Travel diaries: Birthday in Copenhagen

I’ve spent this past year reading books about Denmark: The Little Book of Hygge and The Little Book of Lykke by Meik Wiking, The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell and The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth, so it came as no surprise when I told my partner I wanted to spend my birthday week in Copenhagen. I’ve wanted to visit Denmark for a while now, and turning 28 seemed like the perfect occasion.

I also read The Little Café in Copenhagen by Julie Caplin to get ideas for cute dates. Which made me think I would love the Tivoli Gardens, but it ended up being very disappointing.

Copenhagen bucket list

I had a long list of things I wanted to do and visit in five days, but guess who got sick during the last two days? Yes, me! I had to cut my list short, my body demanding I stay close to the hotel in case I needed to lay in bed and not move until it was time to go to the airport.

With a (now reduced) bucket list, here are the things I completed:

1. Visit the Happiness Museum

As a Meik Wiking reader, I thought the Happiness Museum was a must. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, but… it kind of was. It was tiny with all the info I had already read in the book of Hygge, and while it had some interactive exhibits, it just wasn’t what I expected.

2. Eat a kanelsnegle

Every book about Denmark mentions the traditional cinnamon rolls, so I had to try them. I’d never had one before, so I was very excited. I went to a local bakery around the corner from our hotel, and the smell inside was amazing, and the pastries were even better.

3. Visit Nyhavn

This famous street in the harbour with all the colourful houses was as beautiful as I had hoped, the only issue was the tourists. I think we all read in our travel guide this was the spot to visit, and we all walked there to see it. If we ever come back, I’m definitely getting up early so I can walk around freely.

We avoided all the harbour restaurants. As someone who grew up on a Spanish island, harbour restaurants are the ones to avoid as their prices are usually for tourists, and the food is rarely good. We had smørrebrød (the typical open sandwiches) in a cafe a few streets down, and it was way better.

4. Read and write in a book cafe

Book cafes or bogcafe are very hyggeligt, and Copenhagen had plenty of cute, bookish cafes. I went to Paludan Bog & Cafe in the centre. It was so nice being surrounded by old books while drinking hot chocolate and having all the time in the world to read.

5. Visit the Botanical Gardens

Probably my favourite place in Copenhagen, the Botanical Gardens were so beautiful. I felt like I was in a Monet painting.

I loved walking around the greenhouse and the gardens. It was so peaceful and full of unique plants and trees.

6. Buy the typical white, scent-free candle for hygge

Danish people burn many candles to keep their homes feeling hyggeligt, and they prefer scent-free candles. But in England, most of the candles I’ve bought are scented as they’re meant to be burned one by one, instead of the Danish way, which burns multiple candles around the room to increase that hygge, cosy feel.

7. Visit the Tivoli Gardens

I don’t know why I thought it would be a good idea to go to this tiny theme park on a Sunday afternoon in the summer. But it was a big mistake. It was full of screaming children, and there were long queues for each ride. We were too tired to stay longer than one hour. A part of me wishes we’d stayed until it was dark to see the lights, but it was too crowded, and I was already starting to feel a bit unwell.

8. Climb the scary spiral stairs of Vor Frelsers Kirke

This church has very distinctive spiral stairs that provide a beautiful view of the city, but the stairs get smaller with every circle, and when it’s full of people, there’s no space to hold on to. It didn’t feel very safe, and the stairs were so crowded that it felt like we could fall at any moment.

If you decide to climb up these deadly stairs, try not to go during the windiest day ever, and definitely don’t wear a mini skirt, as I did.

9. See a baby in a pram left outside a restaurant

I know this sounds like an odd thing to add to a travel bucket list, but every book I’ve read about Denmark mentions how typical it is to leave babies outside in their prams while the adults are inside in a restaurant. I thought they were exaggerating, but we saw one! We saw a baby sleeping outside a restaurant without their parents. I don’t know how that’s such a common thing, but at least now I know it’s true.

We also visited other touristic attractions like the Rosenborg Castle, which is right next to the Botanical Gardens and the Round Tower (Rundetaarn) in the centre that provides a panoramic view of the city once you reach the top.

I loved our stay in Copenhagen. It was great visiting a country I’ve read so much about. Copenhagen is a fantastic city, full of history, books, good food and cute places to visit. But I got ill because of the crazy weather. It was windy and constantly switching between hot and cold, and I spent the whole day putting on and taking off my jumper. You could be sweating in one street and then shivering in another. It was insane. It only took three days of this for me to catch a cold. I guess it’s my lack of Viking blood.

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