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How can I get the most out of a 3-month stay in Copenhagen?
May 11, 2012 3:32 PM   Subscribe

Moving to Copenhagen for 3 months, excited and nervous! What will I eat? What should I bring with me to wear? How will I get around? How will I stay in touch? Hope me, hivemind! (MANY details inside because I am such a special snowflake)

Hivemind, can you help me get the most out of my 3-month stay in Copenhagen? I am going to be there June-July-August doing a research project. I am a (female, mid-20’s) PhD student in the sciences living on a reasonably generous (for grad school) fellowship stipend. I have a flight and a place to live in Østerbro , and I know who I will be working with (haven’t met them in person yet, but we communicate over email, and I work with people who have worked with them and adore them) and the visa seems just about set. I have read many Metafilter threads on Copenhagen think I have got kind of a read on the city but still have some things I’d like to figure out.

Climate and clothing- it seems like summer in CPH is like summer in San Francisco – slightly cool? I was planning on bringing a bunch of light sweaters, jeans/trousers, some dresses/skirts and tights, a light trenchcoat, and decent-looking sneakers and flats to wear. Anything I’m missing? Rain-appropriate gear like boots?

Feeding myself- I was planning on mostly cooking for myself and subsisting on mostly Smørrebrød the rest of the time. Anybody who’s lived in CPH able to give me an idea of their grocery/food expenditures? If I’m coming from a Northern California/NYC mindset for food shopping, am I going to find anything surprising? What kind of grocery stores should I look for? (I know, for example, that grocery stores there won’t take credit cards, and I know that the restaurants are more expensive than NYC – but what are groceries like?)

Transportation – I’m going to be regularly commuting from Østerbro to Frederiksberg and Christianshavn. I currently use a 6-speed folding Dahon Boardwalk bike to get around everywhere in my small University town. Any good resources for where I can get an inexpensive bike during my stay? Rent or Buy? Will I be able to sell it when I leave? What about a bus/Metro/train pass- does a public transit pass(es) make sense to buy for a 3-month visit?

Keeping in touch- I have an iphone 4 ~1 month from the end of its contract. I was planning on getting it unlocked. Is there a good/inexpensive Danish SIM card/Data plan (unlimited is a plus, but then so is inexpensive) I can get for it? Would there be a benefit to forward my US # to google voice or skype?

Fun Things: I have a reservation at Noma and am very excited to go to the Mikkeller Bar, and eat lots of smørrebrød and fish and things. I also love coffee, beer, spirits, and cocktails. Any other food destinations I should check out? My tastes run to both the ultra-traditional and ultra-modernist/experimental and I’d rather splurge occasionally than go out to eat all the time. What about the other areas of culture? Museums? Libraries? (this thread has been helpful!) Places I can visit on the train (other neighborhoods/Malmo)? If I want to go off and study for a while, any suggestions for a café/library with wifi?

Thank you, hivemind! I am really excited (I get along well with Danes I have met!) but have never done this kind of short-term move to another country by myself before. I appreciate input on any of my questions, or on anything important I forgot to ask!
posted by zingiberene to Travel & Transportation around Copenhagen, Denmark (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Last time I was there, I was 12, but I loved their hotdogs - polse (I think there is an accent in there somewhere). They were everywhere, and I think it was the mustard that won me over. Have fun, I loved the assorted castles and things when I was there.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:12 PM on May 11, 2012


Studied abroad there 10 years ago. Definitely recommend just walking around as much as possible, grabbing food from vendor carts and little bakeries and hanging out a lot in parks and by the water. Never took a canal tour but I wish I did. I don't know the details of getting a bike but I'd recommend it since it's the primary mode of transpo downtown - could you just bring your folding bike? I also think a bus/train pass would be pretty smart to buy since it can literally take you anywhere in the country!

Definitely try to check out Malmo/Lund, any of the castles, Tivoli on a summer evening, Amalienborg Palace (where the queen lives), botanical gardens. Christiania was fun to walk around in while I was there but don't know what's it's like now. I was there in spring but I heard summer is beautiful, relatively mild with some very warm days. Also try to take a trip out of the city to see the beautiful countryside!

