The Round Tower, The Aquarium and Butter Burgers of Copenhagen

On Monday we went to The Round Tower, and if I’m being honest, I was more interested in this place because of the Instagram photos than thinking it was anything special. I was wrong, of course, and the history of it is quite interesting.

The Round Tower

Funny enough, it mostly has to do with bathrooms (go figure), astronomy, and a fun tid-bit about someone who took his horse all the way to the top instead of walking. Because he was fancy like that.

The Round Tower

We worried a bit that by now we would be “castled-out” and it has happened. We’ve been taking in so. much. that some days the beauty and history of it all is kind of lost on us. So we took these past few days to go slower. Eat at home, go to the grocery store, take naps.

The Round Tower

But The Round Tower turned out to be a favorite of mine. The colors were so calming, the kids had so much fun running around (with only one way to go) so we were somewhat contained and out of the weather for a bit. And the view from the top was amazing.

It’s different, and very nice, to travel with older children. No strollers or diaper bags, we aren’t bound to a sleep-schedule or on high alert for a melt down and yet, traveling with tweens and teens is almost no different. Except for the diapers, praise the Lord. They still need to run and play and stop and start and eat constantly and we are always on high alert for the melt down. Low blood sugar. We pack snacks, this is our secret to everything. Water and carrots and grapes and crackers. Never, ever be without sustenance.

The Round Tower

We decided on lunch at Nyhavn (pronounced NEW-HOW) by the canal because it was a nice day and this was one of those “vacation” things I had really been wanting to do. So, like Aaron and his Kødbyens Fiskebar dinner, this was my splurge of the trip. We sat outside with a view of the canal and all the pedestrians walking by and we ordered calamari to share and a beer for the adults while we soaked it all in.

Lunch at Nyhavn by the canal

We also snuck in a visit to the Guinness World Records Museum (it’s free with our Copenhagen Cards) and the kids were in need of some of “their kind of history”. Both of my kids have checked out these books from their school libraries like they were studying for their doctorate in useless information, so this was exactly the kind of place they could sink their teeth in to.

Dinner Monday night was at a restaurant close to our house, we had shawarma then headed home for some relaxing before the next day.

Tuesday! We tackled the National Aquarium of Denmark.

Den Bla Planet - Denmarks National Aquarium

I used to want to be a Marine Biologist, my favorite movie growing up was ‘The Little Mermaid’ and I gave birth to a girl with scales. She is a fish, a mer-lady in all her glory … and after this visit to the aquarium I thought long and hard about my childhood aspirations and wondered “What in the actual hell was I thinking?” these fish are like water aliens and I’m 100% out. No thank you.

Den Bla Planet - Denmarks National Aquarium

I did have a nice little chat with a small fish, though. She (because I said so) had pretty eyes and was looking right at me, so we discussed a few things.

Den Bla Planet - Denmarks National Aquarium

She agreed with me, the ocean is last frontier and I want nothing to do with it’s discoveries.

Den Bla Planet - Denmarks National Aquarium

Nope.

After the aquarium we headed back home for a break and some rest before deciding to go hunt down another Giant in the forest, but before we got that far we all decided dinner would be a good idea seeing as how it was already 6:30. We were going to cave and get the kids McDonalds (yes, they’ve been asking for “regular food” even though everything here is pizza and burgers and sandwiches) but they both said no which gave us the opportunity to look for another of Somebody Feel Phil’s featured eateries.

THE GASOLINE GRILL.

Gasoline Grill! We’re serious about following Phil.

We’ve been to and/or eaten at seven of the 11 locations he featured in Copenhagen. It’s been delicious.

Adventures with the Copenhagen Card

We finally activated our Copenhagen Cards on Sunday, March 31st. First up? We tackled Krongborg Castle and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

Kronborg Castle in the distance

But of course we saw a few more things, it was very chilly and we got to ride an Amtrak-style train since Helsingør is a bit outside of the city of Copenhagen, so after we arrived we ducked into Kulturværftet – a Cultural Center (we thought it was a library) and were instantly smitten.

Library in Helsingør

Library in Helsingør

Fish!

When we were all warmed up we ventured back outside and towards the gates of Kronborg Castle, walked across the bridge over the mote and into the courtyard.

Kronborg Castle

We looked around a bit and decided to go on the Introduction Tour to the Castle and then the Casemates Tour following that. It started in the church.

