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Why Copenhagen Should Be at the Top of Your Travel List

by in Lifestyle on 23rd April, 2021

I know what you’re thinking: a travel recommendation in the middle of a pandemic, has she been living under a rock? But hear me out. Though many of us may not be able to travel with all the global restrictions and social distancing measures in place, who’s to actually stop us from making a travel list for when lockdown is eventually lifted? And I’m here to convince you why Copenhagen should be top of your list.

One of the biggest issues faced by Muslims travelling in Europe is Islamophobia, and Denmark unfortunately is not immune to this phenomenon. That said, Copenhagen is worlds apart compared to the rest of the country when it comes to its treatment of Muslim tourists. This is not surprising given Copenhagen’s cosmopolitan nature. In my personal experience visiting as a tourist, I did not come across, nor did I face any situation that made me feel alienated or different in some way. Everyone I met in this vibrant city was friendly, spoke several languages and was really easy going…including border security! I felt safe, welcomed and was able to enjoy my time without having to worry about being discriminated against, and that is one of the main reasons why I recommend Copenhagen as a destination for Muslims.

Flying to Copenhagen

My first visit to the capital of Denmark took place in 2016 in one of the coldest weeks in January, with temperatures plummeting to -15 degrees celsius. But despite the less than ideal weather, the city was arguably even more charming in the cold where you could really make the most of the cafes and other wintery events that the city usually has on offer. Another perk of travelling to Copenhagen in the off-peak season were the super cheap flight tickets which could be as low as £16! Due to prolonged restrictions on travel as a result of COVID, many airlines are trying to lure customers through cheap flight deals so you’re sure to find a similar bargain.

What to Do and Where to Visit

Copenhagen is the embodiment of Scandi-Chic, an eclectic mix of minimalism and modernism which is evident throughout the city. I would highly recommend exploring the city by foot or by renting a bike; cycling trumps driving, which makes for a more pleasant and safer experience when commuting around the city. Knowing someone who lives in the city can also really help to cultivate an immersive cultural experience, and they are sure to recommend a couple of hidden gems, but if you’re not lucky enough to make acquaintance with anyone in Copenhagen prior to your visit, approaching strangers in the city is fairly easy and people are more than willing to help. 

Copenhagen is spread out over a number of small islands. Each one has a slightly different look and vibe, but they also all feel connected at the same time. Here are the top 3 areas I would recommend a visit to:

  1. Paper Island used to be known as the street food hub, but it has since closed down and been replaced by Reffen Street Food Market which offers all types of dishes from different cuisines.
  2. Christianshavn is a hipster’s paradise filled with quaint cafes, charming houses, and home to ‘Freetown Christiania’, Copenhagen’s infamous Greenlight District which sells all types of Cannabis products (which I should mention are actually illegal in Denmark). Despite its shady reputation, I would still highly recommend a visit to the area, not for the soft drugs, but rather to see a different side to the city. In the area, you’ll also be able to visit the Church of Our Saviour, a baroque church known for its unique serpentine spire and winding staircase that stands watch over the city. The spire can be climbed to the top, offering breathtaking views over central Copenhagen.
  3. The Nyhavn Waterfront is known for its picturesque, brightly coloured houses that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and which feature on all the postcards about the city. Take a stroll down the waterfront and snap a few pictures for your feed of this beautiful area of the city.

What to Eat and Drink

If you’re a coffee aficionado, then Copenhagen is the city for you. Danes take their coffee very seriously and it shows in Copenhagen’s flourishing cafe culture. The city’s coffee community is young but passionate and open to experimenting with new blends, extraction techniques and settings. The design and aesthetic of the coffee shops and restaurants are the definition of ‘hygge’ or ‘cozy’. This coupled with a distinct street style that looks like it came straight out of COS and Acne Studios or old Celine catalogues will give you plenty of content for your insta feed. Food-wise, I ate at any place that crossed my path and that was still open, only because many places shut early during the winter period (and this was the case even pre-COVID). Despite the limited opening hours, there were plenty of choices on offer, including vegetarian and halal options. 

Copenhagen’s Hidden Gems and Shopping in the City

If you’re looking for style and art inspiration, then a visit to the Kinfolk Gallery is a must. The space is normally open to the public for free during quieter periods, and you don’t need to book in advance. Unique exhibitions featuring the work of various artists, photographers and designers are held in the collaborative workspace, and copies of Kinfolk’s modish magazine are available to purchase, which also happens to make the perfect gift for the creative friend or family member in your life.

Copenhagen’s high street is full of life, yet shopping in the city can run you up a huge bill. One does not visit the city to shop, and even the locals find it a lot cheaper to take a flight and shop in London than to shop on the high street where some of the prices can be 3x more expensive. A local couple I spoke to on my trip informed me that the prices are set deliberately high to discourage a materialistic lifestyle, and this reflects in the type of activities that the Danes value most: connecting with loved ones over food and coffee, sight-seeing and spending time in nature. So when in Copenhagen, do as the Copenhageners do and in this city, minimalism is the name of the game. However, if you’re still tempted to get your shopping fix in, remember that Denmark’s official currency is Danish Krone, so don’t show up to the till with Euros!

Despite the freezing cold and the short duration of my stay, I fell in love with Copenhagen. It is the only place I have ever considered moving to, and I am sure you will feel the same way if you decide to pay this laid back city a visit after lockdown.

For more on Copenhagen, I would recommend the following in-depth guides:

Zinah Nur Sharif

Zinah Nur Sharif

I’m currently a PhD candidate at the University of the Arts London, undertaking a research about the symbolism of the headscarf & intersectional identities of Muslim women. I live between Hong Kong and London, love to travel, the arts, fashion and culture. I had the privilege of living in 6 different countries over the past two decades, which has allowed me to naturally intertwine respectively unique cultures to form my own distinctive creative identity. My work focuses on creativity, communication, and visual storytelling. I specialise in marketing communication and luxury fashion sector. To learn more about my project, you can visit my Instagram: @zinahns and website www.zinahns.com