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Danish city with that enduring fairytale appeal

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Copenhagen is riding on wave of accolades in 2009. The sparkling Danish capital has picked up a host of recommendations as one of the places to visit this year (it is one of New York Times top 50 places to visit in 09), for its high design, boutique hotels and organic restaurants, together with that enduring fairytale appeal as home to a certain little mermaid. With its ultra green credentials – named the world’s first Bike City - Copenhagen is shortlisted to be Europe’s first eco capital. The writer called in to check the many virtues of what one magazine rates as the world's best city to live in. This is his must do list.

For the love of bike

Copenhagen, easily reached by night sleeper from the UK, via Cologne,
(http://bahn.hafas.de), is on the European commission’s shortlist of eight
for the first European Green Capital Award. We will know the winner on
February 23. (Check with me if used after this date.) This charming and
compact little city on the water’s edge scored high on green indicators, such
as excellent public transport, open spaces and air quality. The International
Cycling Union named it the world’s first Bike City. Two wheel options start at
your hotel – most can hire you a cycle. Bike with Mike is one of the best of
the outfits offering tours – in English -around the city, and into the
countryside. www.bikecopenhagenwithmike.dk. Bikes are available free at city
centre stands. The 24-hour (£24) and 72-hour (£52) CPHCard gives free
transport by train, bus and Metro and free entry to 60 museums. (Buy at the
airport– it’s a 12-minute train trip to Central Station). And there are canal
trips from Nyhavn.

Nordic nosh.

Denmark is a gastronomic black hole. Only the pastry made it to the outside
world. Much of the finest cuisine is trapped in Copenhagen restaurants, laden
with Michelin stars, where chefs rediscover long-neglected regional
ingredients. Noma (Strandgade; 00 45-32-96-32-97, ) wins
praise for its inventive Nordic gourmet cuisine. Musk ox, Icelandic seaweed,
rhubarb and wood sorrel are on the menu. They cook with beer, fruit juices
and fruit-based vinegars, and forever try out new herbs and berries in their
aim “to brighten the world with distinctive tastiness.”
Organic eating is booming. One of the best is BioM restaurant, on
Fredericiagade (www.biom.dk). For an cheap snack, choose from the 250 high-
piled smørrebrød (open sandwiches) at Ida Davidsen (70 Store Kongensgade).
The waiters are “talking menus.” Try the Hans Christian Andersen - bacon,
tomato, paté and horseradish. Or the Victor Borge - salmon, marinated
lumpfish caviar, crayfish tails, Greenland shrimpd, lime and dill mayonnaise on
rye bread.

Bold build

Copenhagen’s latest architectural landmark seems to have been carved out of
the sky. Approach the stunning new Concert Hall (Koncerthuset), which
opened in January (2009) in the Ørestad North district, from the front and by
night for the full effect. Images are projected onto a semi-transparent screen
on the vast blue facade. Run by the Danish state broadcaster, the hall was
designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, (of Lyon Opera House fame), and a
top Japanese acoustic engineer. Inside it is all concrete walls and shiny steel
floors. They change the acoustics in the four auditoria to match events, from
small-scale jazz gigs, to big concerts.
The other cultural wonder is Copenhagen Opera House, opened in 2005. It
literally drips with gold, like the setting for an Andersen tale. The auditorium
ceiling is adorned with 105,000 sheets of gold leaf. Both places do guided
tours.

Shock of the chic

I’ve been in awe of Danish design since I bought an early Bang & Olufsen
gramophone years back. So it’s a big thrill to see this nation‘s skill at creating
fine things spread across an entire city. Saunter along Stroget, Europe''s
longest pedestrian shopping street and explore the side streets for sleek
boutiques devoted to the full range of sharp Danish designers. Then you can
savour Danish design firsthand in one of the city’s many stylish hotels. The
retro design Hotel Alexandra is full of classic designer furniture. It holds The
Green Key - the hotel trade’s mark of eco-excellence - along with nine other
hotels, the Phoenix Copenhagen, 71 Nyhavn, Imperial, Grand, The Square,
Copenhagen Island, Copenhagen Strand, Opera and Gentofte. Also for eco-
friends is youth hostel Sleep-in-Green, with its solar panels and organic
breakfasts.

Day tripper

The immense Øresund Bridge, opened in 2000, soars out of the city, carrying
road and rail from Denmark to Sweden. It is one of the longest in the world.
Try it out with the “Around the Sound” ticket (£48 hours, £25 - at the airport
and Central Station) which gives unlimited two day, two-country rail travel in
the Øresund Region. Use it to ride the bridge into Sweden, then cross back
into Denmark on the Helsingborg to Helsingør (Elsinore) ferry for Kronborg
Castle, 25 miles from Copenhagen. Shakespeare set Hamlet here, using
information from traveling actors. Gielgud, Redgrave, Burton, and Kenneth
Branagh all played Hamlet at Elsinore. Another good out-of-town trip (about
30 minutes) with this ticket is to the splendid Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde
(www.vikingeskibsmuseet.dk). Features five 11th century Viking ships
excavated from Roskilde Fjord.

Fairytale city

Copenhagen is sprinkled in stardust. The grand master of fairy tales
Hans Christian Andersen loved it so much he reserved a second birthday
marking the day he arrived here.
There are links across the city to the man who gave the world sound sense
dressed as fantasy, in such enduring stories as Princess and the Pea, Ugly
Duckling and The Emperor''s New Clothes. His restored attic room in the city’s
Magasin department store in Vingårdstræde has exact copies of his original
furniture. The famous nomad had three addresses among the multicoloured,
17th-century, gabled buildings of Nyhavn (New Harbour). The whole district is
restored, full of restaurants and cafes. Go to Tivoli Gardens, inspiration for
The Nightingale, around nightfall for the full magical experience. And try to
take your first sight of Den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid), on a granite
stone at Langelinie Pier, under moonlight. Andersen walks - see web link below.


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