One of my favorite shots while strolling down Pusher Street (named for its former sale of soft drugs) in Christiania (a free-wheeling community of alternative living in Copenhagen). This place is fascinating…from the urban street art to the colorful people.
Ah, Københaven…what a fabulous city! I spent 5 days experiencing as much as I could. In my opinion, Copenhagen has a bit more “color” than some of the other Scandinavian cities I’ve visited (Oslo and Helsinki). It reminds me a lot of Amsterdam with the vibrantly colored buildings & canals.
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Scandinavia hotel (which I reviewed here). This hotel was perfectly located…not only because it was within walking distance to my company’s office, but also in walking distance to most attractions.
If you are on the fence about visiting the Nordics (or just never thought about it), I highly recommend you try visiting Copenhagen for the following reasons:
Big Mike Bike Adventures. By far, this was THE BEST thing I did in Copenhagen. It was COLD (as you can see from my huge coat). But it was so fun! Mike is THE.BEST.EVER! I promise that you will have a fabulous time. We started off meeting up with him and a few others at his bike shop. Once outfitted with our bikes, we started pedaling thru the city (which is super easy to navigate because of the bike lanes and motorists being used to navigating bicyclists). We were able to see most of the city by bike, stop for hot chocolate and meet a lot of cool people. Big Mike has a huge personality that is so fun & light. He was a superb tour guide…I learned more about the Danish culture from him than my trusty guidebook! I was also inspired by him as he is a cancer survivor and left his job in the corporate world to pursue his passion. He truly is following his bliss. I need to do that!
The Green Light District (aka “Christiania”). Um…this is the “alternative-living” section of Copenhagen which is home to idealists, hippies, potheads, non-materialists and lots of kids & animals. It was founded in 1971 when 700 Christianians established squatters’ rights at some abandoned military barracks. This place is fascinating! Locals build their own homes but don’t own the land (as it’s still owned by Denmark’s Military of Defense) and most use wood or gas heat (not oil unless you are a “luxury hippie”). Since they don’t own land, they are unable to buy or sell property. When someone decides to move out, the community decides who can move in to replace them. This community has 9 rules…among them: no hard drugs (but they do sell & use pot); no guns or explosives (I assume they don’t want you high and shooting stuff up…which if you are high, aren’t you pretty chill?); etc.
I was only able to get a few pictures as photographing is strictly prohibited once you get into the community…and should you miss the big sign (like I did); someone is there to promptly remind you. As Renee & I walked down “Pusher Street” (named for the sale of soft drugs), we found ramshackle homes, cozy cafes, and lots of stalls with people selling different types of pot. Then there were the outdoor areas with picnic tables where you could go and smoke to your heart’s delight. It is clear that this is a place of freedom, free love, no taboos and no judgment. And, it’s very popular…it’s the 3rd most visited place in Copenhagen!
Fitness. If you are a runner or bicyclist, this is the place for you! It seems that everyone works out. With so many beautiful lakes, canals and trails, it’s hard to find a reason not to be outside taking it all in. You will find a large number of people bicycling all day and night (the city is set up perfectly with bike lanes). I was able to download 5 running routes (with distances between 3 – 7 miles) around the city.
Food. It’s no secret that I love to eat. And those that know me well are aware of the fact that I have to eat at Wagamamas if there is one in the city. I fell in love with the Pan-Asian restaurant in Glasgow and make it a point to eat there whenever I see one since we don’t have one in Atlanta. The one in Copenhagen was okay…not as good as the ones in London, Dublin or Glasgow. To sample a bit of the local cuisine, I highly recommend brunch at a delicious restaurant called “apropos”. They served a wide selection of culinary treats (French toast, eggs, bacon, pastries, mimosas, fruits…you name it). There are 2 traditional Danish foods that you should try for lunch…Smørrebrød (which is an open-face sandwich) and pølse (basically a big hot dog). Both are delicious!!! If you are ever in Copenhagen, you must check it out!
Canals & Colorful Buildings. We spent hours walking around the different sections of Copenhagen…taking in the colorful buildings, lingering on bridges over canals and marveling at the beauty of it all. Some big cities are so congested and vanilla but others have such character that you can’t help but stop to take it all in. I suggest taking a stroll thru Nyhavn (“New Harbor”) which is new gentrified harbor with beautiful canals filled with glamorous sailboats of all sizes. It has trendy cafes, tattoo shops and jazz clubs to hang out while enjoying a cup of java or juice (which is really big in this city).
