Sorry Mum: Tattoos in Copenhagen

Tattoos. You either love them or you hate them. If you’re like me, you’re a fan. But if you’re also like me, you have an Asian mother who associates tattoos with thugs and gangsters. On any given night, you can find Jared and me binge watching episodes of Ink Master (a tattoo competition show). We’re fans. It happened by chance that we found ourselves in the city that is home to the oldest running tattoo parlour in the world. I swear, it was just plain ole chance.




When you think of Copenhagen, it is likely that the colourful, picturesque buildings of Nyhavn spring to mind. These buildings seem to spark images of a “hygge” nature. In the 1800s, the people of Copenhagen’s iconic Nyhavn were sailors, criminals, and escorts. It was considered to be the bad part of town. These days, you find tourists crowding the buildings, dining at restaurants, and a lone basement tattoo shop called Tattoo Ole.

To be honest, you’d completely miss it unless you were looking for it. The place barely fits 10 people at a time. We didn’t have an appointment (I told you, completely by chance), but were seen right away. Thomsen (one of the two tattoo artists working that day) was preparing the stencil for a big knee piece for a young woman, so Ilyse, Jared and I spoke to Alexander (an apprentice from Latvia).

I’m a tattoo veteran and have always enjoyed my tattoo experiences but today, I was with 2 tattoo virgins, so I went first. I got a quick tattoo on my ribs (it didn’t hurt but I do have a high pain tolerance). Ilyse got a cute paper plane on her wrist, and Jared got a minimalistic, geometric piece on his forearm.

But enough about our tattoo story… If you’re thinking about getting a/or your first tattoo in a foreign country, here are some tips.



In my case, I already had my next tattoo planned out. I knew it wasn’t going to be a difficult, time consuming piece, and I’m not very picky when it comes to the quality of small tattoos. However if this is your first tattoo, I suggest doing some research on your artist to make it a pleasant experience. If you don’t care, go for it. You’re bound to have a good story out of it.


Yeah, ok, we weren’t all that prepared for this tattoo. What I mean is IF you plan on getting a tattoo abroad at a specific shop by a specific artist, make an appointment. What I also mean is when are you planning to get your tattoo during your travels? Unfortunately, a tattoo should be treated like an open wound for the first few weeks. This limits the amount of activity you can do (i.e sun exposure, swimming, etc…). We didn’t plan this part well since Copenhagen was the first stop of our trip. But lucky for me I got it on my ribs (hence why you won’t be seeing any photos of my flaunting my tattoo with Copenhagen has my backdrop). Might I suggest planning your tattoo towards the end of your trip?


The problem with small tattoos is that you don’t pay by the hour, you pay a minimum fee (which normally covers a larger tattoo that can be done in an hour). This is pretty standard no matter where you go. Luckily for us, Alexander gave us a great discount if all 3 of us got a tattoo.


Most tattoo parlours will carry a bottle of balm that’ll help with the healing process of your tattoo. GET IT. Just do it.


Getting a tattoo is a thrilling experience. If you’re a first timer, remember that the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself. Just bite the bullet and do it, especially if you decide to walk it. No one likes to deal with an indecisive client. That being said, it’s ok to be nervous, just know that it is a lot of work for the artist to prepare for the tattoo process. If you’re still unsure, don’t go to the parlour, make up your mind before walking in!

Overall, this was by far my favourite tattoo experience (I have 3). Jared and Ilyse both did a great job with their first tattoo and they left with memories that’ll last a lifetime. There’ll always be a little part of Copenhagen with us.

Will you be getting a tattoo on your travels?