Monday, November 21, 2016

24 Hours in Copenhagen

Copenhagen has been on my bucket list for years, but for a really stupid reason. The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movies (I watched that and Cinderella endlessly as a kid on a bootlegged VHS) and there's a Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen because it's a city greatly associated with Hans Christian Andersen (who wasn't born there but started his career there). Yeah, that's it; that's the sole reason. It wasn't until recently that I realized how ignorant I was. It's a food capital and home to more than a dozen Michelin stars, there are more bikes than people, it's the happiest city in the world, they value hygge, and it's bursting with charm. Learning this made me intensely excited to go.

Because Icelandair was offering discounted flights and they do that special up-to-seven-day layover thing, I immediately took it as an opportunity to explore Copenhagen. This short 24-hour trip was both enough time and not enough time; I got a really good taste of the city but of course, there's definitely much more to see and I want to go back.
We had a five hour flight to Reykjavik, a short layover, and then a three hour flight to Copenhagen. It went by quickly because I slept the entire time. Icelandair was great; we only had to go through passport control at Reykjavik and then nothing at Copenhagen (because of the Schengen agreement). The only downside to this is that I didn't get a CPH stamp in my passport but it's a sacrifice I was willing to make for such a smooth experience.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The public transportation system in Copenhagen is great and efficient. There is a train that takes you from the airport to the city center in about 15 minutes and it comes every 10 minutes. There is a 24-hour pass, which costs about $11.50 and lets you onto trains, metro, and buses within zones 1-4. It's a great deal. The weird thing is that it's just a card and if you take the train, it's possible no one will check that you have it. And if you take the bus, you just flash it at the driver. It seemed like the city was heavily reliant on people's good hearts and honesty.
COPENHAGEN MARRIOTT
In an effort to extend my elite status with Marriott, I booked in at the Copenhagen Marriott for this leg of our trip. It was located close to Central Station (about a 10 minute walk) and it was reasonably priced. The staff at the hotel are incredibly sweet and accommodating. I wonder if it's because Denmark is notably one of the happiest countries in the world.
The rooms are spacious, the bathrooms are luxe (I took an amazing bath to soothe my sore muscles), and the amenities are pretty great.

TORVEHALLERNE
For lunch, I had booked in at a restaurant but then decided that it was just too risky to try to meet a reservation coming fresh off of an airplane. So, instead, we went to Torvehallerne Market and sampled food from a few different stalls. Interestingly enough, we didn't indulge in any Danish food; we went for banh mi (from LĂȘlĂȘ), some tacos (from Hija de Sanchez, a taco stand started by a former Noma chef), and then a fresh juice (from Fresh Market).
RUNDETAARN
After we'd had our fill of the market, we walked to Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower, to make the climb and see the city from a new height. Because it was raining, we thought this would be a nice, indoorsy activity.
The climb is basically a spiral ramp, so it's pretty easy. There is a set of stairs towards the top, but it's less than a flight. There are windows all the way up so you can stop and take a peek. There are also several nooks, some of them housing super old toilets, some of them looking down into an abyss, some of them are just empty.
The view from the top is actually quite nice. There's a fence going around to prevent you from getting right to the edge, but you can still enjoy the colorful rooftops and distant buildings nonetheless.
TIVOLI GARDENS
After our tower adventure, we took a short walk through the rain to the bus stop and headed back towards Central Station so that we could visit Tivoli. It was a Saturday so admission for us was 120 kr ($17.25). We didn't go on any rides (you actually pay per ride so we weren't that keen on spending extra cash); we just wanted to walk around and see the place that inspired Walt Disney.
We were lucky enough to be there for the Halloween decorations (I love Halloween). We were actually there just before they were going to close the park for a couple of weeks to switch the decor and they just reopened this past weekend with all of their Christmas decorations.
The park is actually really beautiful and I think because it was so cold and dreary, we saw v. few people which I actually preferred. It's large enough to feel like you're in an actual amusement park (and not some dinky carnival) but it's small enough to walk in its entirety in just a couple of hours.
BROR
I naively thought that I might sneak in a meal at Noma on a Saturday night a couple weeks before it's closing for good. HA! I'm so dumb. Once I awoke from that silly dream, I did a little research and found Bror, which was opened by two of Noma's sous-chefs. It was a great decision because we enjoyed one of the best meals of our lives there.
I started with a rhubarb soda, which was fantastic. I need to see if this is available stateside. It was the perfect amount of tart and sweet, which made it a great accompaniment for my meal.
We sprung for the full on Bror menu, which is just a slew of surprises that the chef sends out including four "snacks," two starters, one main, and two desserts. It was indulgent but the meal was so balanced, we were deliciously satisfied by the end.

