How to Make the Best of a Few Days in Copenhagen

Copenhagen has something for everyone, street art, craft beer, beautiful views, colorful neighborhoods, a themed park that leaves Disneyland in the dust, a sense of community, and even, good ‘ol Mary Jane 🌿.

I list the coolest neighborhoods and landmarks, tell you how to get there and for how much, as well as share some of the best places to eat and drink, which were recommended by locals. And last but not least, you’ll read about how to legally get marijuana in Copenhagen (but technically not Copenhagen).

Famous Neighborhoods in Copenhagen

Nyhavn

When I first moved to Madrid from Los Angeles, I had a 5-hour layover in Copenhagen. I saw how easy and quick it would be to go from the airport to the city, so I went for it, suitcase and all! I took the metro to Nyhavn, which translates to New Port. This area reminded me a bit of Amsterdam because of the canal and numerous cyclists, but Nyhavn’s canal is much wider, surrounded by colorful buildings and flooded by tourist boats. Definitely check out this area but beware that the bars and restaurants along the canal are tourist traps, in other words, overly expensive. Drinking in public is legal so it’s a good idea to get a beer from literally anywhere (souvenir shop, food market, train station…) and enjoy it while overlooking the canal.

You’ll find a few cafes, restaurants, and shops in Christiana

including the sale of marijuana.

Christiana
Front of a shop in Christiana

Two years later, I’m back in Copenhagen with more time to explore. My first stop is the neighborhood with the most street art! Christiana is only a 15-minute walk from Nyvhan and a MUST when visiting Copenhagen. “Christiana is an autonomous society where each individual can freely develop under the responsibility of the community.” There’s a palpable sense of community when you walk in. I enjoyed strolling around this neighborhood and taking in the diverse and large amount of impressive art, including murals and sculptures.

You’ll find a few cafes, restaurants, and shops in Christiana including the sale of marijuana. Yup, totally cool since this is an autonomous community with its own rules. The restaurants, bars, and shops vary from more affordable than the rest of Copenhagen to more high-end places. All the money spent here stays in the community and serves its residents. Something worth noting is that there are no pictures allowed, except for a few shops which will have a sign posted allowing you or not to take pictures. Be respectful of this when visiting Christiana.

The Meatpacking District is in the district of Vesterbro and next to Central Station. This neighborhood is very centric. I recommend lodging in this area, especially if you’re only visiting for a few days since its home to the trendiest bars, restaurants, and cafes. Some are actually affordable and there’s a wide variety of places for all types of tastes.

Where to Eat in Copenhagen

I recommend Vesterbro Chinese Food (that’s the restaurant’s actual name) is quite, quaint and surprisingly for a Chinese Restaurant, it has offers good cocktails. Hyggestund has a great brunch menu and outdoor seating for summer days and it’s right next to Mikkeller Bar.

Mikkeller is a microbrewery founded in Copenhagen that has become internationally popular. I first tried it in San Diego, California, but have also visited their branches in Los Angeles and Madrid. You’ll find that they have MANY different types of beers. Do not feel overwhelmed, you can ask the bartender for a taster or get a small glass to start with to allow yourself to try different kinds. Beware of the high alcohol percentage, it will be written on the board.


For the freshest, most legit Mexican restaurant in Copenhagen, you have to visit La Neta. The rumor is that the founder of Mikkeller visits Mexico so often (makes sense since he was breweries in California) that he hired a chef from Oaxaca to open La Neta in Copenhagen.  The tacos and quesadillas are sooo good, just like they would be at home (remember I’m Mexican). The best part is the salsa bar! It has many different types of salsas ranging from what I called the “no pica” (mild) one to “no mames” (spiciest). La Neta also offers delicious vegan options.

The decorations also brought me home, along with the cumbia playing in the background. Of course, they only difference from taquerías back in Mexico is the price per taco. Converting from DKK they’re around 3 EUR each. Still, that’s a price I’m willing to pay for good Mexican food while living abroad.

The Best Landmarks in Copenhagen

Little Mermaid
Apretando la sonrisa, because I can’t keep a straight face.

The Little Mermaid statue is not in the center, but not far from Central Station. It’s about a 20-minute metro ride. You can take any line (metro or train) 2-3 stops (2 for train, 3 for metro) to Østerport then walk towards the port. There’s not much to see in this area, but the statue is in a park facing the ocean, so a picnic is a good idea if the weather allows for it. Be mindful that the statue is small but the crowds might not be, especially if there are tour buses parked nearby. You’ll have to be patient if you want a picture with the statue, or of the statue with no one around.

