One of the most stylish cities in Europe comes into its own at Christmas

WHY GO NOW?

WHY GO NOW?

With the nights drawing in and the temperatures falling, there is something magical about Copenhagen in winter. As Christmas approaches, homes and shops are decorated with candles, and there are plenty of festive activities to enjoy. Tivoli Gardens, at 3 Vesterbrogade (00 45 33 15 10 01; www.tivoligardens.com), will reopen from 12 November until 23 December for its annual Christmas market, skating on the lake, and visits from Santa. Tivoli will open 11am-11pm (later at weekends); admission DKK65 (£6). The Royal Danish Ballet will perform the Nutcracker at Tivoli's Concert Hall from 20 November to 11 December.

BEAM DOWN

Copenhagen's Kastrup airport is served from numerous UK airports: easyJet (0871 750 0100; www.easyjet.com) flies from Stansted, and, until 14 December, daily from Bristol and Newcastle. British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) flies from Heathrow and Manchester; BMI (0870 60 70 555; www.flybmi.com) flies from Edinburgh and Glasgow; Maersk (020-7333 0066; www.maerskair.com) flies from Gatwick; and SAS (0870 607 2772; www.scandinavian.net) flies from Birmingham, Heathrow and Manchester. Trains to the Central Station, Kobenhavn H, leave the airport several times an hour, take 12 minutes, and cost DKK51 (£4.75) for a return ticket. A taxi costs around DKK200 (£18.70), and takes about 20 minutes.

INSTANT BRIEFING

Copenhagen is a compact city, with an alluring waterside setting. Most visitors spend their time in the centre, an area between the squares of Radhus Pladsen and Kongens Nytorv to east and west, with canals roughly forming the other boundaries. But the redeveloped areas of Vesterbro and Norrebro are increasingly trendy, and offer plenty of shopping, restaurants and nightlife.

The Tourist Office at 4 Vesterbrogade (00 45 7022 2442; www.visitcopenhagen.dk), has a good supply of maps and information. It opens 9am-4pm Monday toFriday and 9am-2pm on Saturday during the winter. It also sells Copenhagen Cards, which are valid for 24 or 72 hours and allow free or reduced entrance to a number of - but not all - attractions in and around the city, as well as free travel on the Metro, city buses and airport trains; cards are also available at the airport. Cards cost DKK199 (£18.60) for a day, DKK399 (£37.30) for three days.

REST ASSURED

Many of the city's hotels are located around Radhuspladsen, the Town Hall Square, convenient for many of Copenhagen's attractions and the Central Station. These include the four-star Imperial at 9 Vester Farimagsgade, (00 45 331 28000; www.imperialhotel.dk), whose unremarkable façade hides an attractive and comfortable interior. Double rooms start at DKK1,895 (£177), with breakfast an extra DKK95 (£9) per person.

The newest of the hotels in this area, and more contemporary in its design, is The Square at 14 Radhuspladsen, (00 45 3338 1200; www.thesquare.dk). Prices start at DKK1,260 (£117) for a double, including breakfast.

Of the hotels down by the water, 71 Nyhavn (00 45 33 436200; www.71nyhavnhotel.dk) - this is its address as well as its name - remains popular; double rooms here start at DKK1,290 (£120), breakfast included. And round the corner the Admiral, at 24-28 Toldbodgade (00 45 3374 1414; www.admiralhotel.dk) has double rooms from DKK1,365 (£127), singles from DKK1,100 (£103), with an extra DKK105 (£10) for a buffet breakfast.

MUST SEE

The newest attraction in the city is the Jewish Museum (00 45 3311 2218; www.jewmus.dk), designed by Daniel Libeskind, in the Royal Library Garden near Christians Brygge. The museum's contents illustrate the history and life of Denmark's Jewish community. It opens 1pm-4pm Tuesday to Friday and 10am-5pm at weekends; admission is DKK40 (£3.70). The Copenhagen Card is not valid here. The Jewish Museum is on the island of Slotsholmen, next to the Royal Library and its modern extension, known locally as the Black Diamond, on Soren Kierkegaards Plads (00 45 3347 4747; www.kb.dk).

Close by is Christiansborg Castle, now the seat of the Danish parliament, or Folketing. This is open to the public, although the mandatory guided tours are only in Danish. Across the canal is the National Museum at 10 Ny Vestergade (00 45 3313 4411; www.natmus.dk), which contains some interesting exhibits depicting the development of Danish life, as well as its cultural history. It opens 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday, admission DKK25 (£2.40), free with a Copenhagen Card.

Denmark's Royal Family lives in Amalienborg Castle (00 45 3312 2186), four separate buildings around Amalienborg Plads square, and apparently completely free of security constraints. A small museum in one of the palaces contains replicas of the studies in which four Danish kings used to work, and a collection of royal memorabilia. It opens 10am-4pm Tuesday to Sunday, from 11am from November. Entrance costs DKK45 (£4), and a combined ticket for this and Rosenborg Castle at 4A Oster Voldgage (00 45 3315 3286; www.rosenborg-slot.dk), where the crown jewels are displayed, costs DKK80 (£7.50). These are free with the Copenhagen Card.

MUST BUY

Copenhagen's pedestrianised shopping street, Stroget, contains some of the city's finest design stores, including Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, Georg Jensen for cutlery and silverware, and Holmegaard for glassware; these are all clustered around Amagertorv. The department store, Illum, also has a branch here. The Danish Design Centre at 27 Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard (00 45 3369 3369; www.ddc.dk) is part exhibition centre, part shop with a choice of books and stylish gifts.

For interesting boutiques, walk down Istedgade, the main street in the former red-light district of Vesterbro. It might also be worth bearing in mind that the shopping facilities at Copenhagen airport outclass those in most other European airports, so there is plenty of opportunity to spend more cash as you wait for your flight home.

MUST EAT

Central Copenhagen contains 10 Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as a vast array of more casual eateries, so there is no excuse for failing to find a decent meal. One of Denmark's most innovative chefs is Torben Olsen, and he and his protégés are responsible for several of the city's best restaurants, serving contemporary Danish food and plenty of fish. These include Olsens at 18 Ved Stranden (00 45 3314 6400; www.restaurantolsen.com) and Konrad at 12-14 Pilestraede (00 45 3393 2929; www.restaurantkonrad.dk). Along the same street is Café Ketchup (00 45 3332 3030; www.cafeketchup.dk), a more casual establishment, with reasonable prices and a menu that combines Danish dishes with oriental flavours.

Noma, at 93 Strandgade (00 45 3296 3297; www.noma.dk), is an increasingly popular place to eat. It serves traditional Nordic dishes; the ingredients come only from Denmark, Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Iceland.

INTO THE NIGHT

Norrebro Bryghus is a fabulous microbrewery at 3 Ryesgade (00 45 35 30 05 30; www.noerrebrobryghus.dk) with a good selection of beers. On a more sophisticated, if traditional, note, the Plaza Library Bar at 4 Bernstorffsgade (00 45 3314 9262; www.accorhotel.dk) is the place to be seen ordering a cocktail. For a bar and club combined, go to Vega at 40 Enghavevej in Vesterbro (00 45 3325 7011; www.vega.dk), housed in a converted trade union headquarters, and with a reputation for attracting big-name bands and international DJs.

Additional research by James Harbidge

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