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We will tell you about the hippopotamus and herrings later but let’s start at the beginning.

Danish people rank second in The World Happiness Report with fellow Scandinavian country Finland coming top.

But on our two-hour easyJet flight to Copenhagen this May the natives were far from happy.

No one was smiling as our original booking for midday, was shunted to 6.35pm and took off at 8pm.

It was 11pm when we checked in at the four-star Scandic Palace Hotel bang slap in the centre of the city but as it was dark we could only see the lights from the advertising hoardings opposite.

Well, what shall I tell you first?

The good bits: The streets are clean and relatively graffiti free, the lovely old buildings have a Germanic look to them and there are ornate fountains everywhere.

The not so good bits: There is a lot of scaffolding and plastic sheeting covering buildings, not unlike Berlin. Alcohol is expensive, and I mean really expensive. We paid £22.60 for a nothing special glass of white wine.

Okay let’s go back to the beginning.

The airport is spotless and well signposted. We arrived at the same time as thousands of other travellers and it was a long queue for the non-EU passport check. Despite protests from my travelling companions, we caught an official taxi rather than the train. We were somewhat puzzled by our driver telling us he knew London Metropolitan police could be bribed it they try to give you a speeding ticket and most of the officers’ drink on duty. He had only been to London once.

Booked for five nights at the Scandic Palace Hotel this has 169 rooms, 40 of which have balconies overlooking the City Hall Square. We had a room with a view in this Art Nouveau style, red brick building designed by Anton Rosen and completed in 1910.

Once the go-to place for celebrities like Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Errol Flynn it is a little dated now although some renovations have seen the stylish door handles to rooms back in place.

Its blurb says 'cocktail bar' but this in one of the franchise restaurants on site and not an open-all-hours facility. We never saw any 'coffee shop' only a vending machine in the foyer.

On arrival at hotel my credit card malfunctioned but the trusting Danes checked us in anyway. By the time we got to the room the John Lewis fraud squad texted and that little misunderstanding was already sorted. We forgot to  tell bank we were travelling.

While at reception another late arrival was moaning that many trains had been cancelled which validated our decision to get a cab.,

This hotel found from is strange. No room service, no communal seating space to chat with fellow guests and no bar just  two franchised restaurants on site which are not part of the hotel.

It is a bit like a Premier Inn except with a full English/continental breakfast on offer.

We were told we had the best hotel rooms in the building and they were roomy with a walk-in shower which worked wonderfully. The towels were small and not very fluffy and like other hotels nowadays there were no face cloths and limited toiletries on offer.

The giant size bed was very comfortable and we all loved having a small balcony which overlooked the city square.

It you wanted your room cleaned you had to book via an App and give 24hrs notice. We did that and it worked well.

Breakfast was served in the basement and here again you were supposed to pre-book. We soon learned to go down after 9am when the cruise ship and corporate types had gone. Only thing I missed was toast but there was every conceivable type of bread, eggs, beans and drinks on offer with lots of vegetarian and vegan options although I never fancied lentil soup or cold porridge at that time of the morning.

The dining area is divided up by long grey opaque curtains which are completely unnecessary. Staff were there but unobtrusive. The coffee mugs have no handles and the make-it-yourself waffle station was very popular.

Now to venture out.

We used every mode of transport available – taxi, big bus, electric bikes, row boats, ferry and the ever-trusty Shanks's pony!

We walked miles and ended up at Freetown Christiania, an international community and commune now a tourist attraction.

It was here we talked to the two policemen on duty – everyone we met spoke English – and the topic was football, of course.

On a city back street, opposite the theatre, we stumbled across Villa Vino a small wine bar which serves tapas. It was good, informal and the friendly waiter recommend Puk.

Restaurant PUK is one of the oldest restaurants in Copenhagen with a history dating back to 1750. Here came the Danish King Christian VII along with his mistress in the late 19th century when they were in town together.

We passed on smørrebrød (rye bread) topped with pickled sild (herrings) presented as open sandwiches as three of our group are confirmed vegetarians.

