How would you describe Copenhagen? Liberal? Forward-thinking? Expensive?
The city famous for the 'Little Mermaid' (the clue is in the name but she is surprisingly small) is all of the above and more besides. Add sophistocated and picturesque into the mix and you'd be getting somewhere. David Walsh shares seven of his favourite things to do, see, eat and drink in Copenhagen.
1. Crafty brewers
It may be home to Carlsberg, one of the world's largest brewing companies, but Copenhagen has been swept by a new wave of home-grown craft brewers in the last decade. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Keller were trailblazers when they started a Denmark-wide phenomenon eight years ago with the opening of the Mikkeller microbrewery. Nowadays, they enjoy worldwide recognition with two bars in the Danish capital, one in San Francisco and one recently opened in Bangkok. An apero at the original Vesterbro bar is highly recommended, where you can make your way through 15 different Mikkeller microbrews on draught, including pilsners, IPAs and more.
A staple of the Danish diet, it is as much a quintessential part of Copenhagen as bicycles. Two or three of these open sandwichs, typically made with slices of buttered rye bread brimming with a plethora of fillings and toppings, is enough to curb your appetite. As it's served almost everywhere, it's difficult to tell where the best place is to try it. Given it's so competitive to get a table, I'd say Schønnemanns has the edge just now, offering a large menu with choices between the classics and some new interpretations.
Hauser Plads 16
3. Danish design
Ok, I for one have an unhealthy obsession for Swedish flat-pack furniture but it has to be said, the Danes have a real finesse for interior design. It's taken seriously by everyone in Denmark and showcased in every hotel and restaurant in Copenhagen. If you can't make it to the Dansk Design Center for the latest cutting-edge design exhibitions, window shop at the four-floored colossus that is Illums Bolighus where I mentally mapped out every aspect of my dream pad; from swish living room furniture to ingenius gizmos for my kitchen.
Amagertorv 10, Indre By
4. Two for one
Sweden is within spitting distance of Copenhagen, linked by the Øresund Bridge which spans 7.5 miles across the Øresund Strait. As well as handling cars, train services operate across the bridge to Malmö every 20 minutes via Copenhagen Airport, with connections further afield to Stockholm and Gothenburg. Only an hour away, this small medieval city, whose most recent claim to fame was the 2013 host of the Eurovision, offers a relaxed change of pace. Danish kroner are accepted in most places.
5. Nordic noir
Fans of crime series The Bridge will be very familiar with the Øresund Bridge but our obsession with Nordic noir really all started with the jumper-clad Sarah Lund and the powersuits of Statsminister Birgitte Nyborg. Peter and Ping take fans on the trail of the fictional detective and prime minister on their themed The Killing and Borgen tours to city locations that graced our TV screens. They also do The Bridge tours on request.
Tucked away next to Nørreport station, Torvehallerne is the foodie equivalent of Aladdin's cave. Set out in twin glass buildings, the sixty or so independent stalls ply their trade selling local delicacies, fresh meat and fish, cheeses, local produce and more, with lots of eclectic places to grab a bite to eat or a coffee and a pastry. Copenhageners are mad on porridge which is good as it is a speciality of Grød, just one of Torvehallerne's food stalls. Grød actually means porridge in Danish and sells its namesake piled high with colourful and off-the-wall accompaniments.
I made the mistake of visiting Christiania, one of Copenhagen's more unlikely tourist attractions, with my mother in tow. Pungent wafts of cannabis from the sellers on Pushers' Street did little to ingratiate the ideals of this 'free city' to her but it's a sheer wonder to see how this commune has existed since 1971 with little state interference. Although many who live there work outside the commune, it remains a peaceful, self-reliant community complete its own national art gallery and 'Now entering the EU' exit signs.