Photo credit: Flickr - kmaschke
Copenhagen is an eco-friendly city focused on the arts, design, sustainability, tradition and cycling, all of which can easily be explored when visiting. By tailoring your trip around these experiences, you’re immersing yourself in local culture. To help you plan a worthwhile trip to Copenhagen, here are some top suggestions.
Fun fact: In Copenhagen there are 540 kilometers (335 miles) of bike trails, 52% of residents use the bike as their main mode of transportation, and 75% of locals bike in all types of weather. Additionally, it’s home to the most cycled spot in the world, the Queen Luisa Bridge, which on average gets about 36,000 people cycling over it per day. Cycling isn’t just a way for locals to get some exercise or enjoy the outdoors, it’s a way of life. The city is working hard to be officially declared the world’s biking capital by 2015, although after seeing the myriad cyclists riding around and the extremely bike-friendly infrastructure of the city it’s hard to believe they’re not already. Explore the city by bike or take a bike tour like Bike Copenhagen with Mike and you’ll be doing as the locals do and really getting a feel for the pace and vibe of the capital.
Claus Meyer is the father of New Nordic cuisine, a sustainable way of eating that is taking over Copenhagen. There is an entire manifesto dedicated to the food philosophy, with the basic principles calling for locally-sourced, seasonal and nutritious ingredients, with a focus on fresh vegetables, seafood, game and ancient grains as well as foraging and not producing waste. To put it simply, ingredients are pure, simple and fresh and showcase a region’s unique terrior. The world-renowned Noma– which was ranked best restaurant in the world by “Restaurant” in 2010, 2011 and 2012 and second best restaurant in the world in 2013 – is one place you can experience this type of eating, as is Restaurant Radio, which offers a three or five course tasting and wine pairing menu of innovative dishes that play with texture and flavor combinations. Manfreds & Vin is another top choice for New Nordic Cuisine, showcasing natural wines, local beers and dishes made up of locally-grown biodynamic vegetables, roots and meats.
Another culinary experience not to be missed when visiting Copenhagen is sampling Smørrebrød, traditional Danish open faced sandwiches typically enjoyed with local beer or snaps (aquavit). With a history dating back to the 19th century, the dish features a sourdough-based rye bread (although some recipes call for white) topped with various combinations of meat, seafood, vegetables, cheese and spreads. Some traditional combinations include “Shooting Star” with butter-fried white bread, steamed white fish, fried white fish, shrimp, mayo, red caviar or lumpfish roe, and a lemon slice; “The Veterinarian’s Midnight Snack” with rye bread coated in butter or duck fat, liver pate, salt beef, a slice of aspic and red onion rings; and “Sun over Gudhjem” with smoked herring topped with egg yolk, radish and chives. Some top places to enjoy Smørrebrød in Copenhagen include Peter Liep’s House, Orangeriet, Tivolihallen, Aamanns and Restaurant Kronborg.
Copenhagen is home to a rich jazz heritage, with the city being a popular homebase in Europe during the 1960s for popular American jazz artists like Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Kenny Drew. As locals began to grow an affinity for the sound, more musicians came over from America to share their talent. La Fontaine is Copenhagen’s oldest jazz venue, featuring live jazz from Friday to Sunday from 10pm to 2am. Additionally, Copenhagen JazzHouse has live jazz, strong cocktails and an extremely social atmosphere. For a mix of jazz and sustainable cuisine, The Standard is the creation of food entrepreneur and father of New Nordic Cuisine Claus Meyer and Danish jazz legend Niels Lan Doky. Another fun way to experience jazz in the capital is by attending the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival. Taking place since 1979 on the first Friday in July, the event puts on about 600 jazz concerts around the city.
Renowned for its classic furniture designs like the Egg Chair and sustainable Neo-Modernist buildings incorporating steel, glass, wood, natural stone and brick into the design, there are many ways to explore Danish design and architecture in Copenhagen. First take a walk -- or bike ride -- around the city and view architectural highlights. For example, the Opera House was designed by architect Henning Larsen in Jura Gelb limestone with one of the world’s largest canopy roof structures and an arrival plaza that stretches into the harbor. Another interesting building is The Crystal, a free-standing eco-friendly building created by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects with a low energy consumption and a crystalline appearance that seems to be floating. Some other architectural gems include The Black Diamond, Royal Theater Playhouse, Ørestad Gymnasium and The Danish Jewish Museum.
Another interesting design experience is visiting the 1960 Radisson SAS Royal Hotel and exploring room 606, which is dedicated to “the godfather of Danish design,” Arne Jacobsen -- who designed the hotel to be Copenhagen’s first skyscraper -- through original furniture and decor. You may also want to stay at the Hotel Fox, a design hotel featuring 61 original rooms all with individual decor and artwork created by 21 international artists.
Copenhagen is home to a vibrant arts scene, with myriad creative and talented locals. To experience this facet of the culture for yourself, start by the exploring the many galleries and institutions in the Meatpacking District. While V1 Gallery challenges normalcy through thought-provoking and experimental works in a range of platforms, Dask focuses on photography and its possibilities. Warehouse 9 is another must-see art venue, testing societal boundaries through bizarre exhibitions, performance and queer-themed events. Moreover, Copenhagen is full of art museums, some of which include the Arken Museum of Modern Art, with modern and contemporary works from both up-and-coming and established artists; the National Gallery of Denmark, Denmark’s largest art museum; and the David Collection, which houses the largest collection of Islamic art in Scandinavia.
Please tell us what your favorite Copenhagen experience below.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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