Carlsberg don't do capitals, but if they did...
City Slicker - Copenhagen: The liberal spirit lives on in this Scandinavian city. Mark Rowe offers some top ideas for new and returning visitors
Sunday 11 September 2011
Christiania, Copenhagen's free city and high altar to hippiedom, has been under threat of closure ever since it was first colonised 40 years ago. But last month, just as the developers and bulldozers inched ever closer, the country's right-wing government surprised everyone by abruptly agreeing to grant the community the legal right to run its own semi-autonomous affairs.
The medium-term future of Christiania (christiania.org) is now secure, but some local observers fear it faces a fate worse than extinction – being turned into an even bigger tourist attraction than it already is: a human theme park where coach parties snap pictures and gawp at the quaint and peculiar inhabitants.
So, take the chance to visit while the flame of Christiania's original spirit still shines bright. Weekends are best: the flea markets are vibrant, and residents chew the cud over fires burning from metal drums. The early-morning drinkers are what riles the right-wing politicians.
But otherwise, Christiania remains what it has been for many years – an easy-going welcoming place, simultaneously tidy and ramshackle, unthreatening, populated by local families and with some offbeat exhibitions and good cafés, the pick of which is arguably the organic Morgenstedet (morgenstedet.dk).
The granddaddy of amusement parks is still going strong after 168 years – and with good reason. There are rides for all ages against a background of marching bands, royal carriages and evening rock concerts. There's an innocence and low-level commercialism to Tivoli that you won't find at the Disney equivalents.
The city's leading museum is full of world-class art and sculpture but the space itself is also thoughtfully and atmospherically designed. There's a glorious atrium, filled with tropical plants, and check out the Egyptian collection, reached by a descending corridor that echoes the entrance to ancient tombs.
The Little Mermaid (visitcopenhagen.com)
She's just that – little – but this diminutive statue is a pilgrimage site for many who grew up on the tales of Hans Christian Andersen. It takes 30 minutes to reach her from the city centre, but the waterside stroll takes in royal palaces and some of Copenhagen's most futuristic buildings.
One of the most beautifully positioned museums you could hope to find. It overlooks the grassy banks of the Skagerrak, the strait that separates Denmark from Sweden, an hour north of the city. Punctuated by statues and sculptures, the angular building's permanent collection ranges from Henry Moore to Roy Lichtenstein and is refreshed by temporary Modernist exhibitions.
The National Museum (natmus.dk)
A mind-boggling collection of Danish history and global artefacts. Among its strengths are the items brought back from 18th-century expeditions to Greenland – look out for delicate miniature walrus tusk carvings.
Copenhagen food market
Due to open this month, the Torvehallerne looks set to become a mouthwatering addition to the tourist scene, displaying meat, vegetables and delicacies from across the country. The location on Israels Plads should give a boost to the excellent but overlooked cafés and restaurants in the Norreport area, such as Kalaset at Vendersgade 16 (00 45 33330035) and Café Munk at Norre Farimagsgade 55 (00 45 3311 8383).
This stylish three-star hotel has just completed its refurbishment. Rooms are sleek and minimalist with comfy high beds, and the restaurant offers top-class dining. Its major charm, though, is the lengths to which the architects went to blend the building's interior with the surrounding streets.
Bella Sky Comwell Hotel
In this green and environmentally conscious city, many hotels are being particularly inventive. The Bella Sky Comwell Hotel has recently set up an apiary for 600,000 bees on the modernistic roofs of its two tilting towers. Not only can guests enjoy the resulting honey, but the vast colony is to play an important role in the city's urban ecosystem, pollinating its many chestnut and fruit trees.
Rasmus Kofoed, who heads the kitchen at this organic restaurant, is officially the world's best chef after winning the 2011 Bocuse d'Or earlier this year. He's also on the shortlist for Denmark's restaurant of the year, to be announced later this month. The changing menu can range from lamb soup to an emphasis on fish, with many dishes based on fresh, local vegetables.
Amagerforbraending ski slope
Construction begins at the start of next year on what, even by Danish design standards, will be a striking building – an incinerator plant doubling as a ski slope. The 90m tower will be shaped as a ski slope, with three different year-round mile-long trails. The building work alone should be worth a peek.
How to get there
Rail Europe (08448 484 064; raileurope.co.uk) offers return fares from London St Pancras to Copenhagen from £232 per person. The journey takes about 18 hours.
Wonderful Copenhagen (visitcopenhagen.com).
Kia Utzon-Frank, Goldsmith
"JC Jacobsen Garden at the old Carlsberg brewery is a beautiful little gem. Whatever the season, you'll probably have it to yourself. To walk around in this little quirky place, exploring plants and more hidden places, and to take a stroll around the little lake with its big weeping willow, gives me a long-lost feeling of childhood. It's like stepping into a fantasy world."
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