I love having Europe right on our doorstep. It makes weekend exploring so accessible. In June I landed a project at work that required me to go to Copenhagen to manage. I had never been to the Danish capital before, so I asked Si if he would be up for flying out to meet me. Having only been once before himself, and barely remembering much of it (I’m told that’s the sign of a good stag do), he was keen to come out too.
Everyone knows I love a boutique hotel, so when I arrived at Hotel SKT. Annæ I was in my element. Located in the heart of Copenhagen, it is a stone’s throw away from the historical citadel of Frederiksstad and The Royal Palace, Amalienborg. You are also a short stroll from the harbour, the Opera House and Nyhavn. Though modern in its interiors, the hotel draws inspiration from its intriguing history. Initially established in 1851, it once operated without a licence and welcomed many smugglers. Guests even required a secret password to enter.
Whilst there are no passwords or smugglers today, the charming 4-star boutique hotel is modern yet still welcoming, with cosy low-lit lighting and smoked oak floors throughout the foyer, bar, restaurant and internal courtyard which lies beneath a glass ceiling. Tip: take the elevator to the top floor where you will discover a rooftop terrace with amazing panoramic views out over the city.
Each of the 154 bedrooms has been decorated by SPACE Copenhagen. Mindful of their historical origins, the deluxe bedrooms are large in size and take their inspiration from Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916). Hammershøi had a signature pallet of colours that he used in his evocative paintings of the city which you will find throughout the hotel. The bathrooms are particularly special with their handmade Italian tiles and fine brass and gold fixtures. I had total interior design envy and wished that I had stayed before we redecorated our own bathroom for the inspo! Tip: our room was a street facing room on the first floor. If you are a light sleeper, I would recommend that you request an inward facing room on a higher floor. The hum from the street below was bearable, but it was definitely audible.
During your stay, be sure to dine at Format, run by the team behind Michelin-starred Formel B. The seasonal Nordic menu is outstanding. This is also where you will find the traditional Scandinavian breakfast buffet laid out in the mornings. The lobby bar also serves up delicious and original creations late into the night.
With rooms from 1,500 DKK per night, Hotel SKT. Annæ is a reasonably priced option by Copenhagen standards. Jet Set with Jas has teamed up with Hotel SKT. Annæ to offer a 10% discount on stays between October 2018 to February 2019. To take advantage email your reservation to email@example.com with this code: STAY100218.
The first evening
Si arrived around 10 pm on Friday after work. The flight is only two hours from London, making Copenhagen the perfect weekend getaway destination. We decided to head down to the trendy Meatpacking District to grab some late-night cocktails. A short cab ride from the hotel, we found ourselves in a youthful part of the city with a distinctly Shoreditch type vibe. Revellers bar hoped between the grubby bars that opened out onto the industrial square beside the harbour’s edge. We ended up perched in the window seats of Bakken, sipping not quite right Moscow Mules.
I often get accused of over planning just about everything, especially holidays. So, as the years have gone on, I have tried to “relax” a little by picking areas to visit rather than planning every detail, so that we can discover them in the moment. On this occasion, we may have benefited from my neurotic over planning. I had regretted not doing further research before we arrived in the Meatpacking District. Upon further investigation, we’d have probably preferred to try a bar like Lidkoeb. Hidden behind a supermarket in a renovated 18thcentury building, I am told you will find a romantic and intimate bar with a private smoking balcony. Charming chesterfield furniture and a long wooden bar await you. And in the winter months, a glowing fireplace makes for a cosy place to bunker down for the evening, with a cocktail created by one of the talented bartenders who like to put a unique twist on your favourite classics.
Instead, after two average cocktails in plastic cups, we called it a night and decided tomorrow would be another day.
After our Scandinavian buffet breakfast of a choice of cereals, cold meats, cheeses and fruits, along with yoghurt, croissants, cake, sausages and scrambled egg, we made our way towards Nyhavn, over a pedestrian bridge across the harbour and along the winding cobbled streets towards Freetown Christiania.
The alternative neighbourhood, quirky in appearance is made up of handcrafted houses on a former military base with workshops, art galleries, stages for live music, and outdoor food markets, all nestled alongside a tranquil lake. Though there is more than meets the eye of the community.