Our first snack was bull's balls. Battered lightly and served with a spicy tartar sauce, I was actually really happy with how these tasted. Admittedly, when I thought about the ingredients, I did get a little green but I can't deny that these were really good.
Our second snack stole the show. It was squid with sliced green beans, squid ink, and bits of crispy squid. It was incredibly tender and flavorful; it tasted like the ocean in the best way possible.
Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, our third snack was served: roasted spaghetti squash with cheese and crispy bacon. It was their take on a carbonara and it was bomb. Usually when someone tries to serve me spaghetti squash in lieu of actual pasta, I'd be inclined to throw it in their face. But in this case, it was done so elegantly and delicately, I would prefer this to pasta any day (gasp!).
Our final snack was a bit of a scare and I can see that it would be potentially off-putting to anyone who is overly squeamish. It was a cod head served with a horseradish sauce, a salt flavored with the fish, and dried roe. There was also a stack of fried skins. The waiter instructed us to build little tacos using the skin, the meat of the head, and the accoutrements. There cheeks were cooked but the rest of the face was raw, so it was an interesting combination of texture, but it really worked. I have to say though, we were so worried about disturbing the eyeball and the fact that the fish was staring at us the entire time was a bit disconcerting. But good food is good food.
In between our snacks and starters, we were given the most delicious sourdough bread (we could hear how delicious crusty it was as our waiter was slicing it nearby) and a butter with bone marrow and verbena salt. The bread had a perfectly crispy crust, a chewy interior, and a nice tangy sourdough flavor.
For our first starter, we had a pike and pickled cucumber with elderflower leaves. The fish was raw, which made it a great accompaniment for the punchy pickles.
Our next starter was a pureed potato with glazed beef flanks, currants, roasted onion, local cheese, and crispy potato chips. This was a nice, hearty dish that I thoroughly enjoyed, especially after the light pike and cucumber starter.
For the main, we were given a crispy fried fillet with mushroom puree, roe, a Scandinavian pesto (made with kale and apples), a roulade made with the fish trimmings, and a salad of kale and sauerkraut. We all ate this in happy silence. The only complaint we had was that it took quite a long time for this course to arrive. We were given many apologies - the waiter said they were extremely backed up in the kitchen, but based on the number of diners around us, I think they just might've forgotten about us.
Our first dessert was a bone marrow creme brulee with an elderflower sorbet served on top of a crumble. The custard was incredibly rich and creamy but somehow still light at the same time and the presentation was just so sweet.
Our second dessert and final course of the night was a plum compote with bits of sponge cake - both regular and fried for a crispy surprise - and a gelato with apple cider vinegar caramel sauce. This wasn't quite as yummy as the creme brulee, but it was a nice palate-cleansing course to finish the meal. The plum was lovely and tart, the gelato was delicious creamy, and the bits of cake were a welcome textural element.
After dinner, we walked back to our hotel for a good night's sleep.
BYCYKLEN
When we awoke in the morning, we were pleased to find that even though it was cloudy, it was no longer raining. We got up with the sun and headed to the closest bike share location. You have to sign up ahead of time (and link your email with your credit card and set up a pin code) but it's quite easy to do. Each email address will allow you to rent up to two bikes so I had to set up two accounts to accommodate our party of three.
For our first ride, we took the bikes all the way to the Little Mermaid statue. It was a decent twenty minute ride, made even easier by the fact that the bikes have little motors that boost your speed and also have tablets that have navigation. I love Copenhagen bike share!
DEN LILLE HAVFRUE
Like I mentioned in my little babbling intro, this little lady was the reason I've wanted to visit Copenhagen for the longest time. I love Hans Christian Anderson stories and this one might be my favorite.
KASTELLET
A short walk from the Langelinie Pier is Kastellet, or the Citadel. It's a military barracks but the property is open to the public and we saw several joggers and people walking their pooches around the area. From above (like in Google Map's satellite view) you'll see that it's star-shaped, which is pretty cool.
FREDERIKS KIRKE
ATELIER SEPTEMBER
After a quick wander through the city from Kastellet to Frederiks Kirke, we hopped on bikes and headed to Atelier September for breakfast. We arrived about five minutes before they opened and saw several other groups waiting.
We grabbed a set of three seats by the window and got to ordering.
Sister and I both went for the fresh squeezed citrus juice (which was a tart grapefruit juice) while Dad went for coffee.
For breakfast, my dad got the rye bread with soft boiled egg and comte cheese. M and I both snuck bites of the cheese and it was awesome.
M and I went for the avocado toast, which was served on the most delicious seed-filled rye bread and topped with crushed chili flakes, chives, lemon zest, and sea salt. It was really good.
I have to say that even though our meal was delicious, we were lucky to have gotten there early and to put in our order early. The staff is made up of just two ladies, who my sister said just looked like friends cooking casually together. This means that they're both swamped and if you're later on the list, you might not get your food for a while.
AMALIENBORG
After breakfast, we walked a few blocks over to Amalienborg. We had hoped to see the changing of the guard, but we either missed it or maybe we were too early. No matter though, because we got to experience the beauty of the plaza anyway.
NYHAVN
One of the last sites we visited in Copenhagen was probably the most famous: Nyhavn. It's the port area with the colorful houses that's the most picturesque place.
DEN SORTE DIAMANT
After a full morning, we headed back to our hotel to check out. Then, we hopped on a bus in search of lunch. We actually stopped by Rosenborg but we were told that we weren't allowed to take photos because it's a military compound or something. Hey, I wasn't going to question the people holding guns.
ROYAL SMUSHI  CAFE
We had a sensible meal at Royal Smushi, which serves up some creative open-faced sandwiches.
I had the cold roast beef, beetroot & goat cheese, and the mock hare. Everything was delicious, including the juices. M went for just the beetroot & goat cheese and the mock hare so that she could indulge in some dessert.
Dad had the lunch plate special, which came with three smushi sandwiches (beetroot & goat cheese, smoked salmon, and potato confit) and the soup of the day, which was carrot.
M's dessert was a super decadent chocolate cake with berries; it was awesome.
CHRISTIANSBORG
By mid-afternoon, it was time for us to head out of the city so we picked up our bags from the hotel and then hopped on a train to the airport.
Security was lightning fast - it was so efficient - which meant we could quickly settle in for some snacks and dinner. We ended up at Joe & the Juice for some smoothies and then at Yo! Sushi for a few bites.
Even though it was a whirlwind 24 hours, it was really enjoyable and I can't wait to go back (in the summer when there's less rain).

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