It did seem odd that the name of the most visited art museum in Denmark is called the Louisiana MOMA. It is actually named for the villa that looks like a Louisiana plantation house and it was named after Alexander Brun’s three wives who were all named Louise. It has been transformed over the years into an exquisite sculpture garden and gallery all hugging the shores of Oresund Sound in Humlebaek.
The train takes you to within a 10 minute walk of the Museum. The museum has a permanent collection both indoor and out, plus 2 special exhibits. When I visited I was able to view the retrospective for Danish artist Tal R and a fascinating exhibit of South African artist William Kentridge. I was disappointed because the Marina Abramovic exhibit was due to open the following Saturday, but then I’d have missed Kentridge. (I know, first world problems.)
Four powerful paintings by Danish artist Tal R
I wandered the grounds looking at the sculpture and then stopped at the cafe to eat lunch. I’d been told by a fellow plane passenger that the smorresbrod at the Louisiana Cafe was delicious. I can confirm that the salt-cured ham, North Sea cheese from Thise, mustard mayonnaise, and pickled cucumbers are yummy over bread. I ate on the patio and enjoyed conversation with the people around me. One woman overhead me say I was from California and she and her husband came over to introduce themselves. I bumped into them a few more times in the galleries and we compared thoughts and they encouraged me to see some things that I had considered passing by due to time.
I enjoyed my afternoon at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art so much that when I return to Copenhagen I will make time to go again. I also wondered if we have anything quite as spacious and beautiful for sculpture in the USA. My art dad Jim says that there is something like it in New York on the Hudson. I will have to explore!
The William Kentridge show made a big impact on me.
If you love Danish butter or cheese, you may take issue, but ask any kid and they’ll pick LEGOs out of a line-up and agree that this, more than any other claim to fame, puts Denmark on the map. The headquarters of The LEGO Group is in Billund; and there is a LEGOLAND a 6 hour bus ride from Copenhagen, also in Billund.
If you are only touching down in Copenhagen, there is a wonderful store dedicated to LEGO at Vimmelskaftet 37, on the main pedestrian shopping street. You can get or use a LEGO VIP card. You will find a great variety of LEGO toys. It is an energetic, happy place.
There is a saying in Denmark, “You learn best when you play.” Lucky for the rest of the world that LEGO founder Ole Kirk Christiansen took that and founded his toy company. If you love these colorful building blocks, you’ll thoroughly enjoy A LEGO Brickumentary.
If you have children or adults in your life who will be thrilled to receive LEGOs from DK, get thee to the store! Plus they are light to carry back.
Thanks to Bike Mike, I had two great places to eat dinner and two nights available. The “Paper Island” is a warehouse filled with lots of street food. (A lot like the Portland street food but with a roof and lots of picnic tables.) And the other recommendation was for 108, a bistro started by noma alumni Kristian Baumann. The front desk staff at Absalom Hotel called 108. A table for one was available at 5 or 9 on either open evening. The restaurant also said they only take reservations for half their tables so I could try walking in at another time.
Noma shut in December 2016 so the team could reimagine the restaurant and menu in a new location. Meanwhile, 108 continued to serve up great food at a fraction of the price in a lively atmosphere at Strandgade 108. I am not a foodie, so I was a little nervous. It was the best food adventure I have experienced.
The wait staff worked as a team so I was never left long without something new to try and they all spoke English and were very interested in how I received each dish. They recommended I order three small savory dishes and one sweet. Then I also ordered a glass of bubbly and a cup of coffee with dessert. The couple next to me ordered two savory small plates plus a large plate to share (the monk fish), then after I gave them a bite of one of my dishes, they ordered it too. They also each ordered a different dessert to share. We were all enjoying the atmosphere and the tastes, each more incredible than the last.
I cannot do justice to the various dishes, except to say that I didn’t know that fresh, fresh peas and fresh, fresh caviar with rapeseed blossoms could taste so amazing. And that after eating the shaved truffles on the dumplings of braised pork, I thought I could smell truffle for the next 24 hours. All of this super adventurous eating and drinking for about $75 US.
At the opposite end of the cost curve was the street food, just down the way along the waterfront to a warehouse called “Paper Island” in English. I circled the various vendors twice and decided on the toasted sandwiches at Spoon. I asked the young man making my sandwich where he would recommend for fries. He said the best were at the place across the hall–the only place that fries them in duck fat. They were both delicious. I also bought a local beer at the “bar” in the middle that allows you to stay and dine at the tables while you go back and forth fetching more food. I also got a recommendation for a cheesecake place, Bertels, on the way home. My intention was to walk home and stop along the way, but the rain was lashing and I hailed a cab once I crossed the pedestrian bridge.
