My mom used to yell at me during family vacations when I would talk about what was next on our itinerary.
I wasn’t, and still am not, good at enjoying “the now.” It’s an ongoing battle, as my brain would rather daydream about the future than practice mindfulness. Not until I stepped foot in Copenhagen, Denmark did I realize how bad I am at staying present, and with my college post-grad life hastening toward me more quickly than I ever imagined, it’s about time to learn how to slow down.
Watching Danes calmly go throughout their days, filling time with picnics and wine and books outside coffee shops made me realize how bad I wanted a day without a plan, with unlimited time and space to enjoy each moment and no restless fidgeting or anxiety about the fact I don’t know what’s next on the agenda. I decided to take a day to myself to explore and enjoy one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in Copenhagen: Nørrebro. Nørrebro has been cited by several travel magazines and global media brands as one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the world. The draw of Nørrebro may come from its diversity in food, culture and scenery, as well as its sense of community and rich history.Why It’s Newsworthy: It’s easy for tourists to get caught up in planning the perfect vacation. It’s worth asking locals for help when navigating a new area in order to get the most out of one’s experience traveling.
On the first day of class here, we watched a YouTube video titled “Welcome to Denmark: The Land of Trust.” The video, and our following lecture, explained how trust is often claimed as Denmark’s most important resource and how it is essential to the success of the country’s welfare model.
The idea of trust inspired me to turn to the Danes to plan my day in Nørrebro, as it’s obvious that locals have the best understanding of the neighborhood and all its hidden gems.
Breakfast on Kaffesalonen’s Floating Dock
I got my first recommendation from a Copenhagen local named Sheila Lukman on TikTok, who suggests eating brunch on Kaffesalonen’s floating dock. The restaurant sits on The Lakes, which are three rectangular lakes sitting on the western margin of Copenhagen, filled with swans and swan paddle boats alike.
We chose to sit at a table on the edge of the dock to get a clear view of the lake. I took a deep breath as the sun beamed across my back and appreciated the view before diving into the menu.
The menu offers a bit of everything, with an extensive list of breakfast items customers can mix and match. The waiter brought out a tray full of mini plates, and although I was initially disappointed by the small portion sizes, my full stomach was content 20 minutes later.
The restaurant gave me great insight into how Danes like to eat — outside and in a laid-back, beautiful environment. The occasional sways of the dock underneath us provided a quirky but entertaining dining experience.
See The Lakes by Swan
I couldn’t leave breakfast without pedaling around the lakes in a swan. After picking a swan named Lille Kay, we had half an hour to gaze at the colorful apartment buildings and the walkers and bikers that lined the lake we pedaled around. Perfect for appreciating one’s surroundings and enjoying conversation with a friend, I learned the swan boats aren’t just a tourist trap.
Shopping on Jægersborggade
After my swan boat excursion, I walked around the lakes and people-watched until I felt ready for my next stop. I met Isa and Andreas, who live right in Nørrebro, and they recommended shopping near Jægersborggade to find souvenirs for family and friends.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve been out,” Andreas said pointing to their baby, “but there’s activities for all ages in Nørrebro.”
I learned that after chef Christian Puglisi opened a Michelin star restaurant in Jægersborggade, the block has become a hotspot for trendy cafes, design stores and vintage shops in Nørrebro. Wandering down the street, I felt an urge to stop in almost every store to see the unique craftsmanship most windows displayed.
One place that caught my eye was Design Kollektivet. I ducked my head in to look at the ceramics, planters and blown glass showcased throughout the space. In the back corner of the store, I met Line Hvass, a designer who makes pouches from recycled fabrics.
“I work with six other designers who share the shop,” Hvass said when I asked if she was the owner.
After asking for some of her recommendations, I had my next stop: coffee.
Coffee at Andersen & Maillard
It seems I have seen Andersen & Maillard on every Copenhagen to-do list on the internet, so I was glad to be recommended their coffee.
Andersen & Maillard’s website states that their “Award-Winning Team [is] ready to serve you!”
During my five-minute wait before ordering, I laughed as I watched an employee sing and dance around the outdoor tables asking if anyone was done with their plates. Seeing that her joy was contagious, I agreed with what the website claimed.
I sipped my iced coffee as I headed toward a cemetery for an afternoon stroll.
Strolling through Assistens Cemetery
During our first week in Copenhagen, we went on a bike tour led by a woman named Charlotte Algreen.
While we biked through Nørrebro, Algreen led us through the Assistens Cemetery, which is a graveyard that now functions as a public park for locals and tourists.
We biked down a path with beautifully-symmetrical trees lining each side as Algreen explained how the park has been celebrated for acting as a hybrid space for people to remember their loved ones and enjoy a sunny picnic in the park at the same time.
Before I headed to the lunch recommendation Hvass offered, I decided to walk through the cemetery-park again. I noticed several sunbathers and readers scattered around the park, as well as several visitors mourning those who had passed.
As Algreen explained on the bike tour, the park shows its community how to accept grief and loss while also reminding people to appreciate life.
Lunch at Dzidra
In a quiet corner off of Nørrebrogade lies the small vegetarian restaurant Dzidra, recommended by Hvass back in her design shop. When I walked through the entrance, aromas of espresso and freshly baked bread swirled in the air. I ordered their lunch special, which was a plate of Danish potatoes, leeks and asparagus over lettuce with bread on the side.
I sat and waited for my food while I listened to a collection of ABBA songs playing over the speakers. I thought about what my night would look like, as I had only intended on spending half of my day exploring Nørrebro. I took out my journal and started to write about my takeaways so far: “Today I’ve learned that sometimes no plan is a good plan.”
Exploring Nørrebro through locals’ recommendations taught me a lot about leaning on community and how I can live with more mindfulness. Not knowing what I would be up to next helped me slow down and take in each experience for what it was.
I also learned a great deal about the importance of conversation, as I had to rely on locals’ insights to get me through the day. The people I interacted with took me in with a sense of care and attention that I would like to replicate in my daily interactions going forward.
Instead of stressing about an agenda and the little details during a vacation, it’s important to slow down and take in your surroundings. Without stopping and appreciating the small moments every once in a while, it’s easy to forget what makes traveling so special.
Morgan Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Georgia.
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