You’d think that with all the dark, gloomy days (or lack of day, if you will) in Copenhagen, the Danes would be the most miserable people in the world, right? WRONG. Denmark was recently named the country with the happiest citizens by the Los Angeles Times and the Huffington Post. How is it that the Danes keep their spirits up amidst the cloudy (often rainy) days? After spending just a week in Copenhagen, the answer becomes apparent if you take a stroll through Central City, Nørrebro, or Vesterbro around the hours of 1 AM any Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. This mantra sums it all up perfectly: “Anyone who thinks that sunshine is pure happiness has never danced in the dark.” You might even say that whatever Copenhagen lacks in sunlight, it certainly makes up in nightlife.

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And when I say nightlife, I technically don’t mean “nightlife.” Because everything seems to start at 2 AM, a large contrast to the United States–where the parties begin to wind down around 1. Taking the 4:25 AM train out of Nørreport Station in central city is an early night for many young Danish partygoers. What complicates matters is the slow train schedule at night–operating only once every hour on Friday and Saturday after 1 AM. What this means in practical terms is if you miss the 4:25 AM train, you’re staying to watch the sunrise [actually a pretty cool sight to see in Copenhagen].

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Regardless of getting to and from the bars at night, an “uneventful night out” can’t be translated into Danish. Many American/international bars and clubs dominate the exhilarating, carefree nightlife–making it difficult to find an exclusively Danish bar. But friendly encounters with the locals have certainly helped a lot. One saturday night, for example, a group of young Danes my friends and I randomly befriended invited us to join their table at the Happy Pig, a quiet sports-bar during the day that transforms into a loud, popular hotspot at night–with live music on the first floor and a dancefloor on the second.

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It’s only been two weeks since I stepped off the plane at Kastrup Airport, and I feel at home when venturing out to the bars and clubs in Copenhagen at night because of the cozy, hospitable, friendly, (and most importantly) carefree environment into which I’m absorbed. Everytime I step on the B-train from Hvidovre [the suburb/municipality where my dorm is located] to the inner city, my friends and I always manage to be intercepted by groups of young, friendly Danes eager to meet Americans and show them all the secrets the magical city of Copenhagen has to offer. And if there’s anyway to start off a night the right way in Denmark, it’s saying “Cheers!” (“Skål!” in Danish) over a Tuborg, Pilsner, or Carlsberg with new Danish friends at a cool ‘locals-only’ hotspot.

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