Last week my sister and I were lucky enough to spend 4 days exploring the two largest cities in Denmark, Copenhagen and Aarhus. We decided on Denmark for our first trip of 2015 to visit our friend Gabriele, who is studying journalism there this semester (you might remember him from his guest post last summer!) Below is a round up of the highlights and my overall impressions of Denmark:
We landed in Copenhagen on early Thursday, which gave us more than enough time to see the city before taking our train to Aarhus that night. My favorite part of our day in Copenhagen was hands down the Torverhallern Market, a large covered market that sells fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, and flowers, and houses all different sorts of restaurants, cafes, and bakeries (not surprising that this was the best part of the day for me).
After lunch, we took a walk around the city and went to see Rosenborg Castle, a renaissance castle once used as a summer residence for the Danish royal family.
That night we took a train to Aarhus, where Gabriele met us at the station and showed us where our apartment (which we had found on airbnb) was. The owner, Lis, was lovely, as was her cat, who we found hiding under the blankets in our room a few times during our stay:
Småkage Huset may have very well been the best part of the whole trip – this magical place was recommended to us by Elys, who has lived in Aarhus her whole life (always trust the locals). Småkage Huset, which means “little cookie house” in Danish, is a small bakery owned by a husband and wife team – he takes care of the baking and she takes care of the business. Right from the moment we stepped in the door we could tell we were in for a treat – the bakery was cozy and warm, smelled amazing, and was a haven after the cold rainy weather outside. And the pastries here were AMAZING. All three of us agreed they were some of the best we had ever tried, and felt it was only right to sample as much as possible – chocolate cinnamon rolls, coconut cookies, iced strawberry jam bars, vanilla cookie rings (vanillekranse).
Our favorite however, were the fastelavnsboller, which are traditionally eaten for Carnival in Denmark. Fastelavnsboller are buns filled with vanilla custard and topped with chocolate or vanilla icing – insanely good! My sister and I are still going through withdrawal from these, and I think I’m going to attempt to make them at home this weekend – if it goes well I’ll post the recipe on the blog soon.
We went to this bakery every day we were in Aarhus, and got to know the owners, who were extremely friendly (apparently the stereotype that people are cold in Scandinavia is not true!) On our last morning in Aarhus they presented us with a strawberry and pistachio cream cake meant for a bride to be who had cancelled her tasting appointment at the last minute that day. So nice of them! It was delicious!
On Saturday the weather was rainy and cold, so we decided to spend the afternoon at Aarhus’s modern art museum, ARoS. Before exploring the exhibits we had lunch at the museum café – we ordered smoked salmon salads and Danish "tapas,” which consisted in little tastes of Danish specialties like smoked tuna, Havarti cheese and almonds, and then a little brownie to finish. All were fantastic and super elegant.
The art museum itself was incredible – our favorite exhibit was a sort of room filled with all different colored mist that felt almost surreal and looked so cool. We also saw the famous sculpture, Boy, by Ron Mueck, which stands 4.5 meters and weighs 500kg. Overall it was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon!
We learned that one of the most important aspects of Danish culture is hygge, which is a sort of abstract concept that I guess could be translated to “coziness” in English. Hygge is basically the idea of being in front of a fireplace eating and drinking with friends and family, and overall being cozy and having a good time. Nice idea, right? Allie, Gabriele and I got coffee and pastries at La Cabra near the city center which seemed pretty hygge to us (even without the fireplace!)
Our last night in Aarhus, we went to Café Smagløs, the oldest café in the city. The café was small but cozy, and offered all sorts of different beers as well as open faced sandwiches, soups, and burgers. I opted for a chicken salad with curry which was delicious (it’s always nice to have a change of pace from the usual Italian fare). I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of what we ate -- it was too dark inside to get good shot!
Before I left, I made sure to pick up a cookbook so I could recreate some of what I had tasted in Denmark at home:
A few things about Denmark to finish off this post:
- The buses in Copenhagen and Aarhus pass exactly when they say they will, and frequently, a total luxury compared to Rome!
- Both cities reminded me a little bit of Newport, Rhode Island – very small with a lot of different shops and a cozy feel to them.
- Danish people are probably the best looking people on the planet. The majority of Danes we came across during our visit looked like supermodels – tall, blonde, blue eyed, perfect features.
- Danish people are probably the nicest people I’ve come across traveling – everyone was so incredibly friendly, accommodating, and eager to answer any questions we had. Karen, who we met on the train heading back to the airport offered to email me her fastelavnsboller recipe and further explained hygge to us – thanks Karen!!!
- You can pay for everything in Denmark with a credit or debit card – even the smallest of purchases.
- The only downside we found is that Denmark is extremely expensive – for example, we spent the equivalent of six dollars on a small smoothie at one cafe. However, salaries are quite high here, so Danish people don’t struggle with this too much.