First 24 hours: Copenhagen, Denmark
Known for its Little Mermaid statue and hygge charms, the Danish capital’s latest lure for curious travellers is its gentrified red light district, discovers Phoebe Smith
Best known for fairytales and hygge, there’s more to the Danish capital than mermaids and cosy jumpers, as the new go-to hangout – and former red light district – of Vesterbro proves
Before you arrive
“They say that in that bar there is a certain drink you can order where staff will do something rather ‘special’ with the beer bottle,” said my guide, leaving the comment to hang in the air as we drifted further down the wide streets of Vesterbro.
Formerly a seedy area of the city famed for its prostitution, drugs and porn shops, this district – sat to the south-west side of the central train station and main shopping area – is now one of Copenhagen’s most up-and-coming areas. It’s all the more surprising given that when most people think of the Danish capital, they recall the innocent tales of Hans Christian Andersen, celebrated here in the Fairytale House (a museum dedicated to the author’s life and stories) and Little Mermaid statue, so often swarming with selfie-seekers. But for those in the know, there’s more to this city.
Mixing designer shops alongside old dive bars now frequented by beard-sporting hipsters as well as locals, Vesterbro oozes Scandi-cool in a way that only the country that bought us the concept of hygge (that feeling of contentment) could manage to pull off. In the afternoon I spent wandering the area’s tourist-free cobbles and alleyways, I saw outdoor artwork, tried a beer in the revamped meat-packing district, learned the story behind the city’s most successful microbrewery (born of a sibling rivalry that would make the perfect Hollywood movie) and mingled with native city dwellers in beautifully serene courtyard gardens.
And while I couldn’t possibly describe just what the staff do with beer bottles in that one bar, I will say this: when it comes to Vesterbro, the former sobriquet of ‘no-go area’ truly no longer fits…
At the airport
Kastrup Copenhagen Airport sits roughly 8km south-east of the city centre. A whole host of airlines run multiple daily flights direct from most UK airports, including budget carriers such as Ryanair (ryanair.com) and easyjet (easyjet.com); return flights from around £40; Flight time is around two hours. Once there, you’ll find ATMS, tourist information and lockers.
Getting into town
The cheapest, most efficient way is to take either the Metro (to main hub Norreport Station) or train (to Central Station) from Terminal 3. Both take less than 15 minutes and cost from DKK36 (£4.25) for a single ticket. But a better investment is the Copenhagen Card, which covers access to a range of transport and attractions (see ‘Top Tip’).