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Copenhagen In Retrospect: First Impressions and Overview of the World’s Happiest City

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My first moment in Copenhagen was met by the utter lack of chaos in Kobenhavn Airport. Everything was operating smoothly in an environment I could only describe as lustrous. I left this country without seeing dust and I had dinner at an underground restaurant at some point. Imagine that. Maybe this was how the rest of the world could look if only people respected personal space on a regular basis and did not impose their lives on other people as much. In Copenhagen there is always ample space to live in – even in trains and escalators I had an arm’s length of distance from everything. Meanwhile in London I don’t even dare walk slower than the human behind me in fear of losing my right to exist in that living space. So far, so good.

The Danish are reserved people but very approachable and especially helpful to us when our map reading skills were failing. Their emphasis on simplicity was something I always felt and it truly is inspirational to an extent. If I had to guess, expectations of public decorum (most definitely) included not being too loud. In fact, I witnessed no boisterous laughter in public at all and it is still a wonder to me how I couldn’t overhear ANY conversation – not even from those talking from a mere foot away.

The general atmosphere was pleasant and navigation was easy with the straightforward public transport. It is a small, walking city that we were able to see most of within our first day. I highly recommend exploring by foot if you have a great appreciation for architecture and beautiful narrow streets. As one of Europe’s oldest cities, this Danish capital is home to intricate buildings from the 17th century and an amusement park dating back to 1843. To me, this is simply remarkable.

Things to see

1.City Hall2016-24-11-11-42-00

Standing centrally in Copenhagen is its City Hall which was constructed in the late 1800s. It is open to the public but it is just as a memorable when viewed from the City Hall Square.2016-24-11-11-39-55

2.Nyhavn
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The colorful facade of houses in Nyhavn

Another must see is Nyhavn, a 17th century canal and entertainment district well known for good food and music alongside that laidback atmosphere. Fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen lived in this area particularly in numbers 18, 20 and 67.

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3.Rundetaar
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City overview

If you are looking for a good viewing point of the city then enter the Round Tower otherwise known as Rundetaar. Its shape make it almost impossible to miss and expect to be rewarded with brilliant panoramic views of upon reaching the top.

4.Little Mermaid
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Little Mermaid Statue

The Little Mermaid Statue is a symbol for this city and is unsurprisingly one of most visited attractions. Fans of the Disney animated film Little Mermaid should definitely put this in their itinerary. Yet even as one of Europe’s prominent landmarks, it is relatively unremarkable from the outside and smaller than one would expect. However, this original statue has stood the test of time and celebrated its 100 years last 2013 after being restored many times due to acts of vandalism and mutilation. It has been put back together time and time again to return to Langelinie Harbour, where she seems to continue longing for to be part of another world. This context alone makes it worth seeing in person because this Danish landmark is definitely a survivor.

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Langelinie
5.Freetown Christiana
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Simple rules of Christiana

Feeling adventurous or ready for something out of the ordinary? Then strut over to Freetown Christiana. It’s a neighborhood in Copenhagen that will leave you feeling like you have gone to a completely different dimension. Before entering, we were met by an arch welcoming everyone into this controversial chunk of Copenhagen. But let’s just say that you do not need signs to know you’ve crossed over somewhere different – oh trust me you will JUST KNOW. Aside from the independent shops and stalls and quite radical taste for art, Christiana is a hot topic due to the trade of things that may or may not be illegal. Inside, there are very specific rules we all had to abide by for everyone’s safety (mostly ours). The place had a certain feel of danger to it but simply follow the laws of Christiana and you’ll make it out alive. Wink wink.

6.Tivoli Gardens
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Magical Tivoli Gardens!

