Insider Itinerary is an occasional series here at Dandelion Chandelier that shines a light on the best places to see, stay, and dine in some of the hottest travel destinations worldwide. Our far-flung correspondents are sharing their inside tips on how to best experience their chosen cities, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. Consider it your local luxury GPS. You’re welcome! In this edition, we share luxury insider tips on the best first trip to Copenhagen, Denmark.
We began this series with our Paris Bureau Chief sharing the ideal itinerary for a first trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Since then, we’ve shared insider itineraries for Oslo, Nantucket, and East Hampton. Next up? Our Manhattan-based Beauty Editor shares her inside tips for an ideal first trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. Her (lightly edited) insights follow.
tips for your first luxury trip to copenhagen
Denmark has been named the happiest country on earth for several years (last year it was bumped to number 2 by neighboring Norway). Copenhagen is its capital and most populous city, and it’s renowned as a foodie destination, and also as a center of exceptional design. There are wonderful ways to explore its charming neighborhoods, including by boat or by bike (there are more bikes than inhabitants in Copenhagen).
After reading this overview of the city, we’re pretty sure you’ll want to see it for yourself, and while there’s really no bad time to visit, the next few weeks are a great time to go.
Copenhagen Fashion Week begins this year on January 29th.
At the legendary restaurant Noma, it’s seafood season from now until June 1 – what better time to go?
Kids in tow? The iconic Tivoli Gardens amusement park is currently closed for the month of January. But about half of the regular area of the park – decked out in winter white — will be open to visitors for Winter in Tivoli from February 1-24, 2019.
Need more convincing? Read on.
Why Copenhagen? What made you want to go there?
I was located in Europe for about two years, and when I transferred back to the US, I really missed Europe! I had been to all of the obvious places over the years – but except for Amsterdam and Oslo, I had never really ventured to the Nordic countries.
Copenhagen has always had a certain allure – maybe it’s the Hans Christian Anderson connection or the beautiful furniture they make, or the crisp pictures you always see at Christmas and summer, but it just seemed more interesting than Stockholm or Helsinki. Plus, I was meeting a dear friend, so I got to fly through my favorite European airport – Zurich – and stock up on the way back at Sprungli! Plus I found some other great items for my daughter at the Heimatwerk store.
How long did you stay? How long is the ideal first visit?
I left the US on a Wednesday evening, and was checked into the Copenhagen hotel by 2:00p on Thursday. We left Copenhagen on Sunday morning.
One additional day probably would have been ideal, but if you only have three nights to spend there, it’s just fine. You do need to be seasoned traveler, as there is no time to complain about jet lag! Sleeping on the plane all the way over the Atlantic is key if you’re making a short trip like we did.
What hotel(s) do you recommend? Or did you rent a house?
We stayed at the Hotel d’Angleterre, which was recently refurbished (within the last 5 years) – it’s like a very charming, smaller version of the Four Seasons George V in Paris. The rooms were fabulous and well appointed. Each room has a different color palette, and a mix of old and new furniture.
We stayed in a junior suite that had wonderful linens, a big modern bathroom, and plenty of towels. The service is wonderful, and the hallways are immaculate. I’d highly recommend it. It has a truly adorable and creative lobby.
In speaking with some folks, we learned that there are some lovely boutique hotels in Copenhagen, but we preferred staying at the grand dame! It’s a wonderful location in the center of town.
The only downside while we were there is that the town square right in front of the hotel was under construction, and a bit of an eye sore. Once that is gone, it will be an even better spot. There’s a lovely bar outdoors to sit and people watch. It was chilly when we were there, so they gave us those great sheepskin seat covers and blankets.
What are the 5 most important “must see” sights – natural wonders, museums, etc?
Due to the short time frame, we didn’t make it to every suggested sight in the guidebooks. One of the local experiences that we did take full advantage of is Copenhagen’s status as a foodie capital (more on that later, but you have to sample a locally-made smørrebrød – an open-faced sandwich – at least once while you’re there). The restaurant and coffee shop scene is terrific.
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
The one must-see for sure is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It is an easy train ride to the museum – it takes about 40 minutes from the center of town. We were blown away. Outstanding art. When we visited, there was a Marina Abramovic retrospective, and it was fabulous.
