I never imagined a move to Europe planned for one year would turn into six and afford the opportunity to live not only in London but also in Copenhagen, a city I knew very little about but quickly fell hard for. Living in Copenhagen was such a contrast to London life, but equally en- joyable for many different reasons. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing Danes before I relocated there, which eased my transition to their lifestyle. It is a cosmopolitan city full of good looking Danes, and is known for its minimalist and functional design, numerous canals and colorfully painted houses on cobblestone streets.
THE DANES AND THEIR TRADITIONS
They respect family, love their traditions, speak impecca- ble English and relish a good Danish beer. They are envi- ronmentally friendly and physically active. They use bikes for transportation and not just exercise, pedaling to work daily in sun, rain or snow. Women rock their dresses and heels as they cycle out to dinner or for evening cocktails in the evenings—with their beautiful hair looking naturally “undone,” of course. This is one tradition I took back with me to the States. I now bike to the offce every day, never mind the frigid Chicago winters.
COPENHAGEN HAS A GREAT CAFÉ SOCIETY!
A wonderful and energetic café scene allows for great people-watching. True to the Danes’ love of the outdoors and lack of aversion to cold, the cafés have outside seating even in December, though heat lamps and cozy blankets are always nearby.
COPENHAGEN IS ACCESSIBLE.
Despite its relatively modest size, Copenhagen has plenty of hotels, restaurants, sights and activities to keep you busy for a long weekend. Here are some of my recommendations as you spend time in one of my favorite cities.
WHERE TO START:
One of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe, the Strøget is the main drag that connects Nyhavn Canal (New Harbor) and Kongens Nytorv (the King ’s Square) on the eastern side of the city center with Town Hall on the western side. Most of the hotels are situated on both ends of this east-west pedway, but to me the preferred area to stay is the east end near Nyhavn.
Situated on bustling Kongens Nytorv Square, the newly renovated Hotel D’Angleterre is the premium luxury hotel of Copenhagen. A city icon since 1755, the Hotel D’Angle- terre reopened as a stunning grand palace in May 2013 following a two-year closure for intense restoration. The hotel oozes sophistication and elegance, and has added contemporary refinement to its 92 rooms and suites. There’s a marvelous 1-star Michelin restaurant, Marchal, a fabulous champagne bar called Balthazar, as well as a spa and health club. With the best shopping and dining the city has to offer, this is the ideal location to begin your Copenhagen adventure. Like everything else in the city, lodging does not come without a hefty pricetag, so be prepared to spend $700 or more at Copenhagen’s finest hotels.
WHERE TO DINE:
Traditional and innovative Nordic cuisine tops the menu at world-class Søllerød Kro (left) and Geranium (right). Food and wine are synonymous with European travel, and Copenhagen is no exception. A gastronomy haven, it’s filled with restaurants featuring innovative experimental food representing the New Nordic cuisine, as well as those serving delicious traditional Danish offerings such as smørrebrød and herring. And don’t forget the locals’ love of bread and pastries in the morning: Copenhagen’s bakery scene is as popular ever. But then so are the outside markets. The Michelin Guide for Nordic Cities 2016 awarded a total of 20 stars to 16 restaurants in Copenhagen—the city’s highest annual total to date. Geranium tops the list with three stars, with two stars going to Noma and Restaurant Schønnemann.
A myriad of fabulous restaurants awaits you, but here are a few of my favorites. Rest assured, you will not be disappointed!
NOMA – This is the restaurant that blew up the food scene in Scandinavia. The name is a blend of two Danish words that translate to “Nordic food,” and René Redzepi and his creative team excel at their unique interpretation and presentation of Nordic cuisine. Noma is not a la carte. Rather, you have the choice of two di erent tasting menus with optional wine pairing. Reservations are hard to get, and not inexpensive!
Noma has been named the Best Restaurant in the World four times since 2010 by Restaurant Magazine and holds two Michelin stars. It is currently being reconcepted to have its own urban farm, so reservations were temporarily put on hold after the December 31, 2016 short-term closing. It reopens this year in a new location. In the interim, you can catch them in Tulum, Mexico, from April 12 to May 28, during which time they will be open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday.
