London has its literary walks; Paris conjures up l’esprit d’art. And Copenhagen? Copenhagen breathes design, from the junk shops of Norrebro to the spanking new architecture of the harbour front. Wander aimlessly and you’ll still end up on an impromptu design tour. But here are some tips to get you started.
There is no shortage of design hotels in Copenhagen. Even the youth hostel is kitted out with furniture from GUBI, the Danish suppliers to the Museum of Modern Art in New York (Danhostel Copenhagen City,HC Andersens Boulevard 50; 00 45 3311 8585; danhostel.dk/copenhagencity ; from 520DKr/£65 for a double). The look of the city’s latest budget hotel, the CabInn Metro in Orestad, comes from the slanted mind of the architect Daniel Libeskind (Arne Jacobsens Alle 2; 00 45 3246 5700; www.cabinn.com ; from 615DKr/£75 for a twin).
At the other end of the luxe scale is the five-star Radisson Royal (Hammerichsgade 1 ; 00 45 3342 6000; radisson.com ; from around £170 for a double room). It’s worth at least a peek inside: every detail was specified by Arne Jacobsen the the godfather of Danish design and creator of the Egg chair with the top-floor Alberto K restaurant and Room 606 maintained as unadulterated tributes to his “Danish Modern” vision.
An alternative for design aficionados is the Hotel Alexandra (HC Andersens Boulevard 8; 00 45 3374 4444; hotelalexandra.dk ; from 1,200DKr/£150 for a double), an unashamed homage to the nation’s retro best, with a different designer room for every night of the week.
If you’d prefer a bit of extravagance to minimalist austerity then the lovingly refurbished, century-old Nimb (Bernstorffsgade 5; 00 45 8870 0000; nimb.dk ; doubles from 3,050DKr/£380) is a 13-room exotic hideaway straddling the Tivoli amusement park and downtown Copenhagen. With Moorish minarets meeting great timber floors, the redesign has seamlessly blended the real and surreal, the Danish and the Middle Eastern. Surprisingly, it all works.
Products from the likes of Georg Jensen, Normann Copenhagen and Illums Bolighus greet visitors at the airport and then never leave one’s field of vision. Design addicts should spend time in Hay House (61 Ostergade; 00 45 9942 4440; hay.dk ), which is packed to its art-nouveau rafters with contemporary Danish furniture and trinkets.
You’ll find something a little different at Designer Zoo (137 Vesterbrogade; 00 45 3324 9493; dzoo.dk ), which has a broad selection of handicrafts from around the country, in addition to the work of eight in-house designers. Choose from vases, jewellery, side tables and textiles, all priced affordably. More bargains are to be found in the second-hand shops along Ravnsborggade in Norrebro (eschew those styled as antique shops and head for the windows piled high with junk) and in the flea markets at Gammel Strand (Fridays and Saturdays through October), and Frederiksberg and Israels Plads (Saturdays through October).
Don’t miss the Danish Design Centre (HC Andersens Boulevard 27-29; 00 45 3369 3369; ddc.dk ; open 10am-5pm, Mon-Tue and Thurs-Fri; 10am- 9pm Wednesdays; 11am-4pm Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays; adults 50DKr/£6.20, students 25DKr/£3.10, under-12s free; free to all Wednesdays from 5-9pm). Designed by architect Henning Larsen – all glass on the outside and lightwood within – the building is somehow both airy and intimate, and has a good bookshop and calm café. The permanent collection of 20th-century design icons is currently complemented by the “It’s A Small World” exhibition, which explores the impact of global issues of sustainability, technology and consumption on the future of design. Another must-see is Finn Juhl’s House. Only open at weekends and on bank holidays, the home of the Danish design pioneer is a quiet joy; contact the Ordrupgaard museum to arrange a visit (Ordrupgaard, Vilvordevej 110, Charlottenlund; 00 45 3964 1183; ordrupgaard.dk ).