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Where happy is a way of life

Built around waterways and dotted with urban gardens and parks, Copenhagen is one of the world’s greenest, cleanest and most bike-friendly cities, infused with a convivial, egalitarian spirit. Is it any wonder that the Danish capital regularly ranks as one of the happiest cities on the planet? Forget cars and public transport: Copenhagen’s compact downtown area is crying out to be explored on foot or two wheels. To get your bearings, head to the 106-metre tower of Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish parliament, offering a bird’s eye view of the city’s many landmarks. For historic charm, take a stroll down curved Magstraede or Snaregade, two of the capital’s oldest streets, lined with traditional, brightly painted façades. Or cross the canal to Nyhavn, probably the most photographed part of town, known for its iconic harbour and colourful terraced houses. End your walk on the scenic waterside: admire the neo-futuristic Opera House and pay a visit to the Little Mermaid, but only after a detour to Amalienborg Palace, the Queen’s official residence.

Cultural riches

Copenhagen’s National Museum wows visitors with a rich collection that spans the country’s entire history, including Stone Age tools, Viking treasures and medieval jewellery. For regal grandeur, roam the royal apartments of Amalienborg Palace or marvel at glittering crown jewels and other regalia, stored in the moated Rosenborg Castle. Are you more of an artsy type? The vast Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek brings together an eclectic mix of antique and modern artwork. Highlights include the largest collection of Rodin sculptures outside France and paintings by the likes of Gauguin, Van Gogh and Monet. Or visit the excellent Designmuseum Danmark, housing iconic pieces of world-famous homegrown designers like Arne Jacobsen, Jacob Jensen and Kaare Klint.

For street art, make your way to the hippie enclave of Christiania, established by squatters as an alternative society in 1971. If you’re visiting in the summer, don’t miss the free concerts on Sundays in front of Café Nemoland. How about the world’s second-oldest operating amusement park? Dating from 1843, Tivoli Gardens offers 20-odd thrilling amusement rides, including a century-old wooden roller coaster as well as carnival games and open-air stage shows in a magical setting.

Culinary powerhouse

In recent years, Copenhagen has become all but synonymous with foodie culture. Spearheaded by world-renowned Noma, the New Nordic cuisine movement has swept the Danish capital, putting high-quality, locally sourced ingredients, simplicity and purity in the centre of attention. And picking up Michelin stars left, right and centre ever since. Make sure to book well ahead to dine at the legendary Noma, named the world’s best restaurant four times, offering a 20-course set menu that changes according to season. For something a bit lighter on your budget, try one of the restaurants run by the Copenhagen Food Collective (or Cofoco), and eat your way through a creative tasting menu. Seeking traditional Danish fare? The unassuming Café Halvvejen, slap bang in the centre, is a great spot to sample Denmark’s famous open sandwiches (smørrebrød) or tasty meatballs (frikadeller).

Craft beer lovers shouldn’t miss the cult brewpub Mikkeller, run by the legendary Mikkel Borg Bjergsø in the heart of Vesterbro, or its little sibling, Mikkeller and Friends in the Nørrebro neighbourhood. Or check out Brus, which boasts 30-odd beers on tap in a former factory building. Fun fact: To Øl, the local brewery behind this enormous brewpub-restaurant was founded by two of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s former apprentices. Wine lovers, never fear! Although very little wine is produced in Denmark, Copenhagen is one of the best places in the world to sip natural wine. Check out the harbourside Den Vandrette, a cosy bar with candles and outdoor seating in the summer. Or try Pompette, meaning ‘tipsy’, a wine shop-slash-bar offering a large selection of exquisite vino at affordable prices.

Scandi design and vibrant nightlife

No holiday in Copenhagen is complete without visiting the vast pedestrianised shopping drag called Strøget, home to large international brands and homegrown designer shops. Don’t miss Illums Bolighus, a four-storey department store, packed with everything Scandinavian, from furniture and homeware to fashion, jewellery and beauty. Or pick up something unconventional you’ve never thought you’d need at Hay House, a fascinating showroom and flagship interior design shop for the renowned Danish design firm. For more retail therapy, make your way to the bohemian neighbourhood of Nørrebro and take a stroll on Jægersborggade. The bustling street is overflowing with independent and vintage boutiques, art galleries and organic food shops, plus local cafés and wine bars.

Looking for a night out to remember? The Meatpacking District (Kødbyen) in Vesterbro is probably your best bet. Once home to Copenhagen’s meat industry, the area has reinvented itself as a creative hub, teeming with boisterous bars, craft beer pubs and restaurants. Or head to Nørrebro and see for yourself what all the fuss is about – Ravnsborggade is a good place to start your evening. Choose from the neighbourhood’s dive bars and craft beer hotspots, rowdy underground venues and intimate wine and cocktail bars. For a classier experience, visit the historic Latin Quarter, harbouring gems like the world-class cocktail bar, Ruby.

Parks, beaches and day trips galore

Should you need a break from all the hustle and bustle, go for a walk amid flower beds and sculptures in King’s Gardens, overlooked by Rosenborg Castle. Or enjoy a bit of fresh air at the nearby Botanical Gardens, home to 13,000 species of plants as well as a tranquil lake and 27 glasshouses. In warmer months, take a refreshing dip in the Islands Brygge Harbour Bath in the heart of the city, or pedal down to Amager Beach (Amager Strandpark) and have a lazy day by Copenhagen’s wonderful artificial lagoon.

There are also many day trip options, all within easy reach of the city. Jump on a train to Roskilde, the former capital of Denmark, 30 kilometres to the west. The city is home to a UNESCO-listed cathedral with twin spires as well as the excellent Viking Museum, showcasing five original vessels and their reconstructed replicas. Or venture north to see the Renaissance Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, known as the Danish Versailles, or Kronborg Castle, aka Hamlet’s castle in Helsingør. Alternatively, hop over to Malmö in Sweden for a day, crossing the iconic Øresund Bridge.

Copenhagen airport

Copenhagen airport is conveniently located just 7 kilometres from the city centre and is easily accessible by public transport. Depending on where you’re going, choose from the various metro, train and bus links. The spacious, modern airport offers an abundance of shopping options, from design and fashion to electronics and travel items. Dining choices are plentiful and include craft beer and juice bars, cafés, restaurants and takeaway options.

Copenhagen weather

Denmark has a temperate climate and rarely sees extreme weather. The most popular time to visit Copenhagen is in the sunny summer months when daytime temperatures are normally above 20°C, and there can be as many as 17 hours of daylight. Spring and autumn are also mild, although the weather can be a bit unpredictable. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you might want to time your visit for May or September. Winters are cool and windy, with temperatures usually hovering around freezing. This is the best time to cosy up with a hot drink and experience hygge!

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