Sights. There are so many things to see and do while visiting. Check out Copenhagen’s amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. Or the Rosenborg Castle & Treasury, Christiansborg Palace, Danish Jewish Museum…or plenty of others. As per my usual routine, I brought along my Rick Steves “Scandinavia” guidebook which was very helpful in organizing which sights were “must sees” vs. “if you have time, check it out”. It seems like I am forever visiting places of worship on every trip I take (Shout out to Jesus! See? Just because I don’t always go to church in the states doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about you :)). We ended up at a very cool church called, “Our Savior’s Church” which has a Baroque design to it.
Have you been to Copenhagen? If so, what were your favorite sights/things to do?
What to Wear When Travelling Abroad
One of the most popular questions asked when getting ready for a trip overseas is “What should I wear?” I always suggest researching what the locals are wearing (with a few exceptions notated below). Not solely for aesthetic reasons, but also for safety. Most pickpockets target tourists. Looking like you belong goes a long way. Here are a few suggestions to help you look like a local on your travels abroad.
1. Dress for the Country/Culture. Each country has its own style. Some countries are more lax (the U.S., England, Ireland, Scotland) while others take their fashion seriously (France & Italy). With the exceptions that I have noted below, you can usually get away with a nice pair of jeans/black pants/skirt and plain shirts/sweaters. Don’t wear anything outrageous or loud (leave the catsuit at home).
- Middle East/Egypt/Morocco (& other Islamic countries) = First and foremost, you want to respect the culture of the country you are visiting. Which means no Daisy Dukes while visiting the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo (and, yes, I have seen it). Make sure you dress conservatively (covering most of your skin). Yeah, it may be hot, but you can find breathable and dry-wick fabrics pretty easily. Trust me; you do not want to stand out in a conservative country. Women from western countries are viewed as being “loose”, which can invite sexual harassment from the local male population. By keeping your goodies covered up, you take the attention off of you (and your valuables). In Morocco, most women (and quite a few men) wear djellabas (a hooded robe). These can be either heavy or light weight in fabric (according to season). I didn’t wear one when I was there, but it is definitely an option which will reduce the amount of stares you get. I tend to buy breathable tunics from Old Navy (most are 3/4 length sleeves), long flowing skirts, loose capris and convertible cargo pants.
- France/Italy = These 2 fabulous countries are homes to the most famous fashion houses around. This means they take their fashion seriously. While the Italians are a bit more accepting, the French will turn their nose up if you walk past them wearing any of the items listed below in #3.
- You can never go wrong with basic black. It’s easy to coordinate and you can interchange with stylish accessories (like a scarf or costume jewelry).
- The French love black, navy and brown. I suggest using those as your base colors. You will notice that most of the French will pair up their dark wardrobe with a colorful scarf. Don’t have one? Buy one when you get there…it’s a souvenir & fashion accessory all in one.
- The Italians love color and you can get away with a lot more. Most of all, it is attitude.
- Quick everyday tip = Get your clothes tailored. I noticed that many people look better in clothes that are altered to fit their shape. I picked this tip up while visiting Paris. Everybody there looks like a million bucks (or euros) and it really is because their clothes fit impeccably.
- Spain = The Spanish love color & flowing maxi dresses/skirts. I also noticed some ladies wearing cowboy boots with shorts but we will pretend like I didn’t see that because I don’t think that’s a good look personally (I like to call that seasonal dyslexia).
- England/Ireland/Scotland/Holland/Czech Republic/Switzerland/Scandinavia = Pretty much anything goes. I can’t say that I have seen a huge difference in what they wear vs. the U.S. (with the exception of the “don’ts” listed below). A popular look during the summer of 2011 was shorts with tights & Chuck Taylors (*shudders*). Don’t emulate that. Hopefully that was a 1 season only look.
