Friday, 25 April 2014

Cheap & Delicious in Copenhagen: The Addicting Pølse

Copenhagen is a very expensive city to visit but it´s worth it.  I arrived  close to midnight in Copenhagen and I had to drag my luggage for about three blocks to get to my hotel.  There were punky men milling around the streets but  I didn´t feel anxious or scared.  Unlike in most European cities (Paris, most especially) there were no beggars  who latch on to naive-looking tourists.   The  air is  seriously crisp, like the freshest air ever.  And the streets, they were litter and graffiti-free.

Copenhagen´s skyline is bare with no tall skyscrapers to ruin the view.  No wonder Hans Christian Andersen, who lived in Copenhagen, wrote such pristine fairy tales.    He lived in one of the multicolored  buildings in NyHavn. A look through his window might just have been enough to inspire his imagination.

                                         Nyhavn´s most photographed multicolored buildings

                                             King´s Garden

                               Another one of the numerous gardens in Copenhagen

Copenhagen may be an expensive city, but the peace and quiet one gets from strolling  along or relaxing in one of its numerous parks and gardens is free.  That says a lot about the quality of life that this city offers.          
                                One of Copenhagen´s  famous icons,  the statue of the Little Mermaid.

                                Small boats by the pier.
                                Almond blossoms all over the park.

                                A statue of a woman taming a bull,  water, and an old church.  A+ for atmosphere!
A day in the city of Copenhagen during the holidays. Many tourists and locals on the streets, but not too much as to make the city feel chaotic.

Is it true then that Copenhagen is the most livable city?  I think yes. Apart from the expensive prices, and I say expensive relative to the prices in Spain,  Copenhagen does offer beautiful parks and clean air.  The people are nice, helpful and speak great English.  The streets are safe, and  the Danes  they love their country to the bone.

For tourists though,  especially for mere office workers like me,  the travel expenses to Denmark, or to any Scandinavian country for that matter,  can be prohibitive.  We stayed at a three star Best Western hotel near the Copenhagen Central Station and our bill was  400€  for  three nights.  And that´s a twin sharing standard room with no special perks except the daily buffet breakfast.  Pretty expensive, even for European prices.   So what we did,  we ate a really heavy breakfast at the hotel buffet spread.  Thankfully their buffet spread is a notch higher than most in Europe.  There´s bacon, frankfurters, scrambled eggs, croissants, boiled eggs, grilled tomatoes,  a crepe corner, a deli platter with salami/ham/bologna, a cheese plate,  all sorts of breads, granolas, corn flakes, muesli mixes, waffles,  plus a small salad section with baby carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, olives, cherry tomatoes.  There were also Danish pastries, sweet cookies and fruits.  Plus milk, coffee, fruit teas, green tea, black tea, apple juice, some sort of cider,  orange juice  and all the usual accompaniments  of cream, sugar,  sweetener  and milk.   Yes,  we fuelled up like crazy during breakfast.  But hey it worked,  our heavy breakfast was enough to  fend off hunger pangs until lunch.  That´s an everyday savings of  a few €uros in unneccessary snacking!

Weeks before the trip,  I had my eye on one ubiquitous Danish food,  Pølse.  And it turned out that apart from a few danish pastry snacks at well-loved Danish bakery chain Lagkagehuset, all we ate for lunch and dinner  while in Denmark was pølse!

                               A chocolate topped danish pastry from Lagkagehuset.

So what´s a pølse?  It´s like hotdog but, ummmm,  waaay waaay more scrumptious!  They look like hotdogs or frankfurters but taste infinitely better.  Scandinavian people are big pølse eaters and these street pølsevogn shops are all over Copenhagen.  How does one choose which Pølsevogn to  buy from?  Look for a swarm of people lining up and join the queue!

A pølsevogn in Vesterbo, Copenhagen

Typical type of pølse offered.  Prices range from 34 to 50€ per sandwich.

Pølse is a favorite lunch/snack/dinner/midnight snack of the Danes.  And now I understand why.   It is also the perfect food for travellers. I was never a hotdog lover,  but once I tried my first pølse, I was hooked!

 The price of a pølse sandiwch is not that cheap .  My favorite variant,  the ristet, costs about 3.5€  and to make this a filling lunch meal one needs at least two servings.  So yes, not cheap,  but it is, for me, the most value for money deal you can get in Copenhagen,where a meal from KFC can cost you 97 DKr which is about 13€ and a meal at a restaurant would set you back at least 15€.

The ristet pølse. Meaty, oversized hotdog, soft bun, mustard, ketchup, remoulade ( a sweetish mayonnaise with herbs), onions, fried onions and pickles. 

We ate at three pølse stands in Copenhagen including the much-raved about DØP stand along Stroget Shopping Street .  DØP was recently voted as the favorite eatery of the Danish readers of the newspaper Politiken.  It uses organic meats,  homemade condiments and sauces, and the sourdough buns are  made inhouse.  Though a little bit more expensive at almost 5€ per sandwich,  the pølse were delicious.

                   The Risted from DØP.  Organic and made from scratch. From the sourdough bread to sauces and fixings.

The DØP pølsevogn along Stroget Street.

While the  DØP pølse  is delicious,  it is not our favorite pølse. 

 For me, Lillian´s Pølsevogn at the back of the Copenhagen Central Train Station, just a five minute walk away from our hotel, has the most addicting risted pølse ever. Something about the composition of long, meaty hotdog, soft squishy bun, crisp fried onion flakes, pickled cucumber slices,  mustard, ketchup and a kick of remoulade, makes it perfect.  Meaty but not too meaty and too salty, unlike the expensive and more popular pølsevogn we tried near Tivoli Gardens. We bought pølse from Lillian´s Pølsevogn about three times during our short holiday.

So yeah,  one can visit Copenhagen on a budget.  Just  allocate your travel expenses in advance, and when you get there, do what the locals do:  Live simply, and enjoy the parks, and when you get hunger pangs find the nearest pølsevogn.

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