Sounds like you'll have fun!
posted by wannabecounselor at 5:34 PM on May 11, 2012


Food:

The price of eggs, milk, bread, etc is about the same in Denmark as here, but the 25% VAT means food ends up costing a lot more there than here.

Bilka (www.bilka.dk) and Føtex (www.føtex.dk) are the main grocery store chains in Denmark. They tend to be pretty expensive because they're owned by the same parent company, which means they do a lot of price fixing. For staples, you'll almost always find lower prices at smaller food stores like Aldi, Netto, etc.

I would avoid Organic food. Denmark has a history of not following EU rules for organic certification. In 2009 it was taken to court over lax enforcement of standards. Organic food costs an arm and a leg, and half of it isn't even organic.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, you'll have to go to neighborhood market. The produce in chain stores tends to be of lower quality than what we're used to in the US. The markets aren't expensive--they're mostly owned by Moroccans and Indians, and haggling is SOP.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 6:26 PM on May 11, 2012


Some context for the below: I am Danish, I lived in CPH for a while, but now live in the states, and my knowledge of the place is about 7 years old.

--

It sounds like you've done your homework well. østerbro is one of the ritzier areas of CPH and so will likely be on the expensive side in terms of restaurants, groceries etc. As already mentioned, you'll likely get the most for your buck in Netto and Fakta and those kinds of store (and Aldi, if you can stomach it, though I wonder if there even are any in østerbro). For cheaper stuff, head to Nørrebro and shop in the grocery stores owned by immigrants (Bilka, as mentioned above, won't be very convenient -- they're as close to a WalMart as you'll get in DK and often not easy to get to without a car).

Smørrebrød is fun and fairly ubiquitous, if disappearing slowly. Make sure to go to one of those places that cater to the working man; typically a hole-in-the wall kind of place only open around lunch hour. For a modern (and good) take on classic Danish food, I hear Cafe Dyrehaven in Vesterbro is very good and very reasonable.

You're right to think that a bike will make most sense as your primary mode of transportation. When I lived there, the cheapest way to get a bike would be to go to a police auction where they auction away used and abandoned bikes, but I think this might be tricky to do for someone not familiar with how it works. There are many bike shops, and you might find something on Craigslist? While CPH is famous for being very accommodating to biking, it can also be pretty intense, especially during rush hour. Since it is the main mode of transportation for many people, there is little tolerance for dilly-dallying, and many will ride quite aggressively. If you do buy, I think you would be able to sell, but ideally someone would lend you a bike for the duration... It's also an eminently walkable city, and if you like walking I'd suggest you just walk, walk, walk -- so many interesting things to see (do explore all the X-bro neighborhoods, the city center, and Christianshavn -- they have quite distinct feels and profiles.

Since you're only there for three months, I'd probably recommend focusing on getting to know Copenhagen. That said, you might want to do a day trip to Elsinore to see the castle. Dragør on Amager is a cute little village easily accessible from the city.

I don't know what the current scoop is on cell phone plans, but there are many options, and I think pretty reasonably priced. Based on my experience, people there use texting a lot more than in the US, so be sure to get a plan that allows for a lot of texts.

For studying, I liked the Royal Library (The Black Diamond) or the University Library in Fiolstræde). The former is modern and slick, the latter almost something that could have been in The Name of the Rose. There used to be (and presumably still is) a cafe across the street from the University Library that was quite nice (Paludan's Bog Cafe, if I recall correctly. I'd be surprised if they didn't have WiFi).

The Copenhagen Post is an English language newspaper in CPH with resources on what goes on in the city.

I know I didn't answer all your questions, but hopefully this was helpful. I'll keep thinking about this and may pop back in with more thoughts.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:13 PM on May 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


1st of all welcome! I live in Copenhagen, so I have some current data for you :)

Noma is *incredible*, their food has always blown me away. You will not regret this (as long as you have it clear that you are getting an experience and not necessarily a meal - we were hungry that evening after having had a 16-course lunch). There are more Michelin stars in Copenhagen than anywhere else in Scandinavia. But good food is everywhere, Torvehallerne, for example (like Boquerias in Barcelona), MASH, Pastis, Relæ, etc.etc. In my opinion, the best pølser are from DØP right by the Round Tower.

