How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Before visiting last September, Denmark was a country I knew little about. Due to reading The Year of Living Danishly, I knew the Danes produce LEGOs and above-average pastries, and are supposedly the happiest people in the world. But that was about it.

So when my friend Jen, whom I stayed with in London, suggested we fly to Copenhagen for the weekend, I was intrigued. And willing to fly anywhere for $50. (Gotta love European budget airlines.)

After landing, we took the train to Nyhavn, the brightly colored canal-side neighborhood. After snapping a few pictures of the stately, colorful canal, we found our Airbnb.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

As we were only in Copenhagen for one night, we had to splurge on accommodation. Right? (Why yes, I’m still trying to justify spending $270 for one night, ha.)

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Though honestly, it was well worth the money; just look at those high ceilings and white linen duvet covers.

Once we deposited our bags in my dream apartment, we set out to explore. My first thought was, ‘This air is so clean.’

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

As a surprise to no one, the air quality in Kampala, Uganda is abysmal. So Copenhagen's fresh, ocean air was like a day spa for my lungs.

After walking around and marveling at my new-found ability to breath normally again, we stopped for lunch. At the restaurant, hygge was in full-force; there were candles on every table, and plush grey blankets draped over the seats.

For those not familiar, hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is a Danish word that roughly translates to ‘a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being'.

As someone who is a hobbit at heart, I love the concept of hygge. But when I explained the meaning of hygge to Jen, she said, “Doesn’t it just mean coziness?”

Um… yeah. I guess it kind of does? Anyway.

Next, we rented bikes. While I was apprehensive about this idea (I sort of hate riding bikes), it ended up being my favorite activity in Copenhagen.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Our first stop? Christiania. Christiana is an autonomous district where cannabis and hippies abound.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

All in all, I wasn’t hugely impressed –  It kind of felt like an open-air display of a stoner's dorm room. But if you’re a ganja fan, it might be up your alley.

Next, we headed to Tivoli Gardens, the 19th-century amusement park. It was adorable, but pricey – it cost us $18 just to enter, and more for rides. Sheesh.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

But hey, no one ever said that Scandinavia was cheap. So we bought some tea and sun-bathed in the grass – the cheapest activity available to us.

By this point, I was stressing a bit about money. So I thought to myself, ‘Alcohol costs a fortune in Scandinavia, so why not drink some wine at the Airbnb before dinner?’

Unfortunately, the plan backfired. After drinking a little too much wine, we ended up cancelling our reservation at a hip Copenhagen restaurant and heading somewhere closer. Whoops.

When we woke in a red wine-induced haze, we headed to the nearest bakery for sustenance. I.e. coffee and pastries.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Clockwise from the top-left: chocolate cinnamon roll, poppy seed roll (tebirkes), and cinnamon roll

Alongside France and Austria, Denmark has some of the best pastries in the world. We sampled several pastries to determine our favorite: a traditional cinnamon roll, a chocolate-filled cinnamon roll, and a poppy seed roll (tebirkes).

My favorite was the chocolate cinnamon roll, as it was doughy and densely chocolatey. Yum.

After breakfast, we headed out to see the Little Mermaid in the harbor. On the way, Wikipedia taught us this little statue has suffered all kinds of abuse in her hundred or so years of existence, including two decapitations. Poor thing.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Then we headed to Copenhagen Street Food, an indoor street market, for lunch. The market was amazing; it had everything from Korean street snacks to gourmet hot dogs.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

I opted for the least-exotic delicacy on offer, rye bread with smoked salmon. Because you can’t go to Scandinavia and not eat smoked fish.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Per the city-wide hygge protocol, there were candles everywhere.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

Soon after our meal, we returned our bikes and headed to the airport.

How to spend a weekend in Copenhagen, the world's happiest city

All in all, two days hours in Copenhagen was not enough; I missed the Viking Ship Museum (which is 30 minutes from Copenhagen) and didn't get the chance to check out many neighborhoods or restaurants.

But that's okay. Copenhagen is certainly worth a return visit, and at least I got a small taste of this quaint, clean, and cinnamon roll-filled country. I'm sure I'll be back.

Important info:

I was in Copenhagen for two days and one night and it was too short. I'd recommend staying for at least three days.

In Copenhagen, we stayed at this Airbnb in Nyhavn, which was stylish, quiet, and centrally located. However I don't recommend staying in Nyhavn because it's touristy and dead at night, even on Saturday night. If you've never used Airbnb, you can use this coupon code to get $40 off your first stay. If you'd rather stay in a hotel, check out hotel deals in Copenhagen here.

Getting to and from the airport is quick and easy; all you do is take the airport train, which costs 36 DKK ($6) for a one-way ticket. It takes about 15 minutes to get from the airport to the city center.

I rented a City Bike from Copenhagen Bicycles, where rentals start at 120 DKK ($20 dollars) for 24 hours. Make sure you request a lock and helmet (helmets cost 40 DKK, or $6.50). Copenhagen is a small city, so biking is the best way to get around.

Visiting Tivoli Gardens costs 110 DKK ($18) for adults, and 50 DKK ($8) for children ages 3-7. The Unlimited Ride Pass costs 290 DKK ($50). See more ticket prices here.

Make sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Copenhagen. I've used World Nomads for years and highly recommend it.

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Uganda. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Colorado. She's been to forty countries but somehow still gets lost in her home town. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour magazine.
Ashley Fleckenstein

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