In 1971 a group of rebellious hippies trespassed and squatted in the abandon military base. Today, you will find approximately 900 permanent residents that make up the anarchist community that has its own governing rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. Freetown Christiania has attracted a lot of attention in its relatively short history, mainly due to the cannabis trade that takes place in its famous “Green Light District.” For a time Danish police officers regularly invaded the neighbourhood, occasionally making arrests, however after a shooting in 2016, they now visit less frequently.
Did I feel safe? Absolutely, however, I will say that’s because I didn’t know any of this before I stepped foot inside the gated community. Passing the market stalls people were friendly enough. No one approached me to offer me drugs, but Si seemed very anxious the whole time. He later told me that when he had come previously on the stag do they decided to check it out. Much like me, they hadn’t done a whole lot of research into the history of the Free State and found that when they strolled in with the stag dressed in a morph suit as the Danish flag; they were not so welcome and were chased out by a local resident with a gun!
As we strolled along the high street towards the exit, I was oblivious to those around me as I took pictures of the dilapidated buildings with their bright graffiti tags. I’ll admit that I missed the no photography signs. When a gruff voice called out “put your camera away, you’re not in a zoo”, I knew it was time to go.
I would recommend checking it out, but I would suggest you are respectful of the local residents and remember that it is their home. Remain vigilant and stick to the main street, markets and eateries. And don’t poke around where you are not welcome!
After an exhilarating start to the day, we strolled along the water’s edge to Reffen, a playground for creative minds and street food enthusiasts. Originally located on Paper Island, Reffen recently relocated to Refshaleøen, an up and coming reclaimed industrial area. In the bustling neighbourhood, you will find local brewery Mikkeller and restaurants Amass (owned and operated by the former head chef of Noma, Matt Orlando) and Aamanns Kitchen. The area is also home to many of Copenhagen’s outdoor music festivals.
The extensive food market had loads of delicious choices – everything from grilled fish to tasty Mexican. In addition to the gastronomic offers, Reffen has 14 workshops made from old shipping containers for creative entrepreneurs to exhibit and sell their products, all of which have sustainable facets.
It was a little quiet when we went, but I think this place will be a gem once word gets out about it.
On the way back, we stopped in at La Banchina, a rustic café with a pier in the sun, facing beautiful Copenhagen harbour. You will find locals at the down to earth hotspot soaking up the sunshine, going for a refreshing dip, and of course, indulging in modern Nordic gastronomy delicacies derived from locally sourced fish. With a glass of organic rosé and larger in hand, we lay out on the pier and dipped our toes in the fresh water, whilst watching the world go by.
In the afternoon we picked ourselves up and headed back into town stopping at Nyhavn along the way. The iconic colourful townhouses date back to the 17th century when Nyhavn was a busy commercial port that welcomed ships from all over the world to dock. Pubs and alehouses lined the quay and sailors and ladies of pleasure went about their business. Today the beautiful historic homes have been renovated and you will find lively bars and restaurants alongside the old port. It is the perfect place to end a long day of sightseeing with a nice cold glass of wine, or whatever your tipple, in hand. Tip: stop by number 20 to see Hans Christian Andersen’s old home where he wrote The Tinderbox, Little Claus and Big Claus, and The Princess and the Pea.
Before dinner, we went for a late afternoon stroll to Amalienborg Palace and Frederik’s Church. We stood in the large octagonal courtyard beneath a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V, taking in the Palace made up of four identical classical palace façades with rococo interiors, that surrounded us. Currently, home to Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Amalienborg Palace has belonged to the Royal family since 1794. Tip: go at 12.00 noon to see the changing of the guard.
From the square in front of the Palace due west, you will spy a copper green domed roof of an imposing church. Frederik’s Church, commonly known as The Marble Church is iconic with its rococo architecture. Tip: you will get a very special view of the Evangelical Lutheran church from the courtyard of the Palace at sunset.