The Church at Kronborg Castle

Which is the only structure that survived the fire that destroyed everything else. So all the wood carving and paneling and darker colors would have been how the interior of the castle was also decorated but has since been restored and painted white instead. So, as we were touring, everything is very bright and light, but in the Renaissance it would have been much darker.

The Church at Kronborg Castle

The tour was very informative and King Frederick and Queen Sophie had a loving marriage (which wasn’t always the case in the Renaissance due to arranged marriages and whatnot). Their lives were opulent, to say the least. Banquets would be 24 course meals and each person would get their own bird (or ham, or duck or whatever they were serving), so they would each get the choice cut. Needless to say, there were a lot of leftovers and at first, they would throw them away. But Queen Sophie was an excellent head of the household and didn’t want to waste so she said the left-overs would go down the hierarchy of the kingdom. After their banquets, the servants and staff would get the food, after them – the children and so on so forth. Yes, kids came in after the servants and staff.

They put lemons in everything because it was a sign of great wealth. 3 lemons (imported from Italy) cost the same as one oxen. They bought peppercorns by PIECE. And one gram of cinnamon was the same as a gram of gold. So they used these very expensive ingredients to showcase their wealth. And showcase it, they did!

Banquet hall at Kronborg Castle

After this tour we went straight into the Casemates tours – which can be likened to a bunker underneath the castle. It’s where the soldiers lived and where the dungeons were to hold prisoners (like pirates).

The Casemates under Kronborg Castle

This is Holger Danske (Holger the Dane) and you can read about him by clicking the link if you’re interested, but he’s legendary and sleeps at beginning of the Casemates.

The Casemates under Kronborg Castle

The Casemates under Kronborg Castle

After the tour of the casemates we emerged in the square and bought our first souvenir of the trip. A leather looking-glass for our son (he hasn’t put it away yet).

Our first souvenir of the trip

We did a little more meandering on our own and saw the King’s Kitchen and the King’s Apartment before heading back outside the gates and towards the train to make our way to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art before they closed for the day.

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Walking through the neighborhood where the museum is situated is so beautiful. Calm, serene, cute cottages (I’m sure they’re houses but everything looks like a cottage to me here). And the entrance of the museum is very unassuming but then you walk through and you see this:

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

It’s breathtaking. There’s corridors winding everywhere leading to exhibits or just open expanses and all the windows frame a beautiful scene. Everything was art. Outside, inside. The entire experience was steeped in interpreting everything around you as a possibility to see something for the very first time, again.

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

This place was my jam but we only had about 2 hours here. There was another exhibit (part of the lights photo above) by Pipilotti Rist called Open My Glade and it was modern art. Abstract and, at times, uncomfortable. Cheeky, hilarious, deeply moving. The kids … they handled Pusher Street in Freetown better than this exhibit. 😉

A cultural day! I call it a win. Plus, any time I can scar my kids for life, I mean, I’m in.

Louisiana: Museum of Modern Art

Video link above, click the image to play it.

Fresh air // March 30th

We got our groove back, we just needed some fresh air and time.

Nordvest

Aaron found a coffee place to try in the morning called The Coffee Collective which we found, ordered, and then sat with our coffees and read a while. It was the perfect start to the day.

The coffee collective

From there we hopped on a bus and headed for Grundtvigs Kirke … I’m going to just quote what I already shared on Instagram about this place:

“We had to wait for a funeral before we could enter; but we didn’t know that when the sign said “open for visitors at 14:30” … so we strolled through a cemetery, then a park, had lunch at a cafe – enjoyed a beer. And then the hearse drove by, all windows. Beautiful flowers atop the casket. And then droves of mourners dressed in black ascended the cafe. They all ordered drinks – and pretty soon the entire square was cheer-sing their loved one. In unison, they all cried and yelled and lifted their pints, some pouring a drink out for their lost one. And then I cried.”

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

Grundtvigs Kirke

It was quiet, hushed. And the light flooded every where. The white stone walls and the naked chairs. It was minimal and yet glorified. Places like this do things to me. To be a building that still stands almost 100 years later and still revered as holy, I am all of that. Here for it. Part of it. Yes.

During our wait for the church to be open to the public, we walked around the neighborhood and through Bispebjerg Cemetery, Naturværkstedet, and ate lunch at Cafe Bjerget.

