Oh Copenhagen, I don’t even know where to begin. This city has put a spell on me. I had the honor to spend one semester during my bachelor’s studies here. It’s one of the places in my life that I can call home. While of course as a friend once beautifully phrased it ‘the world is my home’. Let me take you with me on a unqiue Copenhagen trip.
Copenhagen Business School as a Freemover
I knew for sure I wanted to include a semester abroad in my bachelor’s studies. Now you might not call Copenhagen ‘abroad’ considering I studied in Germany but it sure was an amazing exchange experience. I applied for Napier University in Edinburgh as well but Copenhagen Business School was my ultimate choice. Copenhagen Business School (CBS) has a pretty good ranking and is very developed in its technology and course catalog opportunities.
Now, I could have gone there as a regular Erasmus student. That would have implied though, that the University would have been our Erasmus partner which it was not. And since I didn’t like any of the partners my University offered I figured ‘Hey, might as well come up with a plan on your own.’. So, I did some research and found the option to apply as a so-called ‘freemover’. And here comes the interesting part, everyone can do it. Though there appear to be new regulations, so as an EU student you will have to apply as a so-called ‘credit student’ now (only non-EU students can apply as ‘freemovers’). When I did it it was very simple, just make sure to hand in a thorough application. Once you’re accepted (which you hopefully are), you will only have to pay a certain fee for each credit you earn. All in all, it was not very expensive at all which. Of course, you don’t get the benefits a normal Erasmus student gets. But it’s a pretty cool experience to organize everything yourself and to actually arrive by yourself vs. staying in the comfort zone of arriving in your little Erasmus group from your home University.
Finding a place in Copenhagen
Well, finding an apartment though definitely is a pain in the arse and the living costs are higher than anywhere else but besides that life in CPH is pretty amazing. For starters, you get a lot of fresh air because you’re cycling everywhere. (Attention though, if you see people on a bike waving at you…well, they’re not. They’re just signaling everyone behind them that they’re stopping. Copenhagen has they’re very own cycling rules and has an extremely developed infrastructure). I found a room through the University’s intranet. My parents (especially my mom) were worried sick that my MALE flatmate would ‘murder’ me. But of course, I had wonderful first days and a very great guy as a flatmate. Contrary to most students who were on a ‘mission to party’ throughout their exchange semester, for me, it was actually the most important semester in my study program hence more studying than partying. Well, looking at it a couple of years later as I am writing this article, that hard work really did pay off though. But I am still sorry Andrew I had to study so much, I hope I made it up to you when I visited again.
Danish Hygge and the Danish people
I love the Danish culture. People are very friendly and walk around with a relaxed and happy attitude. (Beware though, people generally don’t move out of the way. Make sure to always be the smart one and step aside when you see someone coming straight at you). At the same time, Danish people tend to stay in their groups. It’s rather difficult for a foreigner to be invited into an already existing group of friends. I was really lucky when I was living here since I was playing on the University’s volleyball team. Therefore, I had a lot of Danish classmates and had a number of local contacts. So, I had the pleasure to be invited to the traditional ‘Danish Christmas Hygge’ and house parties etc. And let me tell you, once you’re in the Danes are the warmest and welcoming, extremely stylish, people. For those wondering, the word ‘Hygge’ describes a state in the Danish culture of coziness, especially during the cold autumn and winter days where you sit together, light candles and enjoy your time together. Anyone who wants more insights can read ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ by Meik Wiking from the ‘Happiness Research Institute, Copenhagen’ – an interesting read not only about the concept of ‘Hygge’ but also about Danish culture in general.
Things to do during your Copenhagen Trip
And here we go, this is going to be a tough one. I have so many things I could include here but I will try to focus on the main must-sees for your Copenhagen trip.
You cannot miss the ‘Tivoli Copenhagen’. It’s not just a classic amusement park but more an event site all year round. Throughout summer there are different open-air concerts every evening. Around Halloween, the whole park is Halloween themed. And, at Christmas time they always come up with a Christmas theme that takes over the entire park. If you want to see some more nature, ‘Kings Garden’ is a nice park to hang out. If you’re lucky and you actually catch a sunny day. Close to Kings Garden, you will also find the ‘Botanical Garden’ so on rainy days you can go inside instead. If it’s sunny though, you can sit outside and embrace the local vibes as there will be a lot of people hanging out in the parks.
