What is the secret to being happy? Turns out the Danes know. The nation was once again named the happiest place by the UN’s World Happiness Report 2016 Update. And, it has apparently topped the table three out of the four times the report has been issued.
I visited Copenhagen earlier this Spring, and I never wanted to leave. It’s clean, healthy, modern and very European. I stayed at the Axel Guldsmeden hotel, which didn’t feel like your typical chain hotel – and a big plus point was that it was green too. People on the street or at stores were very friendly and unpretentious, which makes sense since research has shown that Danes are typically more trusting of people they don’t know, and trust is what makes people happy.
Copenhagen is a great place to get away to for just a weekend because it’s not very big. I left (from Boston) on a Friday night and got back on Monday afternoon, and it was enough to see the main sites and get a taste of what it was like there. However, I loved it so much that I will plan to go back for a whole week next time.
It’s interesting to me how inspired Walt Disney was by Tivoli Gardens, which was the blueprint for Disney Land, and also by The Little Mermaid, originally created by famous Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, who spent most of his life in Copenhagen.
As a food lover, I was very curious and interested in trying all the food there, but I completely missed out on trying a Smorrebrod, which is basically their version of an open sandwich. I hope to be back sometime and will have to try it then!
The city is very walkable and bike-able in general, and the Stroget, which is the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world, is a great place to walk around without the interruption of traffic. I can’t say much for the shopping itself, but that’s personal taste. I’m not much of a souvenir shopper, and I prefer to do most of my clothes shopping online these days. But there are little stores where you can grab a bite as you walk around, or you can sit on a bench and listen or watch street performers.
The idea of the traffic free shopping street was so successful in Copenhagen, that the city made a move to create more access for pedestrians and bikers, and now many countries internationally are following suit.
I took a boat ride around the Børsgraven, which is the canal around Slotsholmen – a relaxing way to get a feel for the city and also learn some of its history. It takes you past the old Stock-Exchange, Nyhavn, The Little Mermaid, the Amalienborg Palace, Black Diamond – the National Library of Denmark, and many other historical sites. A Danish guide takes you through the tour and tells you about the sights in both English and Danish.
Before getting to Copenhagen, I had read that the Little Mermaid statue was underwhelming, so I didn’t make special plans to go see it, but a boat ride in the canal made it easy to catch a glimpse of it – I didn’t miss much.
The most recognized part of Copenhagen, Nyhavn is the entertainment district of Copenhagen. From postcards, to framed pictures, Nyhavn is almost like the city’s logo. The colorful townhouses lined along the canal are beer houses, bars, restaurants and cafes, which make for a fun night out, and the boats lined along the canal harbor make it extremely picturesque.
Hans Christian Anderson lived in Nyhavn for a number of years, and it was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution in the early 70’s.
The highlight of the whole trip was Tivoli Gardens, which has one of the world’s oldest wooden roller coasters that still operates today. It’s an amusement park and garden, that’s also extremely picturesque, from beautiful peacocks and swans in ponds, to gorgeous flowers and greenery. You can grab a latte at one of the outdoor coffee shops and take it all in, or go on one of the rides, or play any of the carnival games, which includes bow and arrow games and horse racing games. If I could go back, I would spend an entire day at Tivoli Gardens, maybe two!
The Danes really do know what happiness is about and it’s not money, or big houses or fast cars. They don’t judge other people’s lives, and they don’t do anything that doesn’t make them happy. I still have more to see in Denmark, but after visiting Copenhagen, I can safely say it’s my happy place. Did I say I want to go back already?