Copenhagen, Denmark- Land of the Beer and Snaps!
Last Spring Break as a student, EVER!
As a first-year medical student, I find myself in the year of celebrating the "lasts". My last spring break. My last free summer. My last Christmas vacation. With the pressure on, my last spring break I decided to go to Copenhagen, Denmark! I wanted to pick a country that was completely unconventional in my mind. More importantly, my best friend since 3rd grade has been living there for the past year. What better way to see a country I've been curious about while reconnecting with my childhood bestie, Simi? Easy decision!
I have traveled a lot in my life (blessed and highly favored), but it has been a while since I solo traveled outside the country. I forgot all the prep, planning, mentally and physically you have to put into trips, especially traveling internationally. It is so much more than just passport and packing. I am usually not the traveler type to be in museums and touristy attractions all day-- I am more about connecting with the people in that country. I was excited to learn why Denmark has been ranked repeatedly as one of the "happiest countries in the world". Of course, I made it my personal mission to find out! That beats cold museum to me any day! Overall, the trip was excellent. A few BIG travel hiccups, a lot of genuine connections, more Belgium beer and wine than I can count. I am so happy I went, check out the details of my last spring break as a student.
Travel fun: I lucked out and booked business class going from Newark-->Brussels, only a 6-hour flight. Business class internationally means you get to lay the seat all the way back and I felt like a QUEEN being flown in on a royal chariot into Europe…or maybe it was all the wine I drank on the flight. Landed in Brussels and had five hours to kill before my connecting flight to Copenhagen. I put all my luggage in an airport locker and headed straight for the city. First stop- Belgium Waffles. Went to Waffle Factory which was highly recommended by my taxi driver. The weather was sucky so I walked around for a few hours and went window shopping. Stopped at a bar and talked to locals. Headed back to the airport smoothly and my connecting flight to Copenhagen was around an hour.
Travel: Public transit in Copenhagen is so easy. The metro leaves from the airport and within 25 minutes you are in the city. I was able to get around easily with no translator because everyone in Copenhagen speaks fluent English. Signs are a little hard to read, but everyone was so helpful if asking for directions. We got back to my friend Simi's apartment, settled in, and headed to a cute wine bar called Rufino Osteria. Basement vibes with amazing food. First observation- now wonder people here aren't fat! The plate of pasta we ordered would be considered an appetizer size in the US, portion control is key. I was all about it.
Also Uber isn't a thing in Copenhagen, but taxis are. And most importantly, bikes! Everybody bikes there, rain or shine. If you really want to explore the city like a local, rent a bike, or take a bike tour like I did which I loved, more details below.
Personal time: Over the next few days I did some solo exploring while my Simi went to work. Found this amazing taco shop called "La Neta" and got some work done while sipping on margaritas. I was so lucky the sun decided to come out and play while I was in Denmark since this is not usually the norm. When the sun comes out, everyone is outside soaking it up. I've honestly never seen anything like it. Everyone lined up along the rivers with a pack of beers and just enjoyed the moment. I was starting to see why it was considered such a happy country. We walked around the old town of Belgium, found more wine and dessert bars and indulged.
Touristy highlight: Between walking the city, doing a bike tour and a canal tour for a 5 day trip, I felt like I got a true sense of the city. I highly recommend booking "Cycling Copenhagen" and doing the Urban Tour with this company. It was a 3 hour ride and a small group (about 7 of us) and gave good insight into the life and history of the various areas – "from the residential area Islands Brygge to the hip Christianshavn". I learned a lot about the history of the city and our tour guide was so sweet and amazing. After, I took a canal tour with "Canal Tours Copenhagen" and saw the original Little Mermaid statue along with other major attractions around the water. (Honestly, could barely see it, didn't have my glasses on and my camera was blurry from the mist) Slightly underwhelming. But at least I could check it off my list of "must sees".