Mike’s recommendations were both super. So you may also want to try one of the traditional Danish restaurants known for smorresbord, but only if open-faced pickled herring sandwiches chased with a shot of schnapps (snaps) sounds divine. It sounds like a fast track to a nap to me!
Mike’s other recommendation was to rent a bike and cycle to both Paper Island or 108. This is a very good idea because it is a long way to walk and the taxi ride is about $30 from the central station. Remember rush hour starts early in Copenhagen as most people begin their commute home between 4 and 5 p.m.
I arrived late on a Monday night and then I took the train early to Malmo, Sweden on Tuesday, so my first full day in Copenhagen was Wednesday and I had not yet seen anything besides the train station and a pastry shop. I had reserved a spot with BikeMike Tours after hearing about it from Rick Steves. After witnessing just a little of the bike traffic, I was glad I booked a tour and would have a guide for my first foray into the city.
Copenhagen is a 1000 years old and committed to keeping their streets cobbled and their footprint much the same. It was not designed for cars. Yet it is a dynamic, economically vibrant place. Bicycles allow them to move people without sacrificing the quality of life that their history offers. The cycling culture is such that people ride everywhere in all weather and with cargo bikes if they have children or a load. As one fellow tour rider from the USA noted, “No one is wearing lycra bike shorts or riding a fancy bike.” It is part of the fabric of life and very utilitarian.
I digress, I want to tell you about this fabulous tour.
Mike is a bit gruff when you first meet him at the shop. His website can also be offputting to some:
i am not just another #$@%&*! bike tour guide. I am bike mike.
I appreciated that he was being very forthright about what his tour was and was not. What it is: an exciting tour of the city at a good pace with a guide who LOVES Copenhagen and Denmark. I ride my bike as my main source of transportation and I “kissed” the curb; my bike went down but thankfully I did not. So the city cobbles and curbs can be challenging especially to riders from the USA. It is so worth the risk.
I arrived feeling very jet-lagged and hoped that the fresh air and exercise would revive me. There were about 18 of us in the group with a mix of Europeans and Americans. Mike leads the way and expects you to follow, and we did. People in my group did a great job of keeping up.
Mike does stop often to share information about this beautiful city and its culture. He is unabashedly proud of their socialist welfare state and the monarchy. He is a real enthusiast and he will infect you with a love of Copenhagen.
He also gave good tips on restaurants along the way. Although his description of a typical Danish lunch–open faced sandwiches of pickled herring followed by a shot of snaps (schnapps)–sounded like a fast track to a nap!
He said we would ride through whatever weather came our way just like a local. However, when a particularly nasty bit of rain and wind came through he let us grab a coffee at the national theater and then ride on. This added an hour to our tour but no one complained.
In fact, we were all full of good will toward one another at the end. The tour was well worth the DKK 299 in cash.
I also learned about these really groovy Danish locks that fit onto your bike as a permanent fixture. Mike uses them as do most people in Copenhagen. I walked across the street to the bike shop and bought 2 to use at home.
I am visiting Denmark this summer. I found my hotel on Trip Advisor. Thanks to Rick Steves’ I am taking a bike tour in Copenhagen with Mike. My chum Susie from University is going to show me her Malmo, Sweden on June 6–the national holiday to celebrate being Swedish. I have printed the instructions to find hidden Giant sculptures around Copenhagen on a bike scavenger hunt.
I am excited that I am going to be able to see two more Scandinavian countries (after Norway in 2013). Originally I thought I’d get into the countryside and see more of Denmark. Then I realized that second half of my trip involves a lot of travel through England, so enjoying one city more thoroughly and staying in the same hotel is appealing.
I discovered Helen Russell’s humorous memoir Year of Living Danishly at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena. I read it to prepare for my trip. The culture in Denmark is similar to Norway in many respects. The author refers to Jante’s Law, which I experienced growing up with a Norwegian grandfather.
Aksel Sandemose outlines 10 rules for living Danishly in his novel, A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks, known as Jante’s Law.
You’re not to think you are anything special
You’re not to think you are as good as we are
You’re not to think you are smarter than us
You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us
You’re not to think you know more than us
You’re not to think you are more important than us
You’re not to think you are good at anything
You’re not to laugh at us
You’re not to think anyone cares about you
You’re not to think you can teach us anything
Some people think it is synonymous with humility and essential to maintaining the egalitarian Scandinavian society. Some people think it is about enforcing conformity. In another memoir, In Cod We Trust, by Eric Dregni, about his family’s year in Norway, he observes, “These ten commandments may have begun as a morality tale of how not to act, but over time these rules were adopted to teach kids not to be self-important narcissists.”
I am curious to soak up as much of the culture as I can for the relatively short time I am there, and to find out more about Jante’s Law.