Bridging the gap between Copenhagen and Malmo

Get the best of both worlds by visiting two cities in different countries in one weekend. A tall order? The bridge linking Denmark to Sweden makes it easy, says Frank Partridge

Why go now?

The bridge link across the Oresund means you can combine the capitals of Denmark and southern Sweden in a weekend. Copenhagen is becoming Europe's coolest capital, with the Continent's biggest jazz festival ( www.cjf.dk for programme details), new designer museums, and ground-breaking architecture. This spring it'll become the capital of kitsch when the city stages the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday 12 May. It's a sell-out, but there's still space at the dress rehearsal at Parken Stadium on the Friday night. If it rains, the revamped home of the Danish football team has a new sliding roof. In Malmo, the link across the sound with the rest of Europe has injected fresh vigour.

Beam down

There are 50 daily flights to Denmark from the UK. Varig, of Brazil (0845 603 7601; www.varig.com), flies thrice-weekly from Heathrow to Copenhagen. Go (0845 605 4321; www.go-fly.com) has four flights daily from Stansted, from around £70 return. BA (0845 773 3377; www.britishairways.com), Maersk Air (020-7333 0066; www.maersk-air.com) and SAS (0845 6072 7727; www.scandinavian.net) fly to Copenhagen from Heathrow and Gatwick, but fares are usually more expensive. BA also flies from Belfast, Birmingham and Newcastle; SAS from Birmingham and Manchester; and British Midland (0870 607 0555; www.britishmidland.co.uk) from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Trains run six times an hour to Copenhagen's Central Station from the airport. A cheaper alternative is the twice-daily Ryanair (0870 333 1231; www.ryanair.com) service from Stansted to Malmo, return fares as low as £55.

Get your bearings

The centre of low-rise Copenhagen is compact; most sights are within walking distance. The main east-west route is the pedestrian street of Pilestraede. It's worth buying a Copenhagen Card (about £20 for 48 hours) for unlimited use of the city's excellent public transport system, and reduced admission fees to attractions. The tourist information office is near the Tivoli Amusement Park at Bernstoffsgade 1 (00 45 70 22 24 42, though there can be long delays before a human being answers; www.woco.dk).

Check in

Cheap and comfortable hotels are rare in Copenhagen, but it pays to book in advance and haggle on the phone ­ especially if you're staying over a weekend outside the peak season. A number of cheaper hotels can be found south and west of the station; the Cab Inn Copenhagen is a bit further out, at Danasvej 32-34 (00 45 33 21 04 00), but offers good-value B&B for around £50 per person. At the Neptun Hotel near Nyhavn, at Sankt Annae Plads 14 (00 45 33 96 20 00), the room rate of around £120 a night includes an all-you-can-eat breakfast. At the Hilton, which opened in February to become Copenhagen's first airport hotel (00 45 32 50 15 01; www.hilton.com), a covered walkway takes you directly from international arrivals to the hotel foyer. Normal rates are £150 a night or more. Prices in Malmo tend to be lower than in Copenhagen; the agency Destination Malmo (00 46 40 10 92 10) offers plenty of choice. The pick is the Hotel Kramer (Stortoget 7; www.scandic-hotels.com) in the heart of the city; B&B costs around £75 per person.

Icing on the cake

The Oresund Bridge is one of Europe's engineering masterpieces. The approaches, the tunnel, the man-made island and the bridge span almost 10 miles. At 650ft, the tower on the Copenhagen side is the highest point in Denmark. Debts on the seven-year project will take the two countries another 30 years to repay. The car tolls (about £20) are high, but the planners are hoping that in time it will become the centrepiece of the new Oresund economic region, combining eastern Denmark and southern Sweden, and will bring Scandinavia closer to the heart of Europe. The best places to see it are along the coast road from Malmo, or by taking the train instead of the hydrofoil across the sound.

A walk in the park

Take a 29 bus to Esplanaden for a walk along Langelinie. Stroll through the Churchill Park, pass the Gefion fountain, Copenhagen's largest monument, and continue to the waterfront via the Kastellet, a partially ruined old fortress in parkland. At the Langelinie Quay, the object of the exercise becomes clear...

Write a postcard

Considering her international fame, the Little Mermaid is remarkably unimposing, but no trip to Copenhagen seems complete without a visit. She's 88 years old now, and looking a little the worse for wear, having lost her right arm and her head (twice) and been liberally sprayed with paint. Cards and stamps are available at the shops and cafés along the waterfront.

Bracing brunch

If last night's dinner is still hanging heavy, sample a variety of small portions of Denmark's national dishes at Peder Oxe, Grabrodretorv 11 (00 45 33 11 00 77). Dip into herring, salmon, pork cutlets with pan-fried potatoes or Danish hash, and superb salads. Café Ketchup, Pilestræde 19 (00 45 33 75 07 55) is lively and inexpensive and will serve you a quick snack or an à la carte meal. If you haven't time for a prolonged sit-down, there are many cafés in the streets behind Stroget and Kobmagergade.

