it out in their birthday suit. With 3 rooms of varying temperatures (one mixed, the other two replicated on each side should you wish to be a tad more private), the intention is alternate between these and plunging into the Baltic Sea a balmy 10 degrees centigrade in March. Be bold, be brave, just remember to take your passport and a padlock for the lockers!
This year I stayed in London to have three dinners, four brunches, a coffee date and a lunch and I fully intend to drag this out through April for as long as I can get away with. What's the best birthday you have had, home or away?