2. Dress for the Season. Be sure to check the weather before you go. Weather Underground is a good resource. I have typically found that you will need to dress in layers no matter when you travel abroad. A light jacket, colorful scarves, stylish cardigans/sweater coats are a must for spring, summer & fall. Going in the winter? Bring along a warm coat, some snazzy boots & a cute hat/scarf/glove combo. I had left my puffer coat at home during a winter trip to Milan…only to realize that everybody (and I do mean everybody) was wearing one. First and foremost, you want to be warm. Don’t take an unlined peacoat when visiting Finland in the dead of winter. Your health trumps fashion. Plus, you will stand out as not knowing how to dress properly for cold weather 🙂 ExOfficio is now offering a snazzy sweater jacket that doubles as a travel pillow when folded. This jacket is so cozy & warm! I recently wore it during a winter trip and fell in love with it. The jacket packs very easily, is super soft AND rain-resistant as well as keeping you warm & toasty. This is now my go-to jacket both here and abroad!
3. DO NOT WEAR…
- Baseball caps! If you want to protect your head & face from the harsh sun, opt for a stylish wide-brimmed hat (during the summer) or cloche/fedora (during the winter). Baseball caps scream tourist. Don’t bring your favorite sporting team to France unless you are actually on the team, k?
- Baseball/Football Jerseys, High School/College T-shirts, etc. Do I really even to explain why wearing a baseball or football jersey is a no-no? Again, you don’t want to stand out as a tourist for pickpockets. T-shirts are fine if they are plain or have a cool graphic. Bottom line, you want to look nice…not like you are getting ready to workout. If you just don’t think you can survive without wearing sporting apparel, buy a soccer/rugby jersey. You can fit in and it will be a conversation starter.
- Fanny-packs! Seriously…just no. It’s not cute. Tell your mother to leave it at home with the rest of the 80’s attire. I don’t even know how this item became popular. Never carry your money and valuables in a waist contraption that is easily seen. You are begging a pickpocket to take a knife, cut the strap and steal it from you. Use a money belt instead. It’s similar to your beloved fanny-pack; it just goes under your shirt/waist of your pants instead so it will not be seen. This protects your valuables from curious onlookers.
- Expensive jewelry/bags! A pickpocket will tackle you to steal your Rolex or Louis Vuitton. Leave your valuables at home.
- White sneakers??? I have actually seen quite a few locals wearing sneakers (though not usually white) around London & Paris. My preference is to bring a pair of running shoes (as I like to workout during my trips abroad…even running races like the Paris-Versailles 10K) as well as a comfortable & stylish walking shoe (i.e. Hush Puppies, Mephisto, Clarks) that can transition into an evening shoe. I highly recommend walking shoes that have a rubber sole to minimize the impact of walking on cobblestones. I love the Hush Puppies Sonnet flat which you can buy at Macy’s for almost half of what it retails for at other locations as well as the Makena Ballerina shoe. Bottom line is to wear a shoe that you will be comfortable walking in for hours at a time.
4. Must Haves.
- Light jacket/cardigan/wrap = If you plan to wear tanks or sleeveless tops during the summer, be sure to bring something to cover your shoulders when visiting a place of worship. You will not be allowed to enter with shoulders (and sometimes legs) exposed. I bought Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap for my recent trip to Morocco and fell in love. So soft and it provides the necessary protection (both arms and head) when you enter places of worship. I even wear it around at home.
- Secure purse/money belt = I have been using a PacSafe purse (stylish & secure) to carry around my valuables, guidebook, umbrella & bottled water for a couple of years now and it is awesome. Highly recommend! The shoulder straps are reinforced with steel so it cannot be cut and the zippers lock into place. It will take a pickpocket a few minutes to figure out how to gain access to your valuables.
- Comfortable walking shoes = As I stated above, cobblestones can be harsh on your feet. A stylish rubber-soled shoe will save your tootsies!
- Dark colored pants & skirt = Use these as your base pieces. Dark colors camouflage stains & are great to pair with funky accessories.
5. Handy resources. Here are a few websites that focus on travel-related items: While ExOfficio & Magellans offer stylish options, you can certainly find great travel clothing from cheaper stores (i.e. Old Navy, Target, etc.).
While these tips may not prevent you from being identified as a tourist, it will keep your bag lighter and you safer. Hope it helps! Safe travels. Do you have any travel fashion tips? If so, please comment as I’m always looking for a fresh perspective!
Also check out my posts on Nikki’s Favorite Things: Fashion Accessories and Essentials for Stress-Free Travel.