Layers of emotion in Copenhagen

Tiếng Việt

Copenhagen was the first destination on our 17-day strolling through the extreme cold Scandinavia to hunt for the Northern Lights in Nordic countries. In fact, this city was added to the schedule not because of the Northern Lights, but for its ancient charm of a modern city.

Before visiting Copenhagen, a friend of mine, who had come there several times, said that the city had nothing special except for the multicolored ancient houses on the banks of the Nyhavn canal and the cycling habit of the people. However, to me Copenhagen is much more interesting than that.


The three cold winter days in Copenhagen left me with many emotions. I remembered the feel of my freezing hands holding a hot traditional Danish cup of coffee, joyfully took a sip of aromatic coffee while pulling a blanket up to my chest, and enjoyed the peaceful scenery of Nyhavn canal. The serene sensation mingled with excitement when we shared sips of whiskey and puffed smuggled weed while watching gorgeous sunset on the swan lake in Hippie Christiania freetown. And the unexpected encounter with a famous Danish artist who gave me a profound lesson in art and life.

Besides those uplifting emotions, Copenhagen was also the place where many unexpected incidents occurred during this long journey, brought a completely opposite series of feelings. A little worried when the luggage was delayed, panicked when a member of the group was pick-pocketed, then felt released when she found both her wallet and personal documents in the trash bin (though she lost all her money); a bit absent-minded when buying a 24-hour bus ticket, but started using it 2 days later. Hence, we had an embarrassing moment when exchanging unused but expired bus tickets.

Standing on the banks of Nyhavn canal

Ghostly trees

Strolling on central streets of Copenhagen on wet drizzle days, I was really fascinated by the bare trees. The gloomy gray-black tones and their varied, spiky appearance gave the old castles and churches a haunting, Gothic look. These bare trees are an integral part of Copenhagen, present in every corner of the streets and help me adding magical frames to the winter scenery there.

While walking, I kept imagining how brilliant Copenhagen would be when the trees were green in the spring or under summer’s sunshine; or turned red & yellow in wet autumn.


Rosenborg Castle – Regal flair

Perhaps like many historical European cities, Copenhagen’s specialty is museums, palaces and castles, such as National museum, Architectural museum, Art museum, Science museum, Geological museum, or Rosenborg castle, Kronborg, Amalienborg, Frederiksborg or Christiansborg palace. I don’t like museums and palaces, just because I find myself not having any feeling for masterpieces inside them.

Thus, in a long list of museums and castles in Copenhagen, I decided just to visit Rosenborg castle because it is located in the city center, on our wandering way, and also because this is the oldest castle in Copenhagen.

400 year-old Rosenborg castle in Copenhagen

Built in 1606 in the Dutch Renaissance architecture, this castle was once the summer holiday home of King Christian IV. Although the area is not very large, the setting and decoration in each room of the castle exudes a regal flair.

Compared to some of the most magnificent castles in Europe that I had the opportunity to visit, Rosenborg could not be as gorgeous. However, the artifacts here are quite sophisticated. The spiral staircase with flower paintings and window overlooking the elegant garden is a rustic highlight in the lavish scenery of the castle.

If you do not have time to visit inside the castle, or do not want to pay 110 DKK entrance ticket, then wandering in the castle’s elegant garden is also very interesting. Two rows of trees lead into the castle with completely different designs. The ancient houses around the castle are quiet and serene.

The Old town and Nyhavn Canal 

Copenhagen, doesn’t have much snow in winter, only drizzle and gray sky. For three days in Copenhagen, the sun only smiled for a moment. But in those few moments, I witnessed the glow of the whole city. The gray sky turned to a crystal blue that uplifted the surrounding scenery.

We wandered on the small paved roads in Old Quarter . The rows of modern shops interwoven with the arches of the old churches or the hundreds of years old multi-colored buildings create the interesting surprises at every intersection.

