Copenhagen is a city awash with cool Scandinavian design, yet the image most often associated with it is of the colourful buildings and tall ships lining the waters of Nyhavn. Fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen used to live right there at number 20, as well as numbers
18 and 67, where he conjured up The Tinderbox, and The Princess and the Pea.
All of the houses have long since been beautifully renovated, and the port where ships from all over the world once docked is now full of swanky people, great restaurants and jazz rather than sailors and ladies of the night. As well as Nyhavn, Copenhagen is home to the famed family-friendly Tivoli Gardens amusement park, Strøget, the lively and long pedestrianised shopping street, and the unmissable statue of Andersen’s fabled Little Mermaid, which sits right on the edge of the city centre.
Copenhagen also has an extraordinary Jewish past as the community , which is now approximately 2,500, and was given exceptional protection by the Danish government during the Second World War. Certainly reason enough to visit the beautiful great synagogue, which was built in the 1800s, and Taim, the only kosher restaurant, which is at Chabad House.
We stayed at the Andersen Hotel, a family-run business, which manages to combine colourful and trendy design with a warm welcome. This funky hotel is ideally situated in Vesterbro, which is only a couple of minutes walk from Copenhagen Central Station and next to the popular Meatpacking District, a hip neighbourhood with bars, restaurants and boutiques.
The hotel’s reception area is a sea of pink and purple décor with an open fire, which was much appreciated on cold days. The front desk staff also added to the charm of the place, as they were very helpful and gave us a lovely corner room with a fabulous view over the Istedgarde. Every day between 5pm and 6pm is ‘happy hour’ at the Andersen, with guests treated to complimentary red or white wine, which got the hotel guests from around the world to socialise in a way most hotels rarely do.
One of the great things about Copenhagen is that you can walk to almost everything. Ready to explore the city, we walked from our hotel to City Hall Square, on the way passing the Tivoli Gardens, which come to life in the centre of Copenhagen. More than two dozen rides await you, in addition to live entertainment and more than 30 eateries, which is not to be missed.
Off City Hall Square is the main central shopping area, including Strøget and the super-swish Illum department store, but be sure not to miss the small charming side streets. Nyhaven, as I mentioned is charming, although be prepared to wait your turn as there are many enthusiastic photographers trying to get a perfect shot of the quayside.
Seeing the city from the water can also help you find your bearings before diving into the maze of historic streets on foot, although we decided to rest our legs and take the (or my) most popular type of tour, by boat.
This one-hour tour takes you around the canals and harbour to give you a relaxed view of the city’s best parts. Memorable sights included the Opera House and the ‘Kissing Bridge’, which connects the centre of the Danish capital with more residential neighbourhoods such as Christianshavn.
This tour also gave us our first glimpse of The Little Mermaid statue – and she is surprisingly tiny. We also visited Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish Parliament, which is the tallest in Copenhagen at 106 metres, the National Gallery of Denmark and the Botanical Garden, designed for peace and tranquillity.
If you’re looking for fresh food and produce, Torvehallerne in Copenhagen is the place to go.
You will find over 60 stands selling everything from fresh fish and meat to gourmet chocolate and exotic spices, as well as small places where you can have a quick bite to eat.
The unique smørrebrød, (an open faced sandwich), are a huge part of the Danish diet and they come in many different varieties – veggie, fish, pate or meat. We certainly loved smørrebrød.
Uformel means informal in Danish and the restaurant we found ourselves at on Saturday night was, but not when it came to the attention given to the food, wine or service.
We chose to have the four-course menu with excellent wine pairings and the very best fresh ingredients. Tartare of Danish beef with black pepper and tomatoes being one of many highlights, though it was the Danish apples with praline of hazelnuts I will remember.
Uformel is one of the new Nordic cuisine restaurants along with the renowned creations of chef René Redzepi at Noma. We may have to save up for a dinner at Noma or just stick with a smørrebrød next time.
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