For transportation, you can find cheap bikes to buy and then either sell again, or just abandon. There is Den Blå Avis (dba.dk) for this. Its a great biking city and you can get around everywhere. If you need to take public transportation on a regular basis then I would recommend a month-pass, its cheaper than a pay-as-you-go card. If you live in Østerbro and will mainly stay in the city, then the cheapest 2-zone pass is what you need.

Østerbro is, in my opinion, a bit dull. Very pretty part of town, but not much happens there. You'll want to spend some time in both Nørrebro and Vesterbro where the bars and outdoor cafes are. Islands Brygge is great for sunbathing and swimming.

To save on groceries try to find your nearest Netto or Aldi. If you need to expand of variety or quality then find Irma, Føtex, SuperBest. Google maps are pretty comprehensive in Copenhagen with identifiers for more shops. Supermarkets have begun to take international credit cards but have added a (1-3%) fee for doing so.

Weather-wise if its a nice summer, its gorgeous weather! Light until quite late in the evening. Evenings can get a bit cool. So light sweaters, windbreaker/raincoat will be needed. People are pretty stylish here, not so much dressed to the nines, but very fashion conscious.

Let me know if you need any more info. If you like, send me a message when you arrive. I'm sure you'll have a great time here.
posted by alchemist at 5:49 AM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


First I have to refute BadgerDoctor's assessment of Danish organic food and standard of fruits and vegetables. The Danish "økologi" (ecology) certification is known for having higher standards than what is mandated from the EU. Absolutely buy local Danish organic produce and you will taste the difference.

Also, Bilka is not one of the main grocery store chains - it is a big-box version of Føtex and there are only two of them in Copenhagen. Price fixing between Bilka and Føtex? It sounds like you only half know what you are talking about. Sure, the prices are the same - because they are the same store (just different kinds). There are a lot of other different chains in Denmark. Anyway, to get to the point of your question.

Climate
Cilmate can be everything from San Fransiscoish cool and rainy to 25-30 degrees every day - so very warm, but no humidity. Last summer was pretty meh, so fingers crossed for this one. You don't need rain boots in the summer! Bring a bathing suit and sandals and sun dresses.

Budget
Yes, food is expensive, everything is expensive compared to the US, especially now because of the conversion rate of the dollar. With that said, it's totally possible to eat well and good quality. It's very common here to have dinner parties and eat and drink at each other's houses instead of going out to restaurants. And then maybe splurging on a nice meal once or twice a month. I am a student and that is what I and most of my friends do. My boyfriend (also a student) and I have a 3000 DKK (~$600) food budget every month that we are mostly able to stick to, both covering grocery shopping and dining out (like I said, maybe once or twice a month). Individual café trips with friends etc are separate.

Groceries
Regarding food shopping, if you care about food quality, go to Netto for your cheap staples (they have a lot of organic food, and are a nice variety of the discount store - never go to Lidl or Fakta). Then go to Irma for everything else. Irma is probably the equivalent of a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods - it's great. Keep an eye on their weekly offers, they are usually good things to buy.

If you think it would be fun, I encourage you to become a member of the KbhFF (Københavns Fødevarefællesskab), Copenhagen's only food-coop. Even if you are just here for three months, I think it would be possibly to join. You work a two or three hour shift every month (so three times in all), and then you can buy a bag of organic, Danish produce for 100 DKK every week. The vegetables are great (especially now summer is coming), and It's also a nice way to meet some local Danish people. They have a branch in Østerbro.

Transport
Obviously, get a bike! You should be able to find used bikes either on Craigslist (only foreigners use this, though), Den Blå Avis (Danish craigslist) or just a regular used bike shop. I would think it wouldn't be too hard to sell it again later. I think maybe 500-1000 DKK is to be expected. It makes no sense to spend money on a public transit pass - it's summer and you can easily bike from Østerbro to both Frederiksberg and Christianshavn, it's only about five kilometers. Get a 2 zone 10-trip ticket and use it for the bus/metro/train when you don't want to bike or are going further.