KIIN KIIN – The only Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in the world outside Thailand is a fabulous and beautiful dining experience. Menus offer modern, personal interpretations of Thai dishes with vibrant flavor combinations. The Tasting Menu begins in the main floor lounge where the first course of a selection of street-food appetizers is served. It’s followed by a six-course seasonal menu served at your table in the restaurant. The wine pairing is optional, but I highly recommend it. Get ready to be blown away by the food, sleek décor and incomparable presentation.
RESTAURANT SCHØNNEMANN – Denmark is known for its smørrebrød, a traditional open-faced sandwich typically served on dense rye bread and topped with a multitude of items ranging from pickled herring to roast beef with remoulade. You will find this dish at restaurants and cafes throughout the city, but there are a few in particular that get rave reviews. My personal favorite is Restaurant Schønnemann. This historic cellar-like establishment has been serving herring, beer and schnapps since 1877. Tiny and crowded, with waiters wearing white shirts and ties and tables placed tightly together on sand-covered floors, it is only open for lunch.
Reservations are mandatory and taken by phone only. If you want to experience the best in Danish smørrebrød complemented by an extensive selection of schnapps, look no further.
SØLLERØD KRO – If you’re willing to travel a bit outside the city center, then consider an exceptional meal at the 1 Michelin star Søllerød Kro in the northern suburbs near Holte. Housed in a beautiful setting in a country road inn that opened in 1677, you feel transported to another time when dining here. Meals are served in one of three small but stylish dining rooms. The service is impeccable and the food divine. You have the option to order a la carte or choose a four–or six–course tasting menu.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO: THE CANALS AND NYHAVN
The best way to get the lay of the land is take a water-boat tour along the many canals surrounding the city. They last an hour, and it’s a re- laxing and informative way to see this colorful city from a di erent vantage point. This is an absolute must-do, no matter what time of year you visit, as the canal boats are heated in winter. At the end of your tour, grab a seat outside for a drink at one of the numerous cafes lining the waterfront at Nyhavn. The colorful and picturesque canal houses are behind you. Nyhavn is filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Jazz music plays in the background, and the people-watching is superb. In the summertime, this is the place to be, and you may have to wait a bit to grab a sunny seat close to the water.
Copenhagen is known for its minimalist and functional design, with clean and simple lines, and you definitely should check out some of the designer stores in town. Visit Illums Bolighus department store for beautifully Danish-designed home items, Georg Jensen for silver jewelry and cutlery, Royal Copenhagen for its classic blue and white hand-painted tableware, Hay for functional yet a ordable furniture and Normann for contemporary design furniture and accessories. Ilse Jacobsen creates very functional yet stylish rainwear worn by women throughout town, especially when they’re biking in wet weather.
WALKING AROUND TOWN
Amble along the Strøget pedestrianized shopping street from end to end and stop at one of the many cafes where you can sit outside and have a drink. The people-watching is excellent, as many of the cafes are situated on the most popular walking streets. A favorite local place a little o the beaten path is Gråbrødretorv, a public square in the center of town shaded by trees, just o the Strøget.
SPEND AN ENCHANTING EVENING AT TIVOLI GARDENS.
Tivoli Gardens is an internationally famous amusement park and pleasure garden in the center of town. Founded in 1843, it is beloved by the Danes. There is something for everyone: amusement rides for the family, evening concerts, a large dining scene and absolutely stunning scenery lit up with thousands of lights in the evening, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere. The park is open in summer, opens again for Halloween and then reopens from mid November until January through Christmas and New Year’s Eve. The decorations and creativity around the holidays are absolutely magical and a must-see when visiting at this time.
Take a half-day trip 35 minutes north of the city to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art near Humlebæk, where you can see contemporary art in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea. The artwork is located inside the museum and on the lawn. Expect to see many locals enjoying the view.
FAIRY TALE CASTLES
Frederiksborg Slot, the largest Renaissance castle in northern Europe, is 40 minutes north of the city in Hillerød. You can reach it by train or car. The castle complex is encircled by beautiful landscaped gardens as well as a small lake with a boat you can ride on. This is one of the most stunning castles I have seen, and I’ve seen a lot! The exterior is beautiful from all sides; you feel as if you’re in a fairy tale. The courtyard entrance with the large fountain sets the stage for a castle tour you can do on your own with or without an informative audio guide. Make sure to leave time to admire the Great Hall and the Chapel rooms.
There is so much more to see and do in Copenhagen, but here are some choice places and activities. I hope you’ll grab a map and explore on your own. You’ll see why so many people, yours truly included, have fallen in love with this wonderful city.
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