Laid-back Copenhagen

Laid-back Copenhagen

If your image of Scandinavia is limited to snowdrifts, pine trees and thick woolly jumpers, you haven’t had the delight of being there in summer. Pleasantly sunny and breezy while the rest of Europe is hellishly hot, the northern countries are suffused with a gorgeous white daylight that can last for more than twenty hours a day.

Laid-back Copenhagen is the ideal place to discover Scandinavia during the summer. Watch the beautiful and barely-dressed pass by the hip sidewalk cafés on medieval Læderstræde. Stop at one of the new bagel shops and grab a sandwich to eat among the college students sunning themselves in Kongens Have. Smuggle a couple of beers aboard the open-top boat trip that glides through the harbour and down the 17th- century canals (and past the statue of the Little Mermaid). Most of all, walk.

 

 

Founded in 1167 and centred around the same plot of land ever since, Copenhagen is a highly pedestrian- friendly city. Down its middle runs a 1.5- kilometre pedestrian-only shopping street called the Strøget. An hour or so’s stroll – depending on how many shopping stops you make – will take you from the classy (and pricey) joints near the Royal Theatre to the cheaper goods by City Hall Square. Take a detour to Kronprinsenstrade, where the hot young Danish designers show off their goods, or down Larsbjørnsstrade, to a student area full of music shops and second-hand clothing joints.

One of the great pleasures of Copenhagen in summer is the open-top boat tour, which you can catch either downtown by Parliament or near the touristy cafés of Nyhavn. On the hour- long tour, you can sit back and see the city as it was supposed to be seen – from the water. Keep an eye out for the Black Diamond, an intriguing trapezoid of dark glass now home to the Royal Library. You’ll also float past the Little Mermaid, a (very little) statue inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story that inspired the Disney movie, and through the canals of Christianshavn, created in the 1600s by a Danish king who loved Amsterdam. Once a shipbuilding and military centre, later left to deteriorate, Christianshavn is now in the process of being gentrified. Several high-tech and media companies are now located here, as are the Royal Drama and Theatre schools, and a new opera house is currently under construction.

At the end of the Strøget is Copenhagen’s summer highlight: Tivoli, a huge Victorian-era amusement park charming enough to melt the toughest cynic. Amid lakes and lush gardens, Tivoli’s style is old-world fantasy, with a peacock pantomime theatre, a real crystal palace, and elaborate Far East pavilions that owe more to 19th-century European imagination than the actual Far East. The nostalgic – or amorous – can ride the romantic old carousel, and the bold can try the Golden Tower, a heart-stopping 200-foot clear drop.

But Tivoli’s not just for kids – it contains over a dozen fine restaurants, including the uber-trendy Café Ketchup, where the Scandinavian salmon can’t be beaten. At night, Tivoli is a gorgeous festival of lights, with over 115,000 separate bulbs – no neon – in a rainbow of colours. Every Friday, a huge outdoor rock concert starts at 10pm, with Danish and international pop, rap, and progressive acts on the bill. Tivoli will also be one of the locations for the 25th annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival, scheduled for 4th–13th July.

If your tastes in music run more towards the underground, check out the punk and funk bands at Loppen, located in the “free state” of Christiania, a 10-minute walk from downtown. Christiania was founded in 1971 when a group of hippies took over an abandoned military base, and what resulted was an intriguing social experiment. The group created its own communal government and laws, and after more than thirty years of evolution Christiania now contains handicraft and organic shops, businesses including a female blacksmith, and some excellent places to eat. Spiseloppen and Morgenstedet are known for their vegetarian dishes.

Among teenagers and tourists Christiania is still best known for Pusher Street in which a variety of brands of hashish are sold openly, if not exactly legally. But if that’s not your scene, in crimson, violet, and sunshine-yellow stained glass hang from the ceiling and their vivid hues reflect off the water on the floor. The Museum for Modern Glass Art is billed as Europe’s first art museum with absolutely no daylight – and it is a singular experience for even the most experienced traveller.

If you’re an art and design enthusiast, don’t miss Copenhagen’s slick new metro, which opened in October 2002. Done in grey stone and stainless steel, it looks more like a high-tech Bang and Olufsen stereo system than an urban train network. On Friday and Saturday, it runs all night at 15-minute intervals.

And you may need to take advantage of those late trains, because the summer party scene in Copenhagen can be wild. Beach cafés like Pappahotel run late- night dance parties, and outdoor raves held in medieval bastions or disused industrial zones are also popular. Check the events section of the English language Copenhagen Post – or their website at www.inout.dk – for weekly updates. And don’t even think of arriving at a dance party before 1am.

And the following day you might like a peaceful day in the countryside, so consider renting a car and taking the Marguerite Rute (Daisy Trail), a winding tour through the romantic back roads of Denmark. You’ll pass castles, manor houses, medieval abbeys, fishing villages and the straw-roofed houses of Fyn, a rural island in the centre of Denmark. Or take an 45-minute train trip and cross the 16 kilometre Øresund bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, and explore Mälmo, Sweden.

Arrive back in the city by dusk, and enjoy one last Tuborg beer as the sun sets over the harbour. Who would have thought that Copenhagen was summer’s kind of town?

RH KAY XANDER MELLISH

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