Darla Logsdon

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COPENHAGEN

Copenhagen, Denmark, is a city with historical charm and a contemporary style that feels effortless. Copenhagen is an old merchants' town overlooking the entrance to the Baltic Sea; a socially progressive and tolerant city; a metropolis that manages to run efficiently yet feel relaxed; and a city with so many architectural treasures that it's known as the "City of Beautiful Spires." And given the Danes' highly tuned environmental awareness, Copenhagen can be enjoyed on foot or on a bicycle.

 

Geography

Copenhagen is a compact city. The old town is bordered on the west by Radhuspladsen (Town Hall Square), Tivoli Gardens and the Central Railroad Station; on the north by Orsteds Park and the Norreport Train Station; on the east by Kongens Have (Rosenborg Garden) and Kongens Nytorv; and on the south by Christianshavn.

The old town is surrounded by four colorful residential neighborhoods. Vesterbro stretches southwest from Radhuspladsen along Vesterbrogade. Farther north along Gammel Kongevej is the independent municipality Frederiksberg, which is bordered on the north by the hip, student-filled neighborhood of Norrebro. Finally, Osterbro stretches east of the old town along Osterbrogade. Beyond these neighborhoods are Copenhagen's suburbs and most of its parks and recreational areas.

History

After a series of disasters—both natural (fires and the plague) and man-made (wars with Sweden)—Copenhagen emerged in the middle of the 19th century as a modern city. It also became the capital of Denmark, which ratified its first constitution in 1849. The city's busy harbor and rapid industrialization fueled growth outside the old city walls.

About the same time, Copenhagen's artisans began making a name for themselves with silver and porcelain. A distinctly Danish sense of style that fuses aesthetics and function reached its fullest expression in the 20th century. The clean, elegantly modern lines of Danish design have since captured the world's attention and have spread from home furnishings (Fritz Hansen) to electronics (Bang & Olufsen) to toys (Lego building blocks) to architectural and interior design.

Potpourri

Copenhagen was not Denmark's first capital; that was Roskilde, which is about 19 mi/30 km west of Copenhagen and was the traditional burial site of Danish kings and queens.

Denmark is the oldest continuous monarchy in Europe. Queen Margrethe II, the current monarch, can trace her lineage directly to Gorm the Old, who ruled the Danes in the 900s.

When Hans Christian Andersen came to Copenhagen from his childhood home, Odense, he lived in the Nyhavn district of the city. He originally intended to become a ballet dancer, and so he spent a great deal of time at the Royal Theatre on Kongens Nytorv.

Almost every Danish brewery brews its own special beer, called julebryg, for Christmas time. It is available from the first Friday in November and is quite strong.

Every evening, 110,000 light bulbs turn the Tivoli Gardens into an Asian fairy-tale palace.

Copenhagen is one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world. Nine out of 10 people in Denmark own a bicycle, and nearly half of all Copenhageners cycle to work or school every day. Be careful to not walk on the bike lanes, which can look a lot like sidewalks.

Sightseeing

If it weren't for the unstable weather, Copenhagen would be the perfect European capital. It has beautiful parks, a picturesque harbor area and canals through the old town. We prefer to stroll around town, allowing plenty of time to admire the architecture (both old and ultramodern) and to chat with people in shops and small restaurants.

Start out at the redbrick Radhus, or Town Hall, and its square. The Wonderful Copenhagen tourist office is just a block away, and almost every main sight of the city is within a 20-minute walk. To get oriented, first walk the Stroget (pronounced STROY-et), the pedestrian shopping street around which many restaurants and sights are clustered. Stroget ends on Kongens Nytorv (King's New Square), where the ancient harbor of Nyhavn, directly ahead, is a must-see. This is also where the canal tours begin.

One of our favorite stops in the city is the 17th-century Rosenborg Palace, where the Danish crown jewels are kept. The castle is surrounded by a magnificent park that is perfect for strolling through on sunny days. There are plenty of other castles to explore in the surrounding area, the two most interesting being Frederiksborg Castle (near Hillerod) and Kronborg, Hamlet's Castle in Helsingor (Elsinore).

Dining

One of Denmark's culinary specialties is the "cold table" (kolde bord) lunch: hot and cold fish dishes accompanied by ice-cold schnapps or aquavit, and then meat-laden, open-faced sandwiches (smorrebrod) accompanied by beer and followed by all manner of cheeses and fruit.

A traditional Copenhagen dinner might feature meatballs (frikadeller), hamburger smothered in onions (hakkebof med log) or pork roast with red cabbage. Most dinners end with coffee or tea, sometimes complemented with pastries purveyed by konditori (a combination bakery, confectioner's shop and tearoom).

Dos & Don'ts

Do watch out for bicycles. On most main thoroughfares, bike lanes are clearly marked and bicyclists expect you to stay out of their way.

Do stop to see the newlyweds taking wedding photos on the steps of the Radhus. Civil marriage ceremonies take place there during the week.

Do take the kids. Copenhagen is a family-friendly city and you'll encounter children everywhere.

Don't litter. Denmark was "green" long before it was fashionable. Recycling, organic farming, energy conservation and alternative energy—especially wind power—have long been integral parts of daily life in Denmark.

Do see the Christmas show (juletid) at Tivoli if your trip is in the winter—it's a riot of lights with lots of stalls selling Christmas decorations and special glogg (mulled wine).

Geostats

Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of Australia, Canada, the E.U. and the U.S. need passports (but not visas) for stays of less than 90 days. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.

Population: 1,200,000.

Languages: Danish. English is widely spoken and understood.

Predominant Religions: Christian (Protestant).

Time Zone: 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+1 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October.

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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