Phone plan
I would recommend getting a pay-as-you-go SIM card from Telmore, they are cheap and have good service - and offer micro-SIMS. If you don't want to use them, Bibob are also OK I have heard.

Food destinations
Smørrebrød: Dyrehaven (as mentioned earlier) for laid-back, young café style, Aamans for innovative and modern, and Schønnemans for great quality, traditional-but-not-boring, authentic old-school Danish experience.

Cocktails and drinks: Mikkeler is a good choice, Ruby's is known for having some of the best cocktails in the city - but very expensive and sort of corporate atmosphere. 1105 is another good-but-upscale cocktail bar (love their Cucumber Yum Yum and Copenhagen cocktails). Cocktail bars are sadly for the most part out of my student budget, so I'll leave the recommendations to someone else.

Other food: For Nordic cuisine, I'd recommend Manfreds, Nose2tail, Radio, Kadeau, Rødder's pop-up restaurants for affordableish choices. Relæ, Geranium and 1.th if you really want to splurge (aside from Noma). Meyers Deli, Madklubben and Cofocos different restaurants for a cheap but good quality meal.

Other fun stuff
This is getting really long, but:
  • Islands Brygge harbor baths & Amager Beach Park for swimming in nice weather
    CphX podwalks for seeing different areas of the city with commentary (I really love these and recommend them heartily - I have been on several myself)
  • Canal tours are classic but awesome
  • Go to Tivoli - again, it's classic and a little touristy, but just buy the entrance and try out Himmelskibet - it's a relatively chill ride but with the most amazing views of Copenhagen
  • Day-trip to Louisiana (modern art museum) with accompanying walks in the areas
  • Day-trip to Malmö (eat at Bastard)
  • Danish Movies with English Subtitles on Sundays at Cinemateket (art cinema)
  • If you get to know any Danish people, beg them to take you to a summer house. Lots of Danish people have them, and it is so great to be out in the country in the summer, swimming in the ocean, eating fish from the local harbor and eating strawberries with milk and cream.
  • Study at the Black Diamond! There is a "secret" cafeteria for employees and students that is pretty inexpensive and has delicious food.
  • The Distortion festival is May 30-Jun 3 and not to be missed. Roskilde Festival is the first week of July - you can buy a ticket for just Friday or Saturday and get a little of the experience without all of the commitment.

    Feel free to contact me for more info or recommendations, I don't have time to write more at the moment...

    On preview, seconding DØP, being able to pay with credit cards in grocery stores, Torvehallerne.

  • posted by coraline at 6:36 AM on May 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


    Oh, the bakeries! When I go back, I'll definitely have a Sandauer for at least one breakfast (and I don't even like what the rest of the world calls "danishes" or sweets in general). We really appreciated The National Museum, The Rundetarrn and The Museum of Danish Resistance. Trips to Malmo and Helsingør are very much worth it. Many people feel that Tivoli is just silly but I just loved it to bits.
    posted by Morrigan at 6:32 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


    This is all really great advice - the really specific life-in-Copenhagen nitty-gritty is excellent and just what I was looking for. If anyone is still answering I just realized I should have also asked- for 3 months does it make sense to get a Danish bank account? I know about no credit cards in grocery stores but will it make my life difficult generally for other shopping/payments if I have just an American credit card and no chip-and-PIN?

    again, thanks, I feel like I have a lot of specific stuff to look forward to!
    posted by zingiberene at 9:59 PM on May 12, 2012


    A bank account here will probably not even be possible for you unless you are also getting a "personal number" (CPR) from the state. You'll need this for tax purposes, bank accounts etc.etc. Like I mentioned you can use foreign credit cards in the groceries, but now that you mention you will only have the card sans chip and PIN this may not be possible after all. I can't tell, but I can probably ask the next time i'm shopping for groceries. If you have the time before you arrive, I would suggest getting a PIN or a chip and PIN for your card, just to make life much easier for you.
    posted by alchemist at 11:21 PM on May 12, 2012


    thanks, alchemist - I'll see if Chase bank can do that for me. It will not be too much of an adjustment to take out cash to do shopping with if I can't get a chip/PIN.

