Whenever people ask me “How was your trip?”, I usually force a grin and panic as I think of what to say. My answer tends to be superficial: “Great! So much fun!” To give a suitable answer would mean sitting down with that person for three hours and unpacking the life-changing implications of travel.
A better question, and one that I enjoy answering, is “What was your favourite city?” It’s concise and lets me spout out the highlights of an overwhelming experience.
So, as to avoid glossing over the really cool stuff I got to do in Europe, I thought it would be useful to rank my favourite cities. I’m starting today with my favourite city, because who wants a depressing intro? The rankings are somewhat arbitrary. Factors like cost, quality of life, culture, food and sightseeing all play a part. But the list mainly come down to which cities I best jived with. Whatever that means.
I knew next nothing to about Denmark, and just as little about its capital. Mostly what I pictured came from Instagram shots showcasing its rainbow-coloured harbour and endless army of cyclists. It was one of the few cities I was genuinely excited to visit.
I instantly knew the city had potential when I walked through its airport. It was clean and filled with quality stores and restaurants. The metro ride to our Airbnb was conspicuously easy, the train whizzing to the city centre with automated precision.
I nearly cried when we walked into our Airbnb. It was just so…beautiful. Oh, look, a checkered kitchen backsplash! A mannequin re-fashioned as a coat hanger! Wool blankets casually strewn everywhere!
The Danes actually have a name for this effortless style: hygge. Pronounced hoo-ga, the concept boils down to living life beautifully and comfortably. Aesthetically, that could mean lighting scented candles to ward off the dreariness of a cold winter. It also factors into the way Danes spend their time. Lounging in the park with friends, for instance, is very hygge.
Basically, the Danes try to enjoy life as best as they can. And that feeling imbues all of Copenhagen. A good chunk of offices and shops are closed in the summer so that people can vacation. The transportation is easy, the food is delicious, the clothes are beautiful, the people young and fresh-faced and ebullient. They’ve even somehow managed to turn their cemeteries into gorgeous public parks.
Out of all the cities I visited, Copenagen is the only one I picture myself living in. It has everything I could want and more. The only downside? It’s painfully expensive. I learned my lesson when I paid $50 for a burger and beer in the touristy harbour area. So I’ll have to hold off on my Danish dream for now.
Tivoli: An amusement park located smack dab in the centre of Copenhagen. Outfitted with kitschy pastel landmarks and thousands of lights, it reportedly inspired the likes of Walt Disney and Michael Jackson. The rides had me sufficiently screaming my face off. My favourite was the tower swing that offered a breathtaking view of the city. Admiring the sea of twinkling lights as the park closed down was the perfect way to cap off our trip.
Shopping: The fashion in Copenhagen is ridiculous. Everyone is so well dressed, and not in a pretentious way. The clothing is simple and pragmatic (you’ll see plenty more sneakers than heels). Summers in Copenhagen are mild, which offers people more variety in their attire. And it’s also made the city a breeding ground for trendy stores. It took me two days to get through my list of shops to visit — and that was just for menswear. I now aspire to dress like a Dane.
Bike tour: Bike-riding for hours through the winding streets of Copenhagen was that postcard moment of my trip. It was almost laughably picturesque. I felt my mouth hanging open as I biked across Copenhagen's bridges and stared at the tranquil canals (which, of course, are clean enough to swim in). It also helped that we had a crazy, 60-year-old Danish man leading our bike tour. Every so often, he spouted some musing about the Danish way of life that struck me with its insight. Thanks, Mike!
Tomorrow, my number-two pick of European cities features a brunch so good it was spiritual and a live sex show that made me question humanity. Stay tuned.