There is only one answer to the question what is the best thing to see in Copenhagen. It’s Tivoli Gardens! What makes it one of a kind is not the fact that it’s the world’s second oldest amusement park, but because Walt Disney and Hans Christian Andersen actually spent time here. The place is not just dreamy, it’s where makers of fairy tales as we know it went for fun. Now if that is not amazing then I don’t know what is.2016-24-11-14-09-42

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The Garden’s magic continues at night
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White Christmas

Christmas in Tivoli is unmissable and it was indeed one of my main reasons for flying to Denmark. My friends and I wanted to imbibe on a yuletide vibe that can be quite elusive in London despite the grand display of lights along Regent Street. The Garden was themed with Christmas in every corner and the experience was truly unforgettable. To top this all off, we found Father Christmas! And he took a picture with us to remember this by.

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Merriest Christmas!

Copenhagen is a destination better explored when a traveler has a deep sense of context about the capital. This city is remarkable in itself but even more so because of the talent that nested and thrived within its humble walls. It’s where people who created magic sought inspiration and ideas and where testaments from centuries ago managed to defy time.

It is a place I see myself coming back to, even if I have to do it alone. There is no special reason underneath, it’s just a place I feel comfortable in with its sophisticated airport and hushed citizens. There was a certain level of ease brought about by the unpolluted air and general mood of the locals. I guess they did not dub this place Happiest City on Earth for nothing. Theirs was a different kind of happy because if you ask me… Copenhagen was full of peace and quiet. It is quite hard to imagine Hans Christian Andersen’s talents flourishing anywhere else.

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Until we return, Copenhagen!
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Autumn Travels: Discover the Magic of Prague

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Their history is studded with events of random defenestration and for that reason, (among others) Prague had my full attention. Once upon a time, the leaders of their society had such a bad day that they decided to take an obvious solution: throw their enemies out the window. I know this was cruel, and too bad for you if you were the one being thrown out, but if this was made legal nowadays, life would be so much simpler. Because today, idiots just seem to be everywhere – but so are windows. Problem. Solved.

On a serious note though, Prague is a beautiful city with a history that is just as colorful. So colorful indeed that some of the truth got mixed with a couple of myths and the interesting part is – it could still be hard to tell which is which. When travelling, I have always considered a day trip into the itinerary but this time I was too smitten to go away even for a day. I ended up staying there all week, day by day walking along Old Town and ravishing random street food I could find. Smiling at random strangers and finding delight in the talent of the street performers. The beautiful architecture, abundantly consumed beer and the meat-based diet made it hard for me to leave – so hard indeed that I never looked back to say goodbye as my plane flew back to London. But if there is any truth about the plate of St. John of Nepomuk in Charles Bridge, then farewells were not yet in order anyway.

With the -ber months here once again marking the start of a new season, the warm air has dissipated and there is finally relief from heat wave season. In so many ways, Autumn is a great time to travel, not only because of the pleasantly cool weather but also because of the beautiful landscapes and views undergoing seasonal transformation. This may as well be the best time of year to travel around Europe. And if you’ve never been to Prague, then why not make it your destination this fall? Here are a few things I adored about the city that come highly recommended!

1.Old Town Square

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Dreamy scenario captured in Old Town Prague

Almost constantly buzzing with tourists is Prague’s Old Town Square, a place that resounds of places we thought only existed in fairy tales. There is never enough space between the tourists and the random street performers trying to earn a buck or two. But there is a reason for all that chaos. Surrounded by structures rich with stunning composition and historical affiliations, Old Town is simply magnetic.

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Some of the buildings surrounding Old Town Prague
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Old Town Hall

2.Astronomical Clock

2016-30-10-11-11-51Among Europe’s iconic landmarks is Prague’s Astronomical Clock – a clock that has a rather whimsical and medieval appearance. But being the world’s oldest working clock is enough excuse for this.  It stirs into life every hour with its much awaited mechanical show of the Apostles and figurines. This makes it a tourist hotspot every time the hour hits its last few minutes. The mechanical show itself may fall below the expectations of gawking tourists, but the clock’s design, together with its history and context, still makes it worthwhile for curious travelers like me.

