Greetings from Copenhagen! We arrived early Saturday morning, and hit the ground running. We knew it might rain for the latter part of our trip, so tried to pack in as much as possible the first two days. Now that it is raining, I am grateful for the moment to pause and reflect on the trip. Here is what I’ve learned from my visit thus far…
1. Architecture makes me swoon. And Copenhagen is teeming with gorgeous architecture. I particularly appreciate the bold colored townhouses and the copper spires.
On the second day of our visit, we climbed a tower erected in honor of Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, and were rewarded with a sweeping bird’s eye view of the city.
2. I travel best when I leave breathing room in my itinerary. Perhaps because we have a habit of visiting major cities in short periods of time (e.g. Hong Kong, Paris), I have a tendency to try to fill our days with sights. But the truth is, I find longer stays more fulfilling if I settle into a place and live like a local, squeezing in one or two sights with ample time to wander.
Along a similar vein, although I often feel differently when I visit a new place, it turns out that I tend to like to do the same types of things visiting elsewhere as I do when I’m home. This includes: Going to markets, hanging out in cafés, and wandering. Copenhagen is a perfect match for these activities.
One of our first stops was to Torvehallerne, a food hall that reminded me of the San Francisco Ferry Building. We sampled olives and cheeses, ogled the smørrebrod (open faced sandwiches), and admired the fresh produce and flowers.
On Sunday we had brunch at The Laundromat Café – a crossover shop featuring a used book store, diner, and laundromat. We set next to a really sweet couple with an adorable daughter, and struck up a conversation. They were kind enough to give us a list of ideas for places to visit in town. We hope they visit San Francisco so that we have the opportunity to return the favor!
3. As much as I am a creature of habit, however, I’m increasingly finding there is much to be gained by pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. Our first night, we splurged and had dinner at Relae, one of Denmark’s New Nordic darlings. I ordered the vegetarian set menu, which consisted of four surprise courses. I loved the restaurant’s décor (e.g. wooden drawers carved into the bar containing our napkins and silverware) and was charmed when our server brought out a grilled asparagus that we were encouraged to eat with our hands. But many of these dishes gave me pause. For example, the first course consisted of salted, fermented unripe strawberries served with chives. Unripe strawberries tend to fall in my mental category of foods that could make you ill (let’s not even start to talk about my husband’s first course – venison tartare with spruce needles). I decided, however, to go all in for the adventure (and not offend the chef), and the result was delightful. Who knew how well strawberries could pair with chives? The chefs at Relae did. The meal (perhaps in part because of the novelty and challenge) has become one of my most memorable (e.g. the cheese “plate” consisted of powdered blue cheese sprinkled over herbs, that melted when spread onto a dense sourdough bread – from companion bakery, Mirabelle). Also the dessert – a subtle sage ice cream served in a chilled bowl with hot rhubarb compote spooned out directly from the pot onto the plate – is one of the best I’ve had in my life. 4. Graveyards can be beautiful. Near our apartment is the Assistens Kirkegård – the final resting place of both Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. On the weekends, couples stroll through the lush paths and families and friends lay out on blankets and share picnics there. I found this a refreshing use of space compared with how cemeteries are typically experienced in the U.S. By physically weaving the cemetery into public space and incorporating it into daily activities, the Danes seem to be acknowledging and embracing the undeniable fact that death is a part of life. 5. The Danes win the award for most adorable pastry. Case in point: The kanelsnegl (cinnamon snail). Doesn’t that sound like a much more suitable candidate to curl up with than, say, a cronut? Our favorite thus far is from Myers Bageri (apparently coming soon to NY!). Below, a close relative, the kanelsnurre (cinnamon bug). The dough is yeasty, sweet, and with just the right amount of give. We are going to duck out to grab lunch and wander further now that the rain is letting up. We will be in Copenhagen for one more day. What else should we see?