From there we meandered to St Alban’s church, past the Gefion Fountain and over the footbridge through the perfectly manicured gardens in Langelinie Park to the legendary statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Down by the pier you will find the sculpture commissioned by Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen as a gift to the city of Copenhagen. Jacobsen was inspired by Andersen’s classic fairy tale, and after watching a ballet performance of it by the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen, he was so moved that he commissioned sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create the bronze statue that stands 1.25 metres tall, weighing 175 kilograms.
After a very long day of playing tourist, I decided it was time to reward Si with some Danish gastronomic excellence that we had heard so much about. Restaurant Koefoed had come highly recommended to me by Hotel SKT. Annæ’s head concierge, Sara (who is super knowledgeable about the local area and more than willing to go out of her way to make sure you have a fabulous trip).
Restaurant Koefoed serves a seasonally driven classic Danish menu, drawing inspiration from the Bornholm region, located by the Baltic Sea where they source their fresh produce daily. Whilst, not a Michelin starred restaurant, I certainly think it is deserving of one. The restaurant is an intimate collection of rooms in an old coal cellar and makes for a memorable evening. Tip: indulge in the delicious tasting menu but skip the wine pairings. I highly recommend the 2015 Langhe, Nebbiolo, Rocche Costamagna, Piedmont which perfectly complements the tasting menu offering better value for money than the pairings.
After dinner, we headed to the bright lights of Tivoli Gardens. The amusement park is the epitome of what I conjure up when I close my eyes and dream up a nostalgic amusement park of yesteryear. There is something for everyone at Tivoli, and I only wish that we had spent more time there. Historical buildings are nestled amongst lush gardens and exotic architecture lit up by thousands of twinkling fairy lights. I could not have picked a more romantic post-dinner spot. We were there to see Mads Mathias and the Tivoli Late Night Orchestra, but we also found time to try a few of the rides. It was so much fun and the most amazing date night ever! Tip: give yourself plenty of time to explore Tivoli – there is so much going on. Check out the programming as well as the rides. There are loads of fabulous restaurants located onsite. If you are making a night of it, it might make sense to dine at one of them to make things easier.
The next day after breakfast we headed to the Church of Our Saviour. The famous church features a serpentine spire with a 400 stair ascent. At the peak you will find Our Saviour Himself, standing atop of a golden globe keeping a watchful eye over the royal city of Copenhagen.
In 2007 it was voted the best view in the city by the Copenhageners. Tourists now flock to the church for the infamous views, and 60,000 people climb the spire annually.
So, this is where I admit that I am terrified of heights and actually get vertigo. Well, then why did I climb it you ask? Well, I kind of think sometimes you just have to challenge yourself to reap the rewards in life. I knew there was an epic view up there just waiting for me to see it, so I found a way to drag myself up the steep narrow staircase, 90 metres above street level to see the beautiful city below. As soon as I popped my head out the door I was paralysed by fear, but I had made it and the views were spectacular – I’m glad I did it. You’ll see from my highlights from Copenhagen vlog last week that I then sent Si onwards without me to climb the last 150 steps that are on the outside of the spire. The ascent is not for the vertiginously challenged! Tip: go early to avoid the crowds and the heat of the day.
After, we the wandered up past Strøget, a shopper’s paradise where you will find a busy pedestrian high street with high-end boutiques, on our way to Magstræde and Snaregade; two of the oldest and prettiest streets in Copenhagen. Strolling by the colourful facades you will be transported back to the 18thcentury and an incredible Insta-moment 😉
Having gotten our steps in for the day, we jumped in a cab and headed back to the Meatpacking District to Kødbyens Fiskebar. Busy with a relaxed vibe, we arrived and were shown to our table outside in the sunshine. The restaurant was once a butcher’s shop in a commercial meat market and now overlooks an industrial square. Tip: you can’t go past the oyster tasting menu to start. I recommend ordering the Blue mussels. Si says there were simply the best mussels he had ever had!
Sadly, our time in Copenhagen had come to an end and it was time to head back to London. The verdict? We absolutely loved Copenhagen in the sunshine. It is such a beautiful waterside city rich in cultural heritage with enviable liveability and culinary prowess. I am sure that I will return again to Copenhagen, and look forward to spreading the good word in the meantime.
Until next time, safe travels.
*I was invited to review Hotel Skt. Annae. All opinions are honest and are my own.
**I endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image I use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org