It’s been already one month since I booked my flight, a 95€ Paris-Copenhagen round trip, which is quite okay for the distance. After a bit of discussion, my friends Camille and Jeremy have also agreed to join me for the week-end. I might often happy to travel on my own, I always love when I can discover a new place and share it with good friends 😉
Flying to Copenhagen is pretty handy as it’s only 2 hours from Paris, and you land fairly close to the city. By train or by subway it will take you less than 30 minutes to get to the center, for 35-40 DKK (4,5-5,5€), one of the most convenient city-airport commutation I’ve used so far !
We have booked in an hostel near the central river and agree to take the subway to Christianshavn to join it. This way we get to have a first overview of the city at night.
The first thing that strikes me is how familiar the city looks, even though I’ve never set a foot there. It’s like a mix between Stockholm’s yellow ocher buildings, and Amsterdam’s canals. I already love both cities, so I think I won’t be disappointed by the Danish capital 😏
On our way, I take the time to shoot my first long exposures of the trip and to play with a headlamp I brought, to do some light painting. This next picture is a 30s exposures, with a few seconds of painting on Jeremy, just enough to make him appear on the picture, with a ghostly look.
We booked at the Danhostel, which is the biggest hostel in the city (they claim to be the largest in Europe). The cost for a night in a dorm is 30€ night per person, which seems to be okay regarding the country’s standard of living. Just a quick warning, they will charge an extra 5€ for bed covers and duvet, so if you want to avoid this expense, think about bringing a sleeping bag.
After a puzzling moment -finding there aren’t enough free beds in the dorm- and an hour of negotiation, we eventually get a proper room. I’m aware managing such a big hostel is difficult, but it should have been much easier from the beginning ! Unfortunately it’s already 2am now and we’re quite exhausted, so we agree to call it a night and make the most of the Saturday to see as much as possible in Copenhagen.
The city center is only a few kilometers wide, and everything can easily be reached by foot or by bike. The Danshostel is not far from Copenhagen’s City hall (aka Københavns Rådhus), from which start some of the most active shopping streets such as Frederiksberggade, where we make our first stop for breakfast.
This street goes all the way to the Amagertorv square and the Stork fountain.
The place is quite big and I only have prime lenses (= no zoom). So the solution to capture it all is to take several shots, and then merge them into a panorama using lightroom, photoshop, or free alternatives such as Microsoft ICE.
If you have a guide, or do a bit of research before coming to Copenhagen, you ‘ll be aware that Nyhavn is one of the places you HAVE to see. This port -Nyhavn = ‘New port’- located on a canal is bordered with brightly colored 17th century houses, bars, cafes and restaurants. I have to say we’re very lucky with the weather, and it’s just about perfect having a walk in Nyhavn with this sun 😎
Same thing as in Amagertorv, for this panorama I have to take a couple of vertical pictures that I’ll merge in post production.
Copenhagen is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world (if not the most). Just like in Amsterdam, you have to be careful while crossing the street, bikes are fast, silent, and could easily surprise you.
Some of the alleyways remind me a lot of Stockholm, the southern island (Södermalm) looks very similar. Because this frame contains a big gap between shadows and bright lights -in photography we’d say a high dynamic-, your sensor can’t see it all. Either your highlights will be overexposed or your shadows too dark. The solution is to take several pictures with different exposures. Some cameras directly have a HDR function to serve this purpose, I prefer to use the bracket -aka offset exposure- and merge my pictures in post prod.
After a quick nap and sun bathe on the docks, we head towards Amalienborg‘s place and the four royal Palaces. The square is guarded day and night by the Royal Life Guards, who conduct a daily march and post replacements every two hours. I don’t really know why, but they almost look exactly the same as the British Queen’s guards though.
A couple meters north is the Frederik’s Church or the marble Church, in which you can usually access the rooftop and have a good panorama on the city. BUT due to weddings, it has been closed for a few days 😐 well, maybe another time then…
Our next stop on the way is the star shaped island fortress named Kastellet, with a former military bastion and ramparts. It’s a very green and quiet place, definitely great for strolling around. On this other merged panorama I shot you can see the big Gefion fountain, in front of St Alban’s church.
Now comes one of the most touristic (and overrated?) assets of Copenhagen : Den Lille Havfrue, aka the Little Mermaid. It is a statue representing the main character of the eponymous book from Hans Christian Andersen. Since it was unveiled in 1913 it has became one of the major tourist attractions in the city. The only problem is, the place always seems to be crowded, with an army of selfie sticks. In my opinion the statue would better suit a quiet context.
On our way back to the city center, we stop at Nyhavn again for lunch -which apparently you can do at 4pm-. Here is quite not the cheapest place, but you can still find a dish for ~10€, and it’s definitely enjoyable to eat outside on the port.
As Denmark is quite up north, the sun lights are already getting lower, revealing all the lively colors of Nyhavn.
And now, for something completely different : Christiania.
Christiania is quite a special place, probably one of the most singular places I’ve seen in Europe. This neighborhood is a 0.34 km² self proclaimed autonomous district, with a special law supervision. Around 1000 people are settled in this former military base, forming an anarchist community. Most of the Freetown’s (Christiania’s nickname) streets are closed to traffic, making it mostly a pedestrian and bike friendly area. Another rule says you shouldn’t run.
Unlike in the rest of Denmark, Cannabis trade and consumption is tolerated within Christiania, and one of its areas -Pusher street- is even often revered as the green light district. This area is full of cannabis selling stand, and taking pictures is strictly forbidden, as seller don’t want to attract attention from the authorities. Around the green light district are a few cafes and bars, with lots of tables in the open.
Past this area, Fristaden is much more quiet. Walk there for a few minutes, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of woods, with a few houses here and there, and almost no light.
Most of the houses in Christiania were built by the community itself, along with the principle “architecture without architects”. Most of them are houses or flats, but you can even find a small cinema, and an indoor skate park bowl.
The south-east part of Freetown is bordered by the river Stadsgraven, from which you can have a great view towards the Vor Frelsers Kirke (church of our savior) on one side…
…and on the harbor’s power plant towers on the other side. It’s crazy for me -maybe it’s because I live in Paris- to be able to see so many stars while being in the middle of a capital city.
At this point it as already been a long day for us. We wanted to discover what Copenhagen’s night life was about, but now we’re too exhausted, and want to make the most of our last day and get to see a bit more.
On Sunday morning, the sun and blue sky have been replaced by a layer of fog, covering the entire city.
A staff member at Danhostel told us about Istedgade, which he described as a mix between Kreuzberg (one of Berlin’s best districts) and Amsterdam. Unfortunately during the daytime, a lot a the street’s bars and clubs are obviously closed. I’m definitely curious to see what it looks like by night, but now I can only keep it somewhere in the back of my head for my next trip in Denmark.
… and all the way to the Christiansborg Palace and its horse pens watched over by the equestrian statue of Christian IX, while the sun is coming back.
We have a only an hour left to say goodbye to the city, and it’s time for us to go back to the airport, and to put an end to our Danish trip.
It has been a great week-end, and I have to say I really want to come back and spend some more time in Copenhagen. Maybe on a Couchsurfing trip next time, to discover how locals experience the city. I feel it must be great to live here !