It is a museum at one with nature: the buildings connect to one another through these wonderful gardens on the sea with a view of the Swedish coast. You can hike down to the sea and walk around the grounds. Truly wonderful. The cafeteria is outstanding. Delicious food, with Danish staples on the menu. And lovely wines and beers to choose from! Like everywhere in Europe, the use of china and silverware is such a welcome change from the plastic dinnerware of the US.
A boat trip
I would also recommend a boat trip around the canals – it’s a very easy and fun way to see the city. The bridges on the canals are really low. I mean really low. If you are not careful, you will get decapitated! Another option is to rent your own boat. Totally doable and easy! There are little cafés dotted along the canals where you can stop and have lunch or a cocktail.
Is there good shopping? If so, where?
There’s fabulous shopping! Copenhagen has all the standard luxury brands, but what they have a lot more of are labels that are only in Copenhagen, in small bespoke shops sprinkled around the main shopping area.
There are so many beautifully-made items sold to you by equally beautiful, natural people. I bought a skirt that is so wonderfully made, and no one else will have it! The name of the shop is Zone 1 and the designer is Jan Machenhauer.
There are wonderful children’s shops with handmade merchandise, as well. Birger Christensen has terrific stuff–it carries most of the major luxury labels, but the best part is that they had a great selection of shearling coats made in Denmark in really unusual styles. And great prices. I have not seen anything like that here in the US.
Also, we stopped at Georg Jensen, which had lovely things and a far greater selection of merchandise than you find here in the US.
Which restaurants did you love?
We had dinner at two FABULOUS restaurants. Both Michelin 1-stars. A friend turned me on to the idea of not spending so much money on Michelin 2- and 3-starred restaurants in Europe. The real value is with the 1-stars. They’re led by up-and-coming chefs who want to make their mark – so they try REALLY hard!
The first night we ate at the hotel’s 1-Michelen starred restaurant, Marchal, which was fine but not great.
The next night we ate at 108, which is run by former associates of Noma (the number one restaurant in world for a long time). The menu is all farm-to-table, which is de rigueur in Denmark. It only opened in 2017, and it already has a Michelin star. The dishes are all terribly beautiful. One course was a salad of flowers – literally – you mix your own dressing and eat the flowers. This spot was not far from the hotel, on the canal. Very casual atmosphere, open kitchen and wonderful staff.
There were a full 18 courses! It’s located on a quiet, mysterious street, and it has only a small plaque on the door. We couldn’t even find it at first! We ran down the street to get the taxi back, but he assured us we were in the right spot. You ring a bell, and enter through a long hallway that’s beautifully appointed.
The décor is a fusion of Japanese and Danish – really beautiful. There’s a fully open kitchen. There are many, many chefs – and each one had a specialty plate they were preparing for us. They each presented the course they prepared directly to us. There’s a lovely wine list. We thought it was exceptional service, and not pushy on the wine or when to leave. Each “plate” was a work of art. Everything finely chopped, diced, shaved – you name it, they did it. One course had wood ants! Totally yummy.
Of everything you did on your first visit, what was the one most memorable thing?
The food and the art museum.
What would you take a pass on if you had it to do again?
The Little Mermaid! We were expecting this major statue, and it is actually really small. And surrounded by crowds. In the end, it was not worth it. Buy a postcard.
What’s on your list to see next time that you didn’t get to on your first visit?
I’m not really sure. I just really enjoyed wandering around and poking into stores, stopping for a coffee or a champagne. I am sure there are other things to do, but for me that is all I need!
Is this a good vacation for families with kids? Teenagers? Romantic partner? Solo traveler? Any or all of the above?
Families with young children will love the Tivoli Gardens amusement park – it’s a classic. And the Louisiana Museum offers a special area for kids. If you have time, Denmark is the birthplace of Lego, and Legoland is a three-hour drive from Copenhagen.
With teens, go in warm weather and they can bike, do the amusement parks and pilot a boat on the canal. I’d say its good for couples or solo travelers, too – there are great museums, hotels and restaurants to suit almost any type of vacation.
Describe the city in three words:
Fresh, charming and friendly.
We don’t know about you, but we’re sold. What say you? Next stop, Copenhagen?
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