A green and glo­ri­ous city

The Dan­ish cap­i­tal aims to be­come car­bon-neu­tral by 2025

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - A Special Report - LEONIE COOMBES

THE fairy­tale city so long iden­ti­fied with Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen is cre­at­ing a new im­age for it­self. Palaces, cob­ble­stoned streets and canals may be part of Copen­hagen’s en­dur­ing charm, but these days the city’s eco­cre­den­tials also draw ad­mi­ra­tion. Ranked at the top in a Euro­pean Green City In­dex, Copen­hagen aims to be car­bon-neu­tral by 2025.

Wind power is grad­u­ally re­plac­ing coal. Elec­tric cars bee­tle around be­tween recharg­ing points. Air qual­ity en­cour­ages walk­ing, and the wa­ter is so clean that per­fectly sober peo­ple dive into canals on hot days. Bi­cy­cle jams are the most likely cause of stress in peak hour. Sus­tain­abil­ity is more than a buzz word in Copen­hagen; it is a way of life. Al­most one-third of its 1.2 mil­lion res­i­dents cy­cle to work each day. A large part of the en­ergy re­quire­ment for all that pedal power is met by or­gan­i­cally grown food.

Restau­rants, ho­tels and delicatessens iden­ti­fied by the swan logo are par­tic­i­pants in a scheme to lift or­ganic pro­duce to 90 per cent of to­tal food con­sump­tion by 2015.

Vis­i­tors can tap into the pro­gres­sive mood of this city while savour­ing its his­toric at­trac­tions.

If you want your eco­log­i­cal in­ten­tions to be taken se­ri­ously, don’t for­get to hone your cy­cling skills be­fore trav­el­ling there.

Best city trans­port: Bi­cy­cles, of course. Copen­hagen boasts nearly 400km of cy­cle paths and most ho­tels have bikes for hire. Free wheels are avail­able through a scheme called By­cyklen Koben­havn, which pro­vides 110 bike racks through­out town. A mere 20 krone de­posit ($3.50), re­fund­able on re­turn, puts you be­hind the han­dle­bars. These bikes are no­to­ri­ously heavy, how­ever, and are re­stricted to the city cen­tre. Su­pe­rior bi­cy­cles can be hired from Baisikeli, a busi­ness whose prof­its fund a scheme to col­lect and send used bikes to Africa.

Al­ter­na­tively, you can sit back in a rick­shaw while a fit lo­cal steers the nation a lit­tle closer to car­bon neu­tral­ity. More: by­cyklen.dk; baisikeli.dk.

Best shop­ping: Il­lums Bo­lighus is a depart­ment store that has been serv­ing Copen­hagen­ers since 1925. The stylish home­wares and gifts on dis­play here are ex­em­plars of prac­ti­cal Dan­ish de­sign, of­ten fea­tur­ing a quirky, arty twist. Con­tem­po­rary items, as mod­ern as to­mor­row, are in­ter­spersed with clas­sic pieces de­signed decades ago.

Il­lums Bo­lighus is lo­cated on Amager­torv, one of sev­eral streets that com­prise Stro­get, Europe’s long­est pedes­trian zone. This vi­brant, 3km thor­ough­fare is the place to head to if you have lim­ited shop­ping time.

Best restau­rants: For the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, Rene Redzepi’s Noma is top of S. Pel­le­grino’s an­nual list of the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants. Redzepi takes ob­scure Nordic in­gre­di­ents, for­aged from field and for­est, to cre­ate truly orig­i­nal cui­sine. Don’t drop in ex­pect­ing a ta­ble; book­ings must be made at least three months ahead.

BioMio, in the re­vi­talised meat­pack­ing district, is the city’s most un­con­ven­tional restau­rant. Pa­trons place or­ders di­rectly with chefs who cook in open, cen­tral kitchens, and re­turn to col­lect the meals them­selves. As keen to save the planet as it is to save on labour, BioMio is con­structed from eco­log­i­cally sound ma­te­ri­als and serves only or­ganic pro­duce. More: noma.dk; biomio.dk.

Best palace: Amalien­borg Palace is near the water­front and of­fers a daily chang­ing of the guard cer­e­mony when Queen Mar­grethe, the Dan­ish monarch, is in res­i­dence. Home to Dan­ish roy­alty since 1794, Amalien­borg is com­prised of four iden­ti­cal ro­coco man­sions fac­ing a vast square. One of these is oc­cu­pied by Crown Prince Fred­erik and Princess Mary. An­other houses a fas­ci­nat­ing mu­seum in which vis­i­tors can wan­der through a se­ries of rooms filled with the fur­ni­ture and per­sonal pos­ses­sions of mon­archs dat­ing back 150 years. It is so in­ti­mate, one al­most feels like an in­truder. More: copen­hagenet.dk.