The Royal Library is locally known as “The Black Diamond” since its Copenhagen’s new pride and joy. It’s a very modern and beautiful glass building by the river. I definitely recommend this place to watch the sunset. Check out their website for visiting hours.

Børsen has one of the trademarks that makes Denmark’s architecture stand out and it’s what I call the “unicorn horn”. A twisty and pointy tower erected from almost every building. Turns out that it’s a spire representing 4 intertwined dragon tails. You’ll also find dragons everywhere since it’s a symbol of the city.

 

 

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The Church of Our Savior

Vor Frelsers Kirke (The Church of Our Savior) is a small church with an incredibly tall tower that is only open when there’s good weather since it goes really high up. Unfortunately, it was drizzling when I went so the stairs were closed. I’ve heard that the views are unreal from up there, definitely worth the 35 DKK (about 4.60 EUR) or 25 DKK with a student card. You can see if they’re open on their website.

Rosenberg
Rosenberg Castle in King’s Garden

Another good place to have a picnic is at the King’s Gardens. This is a pretty large park where to get lost in and admire unique sculptures, as well as the Rosenberg Castle. The castle is guarded off with a fence and soldiers, but you can pay to visit the inside of the castle, its gardens, and the museum where you can see the crown jewels. If you’re interested in visiting you can find details on their website.

Last but not least,one of the most gorgeous places in Copenhagen…

the Tivoli Garden

Last but not least, in my opinion, one of the most gorgeous places in Copenhagen is the Tivoli Gardens. I might be biased since I visited in spring when the gardens were in full bloom. I saw enormous and beautiful tulips and lilies everywhere. Some flowers were in colors I’ve never even seen before! I avoided paying the entrance fee (about 12 EUR) until my last day in Copenhagen when my brother persuaded me to go in a rollercoaster with him for all time’s sake. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to scream my heart out in a socially acceptable environment.

Tivoli Gardens
Entrance to Tivoli Gardens

Rumor has it that Walt Disney was inspired by Tivoli when creating Disneyland and I can certainly see the resemblance. For starters, the mascot at Tivoli is a monkey with red overalls and big yellow buttons. The park itself is divided into different sections, including a type of “tomorrow land” and every Saturday night, the park closes with a beautiful fireworks show that can be appreciated from the surrounding neighborhoods. Tivoli retaliates by selling Disney character merchandise.

Surprisingly, the prices inside the park are quite affordable compared to the city’s. Although the ride prices add up, food, drinks, and souvenirs are the cheapest I saw during my trip. There are also packages you can buy if you intend to go on many rides with the additional benefit of reentering the park as many times as you’d like.


You can find the entire list of places I’ve mentioned here, including some beautiful and peaceful cemeteries with cherry blossoms, which I believe bloom around February but the petals are quickly blown away by the Danish wind. Remember, you can download Copenhagen’s map on Google maps to save data. For instructions on how to download offline Google maps in your phone check out my The Essentials post. Follow me on Instagram joyzcortez for more pics and travel ideas.

Copenhagen is a beautiful city with so much to offer so I hope you enjoy every moment despite what the weather might offer.  Even when exhausted from walking all day remember to look up and take everything in… always BE PRESENT.

The Best of Athens on a Budget

Since Greece is such a popular tourist destination I had assumed it’d be an expensive trip, but soon realized that the overpriced side of Greece lies in the islands. I dined like a queen every day on deliciously homemade, Mediterranean food.  I also overdid my caffeine intake with Freddo Cappuccinos and took advantage of the many affordable and free landmarks. Although most of my travels are “on a budget, I was surprised to learn how affordable Athens is, and below I list the most affordable way to enjoy Athens.

How to Move Around in Athens

Athens is pretty walkable, but if you get tired of walking, the metro costs €1.4 for 90 minutes. It’s fast and easy to use.  The only costly charge was the airport fee, which is €10  one way. The ride from the airport to the city center takes about an hour. A taxi or rideshare is a better option if you’re traveling with others.

Landmarks in Athens

Akropolis

The Akropolis is free for students!!! so don’t forget your student ID if you have it. Otherwise, I believe it goes up to €30. I recommend you wear shoes with good track soles since you’ll be walking on marble, which is extra slippery, especially after the rain.

cave
Passage to the caves in the Pathenaic Stadium

The Panathenaic Stadium is the original Olympic Stadium located at Leof. Vasileos Konstantinou, Athina 116 35, Greece. The entrance fee is €2.5, including an audio guide device. The tour can be done quite quickly and the stadium has a very interesting story. Apparently, single women used to light a fire in the cave, from where the athletes would enter the stadium, and dance naked around for the gods to provide them with a good husband. Older women would keep an eye for peeping toms because “if you like it then you better put a ring on it”. 