The Nyhavn canal is considered a symbol of Copenhagen probably partly because of the long history of the pier an the ancient multi-colored blocks, and partly because it has become the city’s entertainment center with famous restaurants and bars. I don’t like the hustle and bustle, but walking here was really fun, especially seeing the Nyhavn Canal change from murky, cold setting to brilliantly gorgeous under the quick sunshine.

A row of colorful houses on the banks of the Nyhavn canal when the sun smiled

For the first time, we drank coffee and covered with blankets. The simple happiness was when my freezing hands were warmed by a hot Danish cup of coffee, sipping a mouthful of aromatic coffee while watching the peaceful scenery of Nyhavn canal. Also there, I had an accidental and interesting meeting with a famous Danish artist, who gave me a profound lesson in art and life.

Free town Christiania – A peaceful rebellion

Perhaps my biggest surprise in Copenhagen was the freetown Christiania. Formed in 1970 by illegal immigrants on the grounds of an old military barracks, Christiania became an autonomous region of the anti-government community. The criterion here is that “nobody has a home, everyone manages each other and every decision will be voted on by the crowd“. Existing in the heart of Copenhagen, Christiania offers a completely different image from the well-organized, classic Copenhagen.  

Houses in Christiania, Copenhagen

Entering this neighborhood, we felt a bit afraid when we saw the houses with furniture scattered around the luxuriant trees. Graffiti paintings are everywhere, no walls are without paintings. Their motifs embody a hippie-style,  liberal lifestyle.

Scattered in the neighborhood are stalls selling self-wrapped cigarettes, also known as weeds (cannabis) in a rather jumbled, confusing setting. Everywhere there are groups of teenagers smoking, talking and laughing. At this time, we were asked not to take photos because these trading business is illegal.

We skimmed through the drugstores, passing through the central courtyard to a large lake.  A surprisingly peaceful, clear scene unfolded before our eyes. White swans were leisurely swimming on the still lake. The sun gradually shone at the end of the day through the golden reeds.

Swan lake in Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen

It was hard to imagine such a peaceful picture of nature lurking deep inside a rebellious neighborhood. They don’t seem to belong to each other on the outside, but if you think about it more deeply, it’s a great arrangement of nature. What could be more perfect than being regaled with smuggled cigarettes in such a a calm scene. This may not be a place for romance, but it is a place for real life.

We found a place to sit in front of the lake, quietly enjoying the clear scenery. A feeling of tranquility mixed with excitement settled on us as we took a sip of whiskey, took a few puffs of smoke and watched the brilliant sun drop down into the lake.

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 Nyboder – Brilliant orange

Nyboder is not a famous tourist attraction of Copenhagen. It just used to be the residence of Danish royal navy and their family, built by King Christian IV in the 17th century. The famous movie of “Danish Girl” in 2016 with beautiful scenes here has promoted Nyboder to the public.

The rows of repeating orange blocks in Nyboder, Copenhagen
Nét mộc mạc cũ kĩ của khung cửa xanh và cửa sổ đỏ ở Nyboder, Copenhagen

The unique feature of this neighborhood lies in the identical similarity of the blocks, except for the street name. The bright orange walls which are somewhat faded over time, combined with the green wooden doors and red window, create a distinctive classic look.

I thought these brilliant orange was the original color. But, it was not the case. It was built in a completely different color scheme – white and red. Another interesting finding is that except for the one-story building on Sankt Pauls Gade street, the original remains of the 17th century, other blocks were added more than a century later. Nevertheless, they still ensure perfect similarity.

The three days in Copenhagen were really special for me. Up & down emotions, the mix of modern and ancient charm in the Old Quarter and the banks of the Nyhavn Canal , the contrast between the rebellious hippie style and the serenity of the swan lake in Freetown Christiana, the rows of haunted trees and the bright orange houses in Nyboder remain my unforgettable memories about Copenhagen

Traveled on Feb, 2019

Read my other articles about this trip

Welcome to read upcoming articles

  • Lost in the icy wonderland of Lofoten

  • Bergen – City of the roofs

  • Flam village and legendary Flamsbana railway

  • Hello Oslo, solo in a winter day

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