Copenhagen

The streets of the European Capital of Culture are cool, cosmopolitan and just made for strolling, says Nigel Williamson

The tourists may stop when the Scandinavian summer ends, but Copenhagen's cultural supremacy continues for 11 more weeks. For an autumn break, the current European Capital of Culture is cool in every sense. The city may not have the romance of Paris, the sights of Rome or the elegance of Vienna, but it is intimate, cosmopolitan, full of fine buildings, and made for walking.

The city centre is 20 minutes by bus from the airport, a boon when arriving on a Friday night straight from the office. After that, the only transport necessary until departure is a pair of willing and sturdy legs, for Copenhagen invented both the pedestrian precinct and the cycle lane.

Every one of the traffic-free streets seems to have its own attractions. Setting out to explore the city on Saturday morning, we swiftly abandoned the street map to wander where the fancy took us. After a couple of cafe stops we came to Rundetarnet, a spectacular 17th-century round tower, ascended not by steps but by a winding passageway broad enough for the royal family to drive to its summit. The view from the top, of the spires and tiled roofs of the old city, is the best in Copenhagen.

Back at street level, on one side of the tower sits the rococo fantasy of Trinity Church, on the other the Museum of Erotica. The Danes are immensely proud of having led the world in abolishing pornography laws almost 30 years ago; the museum boasts: "Now it is legal to study the love life of Homo sapiens, an experience you will never forget." There is even an exhibit detailing the sex life of Hans Christian Andersen.

After that we needed a black coffee, or even something a little stronger. The sea air of Copenhagen generates a healthy appetite and we strolled to Nyhavn, the delightful old harbour which still retains the atmosphere of a fishing village. The Danes refer to the place as Hyggelig - "very friendly". On one side of the channel a dozen brightly painted, gabled houses have been transformed into restaurants. Here we lunched on the traditional koldebord of herrings, pickles and cold meats, washed down with generous quantities of Tuborg lager.

Nyhavn is also the starting point for sight-seeing boat tours. An hour- long canal trip passes the Danish parliament at Christiansborg on the island of Slotsholmen, the quaint old seamen's quarter of the inner harbour, and then, inevitably, you are taken out to the main harbour at Langelinie to view the most photographed sight of Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid. The bronze statue is, frankly, a disappointment. The figure is elegant enough but hardly strides the harbour like the Colossus at Rhodes, being no more than a few feet high; she is not even particularly historic, having sat on her lonely rock only since 1913.

Unexpectedly, we found another of Copenhagen's more obvious sights far more enjoyable: the changing of the guard outside the royal palace. So on Sunday morning we made for the broad, Parisian-style square of Amalienborg. Here we saw a spectacular pageant with a marching band, far more elaborate than the affair outside Buckingham Palace.

For our last afternoon we took an excursion to the hippy haven of Christiania, Europe's most famous experiment in alternative lifestyles. This astonishing community of street musicians, dope-smokers and artists was started 25 years ago when squatters took over the former military barracks. Today even the most staid Danes are rather fond of the place. As one observer put it, Christiania has become as much a Danish theme park as Legoland.

How to get there: Maersk Air (0171-333 0066) has a fare of pounds 132 including tax for travel from Gatwick to Copenhagen and back, but this applies only on the morning flight from Monday to Friday. The Brazilian airline, Varig (0171-287 3131), charges pounds 134 on its flights from Heathrow to Copenhagen. Flights on British Airways (0345 222111) cost pounds 171.

Where to stay: Nigel Williamson paid pounds 80 a night for a double room at the Komfort Hotel (00 45 33 12 65 70). Ask the Danish tourist office in London (0171-333 0248) or Copenhagen tourist office (00 45 33 11 13 25) about others.

Who to ask about events: Copenhagen 96 (00 45 33 77 96 33), or at http://info.denet.dk/cph96 on the Internet

News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'