Famed for Vikings and fairytales, Denmark’s capital city is starting to draw the crowds for entirely new and modern reasons. Copenhagen’s contemporary architecture, fluid, innovative design and Michelin-starred restaurants make this Scandinavian city a favourite with the European jet-set. International events like climate change conferences and cycling tours have placed this Danish city firmly on the global map.
One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, Tivoli Gardens comes into its own after the sun goes down and the fairy lights switch on. This rambling park offers flower gardens, boat rides, beer gardens, dreamy architecture, carnival rides and nightly firework displays. The park is a little bit kitsch, but a whole lot of fun, especially for travelers with children.
Explore the twisting, cobble-stoned medieval streets of Old Copenhagen and marvel at the architecture. If you want to know how the other half lives, take a tour of examples from royal Danish culture, including the Crown Jewels, at Rosenborg Slot, a 17th century Renaissance castle located in the centre of the city. The castle was built by King Christian IV, and is surrounded by blooming gardens in the summer time.
For a dose of an alternative way of life, visit Christiania, Copenhagen’s commune of like-minded individuals who have their own law and lifestyle. Christiania is a sanctuary for pensioners, immigrants, artists, the homeless, the unemployed, students, intellectuals and musicians. Christiana is not governed by Copenhagen’s municipality, and there exists a liberal and progressive mindset within its borders. Christiana is relatively safe – there are rules within the community that forbid stealing, violence and firearms – but you should still go with a friend during the day.
Like many Scandinavian countries, Denmark is an expensive place to visit. Although there has been a boom in tourist accommodation in Copenhagen, room rates are still relatively high. The best value is often found in the mid-range price bracket.
Newly opened in 2009, this hostel offers wi-fi, flat screen televisions and an unbeatable location. The rooms have been decorated in strong, vibrant colours and some even have views overlooking the skyline. Single rooms start at around $100 (wakeupcopenhagen.dk).
In keeping with the Danish aesthetic and designer sensibility, the Fox has 21 individual rooms, each one the work of an international graphic designer or illustrator. Sleeping here is like stepping into a contemporary artwork. Just don’t touch the walls. Double rooms cost $150 a night (hotelfox.dk).
Elegant and quiet, this chain hotel is conveniently located on Vesterbrogade, relatively close to the city centre. Rooms start from $200 a night. The building is French colonial, but the facilities are firmly from the modern era. The Carlton is perfect for couples and families looking for privacy and a little bit of luxury.
Copenhagen’s restaurant scene is buzzing. Local delicacies like herring and smorrebrod are a must-try, but so are the innovative dishes on the menu of the many experimental restaurants in town. The plethora of bakeries in Copenhagen attest to the Danes’ soft spot for sweets – try at least one Danish pastry and you’ll understand why.
Located on Fortunstraede, this budget café offers a country cottage vibe and serves the classic smorrebrod, or open sandwich. Food is served on a wooden buffet table, and you can choose any toppings you want. Smoked eel, herring, and eggs are local favourites.
Serving up French-Danish fusion food, this canal-side restaurant is light and airy, outfitted in typical Danish style. Mains start from $45, which is considered within the average price range in Denmark. Located just a few doors down from Noma, which was voted the World’s Best Restaurant in 2011, Kanalen offers a more affordable alternative.
Nothing can beat the interiors of this restaurant, set in an 18th century pavilion within the Frederiksberg Castle gardens. The dining room is decked out with a crystal ceiling and hanging plants fill a feature wall. Flickering candlelight and a soundtrack of chirping birds accompany your meal. The menu is no less exciting, featuring delicately poached oysters with radish, and smoked cheese grated into a soft, powdery form and drizzled with horseradish.