Looking for a city break with added Scandi cool? Say ‘hej’ to a holiday in Copenhagen...
There’s cycling in Sheffield... hunched head down, helmet on, just thin luminous lycra between you and the traffic impatient to overtake.
Then there’s cycling in Copenhagen. Here, it seems, everyone uses two wheels for a most civilised of daily commutes.
The cycle lanes are wide enough for three or four bikes. The cyclists dress not in skin-tight shorts but in normal work attire, the coat-tails of their business suits flapping behind them as they pedal upright on bicycles with baskets bearing bouquets of flowers and that night’s dinner.
The only problem we could see is finding your locked-up bike each evening - hundreds of them are parked in dense clusters in spots all across the city centre. Locating yours after an after-work pint or two of frothy Tuborg in a cosy candle-lit bar must be no mean feat.
We stuck to walking for our weekend visit to the wonderful wonderful Danish capital, made cooler than ever by TV dramas The Killing and The Bridge, and the brilliant Borgen. This is the city where Birgitte, Kasper and Katrine’s lives intertwined around the political goings-on in Christiansborg Palace, its tower the tallest in Copenhagen.
But there are plenty of palaces and towers, bars and restaurants, and fabulously stylish design and interiors shops to visit in this most compact of capital cities.
Every day at noon at the Amalienborg Palace - a short stroll along Bredgade boulevard from the lovely, characterful and cosy Hotel Guldsmeden Babette where we were staying - you can witness the changing of the Royal Danish Guard. It’s a rousing affair of brass bands and bearskin hats, friendly guards keeping the cobbles clear of tourists as the procession marches past.
At Rosenborg Castle 400 years of splendour, royal art treasures, crown jewels and regal regalia are crammed into stately palatial rooms, all set within a perfectly manicured park. And at the Church of Our Saviour we took in panoramic views - voted the best in the city by Copenhageners themselves - from the top of the serpentine spire, a twisting, turning, dizzying 400 steps up from ground level.
Both sites were accessed gratis thanks to our handy Copenhagen Cards which offered free or discounted entry to a host of top attractions. But the activities we enjoyed the most during our stay were those that were free of charge anyway... wandering the picturesque waterside streets, nipping into dark and cosy bars - some of which where smoking’s still permitted - or stopping for coffee at heated outdoor tables, snug beneath shawls, on the famous Nyhavn harbour, watching the world go by.
Another short stroll from our hotel, in a different direction, we said a Danish hello - ‘hej’ - to the Little Mermaid, 100 years old in the summer but as youthful as ever atop her rocky perch overlooking the sparkling sea. Hordes of tourists took Sunday morning selfies with the bronze sculpture behind them before ambling back through the park.
And back we went too, past the antiques shops and art galleries of Bredgade, to duck into a cafe to tuck into a traditional Danish lunch of smorrebrod - the classic open sandwich served on sourdough rye bread - before a look around the irresistible shops.
Fans of interiors and modern design should enter Illums Bolighus only if they dare - or come home several cushions, throws, vases and kitchen accessories heavier... and many Danish Krone lighter.
Three things to do in Copenhagen
1. Take a hop-on-hop-off harbour cruise to enjoy a fresh perspective of the city. Used as a round trip the journey lasts 55 minutes and along the way you’ll get stunning views of the Opera House, The Little Mermaid, The Black Diamond and The National Museum.
2. Enjoy a stroll across the bridge to Chrsitianshavn, a bohemian neighbourhood on the other side of the canal. Here you can climb the tower of the Church of our Saviour for incredible views of the city, before wobbling jelly-legged down the 400 steps for a rest in one of the area’s little coffee shops.
3. Shop! Danish design is revered across the world for good reason, and the most stylish stores can be found around Amagertorv and the parallel Kompanistræde. Afterwards queue for a table in Bertels Salon for mouth-watering cheesecake and a creamy latte.
Hotel Guldsmeden Babette, Copenhagen’s newest hotel - Hotel Guldsmeden Babette - costs from £132 per double room per night excluding breakfast. But breakfast - from £24 pp at weekends is a must in this charming little eco hotel. Fresh coffee, soft boiled eggs, juicy orange segments and delicious rye bread slathered with butter are all laid out beautifully each morning, on tables flickering with candles.
A 24 hour Copenhagen Card cost £33 per person - Copenhagen