The Simple Things
IN 2013, MELANIE HAYNES SHOWED US AROUND THIS VIBRANT DANISH CITY. WE GO BACK AND ENJOY A SCANDI SPRING
How long have you lived in the city?
I grew up in Kent, England, and moved to Copenhagen in 2008. It’s been my home ever since.
*There’s no better way to get to the heart of a city than through the people who live there. Every month we ask someone, clearly in love with their city, to take us on a personal tour and tell us what makes it so special. You may feel inspired to visit one day, but for now just sit back, relax and enjoy some armchair travel.
What first drew you to Copenhagen?
My husband and I decided we wanted an adventure and to try living in another country. We thought Copenhagen looked good and it was love at first sight!
What keeps you in the city now?
It’s simply my home – I can speak Danish and it’s a great place to bring up children because there’s a great work/ life balance. I love that people here care about their surroundings, too.
Tell us what makes your city unique Copenhagen’s uniqueness comes from its compact nature. Many capital cities can feel enormous, but that’s not the case with Copenhagen. I also like its easy access to green open spaces and the sea.
What’s it like in May?
Spring officially starts in March, but May is when it feels like the city is really blossoming, both literally and metaphorically. The days are getting longer and people are out enjoying the sunshine, which we need after the long dark winters. It feels as if the city has woken up.
Which season makes your city feel most alive? Summer is the best season, particularly the early part when we seem to get more sunshine. The locals are still in the city and not in summer houses on the coast, so it’s very vibrant. People often head to a park or the water to enjoy a few beers and a pizza in the evenings.
Tell us about the colours of your city
I think the image most people have is of the colourful harbour area of Nyhavn, but there’s colour everywhere – from the bright yellow old houses, to the green of the parks, the pink blossoms and bulbs in spring and the blue of the sea and harbour.
What time of day do you most enjoy and why? I’m definitely a morning person. I enjoy walking »
“In May, it’s still daylight at almost 10pm – the streets are busy with cyclists and people sitting outside cafés”
around as the city starts to wake up. Rush hour looks very different here, with the bike lanes full of cyclists heading to work or school. You definitely get a feeling of the energy of the city in these early hours.
What’s the nature like?
There are many wonderful parks. The Botanical Garden is beautiful, but there are parks to match every mood, from sports to sunbathing to people watching. We’re also lucky that there are many amazing beaches, such as Amager Strand, within half an hour of the city.
Where’s your favourite outdoor space?
My favourite park is the Landbohøjskolen Park in Frederiksberg. It’s part of the horticultural department of the University of Copenhagen and contains many interesting and unusual plants. It’s a real reflection of the seasons, from the bulb beds in spring to poppies in the summer and amazing leaf colours in the autumn. Even under snow it’s still my favourite place to be.
Tell us about the light of your city?
The long summer evenings are what makes this city special to me. In May, it’s still daylight at almost 10pm and the streets are busy with cyclists and people sitting outside cafés. By contrast, in winter it sometimes feels as if it hasn’t even got light before darkness falls again and you spot cosy candles in apartment windows.
Where do you like to go with friends?
I really enjoy grabbing a coffee with a friend and heading to the Nørrebro neighbourhood to rummage through the good secondhand and vintage stores.
Tell us about eating out in your city
Copenhagen has a strong gastronomic reputation. It used to be expensive, but nowadays there’s so much more casual dining available. There are many unique experiences, such as Hot Pot Republic ( hotpotrepublic. dk) in Vesterbro, which began as an Asian hot pot pop up and now has a permanent location. I love Gro Spiseri ( grospiseri.dk), part of ØsterGro rooftop farm located on top of an old car auction house. This is an intimate communal dining experience where food is served ‘family style’ in a cosy greenhouse, illuminated by hundreds of lights. Tickets sell out fast for this.
What’s your favourite way to get about the city?
I generally use public transport as it’s so easy and safe. Since the Metro Circle Line (Cityringen) opened in 2019, the city is even easier to get around. I also love walking around and ducking into interesting places.
What’s the shopping like?
The vintage shops are my favourites. I have fallen out of love with the high street and fast fashion over the last ten years but Copenhagen offers so many great quality secondhand shops in every area of the city.
Where do you find your guilty pleasures?
Bakeries. It’s a daily struggle (which I invariably lose) to resist all the delectable pastries and cakes.
Where do you like to escape to?
I love to get out into nature and I’m also passionate about museums. The Frilands Museum, a short train journey north of the city, is one of my favourites – it’s one of the largest and oldest open-air museums in the world. All the farms and houses are original buildings set in acres of farmland, woodland and orchards.
Where do you like to go alone?
I have a season pass to Tivoli, the world-famous pleasure gardens, so whilst it’s fun to spend time there with my son, I also like to go into the park on my own just as it opens and before the crowds arrive. In the height of summer, the rose garden fills the air with heady perfume, so I enjoy sitting there with an iced coffee in the sun.
What’s your best discovery about your city?
It’s how welcoming the Danes really are. Although reserved, they’re open and interested in others.
What would surprise a newcomer to your city? Probably how many people cycle in high heels! Also how many independent shops, coffee shops and cafés there are. There’s real support for local businesses.
Where would you recommend somebody to stay?
I always think it’s great to stay in a neighbourhood rather than in the tourist centre to get a real feel for the city. If you want to stay in a lively part of town, then Vesterbro is the place for you. You’ll find trendy bars and restaurants in Kødbyen (Meatpacking District) as well as a fabulous selection of individual shops on Istedgade. For families, I’d recommend Frederiksberg with its easy access to a huge park, the zoo and within easy reach of the city by public transport.
What do you long for most when you’ve been away? I would say the connection with the sea. I’ve always longed to live by the sea, and now I do. We live on Amager, close to the airport, and Amager Strand, a 5km long sandy beach, is right on our doorstep.
What excites you about your city?
It’s hard to describe – I often feel a little fizz of excitement in the mornings. Perhaps it’s the thought that there’s still so much to discover. »