Ex­pe­ri­ence won­der­ful cut-price Copen­hagen

De­spite its no­to­ri­ously ex­pen­sive rep­u­ta­tion, the Dan­ish cap­i­tal can be an af­ford­able break, writes Lau­ren Taylor

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

Strolling down Vaernedamsve, a pic­turesque street be­tween the for­mer red light district of Vester­bro and the fash­ion­able mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Fred­eriks­berg, I feel smack bang in the mid­dle of chic Scandi liv­ing. There are hip­ster cof­fee hang­outs, min­i­mal­ist plant shops and im­pos­si­bly cool in­te­rior stores with bikes art­fully propped against lamp posts.

Copen­hagen is re­mark­ably calm for a cap­i­tal. The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple ride bikes rather than drive cars and ev­ery­thing feels cosy, con­tent and stress-free. The Danes even have a word for it, of course — hygge.

The city, which is less than a two-hour flight from the UK, also has a buzzing food scene with sev­eral new restau­rant open­ings ev­ery month. But with 15 Miche­lin star estab­lish­ments, in­clud­ing Noma, which was named the best restau­rant in the world four times, it has a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing pricey.

Plan care­fully, though, and you can have an af­ford­able week­end break. Here’s how to get the most out of the city while keep­ing the costs down.

The 360-de­gree views from the Dan­ish Par­lia­ment build­ing, the tallest tower in Copen­hagen at 106m (they don’t do sky­scrapers), re­ally show off the jux­ta­po­si­tion of modern min­i­mal­ist and old fairy tale-like ar­chi­tec­ture.

From here you’ll see the Borsen, the 17th-cen­tury stock ex­change build­ing with a spire de­sign of four dragons’ tails twisted to­gether, as well as the Amager Bakke waste-en­ergy power plant, where the world’s long­est ar­ti­fi­cial ski slope is set to open. You can see all the way to Swe­den on a clear day.

The ex­cel­lent value Copen­hagen Card gives tourists free pub­lic trans­port by bus, train and Metro and free en­try to 79 mu­se­ums and at­trac­tions. Use it on a boat tour down the canals around what’s known as the Har­bour Cir­cle, pass­ing the colour­ful town houses of Ny­haven and en­vi­ably stylish house boats to­wards the strik­ing Black Di­a­mond Li­brary, Amalien­borg Palace (the Dan­ish royal fam­ily’s of­fi­cial res­i­dency) and the fa­mous Lit­tle Mer­maid statue.

In­spired by Dan­ish au­thor Hans Chris­tian An­der­sen’s fairy tale, the fa­mous fig­ure “has been de­cap­i­tated twice and had her arm copped off” in var­i­ous protests, ac­cord­ing to our tour guide.

For some­where to stay, the trend in Copen­hagen right now is for swanky lux­ury hos­tels. The newly opened Steel House is a short walk from the cen­tral sta­tion and on the doorstep of one of the city’s three ad­join­ing lakes. The for­mer head­quar­ters of the Dan­ish Me­tal­work­ers’ Union makes a fit­ting lo­ca­tion for the New York-in­spired, in­dus­trial-style hos­tel.

At Steel House, ev­ery­thing is stripped back; there’s no desk, chair or wardrobe. Who re­ally needs those on a week­end break? The four and six-per­son dorm rooms are the smartest I’ve ever seen and each bed (sorry, pod) has some pri­vacy, per­fect for in­di­vid­ual trav­ellers or a group to book. The dou­ble rooms are very tight but func­tional, with ev­ery­thing you need and noth­ing you don’t. The heart and soul of the hos­tel is the com­mu­nal liv­ing area, which in­cludes a large kitchen guests can cook in. Much like a bud­get air­line, the hos­tel charges ex­tra for cer­tain things, but the bonus is base costs are kept down and the pool tends to be empty. The city is small enough to walk ev­ery­where, but if you want to fit in with the Danes you need to hop on a bike. There are thou­sands of By­cyklen — elec­tric bikes with built in GPS to guide you — found at dock­ing sta­tions dot­ted around the city. Sim­ply reg­is­ter on­line with a credit card to pay as you go be­fore pick­ing up a bike. And you’ll be in good com­pany — at the last count there were 265,700 bikes in Copen­hagen. Strangely, no one ap­pears to wear hel­mets (there’s no re­quire­ment by law), but the roads are very bike-friendly with cy­cle lanes and four bike-only high- ways.

Lots of the city’s restau­rants of­fer good deals if you book multi-course meals — so the more you eat, the bet­ter value you can ex­pect.

The trendy Nor­re­bro district is known for its gas­tro­nomic of­fer­ings and there’s a huge fo­cus on clean, sus­tain­able, or­ganic and for­aged food.

Head to the water­front branch of the Mad­klubben chain at Nor­re­bro, which serves un­pre­ten­tious hearty dishes such as del­i­cateas-you-like whole sea bass, flame-grilled cau­li­flower with salted al­monds, and a se­ri­ously ad­dic­tive spiced mash with sour cream.

It’s packed ev­ery night (as with any restau­rant in Copen­hagen), so you’ll need to book ahead.

SCANDI DE­LIGHTS: the view from Chris­tians­borg Palace in Copen­hagen and (right, from top) the Vaernedamsve and a room in the pop­u­lar Steel House hos­tel

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