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Fairy tales come alive at magical Copenhagen

Supriya Sehgal
Music enthusiasts can add Denmark’s biggest music festival held in June at Roskilde to their trip

One of the biggest impediments of city tours during a layover is the travel time to the centre or sightseeing areas from the airport. Among several other charms, Copenhagen's distances and access to the heart of the city, alleviates any inertia for travellers. Even as less as a three-hour window offers ample Scandinavian flavour to those on short layovers. On the 17-minute ride to Nørreport station from the airport, Smita Murarka, 37, was amazed to see that several travellers were set to make the best use of their unlimited metro day pass of DKK 80, and were in no mood to miss an opportunity to see a slice of Copenhagen even though they had limited hours. Fortunately, Murarka, head of marketing for Amante (India), was visiting for four whole days, and had all the time to see a destination long propped on top of her bucket list of European cities.

“I've always loved the fact that Copenhagen lies at a cultural intersection of old and new. There is so much history juxtaposed with modern design and architecture. Earlier this year, I had a chance to get first row seats to a typical Danish spring in April and now, I fully understand why Denmark has the highest happiness index in the world. It had a lot do with the outdoors,” Murarka reminisces.

Happy feet

Copenhageners have an abiding love for the saddle and the biking culture is the most beaten but cheerful topics to strike a conversation with a stranger. Want to blend in with more than just words? A cycling tour is the easiest way to hop on for a ‘day in the life of a local.' Though Murarka didn't step on the pedal, she did walk her legs off. The one haunt she visited each evening was the iconic 17th century waterfront, Nyhavn. “It's the most lively entertainment centre of the city. One can sit for hours watching canal tour boats leave every minute from the harbour, the reflection of colourful buildings shimmer in the water and the general convivial vibe through the day. I fuelled up on churros (Spanish snack) and wine to stroll around the canals. Looking at me-head knocked back to see the old buildings -a friendly local even pointed out the oldest one, built in 1681,” she remembers. After all the walking, the only snack that upstaged churros for Murarka was the Scandinavian open sandwich, Smörgåsbord. The pleasant weather and longer days gave her more walking time. Since Nyhavn is only a kilometre from Tivoli Gardens, Murarka continued to explore on her feet.

Photo: Bhaskar Varma/Mint

Fairy-tale land

“The magic is not restricted to Nyhavn alone. Tivoli Gardens is where the real enchantment lies, “ says Murarka. A host of fairytale themed rides at the second oldest amusement park in the world transports one to another world. This was the place that inspired Walter Disney to establish Disney World. “I was an absolute child again. Jostling to get on the rides, making sure I get the best seats. I was happiest in the Flying Trunk, themed after 32 fairytales written by Hans Christen Anderson,” laughs Murarka.

There was another place on Murarka's list that felt like a fairytale. She chose to spend a day at Freetown Christiania, a self-governing community of over 1,000 people. “Christiania has always been a controversial place, but as a visitor I could only see the positives. I met the most unassuming café owners, free-spirited artists performing gigs for free, tasted great vegan food and even sipped on a cup of authentic Indian chai,” she remembers. The haze of hashish is difficult to miss at the infamous Pusher Street as you enter the autonomous land, but Murarka was fixated on the genial atmosphere instead.

Back for hygge

Talking of genial, she is now determined to get a glimpse of Copenhagen in the winters, when the feeling of Danish hygge-mood for coziness and comfort that best goes with Christmas-is dominant. Murarka had the best of spring but wants to make sure that she can experience this typical cultural idea first hand some day. Even if she has to use an unlimited metro pass for just a few hours during a layover.

Stopover Sojourns is a series that looks at how to make the most of your time at lesser-known layover cities through the experiences of business travellers.