Take a ride (to Malmo)

Malmo is being marketed as Copenhagen's new Swedish "twin", although the Danes will take some convincing: it is one-sixth the size of the Danish capital and lacks its international pretensions. The "old" route is across the water by hydrofoil. The new Oresund Bridge has seen off one ferry company, but the survivor ­ Scandlines (00 45 33 12 80 88) ­ has cut its fares to about £5 return, and gets you to the centre of Malmo in 45 minutes. It leaves from Havnegade once an hour. Taking the train via the bridge (three times an hour in both directions) is about twice the price, but seven minutes quicker. Not sure? Go by one and come back by the other. The tourist office in Malmo (00 46 40 34 12 00; www.malmo.se) is in the central railway station. Like Copenhagen, Malmo crams its "must see" sites into a compact area.

Take a hike

Malmo has an abundance of parks, some of them traversed by canals, but if you're seeking wide open spaces, take bus 10 from the train station on the 20-minute bus ride (fare Skr14, about 95p) to the old fishing village of Limhamn, with fine beaches, traditional houses, and a very Swedish bathing house with sauna ­ perfect if the weather's too bracing for a dip in the sea. In summer, you might prefer to get there on two wheels along the coast road. Bicycles can be hired from Fridhems Cyklar (Tessinvag 13; 00 46 40 26 03 35) for about £4.50 a day.

Lunch on the run

You have the luxury of being able to decide in which country to lunch. In Malmo, where lunch prices tend to be fixed at £7-£10, Café & Restaurang Konsthallen (00 46 40 34 12 93) in the City Art Gallery at St Johannesgatan 7, has great lunches and cakes, served during the summer in an attractive courtyard.

Copenhagen is the capital of the open sandwich ­ "Smorrebrod" is a thin slice of buttered black rye bread, liberally topped with fillings. "Weinerbrod" is an equally toothsome pastry. Ida Davidsen, Store Kongensgade 70, has a range of 250 smorrebrods listed on a 6ft-long menu. Good quality, but pricey. Pasta Basta, at Valkendorfsgade 22 offers a buffet lunch for about £7, with a choice of nine home-made pastas and fresh salads.

Sunday morning: go to church

Copenhagen has many beautiful churches, but the Trinitatis Church on Pilestræde offers a unique combination: church, landmark, view and exhibition in one. Next to the church you'll find Rundetarn, The Round Tower, built as an observatory in 1642. You get to the top, not by stairs, but by a 209m-long, spiralling, cobbled pavement, leading to one of the city's best viewpoints. Halfway up, take a breather in the newly restored exhibition hall, which was once the king's library. Admission to the tower is about £2.

Dining with the locals

There are two good restaurants facing Copenhagen's waterways. At Kanalen, Wilders Plads 2 (00 45 32 95 13 30), traditional Danish cooking meets French cuisine. It's quaint, but rather expensive (the cheapest main course is £15). Akvavit, Gammel Strand 44 (00 45 33 32 88 84) is more fish-oriented, and specialises in snaps, the local fire-water, usually drunk ice-cold. For a less expensive traditional Danish menu and a friendly atmosphere, try Det Lille Apotek, Store Kannikestræde 15 (00 45 33 12 56 06) . If you decide to head back to Malmo ­ or you are staying there ­ the place to eat is Arstidema (00 46 40 23 09 10), in a 16th-century cellar vault on the corner of Frans Suellsgatten and Stortoget; traditional Swedish fare at very reasonable prices.

An aperitif

Nyhavn , Copenhagen's picturesque harbour area, combines multi-coloured houses with wooden boats. It is the place to go for a drink either before or after dinner, when the bars and cafés spill on to the waterfront. If it's cold or wet, try Hviids Vinstue on Kongens Nytorv, patronised by actors and staff from the nearby Royal National Theatre.

Window shopping

Look no further than Copenhagen's two central pedestrian thoroughfares, Stroget, the first and longest pedestrianised street in the world, and Kobmagergade , containing the best of Danish design. Strictly speaking, Stroget is not a street at all, but the collective name for a chain of thoroughfares and squares, each of which is marked by street-signs and local maps, while Stroget is not. Start at the Town Hall square (Radhuspladsen). Bodum's glassy HQ is great for kitchenware, and sound designer Bang & Olufsen's showroom is a must for hi-fi fans. The maze of side streets offers a wealth of clothing, shoe and antique shops. You may find window shopping is all you can do, because on Saturdays most shops close around 4pm ­ and do not open at all on Sundays.

Cultural afternoon

A gift to Copenhagen from the founder of the brewery, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, at Dantes Plads 7 (00 45 33 41 81 41) offers a varied palate of ancient and modern. The Egyptian and Etruscan sections are wonderful, and there are collections of Rodin sculptures and French Impressionist paintings. The gallery has a conservatory, where coffee and light snacks are served. It is open 10am-4pm; the admission charge of £3 is waived on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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