Saturday 25 February 2012

Cool Copenhagen

I paid a visit to this lovely lady last week ...

... mostly because, thanks to some borderline-obsessive Danish TV-drama viewing over the past year (The Killing and, more recently the brilliant Borgen), Copenhagen has started to feel something like my virtual home and the sounds of Danish as familiar as a mother-tongue. I have learned to say yes, no, fine, thank-you, sorry, as well as swear quite fluently in Danish.

As it happened the latter skill proved unnecessary, since the Danes were all so perfectly nice and friendly, for helvede and for fanden ... and the former words never got an airing either, as it turns out the Danes speak English rather better than the English.

This is Nyhavn, the colourful port - a pedestrian area lined with restaurants and cafes with outdoor tables, the brightly painted buildings once the mansions of Copenhagen's wealthy citizens. Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote here most of his life.

The boats, grounded in ice last week, were a reminder that Copenhagen goes back to the Viking era of traders-and-raiders and kings with completely marvellous names like Sweyn Forkbeard, Harald Bluetooth and Sigrid the Haughty

There were no traces of warlike behaviour in these congenial citizens enjoying the sunshine on a freezing winter day ...

Stretching inland from the sea, the canal of Nyhavn ends in Kongens Nytorv (the King's Square) ...

Yes, that's the French flag - their embassy occupies this prime bit of real estate in the fantastic Thott Palace.

... and the downtown shopping district beyond ...

Hanging out at the Storkspringvandet. (That means 'stork fountain', illustrating that so many Danish words are tantalisingly close to English, yet sound completely different spoken - the pronunciation, for fanden! Where do the syllables go?)

Copenhagen has been repeatedly voted amongst the top few cities for quality of life, is recognised as one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world, voted 'coolest city' in Europe and city with the happiest people! It also has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in Scandinavia and is home to the 'best restaurant in the world' (Noma has topped the Restaurant magazine list for the last two years). Not too shabby for a little country.

Flower sellers on a square (the prices not quite as frightening as they appear: roughly 9 Danish kroner to £1)

Our restaurant ventures were rather closer to the 'cheap & cheerful' end of the range than the Michelin end, but no less appealing. Our very first stop, as we ventured down the road from our hotel in need of lunch, was a fortuitous find: the outside, with a bicycle and old wooden crate propped up against a zinc table was irresistible ... 

... and the inside even better. Told & Snaps turned out to be an authentic Danish smørrebrød (open sandwich of rye bread with various fabulous toppings) restaurant. On a week-day lunchtime it was bustling and busy (a good sign), with a clientele that was exclusively, apart from us, local (another good sign). Shrimps from Greenland and a cold beer, a local brew, really hit the spot and made us feel positively Danish already, despite being fresh off the plane.

Told & Snaps, Toldbodgade 2 1253 København 
(Note the photo of Crown Prince Frederik and his Australian wife, Princess Mary on the wall of Told & Snaps above. Images of the queen and her family are in evidence everywhere in Copenhagen, and it seems that the Danes genuinely like their royals, who generally seem to behave like mensch themselves).

More smørrebrød (and excellent Danish beer - this is after all the home of Carlsberg) was to be had at Cafe Europa, in a square in the heart of Strøget, the fashionable shopping centre of Copenhagen, where you can watch the world go by through huge picture windows ...

Cafe Europa, 1 AmagertorvCopenhagen

Danish pastries are more than a cliché in Copenhagen: every second shop seems to be a bakery, and in the streets your senses are assailed with delicious smells of fresh pastries from open stalls. At the stylish, friendly Cafe Royal you could indulge (and we did, going back for more) in ruinously good cake served (like this chocolate cake dusted with the royal family's crest) on classic blue Royal Copenhagen china, from their flagship shop which is right next door ...

Café Royal, Amagertorv 6.

At night, despite being mid-winter, outside tables are not stripped and stacked up, but dressed for dinner ...

warm blankets draped over the chairs ...

I loved how the minus 5 degrees C temperatures did not stop people gathering outdoors (below for warming Irish coffees after dinner) ...

... though everything conspired to drawing one inside ...

'Burning love' was on offer here, on an outside menu board, and a burning fire within ...

The cosy interior of Heering (Nyhavn 15), dates back to the 16th century.

