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Hej København!

Copenhagen is bloody great. I’ve been here living here for close to a month now and he Nordic city lives up to the hype of “happiest people on earth”, “most liveable city” etc.

Arriving in the Danish capital in the last weeks of summer has helped. Copenhagen is so beautiful in the summer. People swim in the harbour, drink and sunbathe in parks, and hang out on the bridges connecting the arty neighbourhoods to downtown. Danes spill out onto the sidewalks, nursing beers on street corners and in squares. The city is bathed in this northern light from 6am to 9pm –and I would know because for a few days, on top of the jetlag, I didn’t have curtains…

I love waking up everyday to the view outside my window though: there’s a 400-year-old castle in my backyard. I’m very fortunate to be living in the best student accommodation in the city. Located in the old centre of the city, my residence is in an 18th century Baroque-style building that used to be soldiers barracks. Across the road is the National Gallery of Denmark (SMK), which boasts an entire room of Matisses, and adjacent to that is the Botanical Gardens, a 12ha green oasis. The real knock-out feature though is across the road, Rosenborg Castle and The King’s Gardens. The park is luscious and stunning and fastidiously maintained. The flower beds that line the paths look like some wild country field frenzy transplanted into the city and the rose garden to the side of the castle is heavenly. Rosenborg Castle is also striking – if you like the whole  renaissance fairytale castle look – all turrets and curlicues and elaborate ornate details. On any good day you’ll find people chilling on the lawns in front of it and there’s a decent ice-cream stand in the park that sells local flavours like rhubarb and licorice. I tried licorice, and I would advise you to not do that.

Copenhagen is really spatially diverse (architecture is frequently amazing), its urban planning is next level and everywhere you turn there’s street art, well-dressed people, cutting-edge shops and cafés, and benches outside shops for weary travellers to rest on, which is a really nice touch and typical of Danish hospitality. Bikes also dominate – get on one asap when you get in because the bike lanes and designated traffic lights makes cycling so easy and safe. It’s the most efficient, quickest and cheapest way to get around the city, which is actually smaller than you think

Copenhagen experiences

  • Cycling everywhere – on cobblestone paths, around the lakes, along the harbour, crashing into tourists at Nyhaven…
  • Getting caught out in a flash rain storm. No one actually really uses umbrellas here – the rain is so intermittent and can happen at any time on a cloudy day that people just shrug, pull up their raincoats and get on with things.
  • Jumping off the tower at Islands Brygge into the city’s harbour baths. Chilly even in summer.
  • Eating Smorrebrod – open faced sandwiches consisting of elaborate toppings on a square of rye bread.
  • I am actually sick of rye bread which is dense, dark, seedy, slightly sour and really healthy. GIVE ME SOME WHITE BREAD.
  • Scoffing down a hot dog (organic because it’s hipster Copenhagen) from one the many carts on street corners – the best one is by the Rundertaarn or Round Tower.
  • Danish danishes: Soft, sweet Kanelsnegls, ‘cinnamon snails/rolls’ are a staple of every bakery.
  • Recyling everything. Supermarkets have can-recycling drop-offs where you get 1kr back for each can and bottle you return. A six-pack can cost as little as 6kr. You do the maths.
  • Frothing over Wood Wood, Ganni, Stine Goya, Samsoe & Samsoe, Henrik Vibskov….shopping here is off the charts but $$$. Don’t worry, there are fleamarkets every weekend.
  • Paying $8 for atrocious coffee. It’s the one thing the Danes can’t do properly.

ON UNI– I’m doing my last semester at Copenhagen University. The law faculty is right in the heart of Indre By (the city) so all my classes are happening in crumbly, positively ancient buildings compared to UTS. I’m studying Law of Armed Conflict, EU International Relations law, and Law and Literature. I spent my first class discussing the intellectual history of the meaning of war and my second talking about Ancient Greek plays and Kafka. Assessment is mainly essays and oral exams, all to be done before Christmas!

TRAVEL – While I love Copenhagen, I’m also itching to go explore more of Europe. This enthusiasm is something my European exchange friends regard with amusement, having not  endured 30 hours on a plane to get to this corner of the world. I’ve got plans to explore more of Scandinavia and have trips to Barcelona, Berlin, Helsinki and Russia (!!!!!) with the Erasmus network lined up. I’m definitely also going to hit up Iceland and hopefully cop an eyeful of the Northern Lights.

Any recommendations, send them my way and if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Doing exchange is great fun and I would highly recommend you give it a go.

Frances Mao, 11232939

Journalism/Law (5th year)



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