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Copenhagen /København

by Bernardo van Eekhout in Travel and weekendtrips , 22 maart 2006


With a history that goes back more than 800 years, Copenhagen is a modern metropolis without the skyscrapers or other towering buildings. The old center is a medieval jewel with proud buildings and churches. Not too large or too small, so everything can easily be seen by foot. No graffiti or dirty streets, but Danish order and cleanliness. And the 1.5 million inhabitants are very relaxed about existing gay/straight differences...

On arrival at the airport of Copenhagen you take the train to the center of town for 25 DK, which will save you the 400 DK a taxi will charge. The signage at the airport is very clear so everything is very easy to find. Once in the center you can get all the necessary info at the Tourist Information Center (Vesterbrogade 4a). Here you will find all the information leaflets on museums, restaurants, maps and the very handy booklet “Copenhagen this week.”

There are also free public computers you can use to get more details on possible cultural outings. For all other internet use you can go to the Boomtown Netcafe around the corner (Axeltorv 1-3), which is open 24 hours a day. Copenhagen has a large collection of art treasures, housed in around 86 museums. To find out more on the 10.000-year history of Denmark the Nationalmuseet (Ny Vestergade 10) is the place to be. Both the Bronze Age as well as the design of a seventies living room are on display here.



The Arken Museum of Modern Art (www.arken.dk) has more modern work on show. This 9002 square meter giant has the shape of a ship and lies to the south on the coast of Copenhagen, near Ishøj. Every year the Arken Museum buys Danish and international art with special attention to art from 1990 till now. The Dansk Design Center (H.C. Andersen Boulevard 27) presents more innovative Danish design. It shows highly future focused concepts for interior design, fashion and appliances. Many museums are also and for free open on Wednesday evening till 9pm.

Discovering the City

One of the most important tourist highlights in Copenhagen is the harbor Nyhavn, which literally means “new harbor”. The area was constructed in 1671-1672 at the initiative of king Christian V to create a harbor for Kongens Nytorv and was once also the residence of Hans Christian Andersen. Nowadays the lively harbor is full of sailing ships and the quayside is the longest restaurant promenade of Copenhagen. Leaving Nyhavn in the direction of Toldbodgade you come across the royal residence of Queen Margrethe II and her family. She’s lived in this Rococo masterpiece since 1972.


A large octagonal square surrounded by four separate palaces which hosts the impressive changing of the guards every day at midday exactly. From her windows the queen has the perfect view on the Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen).

Henning Larsen designed this brand new building (he also designed the Dansk Design Center). You can also view the Operaen with regular water taxis that cost about 34 DK.

This part of the harbor is also home to the Royal Danish Library (Den Sorte Diamant) and construction has started on a new theater between Nyhavn and Amalienborg.

There’s more impressive architecture to be seen around one of Copenhagen’s most elegant squares: Kongens Nytorv. Dating from 1670 and completely renovated in 2005. Large villas and stately buildings give the square a Paris-like feel. It also is home to the Royal Dance Theatre (1874), department store Magasin du Nord (1893) and the oldest hotel in Denmark “Hotel D’Angleterre.” You’ll find the better and more atmospheric cafes and restaurants on and around the Gothersgade that starts at Kongens Nytorv. At 6 or 7pm in the weekends these places are all just packed.



Wandering around the center you’ll find the winding streets are jewels studded with vintage shops, diners and furniture shops. Studiestraede and Larsbjørnsstrade are home to trendy underground and street wear spots. Shops with T-shirts and sweatshirts dominate with bright prints. København K (the largest second hand store) has a shop in both streets. What used to be a no-go area, the Istengade, west of Central Station, is now up and coming, boasting a lot of second hand shops, antiques and selected jeans stores like “99.” Three other good denim shops are Solid & Carlings (Købmagergrade) and Nielsen (Kronprinssensgade). Furniture and home design fans can go to Contrast (Hovedvagtsgade), R.O.O.M. (Nørregade) and Casa Shop (Store Renegade). The friendly and helpful staff speaks English fluently everywhere.

