Travel

Copenhagen – Day 2

15th May 2013

Last week I wrote about my trip to Copenhagen, with photos from my first day in the city. Our second day was blessed with sunshine and packed with even more sight-seeing in this beautiful city.

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I met my friend Sylvia and her husband Albert at Coffee Collective and, after a delicious cappuccino and cinnamon pastry, I was ready to start the Copenhagen tour.

With my friend Giovanna, we headed first to Rosenborg Castle and King’s Garden, which we had missed the day before. The weather was a bit cloudy and chilly, so we didn’t hang around in the park for too long.

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Instead, we hopped on a bus and travelled to the island of Christianshavn, an elegant neighbourhood with many cafes and bakeries. You might have heard of a restaurant called Noma, which you will find in this part of the city… ;)

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Attracted by the beautiful cakes displayed in the Lagkagehuset shop window, I went in and bought a few treats for later: a Christianshavner tærten (a small hazelnut cake topped with strawberry cream) and a Kanelstang (a cinnamon bread filled with spices and glazed with sugar). I was keen to try Danish specialties, all in the spirit of reviewing them for you all…hard life of a food blogger, I know! ;)

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In anticipation of eating the cakes, we decided to walk all the stairs up to the top of Our Saviours’ Church. This is a beautiful baroque church, famous for its corkscrew spire with an external winding staircase, where you can enjoy fantastic views of Copenhagen. I walked all the way to the top of the spire (not without short breath and accelerated heart beat) and also took a short Vine video. My efforts were rewarded by the stunning views!

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Next to the church, we found Café Oven Vande, which had outdoor seating and seemed to be full of locals. We decided to take a rest (I certainly needed to recover from the adrenaline rush) and fill our stomachs. Most of all, we wanted to try the famous “Danish Open Sandwiches”: Smørrebrød.

The open sandwich was originally a combination of a working class hero – the rye bread lunch sandwiches of farmers and workers – and the lavish dinners of the bourgeoisie and nobility in Denmark. The urban wealthy made the sandwiches in vogue during the latter part of the 19th century, drawing on an old tradition of serving meats and fish on slices of bread instead of plates. The sandwiches strutted with towering combinations of cold meats or pickled and fried fish, some more exotic than appetizing. [Kasper Fogh Hansen]

Born as working class food, in modern days smørrebrød had become synonymous of antiquated lifestyle and unhealthy fast-food. This has changed now, as several Danish restaurants have picked up the tradition, transforming smørrebrød into a sought-after culinary experience. It is one of the “must-try” foods in Copenhagen.

Always based on rye bread, the open sandwiches can have a different number of toppings, from herring, to raw beef, seafood and egg (have a look at Danish Sandwich blog for recipes). We ordered a set dish with three sandwiches: shrimp, egg and dill mayonnaise; pickled herring; potato and roast beef with fried onions.

They were quite good, but the café was very busy and we had to wait nearly one hour for the food, which definitely spoilt the fun!

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After lunch, we walked to Christiania, a collectively run ‘hippie’ village within the city of Copenhagen.

“Freetown Christiania” was created when squatters occupied a military area in 1971. The area has since grown and now covers 84 acres, counting about 850 residents; it is regulated by a special law, which makes it independent from the municipality of Copenhagen. Photography is not allowed, neither are weapons and hard drugs. And running, as it causes panic! :)

The main reason why Christiania is a famous touristic destination is the open cannabis trade. Officially it is illegal, but authorities have been reluctant to stop it, as “concentrating the hash trade at one place would limit its dispersion in society, and could prevent users from switching to harder drugs” (source: Wikipedia).

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I expected Christiania to be nothing more than a tourist attraction, but it was much more than that. I really enjoyed spending a few relaxing hours walking through the village (and no, I didn’t smoke).

Past Pusher Street and the bars, full with people drinking, smoking, playing music and board games, there is a real community of people who live and work here.The houses are built by the community and they are the most colourful and eccentric I have ever seen. There are kids roaming around, playing in the back yards, selling homemade lemonade and popcorn popped by the open fire.

I have always lived in big cities and I love my hectic lifestyle, but I often wonder what life would be like if I slowed down and worried less about career, wealth and possessions.

Visiting Christiania was a gentle reminder to myself of the simple things that matter the most in life. I also felt the happiest I had been in months, playing on a swing that was hanging from a tree, with the sun in my face and looking at the Stadsgraven canal.

Back to reality and to our tour of Copenhagen, we took a bus to cross the Knippel Bridge and go back to Nyhavn, where we had dinner the first night. We walked past the restaurants and went straight to the harbour in front of the Royal Danish Playhouse.

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Copenhagen offers a lot of spots where you can rest and enjoy the sunshine: parks, gardens, even a small beach in Christiania, harbours, promenades, etc. One of them is Larsens Plads, a beautiful waterfront with 18th-century warehouses, which used to be a major hub for boats sailing to America.

We walked away from the promenade, to view the beautiful courtyard of Amalienborg Palace, winter home of the Royal Danish family. We also assisted by chance at the Royal Guards marching and changing the guard.

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From there, we walked further north to Kastellet, a fortress built in the form of a pentagram, with bastions at its corners and a medieval citadel in the centre.

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We went back by bus to our neighbourhood, Nørrebro, and visited the lively area around Sankt Hans Torv. We then continued to Jægersborggade, a popular foodie destination, to have dinner at Manfreds & Vin.

Opened by the same team behind Michelin-starred Relæ, Manfreds & Vin is the first natural wine bar in Copenhagen. It focuses primarily on “rustic everyday food, made with modern techniques and quality ingredients [such as] biodynamic vegetables from Kiselgården, roots from Lammefjorden, pig from Grambogaard, lamb from Havregaard and herbs from the forest”.

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We arrived around 8pm and were told that all the tables were booked for the night. The seats at the bar are only for walk-ins, so we decided to wait for a spot to free up. We ordered a glass of wine and sat in the “terrace”; after about fifteen minutes, the waitress told us we could sit at a table by the entrance, which had been free since we arrived and we assumed was only for drinks.

From the moment we sat down, the staff became more friendly and attentive towards us. We were served either by the waitress, the restaurant manager and a few different chefs: there was no clear distinction between roles and everyone was doing a bit of everything.

It was nice to have dishes served directly by the chefs, as it reinforced the impression of a very informal and simple restaurant, where the focus is not on appearances, but solely on food.

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The menu changes daily, with a few starters, two dishes of the day (meat or vegetarian) and two desserts or cheese.

I started with a salad of root vegetables, söl & blackcurrant (söl should be seaweed pickles…does anybody know for sure?).

For the main course, both Giovanna and I ordered Okse fra mineslund mit kartoffelkompot and stegte gulerodder, stewed beef with potato compote and fried carrots. It was really good and a generous portion too!

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I was stuffed, but everything had been so good, I couldn’t leave without trying a dessert as well. The waitress presented me with two options: a lemon and yogurt cake, which would have been light, fresh and a good palate cleanser; or a heavy but delicious chocolate mousse. I was undecided at first, but in the end chocolate always wins! :)

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Every dish was presented (in English) with a description of the ingredients and an indication of what flavours we should expect from it.

The restaurant management seemed a bit out of tune, but the food and service at Manfreds & Vin were perfect. The place is simple and basic focused on the quality of the wine and the dishes. It was a different dining experience compared to London , where restaurants tend to focus too much on the branding and style rather than on food.

This is all for Copenhagen – Day 2! Stay tuned to read about our last day in the city, as well as my favourite coffee shops!

To see all my Copenhagen posts, click here.

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Copenhagen – Day 1

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