W hen school is out in Copenhagen, nature has burst into life and the sun barely goes down, it’s time for a celebration! Because Midsummer has arrived in Scandinavia. Especially for the Swedes it is after Christmas the most important festivity and symbolizes the end of a long and dark winter.
So between June 19th and 25th (dates vary between different cultures) the people in the north use the bright nights to get out. They celebrate with friends and family in pure nature, have delicious homemade food, wear flower crowns and dance around the maypole. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Scandinavia around this time of a year. But I think my trip in September fits perfectly with Midsummer. Thus, I dedicate my journey – separated in four parts – to June and the beautiful beginning of summer.
My route started in Copenhagen (Denmark) followed by the cities Gothenburg, Stockholm (Sweden), Helsinki (Finland), Stavanger and Oslo (Norway). Although four countries and six cities in 2.5 weeks sound like a rush, it was possible and absolutely enough. When you are a travel person like me and want to see as much as you can, you don’t need more than two whole days in each city.
Otherwise, it is always beautiful to spend more time in a wonderful country, but vacation days are scarce these days… But let’s come back to Copenhagen! Read here about the best food spots and the top places that are worth seeing in Copenhagen – the first city of my Scandinavia journey.
The Little Mermaid
The bronze statue is the symbol of Copenhagen and became one of the most iconic landmarks in Denmark. Based on the fairytale “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen, it was installed in 1913 on a rock at the waterfront.
As this fairytale became a popular tourist attraction there came a number of protests with it. The mermaid’s head was stolen in 1964 and again in 1998. The arm was taken off in 1984 and later recovered. But finally, in 2010, The Little Mermaid was used for a positive statement. The statue should promote the Denmark brand internationally and has been shipped for an exhibition at the World Expo in Shanghai.
This theme park is so famous now that people just come to Copenhagen to visit the Tivoli Gardens. It’s one of the world’s oldest theme parks (built in the 19th century) and offers rollercoasters, carousels and delicious sweets and candy in a wonderfully romantic atmosphere. And even if you’re not a rollercoaster person, you will have an unforgettable time by just strolling through the park. And maybe you will come and have the time of your life!
Nyhavn means New Harbour in English and is famous for its colorful houses next to the 17th-century canal with old wooden ships. Due to the bars, restaurants, and cafés, it’s the best place to linger for a coffee or beer in summer. But it is also a literary landmark since author Hans Christian Andersen lived in the houses with the numbers 18, 20 and 67 that are marked with a plaque.
Shopping is one thing in Denmark you can enjoy for sure! Especially Strøget in Copenhagen is great to just stroll around or to buy the things that you need. Because if you are looking for something in particular, such as clothes, Scandinavian interior or restaurants, the chances are high that you find it in this pedestrian street.
If you’re up for some independent shops, then simply follow Strøget into the Old City. Then turn off into the narrow side streets. There’s a great mix of traditional shops and hip boutiques for young fashionistas.
The Round Tower was once an old astronomy observatory and is located on Strøget. It is just one of the many landmarks that were built under King Christian IV in the 17th century and is now a good spot to enjoy a great view over the roofs of Copenhagen.
It costs about 25 kr (3,40€/$3,80) for adults to go to the top and hang out there for a little while. The Round Tower also features a Library Hall, an exhibition space and a music venue. But to get up there, the so-called Rundetårn has no stairs, but a slanted spiral corridor in order to get heavy and fragile astronomical equipment to the top of the tower.
When the smell of marijuana is in the air, you must be close to the autonomous Freetown Christiania. It was founded in 1971 as a military camp and became a place for cannabis trade. After the military moved out, homeless people occupied empty houses. Although guns, violence and hard drugs are not allowed, the stands still sell marijuana nowadays which shows Copenhagen’s reputation as a liberal, free-thinking capital.
Biking along the harbor
If there is a city that is known for biking then it’s Copenhagen. It counts to one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world where almost everyone rides regularly. So my advice here: forget public transportation and rent a bike at the countless rental companies.
Where to stay in Denmark
I stayed at the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel which offered bikes, too (small fee). I can highly recommend this location since it was so cozy. It’s right in the city center not far from the Tivoli Gardens and serves delicious breakfast. You can also meet people from all over the world and have a drink with them at the hostel bar. So if you’re looking for new friendships, this is the place to be.
Where to eat in Denmark
One of the best places to hang out and have a versatile selection of food is the Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island. It’s the perfect spot to hang out and meet friends at the waterfront during summer.
If you rather want typical Danish food, try Smørrebrød at Schønnemann. It’s a Danish open sandwich that usually consists of a slice or two of buttered bread covered with meat or fish, cheese and a remoulade.
Kalaset is another café and bar I can recommend. They serve good coffee, delicious cakes, pancakes, burger and salads in a cool and atmospheric location. The best local food products you get at Torvehallerne. It’s a big market with over 60 stands selling everything from fresh fish to gourmet chocolate. If you want to plunge into the local cuisine, go to the Torvehallerne and enjoy the delicious specialties there.