Copenhagen is the epitome of Scandi cool. Modernist lamps light New Nordic tables, bridges buzz with cycling commuters and eye-candy locals dive into pristine waterways.
In little over a decade, Copenhagen has gone from dining dowager to culinary powerhouse. The Danish capital claims no less than 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other Scandinavian capital. In recent years, sous chefs from numerous high-profile kitchens have spread their own wings, opening a string of thrilling new eateries where culinary prowess comes with a more approachable price tag. Across the city, a wave of eateries are plating pure, organic produce from their own greenhouses, gardens and farms. Among them is the reincarnation of New Nordic maverick Noma. Come curious, come hungry.
Only here does the morning rush of cyclists look more like a runway show on wheels. Forget Milan; when it comes to style, it's hard to beat Copenhagen's denizens. Few people have such a knack for effortless cool, driven by a reverence for simplicity, detail and understated beauty. These tenets drive everything from Copenhagen's painfully hip streetwear labels, its world-famous furniture and lighting, to its grassroots ceramics and glassware. Together they have created a city of endless visual pleasure; a place where even the most mundane activities are laced with a sense of quiet wonder and delight.
When cities seek enlightenment, they commonly look to Copenhagen. The hometown of architect Jan Gehl – one of the world's leading authorities on sustainable urban planning – the Danish capital regularly tops world liveability lists. After all, this is one of the globe's greenest, cleanest, most sustainable urban centres, a place where cycling is serious transport, where buses and the metro run frequently and around the clock, and where the harbour is squeaky clean enough for a bracing dip. Leaving the sprawl to cities like Melbourne and LA, Copenhagen wisely keeps things compact and accessible, making it a super-easy place to explore.
From Viking treasures in a former prince's palace to iconic Danish chairs in a one-time baroque hospital, Copenhagen's cultural offerings are rich and eclectic. Snoop around royal palaces crammed with blue-blood jewels and art, muse on the world's largest collection of Danish Golden Age paintings, or get up close and personal with the finest booty of ancient Egyptian sculpture in northern Europe. And did we mention Scandinavia's largest collection of Islamic art, tucked away in a collector's neoclassical mansion? The weather may be a little unpredictable, but with so many indoor marvels, who's complaining?
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This is Copenhagen’s most romantic park, with lakes, woodlands and lovely picnic lawns. Guarding the main entrance is 19th-century royal Frederik VI, who would thrill his loyal subjects by taking boat rides along Frederiksberg Have's canals. The park's imposing baroque palace, Frederiksborg Slot, was the royal family's summer residence until the mid-19th century. These days it houses the Royal Danish Military Academy. The Chinese Pavilion is another regal relic, built in 1799 as a royal tea house. Frederiksberg Have's most unusual attraction is its suttetræet (sucky tree), located north of the Chinese Pavilion. The 250-year-old tree is hard to miss, its branches hung with hundreds of colourful ribbons tied to baby pacifiers. According to Danish tradition, when a toddler turns three it is time to give up their pacifier. To make the separation easier, parents and children entrust the pacifier to their local suttetræet, along with a note on behalf of the toddler asking the tree to take good care of it.
This fascinating 1km-long park showcases objects sourced from around the globe with the aim of celebrating diversity and uniting the community. Items include a tile fountain from Morocco, bollards from Ghana and swing chairs from Baghdad, as well as neon signs from Russia and China. Even the benches, manhole covers and rubbish bins hail from foreign lands.
Copenhagen's JAJA Architects have turned the multilevel car-park concept on its head with their jaw-dropping Konditaget Lüders. Playfully dubbed 'Park and Play', the eight-floor structure features living green walls, a perforated mural frieze representing Nordhavn's history, and an external staircase complete with stopwatch function to time your ascent to the top. Waiting there is a huge rooftop playground, offering spectacular views of Copenhagen, the Øresund and Sweden, as well as 'dare-devil' trampolines suspended above a void that looks eight floors down.
You'll find some of Denmark's most celebrated citizens at this famous cemetery, including philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, physicist Niels Bohr, author Hans Christian Andersen and artists Jens Juel, Christen Købke and CW Eckersberg. It's a wonderfully atmospheric place to wander around – as much a park and garden as it is a graveyard. A good place to start is at the main entrance on Kapelvej, where you can usually find fold-out maps of the cemetery and its notable burial sites.
Set to reopen in 2020 after a major refurbishment, Visit Carlsberg explores the history of Danish beer from 1370 BC (yes, they carbon-dated a bog girl who was found in a peat bog caressing a jug of well-aged brew). The centre is adjacent to the architecturally whimsical Carlsberg brewery and its exhibits offer insight into Carlsberg's history, the brewing process, as well as access to the brewery's stables and famous Jutland dray horses. The self-guided tour ends at the bar, where you can knock back two beers (or soft drinks), included in the admission price. Guided tours are also available. From April to September, a free shuttle bus service runs between the Visit Carlsberg and the Royal Hotel at Vesterbrogade 6 (right beside Central Station). Buses run hourly from 11am to 5pm; Visit Carlsberg tickets can be purchased on board. See the website for updates on Visit Carlsberg's refurbishment and scheduled reopening.
Two of the Danes greatest passions – design and cycling – meet in spectacular fashion with Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake. Designed by local architects Dissing + Weitling, the 235-metre-long cycling path evokes a slender ribbon, its gently curving form contrasting dramatically against the area's block-like architecture. The elevated path winds its way from Bryggebro (Brygge Bridge) west to Fisketorvet Shopping Centre, delivering a cycling experience that's nothing short of whimsical. To reach the path on public transport, catch bus 34 to Fisketorvet Shopping Centre. The best way to reach it, however, is on a bike, as Cykelslangen is only accessible to cyclists.
In a cul-de-sac off Istedgade is this imposing red-brick wall, its gate leading to the delightful Skydebanehaven (Shooting Range Gardens). While it might look medieval, the wall dates back to 1887. At the time, this was the site of the Royal Copenhagen Shooting Society and the wall was built to protect locals from stray bullets. The club's target was parrot shaped, leading to the popular Danish saying 'You've shot the parrot there', used to refer to someone's good fortune. Today, the playground pays tribute to this past with a parrot-shaped slide.
Dating from 1887 and inspired by the French Empire style, this is one of Copenhagen's best-loved bridges, designed by the prolific Vilhelm Dahlerup and named after Queen Louise (wife of Christian IX). The current crossing succeeds two earlier versions; a wooden bridge built in the 16th century and a combined bridge-dam constructed a century later. In the evening, the bridge offers a prime-time view of Nørrebrø's famous neon lights; the best-loved of them is the Irma hen, laying electric eggs since 1953.
Hidden away in a warehouse in the 'brown-brick' section of the Meatpacking District, the Fotografisk Center serves up rotating exhibitions of contemporary photography and related media, including video art and film. Both Danish and international artists are represented, in either solo or group shows. Fotografisk Center also hosts the recurring series Ung dansk fotografi (Young Danish Photography). The gallery's founder is prolific Danish photographer and gallerist Lars Schwander.