Sometimes when you walk into a city for the first time, it can feel like you've lived there you're entire life. The perfect combination of sights, sounds, and smells knocks you over the head and pulls you in immediately. Copenhagen, like Melbourne and Berlin before it, seeped into my veins and hooked me from the second I stepped off the train.
There's a classic scene in every movie where the protagonist steps into a city for the first time, and the world seems to spin around him as the camera spirals to capture the magnitude of the moment. The bursting energy of Copenhagen - with bike riders whizzing past in every direction and colorful lego-like buildings splattered across the horizon - triggered this vertigo-like effect as I stumbled through the cobblestone streets for the first time. As I wandered around huge promenades filled with locals drinking beers and soaking up the sunshine, that old familiar feeling that traveling always triggers slowly washed over me - it's a unique sensation that's so hard for me to put into words, so I'll just let Hunter S. Thompson do the talking here:
I had a flash of something I hadn't felt since my first months in Europe - a mixture of ignorance and a loose, "what the hell" kind of confidence that comes on a man when the wind picks up and he begins to move in a hard straight line toward an unknown horizon.
The Copenhagen Jazz Festival taking place all week meant music was echoing from every corner of the city. Bands set up right on the street, between cafes, jamming proudly as crowds gathered. I spent hours wandering through tiny alleys following the music - the best band being a reggae trio that got everyone in the street moving their feet. During the set, an old man bought a rose, handed it to his wife as he grabbed her hand to dance, and slowly a circle of us crowded around them, all singing and dancing. Times like these made it pretty easy to see why Copenhagen is the happiest city in the world.
I came to Copenhagen with one definitive plan - to do absolutely nothing. And I'm pretty confident I succeeded. There's a bunch of touristy stuff and world class museums to visit, but I never understood why you'd fly halfway across the world to hang out with other tourists and see art you could see at home. My itinerary consisted of soaking in the vibes, jumping from cafe to cafe, passing out in parks, and eating my way through the city.
By my last day in Copenhagen I had a pretty comfortable routine I could've spent a lifetime doing:
8am: Wake-up a little foggy-headed and retrace our steps from last night's party
9am: Killer breakfast at Next Door Cafe - eggs, bacon, pancakes, bread, and jam. Got to fill up for a big day.
10am: Hop on the bike and head to one of the hipster neighborhoods, either Vesterbro or Norrebro. Find The Coffee Collective immediately and get wired.
11am: Get some writing done at a 3-story underground cafe (or cave?) called The Living Room.
12pm: Stumble into one of the city's free concerts and jam out for a bit.
1pm: Meet back up with friends from the hostel at the outdoor market, Torvehallerne. This is one of my favorite places in the city - it's a way better version of a farmer's market that's open everyday and is always buzzing with locals. People pack into the place to eat everything from gourmet chocolates to Spanish tapas while drinking champagne and sangria. A typical lunch there consisted of an amazing French shredded Duck sandwich, a farmer salad, Lebanese dips, the freshest lox I've ever tasted, and pressed juices.
2:30pm: Ditch everyone and head to King's Park or the Botanical Gardens with some sort of chocolate Danish pastry in hand. Read. Write. Snap pictures and act like a photographer. Try to hit on pretty blonde Danish girls.
3:30pm: Walk into Atelier September for coffee round 2. Say hi to the baristas I now know and end up eating avocado toast with two blonde girls who work in fashion and a guy who claims he's an "artist" from London. Confirm that this is my favorite cafe in the world.
5pm: Head back to the city center. Grab a beer and follow the music to a concert in one of the promenades.
6:30pm: Meet back at the hostel, grab some dinner and try to find the friends from before. If that fails, try to meet as many people from as many different parts of the world as possible (surprisingly easy). Convince whoever I'm with to trust me and follow me the Meatpacking District for pizza at Mother or cocktails at Neighborhood while vinyl tracks echo in the background. Grab a beer at Mikkeler or a glass of wine at Malbec to keep the juices flowing on the ride back to the hostel.
8pm: Happy hour. Starts out civilized by playing drinking games at 8 but gets completely out of hand by 9.
10pm: Someone names a bar or club and we all blindly follow. A stampede of 10-20 of us stumble through the cobblestone streets in a haze of laughter, without the slightest care of where we're going . We get lost, try to ask old Danish couples how to find our way by slurring words in English, but finally follow the music to find a dance party that most likely wasn't the place we planned on going to.
8am: Wake up, shower, repeat.
It's my last day in Copenhagen, and I'm currently sitting in King's Park under the morning dew, trying to figure out what, exactly, it was about this city that drew me in so quickly. I was pretty skeptical when I heard it's ranked the happiest city in the world because I had no idea how anyone could quantify something like that. But people here really are that happy - they're always smiling, helping neighbors out, and taking loads of time to help tourists out - especially me. Locals are insanely friendly, and I've witnessed, as well as been a part of, so many random conversations in the middle of the street between two total strangers.
It's hard to put the energy of this city into words, but it sort of combines the best aspects of all my other favorite cities: Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, and Melbourne. It's got that unique small town/big city vibe where it feels like you're part of a tight-knit community, while all the excitement of a big metropolis is just a bike ride away - like Melbourne and Amsterdam. Then it throws in the edginess of Berlin - with a high fashion, art, and music scene, as well as plenty of graffiti-soaked neighborhoods. On top of it all, cafe culture is the beating heart of the city. There are tons of cafes in every nook and cranny of the city, with people enjoying the sun outside, or if it's raining, candle-lit interiors that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside (Danish people have a word, hygge, that loosely translate to cozy - they love the feeling of closeness and warmness, which translates into how they treat each other as well). All of this makes it so hard to leave Copenhagen, but London's calling.
Until next time, Copenhagen...