A Birthday Trip to Copenhagen


I wish the words existed to describe my trip to Copenhagen.  I fear, however, for the next couple of paragraphs, I will be trying to articulate ideas, emotions and experiences for which English lacks words.  Like the concept of hygge, sometimes, despite the predominance of the language we can’t say everything.

I woke up early enough to skype with my dad on Friday morning, his Thursday night.  My mother wasn’t there, she was upstate with a yoga minded friends.  Soon, I began the rush to the airport, thinking about how  I wished a friend was traveling with me to diffuse the awkwardness.  My desire for a companion  increased as I arrived in Copenhagen airport, greeted by Danish, a currency that made no sense and no clue whether I bought a ticket for the metro or train.

Luckily, I made it into the city in one piece.  On my own.


Except, I wasn’t on my own.  Before the receptionist could ask any details regarding my reservation, I realized my mom was there.  Standing in the lobby of my hotel.  In Copenhagen.  Wasn’t she supposed to be at a meditation retreat with her friend in New York?  No, that was actually a plane ride.  My mother came to Copenhagen to spend my birthday with me.  I’m pinching myself still as I write this.

The fact we were in Copenhagen would turn out to be the icing on the cake.  Or, in this case, the herring on the smørrebørd.  After all the excitement of seeing each other, we didn’t do much besides walk around the city and get coffee on the first day.  It was gorgeous and the weather was perfect.  The sun barely set; I was in heaven.

The adventures began in full force the next day.  We ate a surprisingly nice hotel breakfast with muesli, toast, pumpkernickle bread and cheese.  Afterwards, we walked to our first coffee of the day at Democratic Coffee.  I needed to stop and take a photo about every other step.  Amazingly, we still had time to pop into the Statens Museum for Kunst to look at the Danish and French painting.  The paintings were great, the post card collection was not.


Then, we visited another one of my three countries of origin; we went to Malmö, Sweden!  It’s a quick trip from Copenhagen and I would have been disappointed to leave Scandinavia without visiting.  Malmö was gorgeous, I’m in love with Sweden.  We had our second cup of coffee, walked around and bought some souvenirs before heading back to Copenhagen.  The ride over the øresund bridge alone was worth the half-hour train ride.

That evening we had a proper Danish dinner out — price included — at Hansens Gamle Familiehave near our hotel in Frederiksberg.  While the food wasn’t exactly the best stuff I’ve ever eaten, it was authentic.  It might sound bad to say that the boiled potatoes were my favorite thing, but they were fantastic.  Smothered in lingonberry jam and browned butter, they were more like dessert than dinner.


I awoke on my birthday to ballons and a Swedish garland hanging from my the hotel windows.  The sky was a brilliant blue, with barely a cloud to be seen.  My mother and I took a long walk from Frederiksberg to Nørrebro for brunch.  We both loved all the little bits to taste; my favorite were probably the pancakes and my mother loved her little cup of scrambled eggs.  If you find yourself in Copenhagen soon (and, for your sake, I really hope that you do), you must brunch at Lyst.

My birthday wouldn’t have been complete without coffee and the coffee we had sitting outside The Coffee Collective certainly fit the bill.  Although the cafe was one of the coolest I’ve ever been to, sitting outside watching Copenhagen was the perfect birthday experience.  I could have happily sat there for the entire day.

But there was more we wanted to see.  We took a bus to the Glyptotek (meh), walked to Magasin du Nord (enjoyed the cinnamon swirl we had in the basement more than the store itself) and drank another coffee at The Coffee Factory.  I’m particularly excited to tell you more about that last one.

Then I decided we had to see the little mermaid tatue.  Let’s just say, we got so lost, it’s a good thing that Copenhagen is such a beautiful city and the weather was so fantastic.  We did reach it and, despite being a bit anti-climactic, walking through the Kastellat and along the water more than made up for it.

Birthday Cakes

A birthday wouldn’t be a birthday without cake.  And we need to find some.  It was nearing 5 pm on Sunday and we began to worry about the possibilities, especially since I’m quite picky about my desserts.  Luckily, we stumbled upon a bakery with several gorgeous tarts and pastries in the window.  We winded up getting three different ones (yes, three): an apple tart, a mocha meringue-feuille and a chocolate/coconut cake with pistachios and white chocolate frosting on top.  After a quick grocery trip stop for dinner (I really do recommend you try smoked halibut soon), we went back to the hotel room where we opened my birthday wine. A chilean white that was chosen because we share a name: Emiliana.

That evening we skyped with my Dad while I opened my presents (which were, again, a surprise for which words don’t quite exist) and took a quick walk to see Tivoli lit up.  Does anyone understand all the fuss about Tivoli? My mother and I are still a little confused.


My mother had an early flight the next morning, so I spent the day exploring Copenhagen myself, falling more and more in love with the city with each fairy-tale like house I saw.  I went to Rosenborg Palace, a trip I definitely recommend.  Especially if you are an EU based arts student.  The glass room is really beyond words.  I felt like I was in a Nancy Drew game walking around.

After that, I decided that I needed to at least see Nyhaven, which was just like the pictures plus a few more tourists.  I walked to Riccos coffee for a cortado and thought about how amazing it would be to study abroad in Copenhagen.  Then it was time for lunch.

I had a herring smørrebørd at Torvehallerne market.  If you go to Copenhagen you must, go there.  It was amazing and I wish my mother had been there to experience it with me.  Then, I had the best cookie/dessert/homemade Danish pop-tart ever (pictured below).  I’m still dreaming about it.  Do expect my own version sometime during the summer.


After that it was time to head back to the airport and back to Italy.

Frankly, I’m still pinching myself.  My trip to Copenhagen was one of the best birthday presents, ever.  The city is gorgeous, it was a delight to see it with my mother and I got to do and see so many amazing things.  I may have gone terrified of speaking Danish, but I left eager to jump on a bike, say tak and eat pumpernickle bread with milky cheese for breakfast and a smoked herring smørrebørd for lunch.

That’s one way to make your 21st birthday about more than the new found ability to legally buy alcohol in America.  Though don’t worry, I did get a shot glass for my birthday.

What’s the most memorable birthday present you’ve ever received?


10 thoughts on “A Birthday Trip to Copenhagen

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