Nordvest

Naturværkstedet

Naturværkstedet

Naturværkstedet

Naturværkstedet

Naturværkstedet

Cafe Bjerget

Cafe Bjerget

After full hearts and full bellies, we walked a little more. These way-finding adventures are turning out to be my favorite bits of the trip. We’re almost getting lost on the way, which is my favorite way to travel: without destination. I love to see where people shop, get their coffee, walk their dogs, take their kids to the park. I am always curious about what a neighborhood looks like in different parts of the world. What does a backyard mean, here? Everyone has so much less space and so much more to show for it.

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

Walking the neighborhood

After such a good afternoon we still had more in us, so we decided to go further and look for one of the giants in the Copenhagen. We only had energy left for one considering it added another hour + of travel to our day so we chose to look for Sovende Louis (Sleeping Louis).

Sovende Louis

Sovende Louis

We all felt just like Sleeping Louis by the end of the day and were happy to travel back home quietly. We made a simple dinner of french toast and potatoes and onions and slept like babies.

March 29th // A Friday in Copenhagen

The sun came out for almost the entire day, it was glorious.

Breakfast at home

Aaron is our breakfast chef, at home, too. Usually only on the weekends, but here he’s been able to treat us every morning to something delicious. We sat down after breakfast and came up with a rough plan for the remaining days we have here (over a week, yet) but we chose which activities were most important and when to activate the Copenhagen cards to fit everything in, taking into consideration the hours things are open and the first day Tivoli would be open.

After that, we set out for the day!

Views in our yar

We planned to see the changing of the guards, check out Freetown Christina and see for ourselves what Superkilen Park was like.

But first: we had to get more City Passes for all the public transit. Which, let’s talk about their system for a minute shall we? We buy city passes and then show the receipt to the bus driver. Locals have cards that they scan when they get on or off the bus, train or metro … and it dings, so it’s doing something. But there is nothing stopping anyone from just taking a train, or metro … or even a bus without a ticket. Is it an honor system? We can’t figure it out. They don’t check specifics. On one bus we had a “meter maid” check everyone’s tickets – but that’s happened on only one bus, out of the dozens of buses, trains and metro’s we’ve already taken. I just don’t quite understand, but we love using their public transit so we’ll keep playing their game. It’s confusing.

Figuring out City Passes for the day, it takes 4 Schaaps + the internet

Jessica's in charge!

The city hall, essentially, also a church. A stop on our public transit transfer.

Changing of the Royal Guards

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg

Drew quite the crowd and they did a whole song and dance, very official like with marching and yelling and stopping and picking up their guns and putting them down and drawing their swords and marching some more … and staring at each other. For a really long time. Over and over and over again.

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg

It was free to see and since we were in the heart of the city at the right time, I’m really glad we saw this.

The changing of the guards at Amalienborg

After all that, we had a very hipster lunch at The Union Kitchen, which, listen. I love good food as much as the next person and it was good food, but places like these are not the most enjoyable with your kids in tow. It wasn’t a bad lunch by any means, it’s just … the kids were there. You see what I’m saying? No one pays $12 for a cappuccino to be elbow to elbow with a teenager who should have showered, didn’t, and wants to play games on their phone instead of enjoy their surroundings. Whatever. We ate food, we left.

And this is about where it hit me: Travel burn-out. I was done. But, wait! We had more to see!

We passed Nyhavn (pronounced NEW-HOW) again on our way to Freetown Christina and I can’t not take photos of it.

Nyhavn Canal - can't resist all the photos of her

We got to walk over a bridge and around all kinds of boats and new things we hadn’t seen, which was a nice walk to get my self back in order.

Sights of walking all over Copenhagen

And then:

Freetown

Freetown Christina

This is the only photo I took. There’s a street called Pusher Street where they openly sell and do drugs – all through Freetown they do drugs, but it’s mostly the selling that they don’t want photos of, because it is illegal in Denmark. However, Freetown Christina is it’s own governing entity. They are not part of the EU. I don’t have all the facts and haven’t done a ton of research but from what I’ve heard and gathered – they squatted on the land but in recent years have actually purchased it (so they do pay a form of taxes) but otherwise, this is a hippy utopia. If you want to live here, there’s some sort of process, but if a house is available – you get to move in. It’s free. You can live there however long you need to, want to, and when you leave, you take nothing with you.