 

There are posters from every country’s Olympic tournaments inside the stadium. It could be the nerd in me, but I found it very interesting to see each country’s take on this ancient Greek tournament, as well as the evolution of advertisements throughout the decades. 

Cable Car in Athens

The cable car ride is €5 one way and €7.5 roundtrip. I was tired after a few days of walking so I took the cable car up and walked down. The trek is beautiful but the path is steep. Bring appropriate footwear. I definitely speaking from experience, since I’m a clumpy person who slipped on gravel and walked down with a bloody knee and many other tourist stares along the way.  The view was worth it though and the hike is lovely if you’re a careful person. 

The Best of Greek Food

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Kalamaki Bar

I loved this place so much, I ended up going two days in a row! 

Grilled halloumi cheese is a must! It’s even more delicious with the berry sauce on top and you can try it with pita bread. Greece is also known for its Falafels and for the Freddo Cappuccino. If you don’t consume dairy, you can ask for a Freddo Coffee. It’s been such a struggle finding iced coffee in Europe. Everywhere I go they serve you a hot espresso along with a cup of ice unless I go to Starbucks or McDonald’s. Iced coffee in Greece is unbeatable and even in bars, most people were drinking coffee instead of beers.

If you’re looking for a homey and legit Greek meal, you must go to Aspro Alogo. I loved this place so much, I ended up going two days in a row! It’s a family-owned restaurant with the friendliest environment. The food is not only delicious but the portions are large and the owners seemed genuinely happy to see you. You will be greeted with the warmest and biggest smile as well as treated as if you were family popping in for a visit. Aspro Alogo is near old town Athens. The address is Apollonos, Athina 105 57, Greece.
Another small restaurant I recommend is Kalamaki Bar. This place is a cute café near the Akropolis. This is where I first tried the grilled halloumi cheese and immediately fell in love. It’s also not far from the Akropolis. The address is Athina 117 42, Greece.

street art.jpg
Street Art Heaven in Athens

My second favorite reason for traveling, after food, of course, is Street art. I personally believe this type of art says a lot about a city’s population, society issues, and culture in general. Exarcheia is an amazing neighborhood filled with impressive murals and colorful cafes. I wasn’t able to check it out at night, but I was told it becomes lively with local peop

Athens can be enjoyed in three days. There are many flights and boats departing for the islands from Athens. I was at Mykonos for a weekend and it was very beautiful and relaxing. The perfect resting vacation before the adventures in Athens.

 

 

 

Traveling is never easy but nothing worthwhile is.

There’s a side to unglamorous side to traveling that is rarely told. I would like to share that during this trip I…

  • caught a cold
  • had an allergic reaction to food
  • got a few bruises, scrapes and bug bites
  • damaged my phone
  • ripped my shoes in a thunderstorm
  • and as I mentioned, slipped on gravel and got a bloody knee

None of these mishaps stopped me from enjoying the adventure nor made me want to go home. Traveling is never easy but nothing worthwhile is. You learn the most about yourself, especially when in a new country with a completely different culture and language. You have to always remember that everything is temporary, grudges are a waste of time, wear good traction shoes when walking on marble and Greek yogurt with honey is delicious! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez for updates on the posts! and always remember to BE PRESENT! 💙🇬🇷

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The Panathenaic Stadium

The Essentials You Need to Pack

The Most Essential Items You’ll Need Before Your Travels

  • Power banks
    • A small/light one that charges your phone halfway. This is for short day trips.
    • A large one that would charge your phone entirely at least 3 times. I love my EasyACC 10,000 mAh. It has 2 USB entrances so my travel buddy can recharge as well.
  • Eye mask & ear plugs
    • Perfect for long flights, sleeping at airports or hostels. Even when you have an all female dorm, there’s always a chance of having a snoring roommate or people coming in late to the dorm. An eye mask & ear plugs will become your best friend!
  • Copy of your passport
    • If you lose your passport, the copy will expedite the process of getting a new one at the embassy. Make sure you locate your embassy at every city you visit.
  • Locks
    • For your luggage and locker if you’re staying at a hostel. I tend to bring a small one and larger one since lockers are not a standard size.
  • Flip flops
    • For showering in public spaces and walking from the shower back to your room, if you’re staying at a hostel. Also, you’ll feet will need to breathe at the end of a long day of walking.
  • Microfiber towel
    • Check to see if your first destination has a Decathlon. It’s a sporting store that carries affordable and good quality microfiber towels. While in the US you find the them at any sport store or Amazon.
  • Sim card
    • If your phone coverage doesn’t cover international trips, or charges extra, for international data, you’ll need a Sim card. If traveling in Europe, a Sim card from any country should work all over the Schengen Area, but double check with the retailer when purchasing. You might have to change a setting in your cellphone, especially if it’s American, but the retailer should be able to help.
    • Most “pay-as-you-go” rates are traps. Even if you’re only traveling for 2 weeks, it tends to be cheaper to purchase service for a month since most companies have a special rate for the first month.
    • Beware of calling rates and try to stick with data. Whatsapp is the most commonly used app for texting and calling.
  • Umbrella or raincoat
    • A lot of cities have thunderstorms during the summer and plenty of rain during April. Better safe than sorry!
  • A good neck pillow that keeps your neck straight.
    • This is for long (6+ hours) flights, buses or train rides. Believe me, a crappy one will have you regretting your choice. Neck issues are no joke!
  • Power Converter
    • If traveling Europe, keep in mind that not all of Europe uses the same power entrance. So I recommend getting a Universal Wall Charger with a USB entrance. Connecting to USB directly charges your devices quicker.

