The first-time visitor to Copenhagen could be left wondering which came first: Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales or the historic castles, the welcoming people and delightful environment that were his inspiration? When Crown Prince Frederik chose an Australian bride as his princess, it simply confirmed this city is a place where dreams really do come true.
Straddling a series of islands interlaced by scenic canals, Copenhagen is a visually appealing, compact city that is easily walkable and navigable by bike, so perhaps consider hiring a couple – or go tandem so you see the sights (even closer) together.
Crossing the length of the old city section is Strøget, the longest pedestrian street in the world. This two-kilometre meandering walkway is hugged by quaint old shops, lively bistros and cafés, modern Danish stores such as Illums, Red and Green, the prestigious Bang & Olufsen boutique showroom and several celebrated stores that are ‘must-visits’: premier silversmith Georg Jensen for classic jewellery, Royal Copenhagen for iconic porcelain with its own konditorei (patisserie) on the second floor, and Illums Bolighus, four floors of the latest in Danish homeware design. The three stores adjoin and bear the royal crest, announcing that they are ‘By appointment to HRH Queen Margrethe.’
The narrow cobblestone lanes and alleyways that veer off this popular thoroughfare each bring surprises of their own with stylish boutiques, cosy eateries, and pavement cafes until you reach the quaint and enormously picturesque 1673 harbour precinct of Nyhavn. Now a popular entertainment area, the waterway is edged with centuries-old gelati-coloured gabled buildings with appealing pavement cafés and alfresco bars popular with sun-loving Danes and visitors alike – so go there, simply to soak up the atmosphere. Nearby, man-made Ofelia Beach attracts summer sun-bathers, and those just wishing to catch up over a glass of wine at the umbrella bar on the boardwalk by the Royal Danish Playhouse.
A canal cruise from here should almost be obligatory, not just to help orientate yourself, but to see the city from a different perspective. It also includes some smart navigating through the man-made yacht-lined canals around the old commercial centre of Christianshavn with its mix of the old and the new and many restored warehouses, built in the early 17th century during the reign of King Christian IV to resemble Venice.
One of the top tourist attractions is the Tivoli Gardens in the heart of the city. In summer the gardens are filled with tulips, daffodils and cherry blossom and some four million visitors come to hear live singers and bands on the many open-air stages, dine in one of the many restaurants, or enjoy its many amusement rides and adventures.
Cuddle up on one of the most romantic rides – The Flying Carpet, based on one of Andersen’s many fairy tales. Adjoining the gardens is the überchic 14-room Nimb hotel housed in a century-old Moorish-style building overlooking the gardens. It is a member of the prestigious Small Luxury Hotels of the World and is in fact owned by Tivoli. Book early for dinner and take in the live Tivoli concert on Friday nights on the Terrasse or dine in the lovely intimate Louise restaurant where award-winning chef Allan Poulsen offers innovative Nordic fare.
In recent years, Copenhagen has received international fame for its fine restaurants mainly through the two Michelin-star Noma where head chef and partner René Redzepi has had his gastronomic dreams come true – being named best restaurant in the world for two years in a row. Housed prominently in a rustic warehouse on the waterfront of Christianshavn, Noma is famous for its innovative fare and interpretation of Nordic cuisine. You’ll also need to book months ahead for a table for two at Geranium where chef Rasmus Kofoed creates a unique French-Danish menu.
The staff at Noma recently collaborated with Momondo, a Danish travel site, to produce a little black book called simply ‘C’ – Copenhagen from Noma + Momondo. Arm yourself with one of these nifty guides and discover a few other local gems selected by these discerning locals.
For a quiet cocktail or two, head for the ‘super stylish and cosy’ Ruby, or nearby to 1105 with its feel-good space, Motown music and welcoming decor.
Restaurants worth a short detour from the CBD include Relae in the vibrant suburb of Nørrebro and, diagonally opposite in Jægersborggade, one of the city’s true gems, sister restaurant Manfreds & Vin, where tables are close and the vegetable-focused set menu is designed to share. Also in the ‘burbs, is the delightful Pixie Café where you can join the band of local beautiful tanned blondes sipping crisp rosé under shady trees in trendy Bopa Plads. This delightful locale is within easy walking distance of the well-equipped and immensely affordable Adina Apartments at Østerbro, owned by the same Australian family company as Medina Apartment Hotels. These spacious well-run apartments offer the practical amenities of having your own laundry and complimentary Wi-Fi, and with a supermarket next door and bakery nearby, the chance to indulge in some home cooking too.
But perhaps for the ultimate Danish tête-a-tête, watch the sunrise over the beach from Svanemøllestranden or Charlottenlund Fort a few kilometres away where on a clear morn you can see Sweden.
Getting there: Thai Airways has 38 flights a week to Bangkok from major Australian capital cities with daily onward connections to Copenhagen. Phone 1300 651 960 or visit thaiairways.com.au
Where to stay: Adina Apartments, Amerika Plads 7, Østerbro, adina.dk;
Nimb, Bernstorffsgade 5, Copenhagen, nimb.dk
Eat: Noma, Strandgade 93, Christianshavn, noma.dk
Geranium, Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, Østerbro, geranium.dk
Manfreds & Vin, Jægersborggade 40, Nørrebro, manfreds.dk
Relae, Jægersborggade 41, Nørrebro, restaurant-relae.dk
Nimb, Bernstorffsgade 5, Copenhagen, nimb.dk
Pixie Café, Løgstørgade 2, Bopa Plads, Østerbro,cafepixie.dk
Drink: Ruby, Nybrogade 10, rby.dk
1105, Kristen Bernikows Gade 4, Copenhagen, 1105.dk
What to read: Lonely Planet’s Guide to Denmark; C – Copenhagen from Noma + Momondo available from www.amazon.uk