Whenever I travel internationally, I find that day 2 is the most difficult travel day to stay awake on. A day 1 red-eye is carried by the adrenaline of excitement and uncertainty. But by day 2, you grow a certain comfort with a place and begin to really feel the effects of jet lag. Recognizing this, we prepared for a pretty laid-back day in Copenhagen. It started with a walk.
We left our hotel and made our way through the western edge of the city center. This area felt distinctly less touristy and was chock full of small storefronts for travel agencies. The area appeared to be more more bland, more pastel, and more eastern European feeling. It looked like the setting of an ‘80s Bond film. After a bit, we cut inward to a park for prettier views. We walked through the Ørstedsparken before stretching just three more blocks to the Botanisk Have.
The Botanisk Have is a botanical garden operated by the University of Copenhagen, a floral oasis in the middle of the city. Additionally, it’s a free experience, a major draw for a cheap-o like me. After posing with a few statues, we went parading around a few dead-end paths, and then soon ended up at the main botanical greenhouse.
The biggest of the greenhouses is the Palm House, built in 1874. This beautiful metal-and-glass structure had just opened when we arrived and we stepped in for the self-guided tour. Once inside, we were hit by a wall of humidity. Several other tourists didn’t take well to the sudden 35° and 1000% humidity temperature change and immediately sprinted for the exits.
Cindy and I chose to explore a bit, although I gave up on photography with my camera due to a fogged up lens. We climbed the spiral, iron-cast staircases and explored the upper levels of the Palm House. Even after taking off our cold-weather coats, we were sweating like pigs. By the time we exited the building, the cold morning air came as a relief.
Moving on, we retraced our steps through the gardens and crossed the street to the Rosenborg Slot, a Danish Castle. The Dutch Renaissance styled structure is now open to the public (but at $17/person, we weren’t interested). Still, it was neat to walk around it and mooch off the attraction’s free WIFI to wikipedia it and learn a little bit about what’s inside!
We grazed around the castle’s edge and made our way across the thin wooden drawbridge to the King’s Garden. These now-public, terrifically manicured gardens make up the largest park in central Copenhagen. Cindy and I had fun exploring around the hedges, tree-lined avenues (Kavalergangen and Damegangen; Knight’s Path and Lady’s Path, respectively), and playing with our phones pano-feature like it was 2014.
Again, when it was time to move on, it was just a few short blocks until we were at our next stop: Rundetaarn (man, everything’s so close!—it’s almost as if I planned it that way #humblebrag)
The Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower, is the unique feature of the Trinitatis Complex, a 17th Century building that appears dedicated to the physical and spiritual understanding of the universe. The building featured a rather sizable chapel, library, and most interesting to me, an astronomical observatory.
While the toilet was humorous and fascinating (apparently it may be the first known example of a septic tank), the most unique feature of the building was its winding “staircase”. In order to reach the top, visitors must walk up a spiral ramp that corkscrews up the center of the tower 7.5 times. This design allowed an actual horse-and-buggy to deliver books and astronomical equipment to the library and observatory.
It was actually fun and relatively easy to ascend.
Up top, we were greeted by a spectacular, 360° view of Copenhagen. We could actually see straight to the Rosenborg Castle and Botanical Garden, allowing us to plot our path through the city from above.
After taking in the sights, we climbed up a steep staircase to the final stretch of the tower, the observatory. While a modern telescope sits in waiting up there, the rest of the structure is a tremendously old take on what is undeniably a cosmic observatory.
Commissioned by King Christian IV, I love that the Rundetaarn is an early, multi-disciplined approach to understanding the universe. I think its aspirations and ingenuity represents the very best of humanity and is a shining example of our redeeming qualities—especially when the 17th Century isn’t chock-full of such examples.
Anyway, though still early in the day, we returned back to our hotel for a quick nap. Again, jet lag and such. Though we were very much in the condition to be taking the elevator, I couldn’t help but snap a photo of the hotel’s trendy spiral staircase—no horses would be climbing these stairs.
When we were up an hour later, we once again departed for the city. Realizing that our Kroner were running low (we would be transitioning to Euros the very next day and didn’t want to keep withdrawing the Danish money), we ate a quick fast-food bite of pasta in the central rail station.
After lunch, we took off towards the north-eastern side of Tivoli before reaching the Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish government. Interestingly, this building is the only governmental structure in the world that houses all three of the government’s distinct branches: the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court of Denmark. Not to be left irrelevant, even the Danish monarchy has reception rooms and facilities throughout the structure. It’s a very important building and one, shockingly, we were able to walk directly “through” (one of the side wings, but still).
On the other side, we continued walking through town. We stopped at the National Library of Denmark and eventually wound our way back to Nyhavn. While we didn't revisit any of the touristy offerings from yesterday, we strolled to the end of the famous canal to sat down and take our shoes off. The weather was absolutely lovely, a change from our previous day’s visit. It was nice to just relax.
For the third and final time on our visit to Copenhagen, we used the Strøget pedestrian mall to return to our hotel. Along the way, we stumbled onto a small “European Festival”. It was a cute celebration of the fashions and foods of several different European countries and was very fun to peruse.
Without getting too deep into politics that I admittedly don’t understand, visiting Europe felt distinctly different this time around. In 2017, Europe was subjected to the same clouds of populist nationalism that are sweeping the globalized world—evident in the Brexit and the response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I do not know how long-lasting or impactful these changes will be but I feel like I could sense them on this visit.
But right there in that little square, things felt just like they had been. By embracing the best of food and custom, on this day, the Danish were able to celebrate their common European connection. I liked it very much.
While the sun is clearly still out, we would return to our hotel and ramp down for the evening. We dined at McDonald’s for dinner (for those who know me, I love trying international McDonald’s locations!) and then packed for our next destination. We would be in Hamburg, Germany by lunch-time the very next day.
That will do it for my Day 2 post from Copenhagen. For more photos of our visit to Copenhagen, please check out the gallery below!