We took our kids through Pusher Street, we smelled a lot of weed and we saw a lot of weed. In the bathrooms we saw evidence of smoking crack. Graffiti everywhere. It was different, that’s for sure. And sobering, too. But I’m so glad we went and saw it. The street art is amazing, the people are friendly. It is what it is. I’m glad we went as a family and that we saw what we saw – not to gawk at it but because it’s real. This is real. And I want to see real life. In all its perfumed essence, blood and guts, drunk, beautiful, magical, willy-wonka-ness.

Superkilen Park

After Freetown we hunted down this park Aaron was so interested in and saw it for ourselves. A great way to end the day.

Superkilen Park

Superkilen Park

Things I noticed about Friday’s in Copenhagen:

More people are out and about. It could have been the weather, but maybe it was also the adult start to the weekend? So many more locals were at the cafe’s when, for the past few days, we’ve haven’t seen many people out and about during the day (work hours). It was fun to see more people.

Drinks are appropriate at every hour. Because all occasions are worth celebrating.

Children are welcomed, not apologized for. I love this. So, so much.

A walking tour with AirBnB Experiences in Copenhagen

I took far less photos yesterday due to cold hands and wanting to listen to our tour guide more than capture the surroundings.

Hygge & Happiness Tour

We booked an AirBnB Experience months ago (this one, specifically) and were so very glad we did. I chose to do it a couple of days into our trip so we would hopefully be better adjusted to the time and be able to get up and out of the house and figure out transit all in time to make our reservation. It was the right thing to do.

Along with learning more about Copenhagen, Hygge and Happiness, we stopped a few places for treats included in the tour; a bakery called Det Rene Brød, for traditional pastry (ironically not called “Danishes” here – they’re called “Vienna Bread”)

Hygge & Happiness Tour

Hygge & Happiness Tour

Took our treats to the Kings Garden to eat and hear some history about the castle (this one, a vacation home for the King with the first, ever, flushable toilet. Set over a mote … so, you know. Functional but not entirely sanitary yet.)

Hygge & Happiness Tour

Between our stops, we’d walk through the streets and talk or ask questions. Besides our family of four, there were 6 other people on our tour as well. Four from California and two from Ohio. 🙂

We made our way to Peter Beier Chocolate for a chocolate tasting, cooking/baking etc in Copenhagen is a serious business and they try to do everything as organically and environmentally friendly as possible (as a business, you also get a tax break for doing so – and with taxes as high as 66% … while most people don’t mind paying the taxes because of what they get back from them – you still take all the breaks that come your way) and the Chocolatier was no different.

The tasting started out with two different morsels – the only difference in them was the soil. The tree variety, treatment, etc etc were all the same – but one tree was next to a river and another was a mile away in an orchard. The first one we tried was from the tree in the orchard. I think it was something like 85% cocoa, and it was a delicious dark chocolate. There was an acidity and bitterness but it was pleasant. Then we tried the morsel from the tree by the river and it was SO DIFFERENT. Sweeter, almost. Less bitter. It was wild – and a great example of how just the soil can affect the taste of our food.

Kind of eye-opening.

We wound through more streets, heard some folklore about Copenhagen, saw fountains and statues and where the locals hung out vs. the tourists and we ended our tour at Bertels Salon, a cheesecake shop that has won the Best Cake award twice (and they’ve only handed out the prize twice).

Hygge & Happiness Tour

Hygge & Happiness Tour

The drinks were included in the tour but if we wanted cake, we’d have to purchase that ourselves, however after the chocolate and pastries – none of us wanted more sweets.

We also learned:

Hygge is pronounced like “HOO-GA” but even more like “HUGH-Ga” … you need the dirty u, in the back of your throat.

Bike theft is the biggest allotment for crime in the city, and almost no one locks up their bike. (It’s very safe)

The Little Mermaid is actually a very disturbing story. Disney colors things in rainbows (which I guess I knew, but also had no idea there were original versions so different than the Disney ones, go figure)

King Christian IV had a reign of 60 years, but was appointed at age 11. He was eccentric and named streets after things that probably weren’t a thing in Copenhagen at the time (Lemon Balm, being one of them. Elephant, Crocodile etc being other street names)