Saturday , June 15 2024

European Vacation Part II – Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!

The next stop on our European Vacation was wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen. Seeing pictures or watching videos of a place never does a destination justice, and that is even more true of this lovely Danish city in the eastern part of Denmark.

English Spoken Here

While in the French Riviera, I tried using French phrases here and there for fun and to provoke smiles on shopkeepers’ faces because they knew I was trying my best. Despite a quick crash course in Danish in the Duolingo app on the plane, I knew I was not up for the challenge in Copenhagen. There is, however, no need to know how to speak Danish because everyone there speaks English as well as or better than you.

Great Location

A street near our flat with restaurants and shops

We got settled into our Airbnb that was just a few minutes’ walk from Tivoli Gardens, and realized that we were above several rather noisy cafés – and this was one o’clock in the afternoon – by the end of our time there we got so used to the café noise we didn’t even notice it anymore. We have come to appreciate living in an Airbnb because it gives us all the convenience of home abroad, and it is very reasonably priced compared to hotels.

Temperature Change

A very old building in between more modern ones

On the first day we walked around and got acclimated to our neighborhood. The major difference between the South of France and Denmark was a big drop in temperatures. While we had 90-degree days in France, in Copenhagen it was 65 degrees and cloudy. While this was not beach weather, it was excellent weather for walking around the city and seeing the sights. One of the outstanding aspects of this city is its beautiful, well preserved architecture.   

Shopping Spree

While my wife and daughter were on a mission to shop, my son and I were on a mission to hit the two LEGO stores in town. Despite the rain, we navigated the streets with our trusty map app on the phone, and we found the first store. It seemed to be like any other LEGO store we have been to except the amazing one in London.

Creating a personalized LEGO in the LEGO Store

The second LEGO store was a bit of a walk from the first, but it was right next to Tivoli Gardens, and it was a phenomenal two-story establishment. One the second floor there was an option to create a personalized LEGO that would be made while you waited. Using a computer screen and lots of patience, my son designed his LEGO character, and it was an enjoyable moment.

LEGO Pilgrimage

LEGO House tells the story of LEGO bricks

The next day we decided to take the trip to Billund, Denmark, home of LEGO House where Ole Kirk Christiansen, the creator and founder of LEGO, started it all. The train ride takes two hours and fifteen minutes, and we got to see a beautiful country that is very flat and very green. We passed many farms and went through small towns. Once you get off the train at Give, you must take a bus to get to Legoland. Getting off there, you need to walk another twenty minutes to get to LEGO House. Some might call this a difficult journey, but it was like a pilgrimage for LEGO fans like us.

Above the original wooden duck toy is the LEGO motto: “Only the best is good enough.”

We were excited to see where it all started. You can see the story from initially wooden toys to the transition to plastic and the design of attachable bricks. Classic sets are displayed lovingly, and you get a feeling as a LEGO lover that you have come home. There is also a process where you can watch the machine making the LEGO bricks, and you get a souvenir bag of classic red bricks to take home. Having gotten our LEGO passports in Copenhagen, we were sure to get them stamped at LEGO House in Billund. You can get them stamped at any LEGO store in the world, so get yours next time your visit a location.

Legoland is a magical place filled with rides, attractions, and places to eat

Afterwards, we did go into Legoland but, since our journey took so long, we only had a few hours before the park closed at seven o’clock. Still, there was enough time to get on some exciting rides, including a canoe ride that seems very much like the old Splash Mountain at Disney World.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs were a delight – as were those fresh cranberries!

The next day we took a train into Malmo, Sweden. This lovely Swedish seaport is ideal for shopping and sampling the cuisine. My goal was to get real Swedish meatballs, and I lucked out and got the treat as we ate a delicious lunch in Gustav Adolf Restaurant. The menu here is extensive, but I zeroed in on the meatballs, and it was my favorite meal on the trip.

Malmo has more the feel of a modern city, but we did come across some wonderful old structures that have been preserved well. We would have liked to explore more of Sweden, but we were pressed for time and hope to get to Stockholm and other places on another visit.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli is a joyous place that once inspired Walt Disney to build something like it at home.

Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park in the heart of Copenhagen – imagine Disney World in Central Park – but it is a gorgeous combination of rides, shops, dining, and entertainment in a beautiful setting. Once you pay admission – a very reasonable $171 for four people – you have access to all rides and attractions. Besides not having Disney’s exorbitant ticket prices, you have exciting rides – be sure to check out Star Tower, The Roller Coaster, and the exciting Swing Carousel – that don’t have excessively long lines to enter.

There are exciting rides like the Swing Carousel found amidst lovely gardens.

There is ongoing entertainment throughout the day, the shops have reasonable prices, and the dining choices (24 in all) are varied and affordable. There are also 17 different places to get ice cream, which happens to be rich, creamy, and delicious.

Tivoli was celebrating its 180th year in business this summer, and it is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. It should be noted that a man named Walt Disney visited Tivoli Gardens and got inspiration to open something similar back home. Walt described Tivoli as “a spotless, bright coloured [sic] park, and priced within reach of everyone.” I found it interesting that this is still true of Tivoli Gardens, while the same cannot be said of the Disney parks today.

Harbor Swim

Swimming is allowed in Copenhagen’s clean harbor waters.

We had heard that the harbor waters in Copenhagen are so clean that people could swim there. We went to explore this possibility, and sure enough there was an area that is gated off but allows swimmers to swim in the harbor. My kids jumped in without hesitation, even diving off a very high replica of a ship. While the water was too cold for me, I am glad they had a chance to enjoy this unique aspect of city life here. The park area around the water reminded me of Brooklyn Bridge Park back home, where no one would seriously consider swimming in the East River.

Bicycle City

Bicycles are an integral part of life in the city.

A major part of life in Copenhagen is the bicycle. They are seen everywhere, and someone told me that even during snowstorms the hardiest of city dwellers will still ride their bikes. The most amazing thing is to see how many bikes are sometimes haphazardly parked all over the place, with very few being locked up like we do at home.

The Ubiquitous Copenhagen Bench

Benches like this one are found all over the city and provide a place to rest.

Copenhagen is a very walkable city and, with that in mind, there is the ubiquitous Copenhagen bench. These benches can be found all over the city, providing a place for the weary citizen or tourist to take a break and rest their weary feet. They are also a great spot to people watch or eat a quick bite before getting back to walking to your next destination.

Fine Dining

The food in Copenhagen is excellent, where each meal seemingly surpasses the last one. Interestingly, the two classic foods to get are the hotdog with relish and an open sandwich – for which there are many possibilities. The interesting thing with the hotdog is you get two for the price of one – one inside the bun with relish and or mustard and the other sticking out of it.

My open-faced pork sandwich was awesome.

My best meal in Copenhagen was an open-faced pulled pork sandwich with red cabbage, pickles, onions, and more. It was simply delicious. Add a glass of cold local beer and you’re on your way to gastronomic heaven.

Five Thumbs Up

Leaving Copenhagen after seven days, we felt like we had seen a great deal but that more awaited us on a return visit. That is the most beautiful aspect of traveling – finding a place that you loved enough to mark as one to which you want to return.

We had a glorious time in Copenhagen and give it five thumbs up as an ideal tourist destination. If you’re looking for a place that has something for people of all ages, it is hard to think of a better place than Copenhagen – salty old queen of the sea.  

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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