3.Prague Castle / St. Vitus Cathedral

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Prague Castle as seen from Charles Bridge

Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world that is still in operation. It is undeniably an important symbol to those who live in Prague and remains relevant even in today’s times by being the Official Residence of the President. It is best described as a castle complex, comprising of various grandiose buildings and palaces. I found this a truly beautiful destination, with stunning architecture and such lush gardens that offer unparalleled views across Prague.

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Overlooking view of the city
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Clockwise from left uppermost image: Castle Courtyard, St. Vitus Cathedral, Statue of St. John of Nepomuk and rear view of St Vitus Cathedral.

4.Charles Bridge

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Charles Bridge

Next to churches, I have always admired bridges across Europe. Among my personal favorites are Ponte Vecchio in Florence, the Szechenyi Chain Bridge of Budapest and of course London’s Tower Bridge. In my country, I equated bridges with being dilapidated, low – cost or unnecessarily blundered with a politician’s name from end to end in all caps. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that in this part of the world, they have become one of the things I look forward to, enchanted by the charm it adds to a city’s ambiance. I find that it lends over a dreamy factor because it usually crosses a body of water. Prague’s Charles Bridge is no exemption indeed, rich with detailed architecture that is truly one of a kind. Guarding it bilaterally are Baroque statues that usually represent something significant from history, one of which is St. John of Nepomuk. Touching his plate supposedly garners good luck and ensures your return to the city of Praha.

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Charles Bridge as seen from the banks of Vltava River. The plate of St. John of Nepomuk is one of the highlights of the bridge, attracting tourists from all over. Notice how the color has changed in the middle due to the number of tourists rubbing the famous landmark. It is said that touching this ensures a traveler’s return to Prague in the future.

5.Czech Cuisine

Prague’s food scene is brilliant and even more so if you are a fan of a highly carnivorous diet. I am talking about delicious slabs of meat, succulent, juicy and not necessarily in healthy portions. I especially adored the Roasted Pork Knuckle and the traditional Medovnik Cake. More details about my favorite Czechia Food here.

6.Lesser Town

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Streets of Lesser Town

If you are looking for a little freedom from the hoards of tourists trooping around then Lesser Town Prague just might do the trick. Sure, you’d still find a tourist here and there but not in volumes that they are in Old Town Square. Walking around Lesser Town is a great way to get a closer look at Prague and appreciate its streets, hidden corners and medieval charm. Be sure to find and drop by St. Nicholas Church.

Viajera Travel Tip: Food is cheaper in Lesser Town so be sure to feast upon some delicious Czechia food!

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St. Nicholas Church

7.Vltava River

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The calm currents of Vltava

Overflowing with a sense of tranquil, the Vltava is one of the highlights of my journey in Prague. It is almost romantic, how this river cascades so placidly, evoking thoughts about how in the end, things always fall in the right places. Because destiny. Because no matter how chaos we generate in this world, the unseen forces of the universe somehow always win.
Walking along Charles Bridge, one can already admire panoramic views of the river but it is best appreciated aboard one of the boat tours. There is the option of booking a lunch or dinner cruise, but as an alternative an hour long cruise without food is also available. Discovering Prague from this vantage point gives you a chance to see the city from a different angle and could prove to be a great opportunity for taking truly unique photographs. Be sure not to miss this!2016-30-10-13-28-02


2016-30-10-13-58-16Autumn is undeniably a great time for travel. The trees are painted with various shades of yellow and brown, the landscapes panning out in glorious fiery colors. Personally, I love traveling during fall because the views are just outstanding. This season doesn’t just prepare the world for winter – it acts as a constant reminder of how some truly elegant things emerge from change. Wherever life takes us, the beauty of it is in how we can always look forward to the good things that are yet to come. Ultimately, this makes it the most important journey each and every one of us if ever going to make. And for as long as we are unsure as to whether there are future lifetimes ahead for us to live, then make the one you are in right now count. Because I still believe that if we live this one right, this one – way ticket is all we are ever going to need. 

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Where are you headed off this Autumn? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!