Copenhagen – Relaxation by Design

Peter Morrell enjoys a therapeutic weekend in the stylish Danish capital

Nyhavn

The easy drive to London City Airport, the short stroll from the long term car park, the hassle free check in and the SAS aircraft, with oodles of leg room, parked just a two minute walk from the departure lounge, immediately set the tone for a relaxing city break in Copenhagen.

The terms ‘relaxing’ and ‘city break’ are not normally used together but Copenhagen is the exception. After a smooth two hour flight and a fifteen minute journey on the super efficient metro into the centre, it’s evident that this is a capital city with a difference.

Road traffic is minimal, bikes are plentiful and the immaculately dressed locals exude an air of calm that contrasts sharply with the frenetic pace of central London. In fact, I never heard a car horn or siren during our entire stay.

Our metro stop was in Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square), an imposing open space that is the hub for several famous Copenhagen streets and buildings. The short walk from the Square to our hotel took us towards the harbour down the restaurant lined Nyhavn dock.

Nyhavn, once a place of ill-repute, is now the focal point for eating, drinking and generally having a good time. On the day we arrived, the sun was warm, the air was still and the eateries along the dock were abuzz with friends enjoying each other’s company and ample supplies of what is ‘probably the best lager in the World’.

The Admiral Hotel

For the next three days we would be staying at the historic Admiral Hotel, www.admiralhotel.dk right on a dock by the harbour. Its peaceful location couldn’t be better with panoramic views across the water to Copenhagen’s new Opera House.

Originally a grain warehouse, the Admiral has been carefully restored and the old charm retained alongside stylish, modern design. Each bedroom is different and features the massive wooden beams that are part of the original structure. Exposed brickwork and teak furniture, individually crafted to fit the shape of each room, and leather chairs look very state of the art yet give the rooms a really cosy feel.

As the weather was warm we left the balcony door open overnight and woke, after a very peaceful night’s sleep, to the sound of the waves lapping against the side of the dock and the dappled reflection of the sun on the water playing on the ceiling. It was idyllic.

But I am getting ahead of myself here. Back to Friday, when we kicked off our weekend tour with a visit to Tivoli Gardens www.tivoli.dk. Getting there from the hotel involved a leisurely stroll along the Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping area. It starts at Kongens Nytorv and finishes at Rådhuspladsen, the Town Hall Square. Along the way the main Strøget and the side streets off of it have an eclectic mix of high-end designer shops and avant garde boutiques while the street entertainers provide an amusing distraction.

Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is brimming with old-fashioned charm. Founded in 1843, it is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks and was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s American theme parks. Despite some very modern high tech rides, Tivoli still retains its warm, old world character. Eating possibilities in the park are many and varied, from fast food to gourmet restaurants, so you need to allow a few hours and take time to soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the rides and sample the food.

To get in to Tivoli we used the Copenhagen Card (CPHCARD). This gives you free entry to more than 60 museums and attractions throughout the Greater Copenhagen area and The Admiral Hotel

includes free transport by train, bus and Metro. You can order the cards, which have a duration of 24 or 72 hours, in advance of your trip and this will give you a free ride from the airport on the Metro. For card prices, more information and to order visit www.cphcard.com

Our first port of call the next day was The National Museum of Denmark www.nationalmuseet.dk Housed in the former Prince’s Palace, is an impressive collection of artefacts from Danish pre-history, including the complete skeleton of an Auroch, a huge animal that modern cattle are descended from, as well as more contemporary exhibits.

It was then a brisk walk across town to Israels Plads where a small but thriving flea market is held every Saturday morning. From there a casual stroll to the University district took us to The Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke), which is both the cathedral of Copenhagen and the National Cathedral of Denmark.

Back down the Strøget to Nyhavn and time for a late lunch and the opportunity to eat Danish style. Nearly all the restaurants feature the ubiquitous Smörgåsbord, or open-faced sandwich, that is almost the national dish and the ideal daytime snack. The choice of both breads and toppings that make a Smörgåsbord is vast but, typically, would be smoked salmon or prawns on rye bread together with a small salad.

The Opera House

Then it was back to the shopping street for some retail therapy and glancing in some shop windows I realised why Denmark is famed for its designers. The evidence is all around. It’s not just clothes but everything from the stunning new Opera House to household items and even the street furniture that exudes simple and elegant lines and style.

A well-deserved rest back at the hotel after a full but relaxing day of sightseeing and it was time to think about dinner. Eating in Copenhagen, as in any major city, can be expensive but there are restaurants to suit every pocket including many serving ethnic food. But, wherever you choose, you will always get good and friendly service. If you feel like treating yourself then the Salt restaurant www.saltrestaurant.dk in the Admiral Hotel has an excellent reputation and you can enjoy some delicious fish, meat and vegetarian dishes as well as extensive views across the harbour.

Our last day brought yet more bright sunshine and the perfect weather for a leisurely walk from the hotel along the harbour to Copenhagen’s most famous landmark of all, The Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue). Donated by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, to honour Hans Christian Andersen, it was unveiled in 1913. The statue has survived despite being vandalised on numerous occasions, suffering all manner of indignities from being painted to decapitation.

Amalienborg Palace Square

Our final stop was the Amalienborg Museum in Christian VIII’s Palace, one of four identical palaces set around a large square and a stone’s throw from our hotel. Arriving just before noon we were just in time to see the pageantry of the changing of the guard.

The elegant rooms of the palace have been laid out as they would have been for past kings. The rooms have an intimate feel, with personal possessions like pipes and family photos on display creating the atmosphere of Palace life so that visitors can imagine for themselves what it was like to have lived there.

Leaving the palace marked the end of our whirlwind break and it was time to board the metro for the short ride back to the airport. We had packed so much into our three days and enjoyed every minute of it. Best of all, and to our surprise, we felt relaxed, refreshed and in good shape for the week ahead.

Our only regret was not having time to visit the many more places that Copenhagen and the surrounding area has on offer.

Links

Scandinavian Airlines   www.flysas.com
 Copenhagen Tourist Information  www.visitcopenhagen.com
 Denmark Tourist Information  www.visitdenmark.com
 The Admiral Hotel  www.admiralhotel.dk
 The Salt Restaurant  www.saltrestaurant.dk
 The CPH Card  www.cphcard.com
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