Best cul­tural at­trac­tion: If you have a lazy $500 mil­lion, why not build some­thing last­ing for your city? Ship­ping mag­nate A. P. Moller did just that, fi­nanc­ing the con­struc­tion of the Copen­hagen Opera House, which opened in 2005. Though de­signed by ar­chi­tect Hen­ning Larsen, it seems Moller had a lot of in­put — the glass facade is partly con­cealed by a metal grid be­cause the city’s bene­fac­tor ap­par­ently wished it to be so. Re­sem­bling wrap­around sun­nies peer­ing out from un­der a crush­ingly heavy hat, the build­ing is nev­er­the­less strik­ing, and its po­si­tion on an is­land fac­ing Amalien­borg Palace high­lights the easy re­la­tion­ship be­tween tra­di­tion and moder­nity in the Dan­ish cap­i­tal. More: vis­it­copen­hagen.com.

Best fam­ily fun: Tivoli Gar­dens, the inspiration be­hind Dis­ney­land, is 6ha of pure en­ter­tain­ment. Es­tab­lished in 1843 by Ge­orge Carstensen, it is a slightly pe­cu­liar mix of fun fair, fan­ci­ful build­ings, cafes, con­cert halls, il­lu­mi­na­tions and gar­dens. Carstensen’s friend Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen was so en­tranced by Tivoli’s Chinese-style build­ings and gar­dens that it spurred him to write The Nightin­gale. Copen­hagen­ers, who flock here on Fri­day nights for meals, drinks and live per­for­mances, con­sider this sprawl­ing park­land in the mid­dle of the city to be a tra­di­tional part of sum­mer fun. More: tivoli.dk.

Best beach: Copen­hagen has white-sand beaches that draw crowds on hot sum­mer days. Most are well out of town but a new har­bour beach at Svanemolle, cre­ated last year, is pop­u­lar with city dwellers. Though quite small at 4000sq m, it of­fers safe swim­ming in crys­tal-clear wa­ter. It would have been un­think­able a few years ago to swim in the har­bour, but the stor­age of pol­luted wa­ter af­ter heavy rain now en­ables peo­ple to take the plunge.

Un­like on Aus­tralian beaches, chairs and um­brel­las are not al­lowed. It seems the Danes, thaw­ing out af­ter a long, snowy win­ter, refuse to tol­er­ate any­one block­ing the sum­mer sun.

Best-value tip: Any­one trav­el­ling to Den­mark should pur­chase a 24-hour or 72-hour Copen­hagen Card, which starts pay­ing its way on the trip from the air­port to the city. The card grants ad­mis­sion to 65 museums and at­trac­tions such as Tivoli Gar­dens. Dis­counts ap­ply on car hire, most tours, meals and pur­chases in a range of stores. Cards can be bought on­line (al­low 10 days for postage) or at ho­tels and sta­tions. More: vis­it­copen­hagen.com.

Best at­mos­phere: The most fes­tive gather­ing place for tourists and lo­cals alike is Ny­havn. This nar­row har­bour, lined by colour­ful 18th-cen­tury houses, ho­tels and restau­rants, has been de­scribed as the long­est bar in Europe. There is no happier way to im­bibe the care­free spirit of Copen­hagen than by clutch­ing a beer at a sunny out­door cafe or perch­ing on the quay­side to watch the canal tours set off. An­der­sen, who lived here for much of his life, would no doubt have agreed.

Best tour: Canal barge tours from Ny­havn are a re­lax­ing means of see­ing the city. Guides pro­vide a com­men­tary in English dur­ing a one-hour trip that cov­ers all the main sights, in­clud­ing the Lit­tle Mer­maid, the new Opera House, and Chris­tians­borg and Amalien­borg palaces. These tours also pass water­front apart­ments, canal-side cafes and lo­cals lazily con­sum­ing a few drinks on the decks of their house­boats. Sitting on a sunny barge, it is dif­fi­cult not to feel like a na­tive of this won­der­ful, salty old town. vis­it­den­mark.com emi­rates.com/au

VISIT DEN­MARK

Ny­havn is the city’s most fes­tive gather­ing place for tourists as well as lo­cals, and a barge cruise on its canal is a re­lax­ing way to see Copen­hagen’s main sights

COPENHAGENMEDIACENTRE.COM

Copen­hagen Opera House was a ship­ping mag­nate’s $500m gift to the city

COPENHAGENMEDIACENTRE.COM

Its 400km of bike paths make cy­cling a pleas­ant way to tour Copen­hagen

71 Ny­havn Ho­tel

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