Shopping

Strøget is the most important shopping artery. The name actually means “vein” and it includes a number of connected streets: Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Amagetorv and Østergade. It runs from west to east through the old center of town from Rädhuspladsen (City Hall) till Kongens Nytorv. It became the first pedestrian area in 1962 and it’s one of the longest in Europe. It’s the beating heart of the city. All famous international chains are represented, from H&M, Esprit to Zara.



The unknown stores, like interior design shop Indiska with all sorts of interior accessories and Indian fabrics, are much more interesting though. Or take the flagship store of the Swiss company Bodum. A square transparent structure constructed entirely from steel and glass. This mega-store presents the entire Bodum kitchenware collection spread out over four floors. The Dryberg/Kern flagship store (Gay News January 2006) is on a side street of Strøget (Niels Hemmingens Gade).

The candles that many shopkeepers place on their doorstep are inviting and look beautiful. There are also many stalls that sell sweet roasted nuts in winter. Picture all this in a setting of beautifully paved squares with sandstone and powder white buildings and churches from the eighteenth century (Amargertov). It all breathes an old fashioned almost medieval atmosphere. The perfect location for the ultimate address for interior design: Illums Bolighus (Amargertov). By appointment of the Danish Royal Family. This department store has every known national and international interior design brand in its collection. A true Mecca for design, and expensive too. It is the cream of the crop, if only to get inspiration.

Right next to Illum Bolighus is the Danish counterpart to the Dutch Delft Blue: Royal Copenhagen. It resides in one of the oldest buildings in town, from 1606 in Dutch Renaissance style and now part of the Royal Scandinavian Group. The expensive international export product, founded in 1775, is Denmark’s pride and joy. A multitude of porcelain dishes and sets are displayed in antique cupboards. The first and second floors have all the discount collections.



There are two other department stores that should not be skipped on your shopping spree: Illum (Østergade 52) and Magasin du Nord (Kongens Nytorv 13). Illum is the up-market version of the Bijenkorf in Danish style. The men’s wear department has many store-in-store concepts with strong local labels like J. Lindenberg, Flippa K, and Bruuns Bazaar (the latter has its own flagship store on the Kronprinsensgade 7). Magasin is the first department store of Scandinavia and is still the largest, with the most comprehensive collection. The collection of colored glasswork, china and silverware is overwhelming; clearly one of the strongest points in the Danish shopping experience.

(Gay)?

The gap between the gay and the straight community has practically disappeared with the Danish. The level of tolerance is unequaled; being gay is not an issue at all, it’s totally accepted and integrated in the Danish society. As it’s taken up in how they raise their children, people are comfortable with it. Gay or straight... who cares? Straight men and women even regularly frequent gay establishments. No separate scenes here, all preferences and genders gather under one roof. The Danish straight man is self-assured enough to go to a gay bar. Because the Danish have many gay friends it’s not strange for them to go to a gay bar.

So whether a bar is gay or not becomes irrelevant really. People just regularly check: “Are you gay?” To find out where to go just pick up the free magazine “Out & About,” it’s the best guide. Oscar (Rädhuspladsen 77) is one of the best bar/restaurants where you can dine until 10pm (also great for lunch). Heaven (Kompagnistrade 18) is a bit less cozy with the bar downstairs and restaurant upstairs. Salads are about 59 DK, mains 90 DK. The oldest and best brown café of Copenhagen is Centralhjørnet (Kattesundet 18). Young and old, gay and straight come together here. Condoms are simply freely available in every bar, something Amsterdam still hasn’t accomplished yet.



For a comfortable and relaxed stay in Copenhagen I can recommend Carsten’s Guesthouse (www.carstensguesthouse.dk). A very pleasant home away from home instead of a sterile hotel. You have your own room with TV and a large communal kitchen with all facilities. There are also two large living rooms where you can chill in the evening and where you can get in contact with other guests. It’s very centrally located on the fifth floor of Christians Brygge 28.

Getting There

Transavia provides direct flights from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and the traveling time is one hour and ten minutes. Booking a flight can be easily done on www.transavia.nl with a five step menu. The transaction at Schiphol is well-cared-for and excellent. Especially from Amsterdam or even more southern towns a train can’t be any faster.



 






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