In the city center ‘Nyhavn’ is an absolute must as it’s probably one of the most photographed spots in Copenhagen (besides the ‘Little Mermaid’ that is literally little but a big tourist attraction). From Nyhavn, you can book a ‘Canal Tour’ that includes all the big sites like ‘Amalienborg Palace’, ‘Christiansborg Palace’, ‘Black Diamond Library’, and the ‘Opera House’ (this is where the Red Bull Cliff Diving Competition always takes place).
‘Christiana’ is an experience not to miss out on as well. It is a district that is defined as a freetown and independent from the Danish Government. Formerly established by a group of hippies, it is known for its autonomous way of life. The famous Danish ‘Christiania Bikes’ are sold here and there are some great restaurants as well. You can easily cross the bridge from Nyhavn. Walk towards ‘Christianshavn’ and take a right to ‘Christiania’. On that side of the river, you will also find the famous student housing ‘Tietgenkollegiet’. It is definitely worth a visit as it’s round-shaped and the architecture of the building is very unique.
‘Norreport Station’, ‘Central Station’ and ‘Kgs. Nytrov Station’ are the three u train stations surrounding the city center. Choose either and you can walk around for some shopping and food. Definitely, try a ‘økologisk Pølser’ from one of the stands, it’s a very interesting looking hotdog, give it a try. Also, buy a ‘Flødeboller’ as it’s one of THE local sweets (you can either get them at ‘Illum’ or ‘Magasin’ in the food section or at actual Flødeboller shops).
If you’re here around Christmas time, get a ‘Glögg’ (local mulled wine) as well. If you have an accommodation with a kitchen you should also buy ‘Æbleskiver’ in the supermarket which are pancake-like round balls that are traditionally served throughout Christmas time (you can also get them in cafés). I couldn’t get enough of them so I actually brought some packs back to Germany with me. One particular café that is really cute is the ‘Royal Smushi Café’. Another amazingly cute café is ‘Paludan Bog&Coffee’. It’s an old book store with coffee tables everywhere. If you’re in the chocolate mood you’ll also have to pay ‘Hotel Choloat’ a visit. Finally, THE local Scandinavian chain everyone knows is ‘Joe & the Juice’…if you’ve never been go check it out!
Aside from the city center other areas like Frederiksberg (which is where I lived), Osterbro, Vesterbro, and Norrebro are also very interesting areas to visit as you’ll get to experience a more local vibe around here. In Frederiksberg, the Copenhagen Business School campus and Frederiksberg Have (park) will make up for a nice afternoon walk. There’s an amazing cheesecake place at Falkoner Alle, called ‘Bertels Kager, and a great Italian restaurant ‘Forno a Legna’ which is just crazy busy in the evening with people standing in line waiting for their pizza – it’s a real experience.
For all the beer lovers out there, you should do a ‘Carlsberg Brewery Tour’, also called the Copenhagen Exbeerience. If you’re lucky enough to be in CPH around Christmas time you will most likely witness the traditional ‘Jule Day’ (‘J-Day’) festivities where trucks from yet another brewery, the Tuborg Brewery, cruise town and storm the bars to hand out a specifically designed Christmas beer. It’s a big celebration in Denmark around this time of the year and a very fun event.
Finally, here’s a big shoutout to my amazing friends. My University had this really cool ‘buddy program’ through which you were assigned a Danish buddy. I was the luckiest with my cute buddy Benedikte. She did an exchange semester in Hamburg where I was headed next so we were able to maintain seeing each other which was just amazing. Also, more buddies belonged to a buddy group and we had the coolest group we would always cook international dinners with (Danish, Mexican, Chinese, German). Throughout my future travels, I hit some of them up and stayed with my Chinese friend and his flatmates in the center of Hong Kong or visited another Chinese friend and stayed at her student accommodation in Sydney. I simply love my network of international friends all over the world. And it’s always amazing how you suddenly end up having real deep talks with people you randomly just met somewhere in the world.