Feeling the winter blues? Come stay in Copenhagen, recurring winner of the World Happiness Report’s ‘happiest city’ title. Well, admittedly it slipped to third place this year, but with dashing historic landmarks, arguably the world’s best restaurant (more on that later), and a new Smith stay – part fairytale palace Nimb Hotel (see header image) – it’ll still leave you grinning from ear to ear.
So what makes this pretty Danish capital so damn cheery and super cool? Hop on your aesthetically pleasing bike and we’ll show you…
IT LOOKS LIKE A REAL-LIFE FAIRY-TALE
Princesses! Mermaids! Happy endings all round, right? Disney fans, cover your ears and yell ‘lalala’ now; native son Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were more ‘miserable ever after’: emperors with their dangly bits out, body-dysmorphic ducklings and worse. Curiously, he lived in Copenhagen’s cheeriest neighbourhood, colourful Nyhavn (in the red house, above) To his credit, he inspired the city’s famous Little Mermaid* statue, by Langelinie promenade.
*No, you don’t want to know how that story really ended.
IT’S A BIT ARTY
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (7 Dantes Plads, Copenhagen, +45 33 41 81 41), a hop, skip and chin stroke from Tivoli Gardens, has marbles, gilded mummy casings and Danish brushwork, collected by the inventor of Carlsberg (yes, the lager). The gallery’s winged building is also a looker. Arken Museum of Modern Art (100 Skovvej, Ishøj, +45 43 54 02 22) is an angular, mod-Danish shell filled with work by contemporary Nordic artists and international big-hitters such as Damien Hirst and Ai Weiwei.
IT HAS SOME OF THE BEST NEW NORDIC RESTAURANTS
Copenhagen’s petite, yet it’s home to 15 Michelin-star-holding eateries. Truly inventive tasting menus have shot Noma (above left; 93 Strandgade, Copenhagen, +45 32 96 32 97) into the World’s 50 Best Restaurant List’s top three since 2009; you may have to broker your firstborn for a reservation, and fast – in 2016 it’s reopening in Freetown Christiania (see below) with an urban farm. Höst is beloved for pared back, natural decor (above right; 41 Nørre Farimagsgade, Copenhagen, +45 89 93 84 09), but its nouveau-rustic fare is equally attractive.
ITS PARKS WILL GET YOUR PULSE RACING
Copenhagen’s home to the world’s two oldest amusement parks. Tivoli Gardens (+45 33 15 10 01) is on Nimb Hotel’s doorstep amid flower-flecked greenery, with an array of sedate-to-thrilling rides: a dragon-boating lake, zippy trains and loopy rollercoasters. Tivoli’s Christmas market (above) – a cinnamon-scented spread of snow-dusted stalls, lit by more than 16,000 lights – is a magical affair. Want something more historic? 16th-century Bakken (62 Dyrehavevej, Klampenborg, +45 39 63 35 44), is a 20-minute drive from the centre.
IT’S BRILLIANTLY BIKE FRIENDLY
The Danes are barmy about bikes. Copenhagen’s elevated roads, flat terrain and cycle-friendly traffic lights make it safe for two-wheeled trips. The Cycling Embassy of Denmark offer guided bike tours and Bike Copenhagen with Mike‘s whistlestop rides freewheel off well-travelled paths to experience hidden culinary corners and local hotspots. Want to bring a little cycle culture back home? The svelte-framed machines in Sögreni Bikes and Cykelmageren will get you back in the saddle ASAP.
IT’S GOT A BIT OF AN EDGE
Where other hippie havens have gentrified and fossilised, Freetown Christiania (Prinsessegade, Copenhagen, +45 32 95 65 07) has flourished, thanks to the Danes’ famously libertarian style. A five-minute taxi ride from the centre, Freetown is an artistic spot, crammed with galleries and cafés. Since it’s self-governing, ‘not quite cigarettes’ are somewhat popular; as such, this utterly unique showcase of an alternative lifestyle doesn’t allow photos.
IT’S A HYGGE HAVEN
You don’t have to get a Danish family to adopt you to experience the national concept of ‘hygge‘ (a sort of convivial cosiness). Hygge is in everything; hygge is life; and unlike happiness, it’s possible to buy hygge. Here’s our essential starter kit:
1 A teapot (we like home-grown brand Bodum‘s high-tech tea-makers),
2 Candles, all of the candles: Broste‘s are birch-bark-wrapped, knobbly and stripy by turns.
3 At least 10 pillows. Hay House has understated versions (above right), and Norrman Copenhagen‘s are coolly colourful (above left).
4 A mug. For tea or addictive Danish bedtime drink Cocio (slightly caramelised chocolate milk). Drink responsibly.
5 Socks. Guys, get a pair of NN07‘s finest; gals hit Democratique Socks for candy-coloured foot-gloves.
IT’S HOME TO A DAZZLING LUXURY STAY
Alternatively, get your hygge fix in Nimb Hotel‘s cosily chic rooms. From the outside, this stay is a domed, Moorish palace that’s elaborately illuminated after sundown, but indoors it’s tastefully outfitted in antiques and mod statement pieces, with six eateries, a ballroom-cum-bar and even a wine cellar. From some rooms you can watch the concerts on Tivoli’s open stage, and guests get free passes to the amusement park – rollercoasters, a bird’s eye view of stars (formerly Lady Gaga and Elton John) performing: what could be cooler than that?
Picture of Noma by Laura Lajh Prijatelj; bike image from of the Cycling Embassy of Denmark. Header image and picture of Tivoli Gardens courtesy of the copenhagenmediacenter.com