Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Ultimate Mini-Break


It's been a week since the husb and I returned from our mini-break to Denmark's capital city and honestly, since then I've probably googled 'moving to Copenhagen' about 17,323 times. You and I both know that I'm obviously not going to up sticks and set up home in the city any time soon -- there are the small matters of kids, school, work, family and life to consider -- but I suppose my point is that it was a bloomin' marvelous city to visit and one that I highly recommend.

Central Copenhagen




Before I get into the city itself, let's touch briefly on the notion of 'the mini-break'. I've blogged here in the past about a one night staycation we had at Coworth Park last summer and boy, was it bliss. But, if you do ever get the chance to actually get yourself and your partner onto an actual plane, into the sky and to another country without your children -- well, I'm a huge advocate of doing so. I appreciate that the husb and I are extremely lucky as our kids have two sets of doting grandparents just a few minutes away who are always delighted to help us out i.e. spend quality time with the girls and spoil them absolutely rotten. It is a truly enormous blessing. I also know that there are people out there who just don't feel comfortable about leaving their kids for many, many justifiable reasons. But - if you're tempted, and you can logistically handle it (or get your nearest and dearest to logistically handle it for you!) then in my humble opinion, it's the perfect definition of a no-brainer.

Speaking of logistics, our trip didn't get off to the most logistically well thought-out of starts. Yours truly went through the calendar and picked the dates -- but didn't double-check them against the school calendar. We found a great price on the flights, paid up and didn't give things much thought. Until about a month later when I realised we'd booked over half term week. Now, don't get me wrong, my parents, who would be holding the fort, adore the girls to pieces. But to entertain and occupy them for the entirety of half term week? I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. We contemplated cancelling and then taking them with us (hats off, by the way, to those parents who take their kids everywhere with them -- it's mighty impressive but come on, we can all do with sometime without the small people can't we?) but after a bit of digging, I found a local art camp who would take them both. THANK. THE. LORD.

And so we were off. I tell you, with our small carry-ons, only two passports and not a single fruit Yo-Yo on my person, even the 30 minute train ride to Gatwick felt like a mini-break. After a one and a half hour flight (which was slightly delayed but when you don't have your children with you, you might be inclined to use this time to have a second trawl through duty-free) we arrived in Copenhagen. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the metro from the airport to Nørreport took little more than twenty minutes. 


When we emerged at the other side, as we walked to our hotel (the very lovely and brilliantly located Ibsens) the first thing we noticed was, of course, the bikes. Bikes are everywhere. Almost 50% of Copenhagen's population commute by bicycle and you can most certainly feel it. The cycle lanes are the same width as the car lanes and they are constantly busy -- with people on their way to work, parents cycling their kids to school and nursery, students off to university. It's quite a spectacle -- and probably the main reason why Copenhagen is one of the world's healthiest cities. It's also incredibly safe; we noticed quite a number of bikes that were parked and just left unlocked. I did also spot a bugaboo outside a shop with a baby in it. But hey, each to their own...!

Bicycle City

Copenhagen is pretty compact and given the great weather, we decided to walk almost everywhere. We joined a free walking tour of the city  (find out more here) which took around 2.5 hours and meant we got a real sense of the sights, the layout and the feel of the place. And in terms of it's feel, despite it's close proximity to our shores, Copenhagen really has a very different -- to use my WORST word ever -- vibe to the parts of Europe that we've visited before. Is it the happiest place in the world? It certainly felt like it. There's a special combination of efficiency and calm there that you most definitely won't find in London.



Because we felt like we had to -- and because we told the girls we would -- we headed to look at The Little Mermaid statue, built in honour of Denmark's most celebrated individual, Hans Christian Andersen, the author of Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes and of course, The Little Mermaid herself. In truth, this was the only disappointment of our stay but it was so bad, it was actually funny. It's a tiny little thing and given that it's the city's number one attraction but apparently the third most disappointing one in the world, well that pretty much sums it up. What I will say of note is that given the long walk, I stopped at a  fair few public loos on the way and the way back, each one more glistening than the last. If you can judge a city by anything, public toilets ought to be a factor and Copenhagen must come out top. Come to think of it, we saw probably no more than six pieces of litter on the roads for the entirety of our trip. 

The amusingly disappointing Little Mermaid

We spent our first evening at Tivoli gardens, which are a must-see. Tivoli is the beautiful theme park that inspired Walt Disney way back when and it's full of rides, restaurants and things to do and see, including shows, live music and areas to just relax on deckchairs, which we did, whilst a beautiful peacock hovered around us. This is all very hygge (hue-gah) in Danish speak. Lots of twinkly lights, candles and cosiness, hygge is a concept which is central to soaring Danish happiness levels. I'm no expert and there's no literal English translation of the term but you most definitely feel it while you're there. For more on hygge, have a read here.

Feeling the hygge in our double deckchair

Other highlights included a visit to the city's Design Museum. If you're interested in Scandi design, which, let's face it, has pretty much taken over the world, it's well worth taking a look. It's quite incredible just how many iconic pieces originated in Denmark -- and if the Danish chair exhibition is still on when you go, it really is a must-see. As an exhibition itself, it is, unsurprisingly, designed extremely well. Hopefully the picture below will show you what I mean.

The Danish chair exhibition


We also really enjoyedwalking along the Nyhavn to Christiania --the city's self-proclaimed anarchist district. We'd never seen anywhere quite like it. Full of home-made houses, graffiti art and happy-go-lucky dealers (soft-drugs only is a mantra very much stressed) --and with no cars allowed either -- it has a distinct hippie feel, very different from the main part of the city just a few minute's walk away.

I must also mention my personal favourite spot -- Torvehallerne. Just a couple of blocks away from our hotel, this food market is packed to the brim with stalls selling the freshest fruit and veg you can imagine. I must shout out Grød, purveyors of the finest breakfast I've ever had. They are porridge experts, if that's your thing, and I highly HIGHLY recommend swinging by. Make sure you take a stroll down Strøget, the city's pedestrianised central shopping sreet -- you'll find anything and everything there, just beware the price tags!

Breakfast of dreams at Grød

Happy days


Speaking of price tags, I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn't mention the fact that Copenhagen -- like the rest of Scandinavia -- is VERY expensive. Your eyes will widen at the price of a pint -- well ours certainly did. So just be prepared for this and take solace in the fact your flights are probably going to be pretty damn cheap -- and all in all, in my view anyway, it's most definitely worth it.


SHARE: