European Winter City Guide: Copenhagen

Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark and the most populous in the country, with 1.2 million people living in the urban area. It is the second largest Scandinavian city, coming a close second to Stockholm. With a strong student population of 94k the city is abuzz with energy and things to do. Winter is one of the most beautiful times of year to visit; the city comes alive with yuletide cheer and Christmas markets in every square. The airport is a short 20-minute drive from the city centre. Visit easyCar.com and book your hire car now to make your post-flight transport as straightforward as it can be.

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Background

Copenhagen has had a bit of a renaissance of late. Monocle magazine named it the ‘most liveable city’ in 2013, and with good reason. The city has a stable economy as well as strong social services and is safe, cycle friendly, clean and, above all, stunningly beautiful. It is for these reasons that residents and tourists are enthralled by the city. On the island of Zealand, which is separated from both mainland Europe and Scandinavia, the city has been nicknamed the ‘City of Spires’ due to its tremendous skyline. The mediaeval centre plays a big part in this, yet a modern design revival has seen the city green-light some of the more left-field and on the whole striking examples of modern architecture.

Top 5 things to do

1. See the city on two wheels – The 2013 Copenhagenize Index put Copenhagen as the world’s second best city to cycle in (it must be good when the cycling related index is named after it). Judged in terms of bike culture, infrastructure and most importantly bike safety, amongst others, Copenhagen scored 81 out of a possible 100. The bike to Copenhagen is like the red bus to London, an integral part of its existence. Renting one out in winter may be for the more intrepid, but cycle lanes tend to be segregated from road traffic, meaning the odd slip and slide won’t be too dangerous. A lot of the city’s compacted parks and squares are best explored on two wheels. To find out about the city from a true local, join a Bike Mike Tour, where the eponymous Mike will give you a frank and offbeat tour by bike. Parking at the Q-Park Vesterport just around the corner and taking the bike for a day is a great way to experience the city.
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2. Experience a very Nordic ChristmasThe Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park is stunning to behold throughout the year but really comes to life at Christmas time. Tickets for adults cost just £10 for a day in the amusement park. While there, you will get a gloriously romantic if ever so slightly cheesy Christmas experience. Expect the spectacular buildings to be lit up and decked in holly, baubles and wreaths. Enjoy the Nutcracker ballet, an alpine village as well as a Christmas market made up of 50 stalls selling gifts, decorations and warming cups of glögg (Nordic mulled wine).

3. Enjoy panoramic views of the cityThe Christianborg Palace Tower was built in the early 20th century and became the city’s tallest tower. This is a crown it still holds to this day, standing at 106m tall, just 40cm taller than the current Town Hall. Once the Royal Residence, the blue-blooded family grew tired of the many fires that swept through the building and moved to Amalienborg Palace in the late 19th century. Free of charge to ascend to the top, it is well worth the trip up so you can feel like the king or queen of this snow-covered city.

4. Browse Christmas Handicraft in Freetown Christiania – Founded as a hippy commune in the 70s. This ex-army base has had its highs and lows over the years (culminating in being closed off to the public 2011) but currently weighs in as the city’s 4th biggest tourist draw. Wandering around the streets and taking in all the sights that accompany any hippy commune, you will come across the arts and crafts Christmas market. You will find absolutely everything and anything here if you look hard enough. Who knows, you may just find the perfect personal Christmas present for someone back at home.

5. Tread the boards of the Danish National Museum – Entry for this museum is free. Make the most of it by taking a tour of the most complete cultural archive Denmark has to offer. The history of Denmark is not extremely well known, so swot up on some interesting historical treats in the museum. There are collections from throughout the ages, dating all the way back to prehistoric remains found within the country’s shores. Furthermore you can indulge in a love of classical antiquity with an impressive collection of artefacts discovered around the Mediterranean and dating back to some of the region’s greatest empires.

Where to eat and where to go out

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Rising from a culinary dark age, Copenhagen is making a lot of noise and putting itself on the map. Nowhere is making more noise than noma which a few years ago was voted the best restaurant in the world. Book a month or so in advance if you are keen to eat there before it shuts on the 20th December 2014. It’s certainly not the cheapest spot to eat in town but for that special evening, it could be worth it. If you want something a bit more down to earth you should consider trying Den Økologiske Pølsemand – or just Døp (the site’s in Danish I’m afraid) for short. A slick little hot dog joint, whose name translates to “Organic sausage man”, the establishment has been voted the people of Copenhagen’s favourite eatery. The deliciously stacked sausages are easily the best in town. But of course you are in Copenhagen and surrounded by the North Sea. To visit the city and not eat seafood would be like going to Rome and not eating pizza. Fiskebaren is a slick, decidedly Danish offering. Sourcing the best fish and shellfish in the waters around the island, you are in for some of the freshest seafood in town. Jellyfish swim in a cylindrical tank in the middle of the restaurant. The restaurant is located in the trendy meatpacking district of Vesterbro, the ideal place to have a drink or two after. So…

The Mikeller Bar in Vesterbro is a trendy little craft beer spot with local and homemade brews. The clean white walls and mishmash furniture typify the crisp yet quirky Danish take on interior design. The beers are pretty good as well. Check the website for what’s happening on any given day are new bands performing almost daily . The Lord Nelson Bar is located a 15 minute walk from the heart of Vesterbro, and is a much more traditional bar than Mikeller. Locals and a fair few decent brews to boot will surround you. You may be picking up a pattern here, the Danes love a beer. Breaking from that tradition you could visit Ruby, an off-the-beaten-track cocktail bar. Hidden behind an unmarked door, finding this place feels like an achievement. The real reward unfolds when you get inside, with a host of seasonal cocktails for you to sample.

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There really is a lot to see and do in Copenhagen, not to mention the close proximity of Swedish city, Malmö. Crossing the bridge between the two cities will remind those who tuned in for the latest BBC4 Danish crime thriller, The Bridge. With two cities for the price of one you will really benefit from the use of a car. Book with easyCar before you leave for a convenient and competitively priced rental.

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