Few could disagree that Copenhagen is one of Europe’s coolest cities, if not the coolest. Somehow it manages to balance an old-world charm stemming back to childhood readings of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales, with Scandinavian designer chic.
Copenhagen—perched on the shores of the baltic sea—is a progressive, healthy and balanced city in which groups of young mothers (and fathers) meet in the parks for hard-core workout sessions with their offspring strapped to their chests in trendy baby slings. It is a city whose toned and tanned inhabitants look like they have just walked out of the pages of a fashion magazine, there’s a refreshing emphasis on natural and healthy beauty, rather than a reliance on artificial additions. The architecture of the city ranges from the mediaeval to the quirky—such as the Børsen building which boasts a tower comprised of entwined crocodiles! Above all, Copenhagen is a beautiful and peaceful city where a park or waterfront is never far away.
What makes Copenhagen Europe’s Coolest City?
There are probably many more reasons why Copenhagen is totally cool, but here are my 7 reasons why Copenhagen is Europe’s coolest city.
1. Parks and Waterways
The three best ways to get around Copenhagen are: on foot, by bike, or in a boat. With plenty of parks and waterfronts in the city there is every incentive to take the healthy option, I must have walked over 100km in 2 days there.
If you have time take a kayak out into the smaller backwaters to explore the city from a low vantage point, it is surprisingly relaxing and a great workout for your upper arms. Just try not to fall in the canal like I did!
If you’re looking for the iconic picture of Copenhagen then you’ll find it at Nyhavn, a colourful row of houses overlooking one of the many canals. The first photograph of this post was taken at Nyhavn. The food on offer around this area was phenomenal and it is a great spot for people watching.
3. Cafés and Restaurants serving both local and international cuisine
Like many cities, Copenhagen has a thriving café culture. As you stroll along Copenhagen’s many waterways you will have no shortage of places to stop for a snack, a light lunch or a gourmet meal, and there is a variety of cuisine on offer. In the space of a few days I ate Danish smørrebrød on dark rye bread, my favourite Mumbai street food pav bhaji, Turkish kebabs, and an amazing gourmet hamburger—one thing is for sure; in Copenhagen you will not be served tiny portions!
Christiania is an autonomous commune, which I visited on a cold, grey day in late December a few years back. You can read about that visit here. While I enjoyed looking around, I found the experience mildly depressing. I think it might be a very different place in the height of summer when everything looks brighter. It is pretty interesting and worth a visit.
5. Fairy tales (warning: The Little Mermaid spoilers)
I grew up on Hans Christian Anderson stories before Disney came along and gave them all Americanised Happy-Ever-After endings. Take The Little Mermaid, for example, which is originally a heart-breaking tale of suffering and death: “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more” says Hans Christian Anderson in the original story—a tale predominantly about the pain of unrequited love.
Rather than marry her floppy-haired Prince, the Little Mermaid watches him marry another woman before casting herself into the sea and becoming sea-foam. No wonder she looks so forlorn as she sits on a lonely rock and watches the shore—a world that she is ultimately not able to become part of, whatever Disney might say. While many people who flock to the statue are disappointed by her petite stature, I really liked walking past her every day on my walk back to the apartment.
6. Tivoli Gardens
It is perhaps not surprising that the country that produced the world’s greatest fairy-tale writer also produced the world’s first amusement parks. The oldest is Bakken – 10 km from Copenhagen – but, located right in the city is Tivoli Gardens; a theme park that opened in 1843 and which doesn’t look all that different to how it did back then. One of the rollercoasters has been in operation since 1914. At Tivoli Gardens you can enjoy a second childhood on all the rides, eat no end of ice cream, sweets and candyfloss, or you might be able to time your trip to one of the summer concerts in the park. Christmas at Tivoli Gardens is simply magical. One word of caution though, don’t plan to buy your Copenhagen souvenirs in Tivoli Gardens, you will find the same things for sale around the city at much cheaper prices.
Look at that gorgeous picture of a sticky Danish cinnamon roll; do I really need to say more? No? In that case, I think we’re done here.
Have you been convinced; should Copenhagen be crowned Europe’s coolest city?