Confession alert: I wish I was Danish. Having just returned from the land of blondes, bicycles and salted liquorice (don't ask), it's fair to say I now harbour something akin to evangelist sentiment towards this Scandinavian wonder-country. Oh yes, a long weekend in the capital, Copenhagen, is enough to convert anyone into a fervent believer in the Danish way. It's a city that prides itself on inclusivity, progression and quality, appealing to a vast array of travellers from families to couples, culture vultures to foodies and everything in between. And by way of conversion tactic, I'm going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of the many faces (and places) of Copenhagen…
As a city next to the sea, the watery stuff was always going to form a fairly major part of Copenhagen's character and the charming harbours of Nyhavn and Christianshavn provide the classically Danish vision of charming pastel-coloured buildings lining the waterways, boats and yachts bobbing at the edges. And it's not just the aesthetics that please: there are some charming restaurants, cafés and bars in which to sit back, relax and take it all in, as well as some lovely boutiques to potter around. At the weekends locals and visitors alike take to the water to enjoy the great outdoors, in everything from luxury speedboats to dinghies and kayaks.
History and Art
Copenhagen is home to some fabulous architecture, from the hyper-modern 'black diamond' Royal Library and the brand spanking new Opera House, to the royal palaces of Christiansborg, Amalienborg and Rosenborg. And that's before I've even mentioned the museums and art galleries, of which there are myriad worth visiting. For me, the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (just outside the city) are real highlights. Anyone with an interest in history will be in seventh heaven in Copenhagen and it is every photographer's dream city. It's an incredibly walkable place but the best way by far to get around is by bike. The city is very progressive in its attitude towards the environment, aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025, and with a vast network of cycle lanes the bike really is the way forward. Banish visions of the lycra-clad speedsters prevalent in London, the general vibe of cycling in Copenhagen is to climb aboard a sit-up-and-beg, relax and take it at your own pace.
I'm a firm believer that the way to a country's heart is through its collective stomach and I can safely say that Copenhagen is home to some simply fabulous restaurants and eateries. The success of Noma has given rise to bringing traditional Danish cuisine back to the fore with a sophisticated twist. No.2 in Christianshavn, little sister to the award-winning AOC, and Tårnet, a restaurant in the tower of Christiansborg Palace, both offer such modern fare in ultra-chic surroundings. For something a little more casual head to Nyhavns Færgekron - a great place to sample traditional Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) while sipping a Carlsberg and watching the world go by along the harbour. Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen (Paper Island) is the city's first and only genuine street food market. Housed in a large warehouse, you'll find small food trucks serving sustainable food from all corners of the globe, from pulled pork to ice cream. Enjoy in the food hall itself or, weather permitting, sit in deck chairs looking out over the canal, the Opera House and Nyhavn. And finally, Conditori La Glace is an absolute must. Serving 22 different types of layer cake (the Othellokage comes personally recommended) it is a veritable mecca for the sweet-toothed.
Copenhagen is undeniably a haven for hipsters and there are pockets of trendy-types all across the city. Vesterbro's uber-cool meatpacking district is one such area and a classic example of the Danish appreciation for both old and new, ugly and beautiful - the white, purpose-built, industrial buildings of this area are just as likely to be listed as the Renaissance-style old stock exchange building in the heart of the city. Head to the meatpacking district on a Saturday and explore the food market that runs from 10am-5pm, before heading to one of the trendy bars and restaurants that surround. No paragraph on hipsters in Copenhagen is complete without mentioning Christiania; a notorious hippy commune. It is part social experiment, part tourist attraction, and epitomises Danish liberalism. As a free state, Christiania officially has no laws and pays no taxes. For those who want to head off the beaten track in search of hipster hangouts, head to Jaegersborggade in the Nørrebro district. Once one of the roughest streets in Copenhagen, it is now home to a charming collection of boutiques and cafés, and the perfect spot to while away a couple of hours.
Copenhagen's general ambience of friendliness and calm makes it the ideal location for some family fun. Being such a small city, all the main attractions are within close proximity - perfect for little legs. Take a family boat ride on the canal, explore the many beautiful parks and gardens and, for the ultimate family experience, head to Tivoli Gardens. One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli is truly charming and the polar opposite to all things Disney. Think roller coasters, boating ponds and ferris wheels for the kids, and lovely restaurants and theatres for mum and dad.
So there you have it - the glories of Copenhagen. If Carlsberg did cities… oh wait.