    I'm also extremely excited about Noma- I'm very very into modernist cuisine and have been wanting to go for years. The Torvehallerne recommendation is much appreciated- looks also a bit like Borough Market in London. I know where all my money is going to go now!
    posted by zingiberene at 9:28 AM on May 13, 2012


    No worries, glad to help. I was relieved to read that you had already secured your table at Noma, mainly because they're in London for the summer while the restaurant is closed. You should also take a look at "Umami" on Store Kongensgade, and for traditional smørrebrød "Slotskælderen hos Gitte Kik" (Fortunstræde 4). For exciting cocktails look at "1105" (Kristen Bernikows Gade 4) and Ruby's (Nybrogade 10). Torvehallerne is a seriously dangerous place for my wallet, I spend entirely too much time there :)

    PS.- if you have time to travel while here and decide to go to Barcelona (highly recommended), then you *have* to eat at "Cinc Sentits".
    posted by alchemist at 10:10 AM on May 13, 2012


    alchemist- I booked the Noma table back in April when reservations first opened up - I think it is right before they go on vacation. No chances being taken there!

    My boyfriend (man-friend?) is coming to visit me (thus, Noma) and we're doing Paris and Modena while he's here (to, um, eat at Le Chateaubriand and Osteria Francescana. And have macarons and croissants and real aceto balsamico). Probably not in the cards to go to Barcelona this trip, unfortunately; we stopped there 2 years ago during our last eating vacation (inopia, boqueria, el bulli, mugaritz, arzak, el cellar de can roca...) and of course once you go you can't wait to go back. Will add Cinc Sentits for the next time I get there!

    having not researched it much yet I had assumed Copenhagen was like a lot of other continental Europeans cities that don't "do" cocktails (not like NY or London or SF) but I am glad I was wrong!

    Thanks coraline, alchemist, and AwkwardPause for all the really detailed answers. Really helpful!
    posted by zingiberene at 2:35 PM on May 13, 2012


    One more add on the money issue: my recollection is a little vague, but I *think* I was able to pay for groceries in places like Irma with a normal, US-based American Express card when I was last there over Christmas.
    posted by AwkwardPause at 6:41 AM on May 15, 2012


    Weather can change a lot between days, even within the same day. Danes check weather forecast every day if they have to go outside to get to work. Check weather on dmi.dk. Nobody in Denmark knows what the temperature is in degrees fahrenheit. If you say something about 80 degrees, they'll think you're heading for the sauna.

    International creditcards often incur additional surcharge at groceries and other shops. Danes don't know the difference between creditcards and debit cards. Even though the very much used "Dankort" is a debit card, they don't know the name "debit card".

    Buses are nice and used by large part of the population. Buy a 10-trip discount card, "klippekort", for 2 zones, called a "blue card". The buses and the trains and the subway and the metro use all the same ticket system within Greater Copenhagen, so you can use the same ticket even when transfering. Read more on movia.dk. To find out how to get somewhere, use rejseplanen.dk.

    To get to Frederiksberg, you'll use bus line 3, 18 or 39. To get to the inner city, use 1A or 14. If in doubt, just ask people on the street, people don't mind helping you, but just don't expect them to help you if you don't ask even when you look completely lost. Oh, and don't expect people to smile as much as in SF, especially those who service you in shops.

    Coop is a large chain of supermarkets which you can find here by typing in "2100" as search criteria. Click on the icons on the map to get opening hours. There's nobody to bag your bag for you in Danish supermarkets due to the high minimum hourly wage, but even with the seemingly low level of service, you'll always be welcome to ask the employees, especially those putting stuff on shelves.

    Irma = high end. Brugsen + SuperBest = middle. Fakta + Netto + Bilka + Føtex = cheap. Aldi + Lidl = junk. This order is open for discussion, and e.g. Irma shops can vary a great deal in quality. But beware: the cheap ones are not always cheap for all items.

    The bread at the bakers are way better than the bakers in SF, especially the "Danish". It is as much part of Danish food history as open sandwiches, but less known outside Denmark.

    All prices include tax. You don't tip in taxis, only in restaurants.

    If you want to get in contact with Danes, you have to take the initiative. The Danes suck big time at reaching out.
    posted by flif at 1:25 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


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