Not always the most coveted spot for a weekend away, Copenhagen is a pleasant surprise, writes Fiachradh McDermott.
Copenhagen – the cool cat of Scandinavia – is beautiful this time of year, as always. I managed to squeeze a few days in before college got back on track and life became routine. It was my third time in this wonderful city, so I’ve outlined a few things that stood out as fabulous, and perhaps a bit alternative.
 
I have a friend living over there (she’s Danish so knows the city well), and I got to see a bit more of a local viewpoint. I’m not much of a fan of touristy things but one of the best points on the map is Christiania, or the Freetown of Christiania as its proper name is. This autonomous zone is completely separate in authority from Copenhagen, and was set up in the 1970s by squatters. Still going strong, it has always been in conflict with the city authorities. Christiania has a strong opposition to hard drugs, though the sale of marijuana is completely legal there which certainly draws an interesting crowd. The ‘pusher street’ is called the Green Light District, and a huge sign warns against taking photos or running down the street as it scares people. Various older hippies and alternative folk man the carts that sell an array of indie things like jewellery, and many gigs are held there too. There are some bars and cafes where you can chill and the scenery is fabulous. There is a trail surrounding a beautiful lake, and the graffiti is incredible. It’s a must-see.
 
This leads finely onto graffiti. I’m a major fan, and to walk around Copenhagen with your eyes wide taking in all the graffiti is an activity in itself. Tagging is prominent and I never recognised any of them, but the streets are covered. Also, the trains running around the city are coated, and sometimes a whole car will be painted so it’s like a moving picture. Graffiti always gets a bad rep, but to me it constitutes a very significant urban fabric. It denotes a creativeness that cities often lack, it gives definition to areas, and even though it may not look like it, there’s a certain skill in it that you have to admire. As well as this, once you recognise a tag, you notice it everywhere and it’s amazing to see how extensively covered a city can be with a single name. If you’re in Copenhagen, take a look at the doorways and appreciate the hand styles.
 
For something a little more traditional, you can check out ‘Det Elektriske Hjørne’ (‘The Electrical Corner’, my friend calls it ‘El Hjørnet’) which is a gorgeous bar in the heart of the city. It’s my friend’s local so naturally we got the full experience. Huddled in a cosy corner catching up is a wonderful time, and with ten shots of tequila for 100kr (just less than 15 euro), what more would you want? The staff are wonderful and it attracts a fabulous clientele. I do like that spot.
 
Another amazing little spot is ‘Understellet’ which translates to ‘The Undercarriage’. It’s ten minutes away from El Hjørnet, a little out of the centre. A smaller place but just as cosy, it’s a marvellous experience. Again, it reminds me of a local and I’ve always preferred these kinds of places, so when my friend asked to go local of course I agreed.
 
Right in the heart of the city centre is a market selling all kinds of things named Torvehallerne. There is a bakery there named Laura’s Bakery where you can get the best Danish pastries in the world (ask for the Snails, they’ll know what you mean). Right next door is the Coffee Collective, where you can get the best Cappuccino on the planet. It’s certainly a broad statement, but I stand by my assertions. I’ve packed away three huge pastries coupled with a coffee a pop easily in a day. Beautiful stuff.
 
Not exactly something to see, but worth noting on this trip was when myself and my friend were on the way home from El Hjørnet on the bus, being perhaps a little loud, a random guy came over chatting. He appeared quite intoxicated, and it was only after a while it dawned on me it was an auld Irish guy offering me (quote) ‘a Molotov potato’. When I say we laughed, we laughed hard. No matter how far you go from home, home follows.
 
I like Copenhagen as a city. The people are friendly, the weather is sweet, the atmosphere is beautiful and there’s so much to do around the city regardless of what you like to do. It may be a bit more expensive than Dublin, but it’s certainly worth it. You can check Fiachradh’s travel blog over at www.facebook.com/finchstuff or www.finchstuff.org