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What You Need to Download Before Traveling

Citymapper
This app is amazing with public transport and it’s free! Start by selecting the city you’re in. For example “Madrid”.

Screenshot_20181001-1935261. Save your favorite destinations, such as “Home in Madrid”, meaning your hostel/Airbnb/Hotel…etc.  Making it easy to always head back after a few beers, wine, vermouths… whatever your heart desires.

2. Select the best route, it can be metro, bus, train or walking based on the estimated time of arrival. Press “GO” on your favorite route.

4. Citymapper works offline, so even if you lose wifi or go underground, your route will still be active in real time.

3. The app estimates arrival time of the metro, bus or train to the station. It’s impressive how accurate it is! The only downside is that it only includes major cities.
In my opinion, Citymapper is very user-friendly, but I’ll gladly go into detail with anyone that would like help figuring out the app.

Google offline map

Another option is to download Google maps offline for the city you’re visiting. This will save you data when exploring the city, as well as save you from getting lost in areas with low coverage. The map saves onto your phone and you can always delete the map when you leave the city to make space for other city maps, as well as the many pictures and videos I’m sure you’ll be taking when exploring a new city.

  • Below is a tacky step-by-step slideshow demonstration of how to download Google offline maps.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Moovit

Moovit is similar to Citymapper but it has more destinations in their data. Downside is, it’s not as user friendly as Citymapper and in my opinion, Citymapper has more accurate data from the few locations it has info on.

How to Prepare for Your Trip

  • Create a document with your itinerary, mainly all your flights and lodging info. I like Google sheets where I create tabs for each city. Online options are the best so you’re info is available from anywhere. Also, don’t forget to include the location of the embassy for emergencies.
  • Research transportation to and from airport/station beforehand. Figure out if there’s uber in that city and what an estimated rate can be so you can haggle with the taxi drivers. You can also save screenshots from Google maps to your Gooogle spreadsheet, if you’re taking public transport.
  • Add links for free walking tours. Include meeting points for these tours, which tend to be centric. This is a good way to figure how far or near your lodging is from the city center.
  • With money, expect the unexpected.
    • Get a card (debit or credit) that will not charge you foreign fees and use it whenever. If possible, bring 2 cards with you in case you lose one of them. If you need cash, atms give you a better rate than exchange places. You can also ask tour guides for their recommendations on exchange places.
  • Saving time at the airport
    • If you’re flying and want to save time, avoid checking in your luggage. This means you can only carry one Ziploc bag worth of liquids.
    • Your water bottle needs to be empty, your toiletry bag, laptops or tablets must be handy since you’ll need to take them out of your suitcase (unless you’re pre-check TSA and traveling in the US)
    • Minimize your liquids. There are some products you can avoid using in liquid form.
      • Use stick deodorant
      • There is also stick sunblock
      • Soap. I know a bar of soap is bulky and messy so you can try the “soap sheets”. 
      • Dry shampoo. If you’re itinerary looks anything like mine, you’ll barely have time to get dolled up every morning. So when I don’t have time to wash my hair or there’s no avaiable hair dryer ,I use a powder dry shampoo (remember, you can’t take aerosol sprays in a carry on). Take into account that if the weather is hot, you might want to wear a hat when walking around in the sun all day. And if it’s rainy and cold, beanies and hoodies are your best friends.

I know all of this looks like a lot, but believe me, all these things will make your life easier when hopping around different cities or even countries. Remember to pack light so you have space for souvenirs and you’re not feeling like “El Pipila” (Mexican reference, see below. Make the most out of your trip, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even when times get hard, enjoy the moment and BE PRESENT! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez to get updates and tips on my trips.
pipila_anim

El Pipila