Herring has been a crucial part of the Danish diet for centuries, given its availability and nutritional value, providing a rich source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, says the book. 

Over time, herring has evolved from the number one staple food and favourite culinary tradition.

Husband Rob said: “Day 1 we awake to blue skies with not a cloud in sight. From our  hotel balcony we watch  the Danes cycle to work.

“No obtrusive Lycra only subtle shades of black, grey, white or beige.

“No specialist cycle gear just everyday clothing sitting upright on the saddle.

“We join the tourists window shopping in Stroget a mix of tacky souvenir shops and expensive designer stores.

“Then onto picturesque Nyhavn with its harbourside and sailing yachts.

“Now for something alternative we walk to the anarchist republic of Freetown Christiania.

“Disappointed to see Pusher Alley is a cordoned off building site but we meet two policemen with an encyclopedic knowledge of English football including my beloved Plymouth Argyle.”

Police in Copenhagen can sport beards and tattoos if their face, neck of hands aren't inked!

Four go to Copenhagen

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Rob added:  “Day 2 saw us sightseeing from an open top tour bus with stunning views of the waterfront as well as several nondescript office blocks.

“We alight to admire The Little Mermaid bathed in sunshine free of charge and commercialism.

“After lunch we venture into Tivoli Gardens with its many rides, sideshows, attractive gardens and boating lake.

“Day 3 started with a tour of the Radhus (City Hall) a beautiful building built in 1905 and a very popular wedding venue with several ceremonies in progress.

“We jump into a taxi and travel out to Fredericksberg Have the former summer palace of the royal family now a military academy.

“The grounds are stunning with a large variety of trees.

“We take a trip on a rowing boat enjoying the peace and quiet with the only sound the oars dipping into the water.

“Later that day I walk down to the waterfront to The Black Diamond a lovely people watching paradise including a wonderful library and reading room.

“A city break in Copenhagen is highly recommended.”

Andy and Madeline joined us on the jaunt.

Andy said: “Copenhagen itself was incredible.

“Clean, modern and safe are the watchwords of the city.

“We hired bikes and hit all the tourist sites.

“The canal boat tour was amazing.

“We are sure the guide must have been a comedian by night, just great.

“Reffen for street food and drink is another highlight.

“Travel there by water taxi.

“We also loved the history of the place.

“Fans of the TV show Borgen will feel like they have walked onto the set.

“Copenhagen airport is huge! Wear your trainers for the walk to the gate.

“It was nice to get back home and the more intimate vibes of Bristol even if on the way out my trousers set off the security scan.”

Andy was corrected by the security guard at city hall for mistaking the bear on the top of the building for a hippopotamus – think the optic technician needs to get his glasses check.

It was inside we all saw the amazing and timeless Jens Olsen’s World Clock.

Postscript: Madeline and Andy bought £48.80 60-day passes for Tivoli Gardens which first opened back in 1843 and is the world’s oldest amusement park and acted as a model for Disneyland in the United States.

It boasts 32 rides including nine extreme thrill rides. Our adrenaline junkies did nearly all of them at least once!

Full marks to Andy who found The Scottish Pub for cheaper alcohol and a few yards from our hotel is the 7/11 store which sells everything you forgott to pack plus snacks and bottled water.

We bought our airline tickets in a sale £140 each plus extras.

And our two superior rooms with breakfast cost £1,867.

Oh and be warned when we visited it was lovely and sunny but a grandson went in December and the temperature was -6 degrees.

Carol Ann Deacon

with contributions from travelling companions


Street scene

Freetown Christiania 

Restaurant Puk, Copenhagen

Favourite wine and tapas bar

Other watering holes

Our hotel opposite city hall

In the park


Tivoli Gardens

inside Copenhagen City Hall


SELFIE: Passengers on the Red Bus line. Be warned there are tow rival companies touting for business and lots of problems with people getting on wrong double decker

ACT OF GOD: Denmark's Old Stock Exchange will be rebuilt after a devastating fire destroyed half the building and damaged much of the rest in April this year. The blaze ripped through the 400-year-old structure toppling its spire and also triggering the collapse of a large roof section

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