Summer in Copenhagen is a glorious thing, made even better after the long dark winter. But coming from the UK there were many things that surprised me during my first few summers here.
Photo: Melanie Haynes
1. It doesn't really get dark but there are amazing sunsets
I supposed I hadn't really considered how far north Denmark really is but I was surprised that it really doesn't get that dark overnight in the summer here. You need some ways to cope with the impact this has on sleep — blackout blinds and eye covers from Tiger are my preferred option.
I remember my surprise when during my first summer here I left Tivoli at past 10pm and it was still sunny. But even with those late nights, it is still possible to enjoy some amazing sunsets and sunrises over the summer months. Sunsets always leave me quite emotional and I often head out on my bike in June and July on a clear night to chase the sunset with my camera.
See also: How being an expat in Copenhagen changed
2. It actually gets pretty hot
Now bear with me on this one. When I moved to Denmark I thought I was saying goodbye to warm summers. The guide books I bought suggested that the maximum temperature over the summer months was around 20C yet every summer since I have lived here we have enjoyed decent runs of hot weather – and by hot I mean over 25C and even around 30C for over a month in 2014.
I have photos of me at the beaches here in swimsuits every year for the last seven. I get a decent tan, every year. I moan about how hot it is at night, every year. Last year was super hot and we regularly swam in the sea. My mum amazed her French neighbours by boasting she had swum in the Baltic – they still probably think she was fibbing! Of course there were the wet weeks in summer houses in June but that is just what happens when I go on holiday anywhere be it Denmark, Florida or France!
Photo: Nicolai Perjesi/Copenhagen Media Center
3. You can swim in the sea twenty minutes from the city centre
Swimming in the sea, in a capital city? Although this summer has yet to produce hot days suitable for it, when you live in Copenhagen you can make the choice of swimming in the clean waters at one of the harbour pools (or just jump in from the harbourside and climb back out thanks to the helpfully places ladders) or heading by Metro or S-train to lovely city beaches at Amager and Svanemøllen or travel up the coast to the popular, especially with Italians, Bellevue beach and take a refreshing dip in the Baltic.
4. Bus loads of crazy kids
At the beginning of June you start to notice young people walking about town wearing white sailor-style hats and a week or so later they are hanging happily drunk out of big open sided trucks with blaring music, waving and (maybe) flashing at passersby. This is the rite of passage for all teens graduating from school in Denmark and another example of how the normally moderate Danes can really let go! The tradition is currently under threat from EU vehicle safety regulations but I say long live this tradition. Every year, hearing those honking trunks and yelling kids, it makes me want to be a teenager again, to be filled with that amount of confidence, excitement and anticipation of the years ahead.
5. Shops and restaurants close over July
One thing that surprised me the first summer here was how many individual shops, restaurants and cafes (mainly but not exclusively) outside the city centre will pop up a sign saying, “Summer holidays, see you in August”. They will simply close, giving their staff the summer off. I can understand that this time can be quiet with locals out of town but it must surely lose them money? But the Danes have a strong idea of a true balance of work and life and this has to be the most tangible example of this. Why should people who run and work in the retail sector miss out on arguably the best month of the year for sunshine and relaxation?
Photo: Sandra Høj / Classic Copenhagen
And now for two really annoying things…
There are, however, a few downsides for me over the summer. One is how many people living in apartment buildings feel that it is appropriate to have incredibly loud parties until well into the early hours of the morning, with their windows open to ensure that they share their (always bad) taste in music with as many people as possible. The other is the sheer volume of rubbish left scattered about parks after a sunny day — if there aren’t enough litter bins there, take your litter home with you!
Melanie Haynes is originally from the UK and has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. She writes about life in Denmark on her blog Dejlige Days.