Back to the iconic image of Copenhagen, den lille havfrue, aka the little mermaid, who apparently does not feel the cold, surrounded by remnants of snow ... Poor dear, she's been vandalised, had her head cut off twice, an arm severed and been knocked off her pedestal by explosives, yet she still manages to look so serene ...

and though that sea may look like it's moving, it was frozen solid ...


  1. As expected - fantastic colourful and interesting photographs from Denmark Karen - you never disappoint! I particularly like the one of the "Skipperkroen" and can see why you were drawn in by "Told and Snaps" and elsewhere. I'm not sure how long it would take for the blankets to disappear in certain parts of Glasgow!

    All in all Copenhagen looks like a great city to visit. Thanks for the snapshot of a place I am unlikely to ever see.

    I know someone who was in Amsterdam last week. Apparently the canals were frozen and lots people were ice-skating on them. Not something I would ever recommend!

    1. Re blankets not disappearing: we were also amazed to see that of the thousands of bicycles parked all over the city, not a single one appeared to be chained! Apparently there's not too much work for the likes of Sarah Lund!

  2. Karen,
    your images exude so much warmth, it took the last two to remind me that it is really still winter in Copenhagen!
    Sitting outdoors in -5°C is quite daring, takes lots of "Burning Love" I suppose. ;-)

    Did you know that the Danish word for "Danish pastries" is wienerbrød? The so-called Danish pastry dough is of Viennese origin, that's why.

    1. I think the Burning Love definitely helps! And I didn't know that, but having now read my link to 'Danish pastries' properly, I see it is mentioned there. Vienna seems to be the source of so many of life's good things :)

  3. Copenhagen is a place I have never seen for myself, and so I thank you very much, Karen, for giving me this close up view of what a stylish, sophisticated and friendly place it can be, even in the great chill and freeze of winter.

    I must add this wonderful city to place I might eventually visit. xo

    1. It wasn't the best time of year to be there, certainly, though it did have the advantage that there was a minimum of other tourists, little queueing etc. And the Danes seem to do cosy interiors like nobody else! I'd love to go back in the spring.

  4. Hi Karen
    I love your photos. I have now at last been to Vienna (which I loved) and would love to go to Copenhagen - especially at Christmas.

    May I ask where you stayed and whether you found Denmark to be very expensive?

    1. Hi Katy, thanks for visiting. I think Copenhagen at Christmas is probably a wonderful time to be there, especially in the build-up to Christmas. We stayed at the Admiral Hotel, on the advice of a friend - it was lovely and in a great location, in easy walking distance of practically everything.
      It's not cheap, certainly (I'd say on a par with Vienna), though a lot of the sights are free and it depends of course where you choose to eat. I hope you get to go there!

  5. Wonderful photographs, making me want to go to Copenhagen immediately.
    Rather brave of people to sit outside to eat.
    Reading blogs is a really good way to get to see a new city --neither horrid newspaper disasters or too pretty pretty
    travel company's promo stuff.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, and you're right - my travel destinations are often inspired by other people's blog posts. The trouble is, there are just too many places on my wish list!

  6. Great shots, been like a tour for me viewing all those gorgeous scenery. The architecture beauties and foods really entice me to pay a visit.
    buy aion account

    1. Thank you, and I hope you get to visit there soon.

  7. WOW What a fabulous post Karen
    I've been dreaming of going to Copenhagen
    This post really hits my buttons
    major drooling going on...

    1. Why not tack it on to your next Europe trip, Carol?

  8. My theory has long been that all the ambitious, rambunctious, ferocious Danes left centuries ago to plunder and pillage and eventually settle down among the plundered and pillaged ---
    leaving only the affable and amiable to populate the home country.
    Outside of never being able to pronounce anything, it would be a marvelously civilized place to live.
    (Rodgrod med flode, anyone?)

    1. Hahaha!
      It ain't that difficult at all ;-)


      Best regards from a Dane
      (who is, btw, not always totally affable and aimable!)

  9. Haha, I think I totally agree with your theory :)
    And you've led me to check out that pronunciaton - I will have to share this on my next post!!

  10. I absolutely Loooove your pictures, Karen! You make me very happy and pround of being citizen of Copenhagen :-)
    Wonderful words as well, have to say: Tusind tak! Super god reklame for vores lille land ;-)
    Many regards,


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