Food: Still trying to figure out what the traditional food is in Denmark, but the one thing you need to know about Copenhagen is you have to make reservations for meals. If it's a sit-down restaurant (even if it's not fancy) you almost always have to call in advance, major key. Things I recommend:
- Schønnemann- This restaurant serves traditional Danish sandwiches and I got a smørrebrød which is an open face sandwich with smoked fish, pretty good and light to eat. The locals suggest pairing it with a Danish beer and something called "Snaps". I am a person that can barely take a shot of vodka, so to pair the beer with Danish "snaps" took me over. But it is something you had to try, just for the experience! Snaps is a Swedish and Danish word for a small shot of a very intense alcoholic beverage taken during the course of a meal. Everyone laughed at my reaction in the restaurant so it's something the locals expect you to at least try (if you drink alcohol)!
- Danish hotdogs- I thought 'Mericaaaa had the hotdog thing down, but Danish hotdogs take it to the next level! They have hot dog stands and trucks all around the city and they are cheap and bomb! Perfect hung over food after a long night.
- Noma Restaurant: Although I didn't get to try this restaurant out, I highly suggest making reservations extremely in advance! (Probably more than 3 weeks out). It is considered the best restaurant in the world, and everybody I met in the city always recommended it. It is a very expensive restaurant, but they have a student discount special, and if you stack your bread right I heard you will not regret it.
- Wine bars: Ruby, Not Your Parents Wine Bar, Bar 7, Retro, Studenterhuset (told you we drank a lot of wine).
- Cheesecake yumminess: Bertel’s Salon. Check out their insta.
Night life: Aye Y'all, Copenhagen is really lit on the weekends! (Not so much partying during the week). People are out until the wee hours of the morning partying and that's my type of party style. I liked how Copenhagen wasn't like other European countries playing mostly disco and EDM. Copenhagen has this really weird and cool obsession with oldies, R&B and hip-hop, so I was living my best life in the club. Don't need to dress up in heels or a tight dress like LA/Vegas. I also wouldn't suggest it because it's usually cold and the cobblestone roads are literally a nightmare in heels. Keep it casual and cute. For my LGBT population there is a nice selection of gay bars in the area. LGBT culture seems to be very accepted, even went to a drag show one night and it was fab.
Money/ Social Political enlightenment: Copenhagen overall is a very expensive country, with the Danish krone being the official currency. $1USD= 6.14 Danish Krones. Tax is insane (about 25% added to every bill). So please save your bread correctly before going there. I wasn't reaaaady! (Kevin Hart voice).
The reason why I bring this up because of my personal mission. Remember I was trying to figure out WHY on earth everyone was so darn happy here? One person I met (tipsy at a club) broke it down like this: People are so happy because they don't have to worry. There is so much social support from their government, they know "life" won't knock them out. Medical issues won't send them into debt. Unemployment won't leave them homeless. Social security is actually security. School is paid for. They have just enough, if not a little more. I couldn’t help but to be a little jealous. I left feeling happy to hear a city that actually felt supported by their government. Although 'Merica is a very different in our history and cultures, it's something I think of as I engage more with USA political climate.
Travel back: One word- NIGTHMARE. With all the blame put on me. I overlooked the airport code and booked my connecting flight from Copenhagen-->Brussels in a totally different airport! When I say my faced was cracked and I ended up in the middle of nowhere in Brussels! Hahaha, lesson learned, pleaseeee double check airport codes when booking flights. Also, things like this happen. Don't freak out, take the "L" and figure out a plan. I wasted a lot of money taking a taxi to the correct airport and ended up spending the night in the airport. I didn't really want to spend any more money on a hotel (although in Brussels hostels are very affordable if you ever end up in this situation). I decided to stay put and catch up on some work. There is always a bright side. I got some much needed devoted study time since I had been avoiding it during my trip. I guess it ended up working out in the end.
If you are an avid traveler, please add Copenhagen to your list! It is a beautiful country, with a distinct culture, fun nightlife, and really friendly people. I really wouldn't mind going back!