Scandinavian life

Copenhagen, the urban queen

Yep, Copenhagen has palaces, Andersen’s Nyhavn and its very little Little Mermaid. But how does a day without maps and tourist ambitions look like in Denmark’s capital?

On the move

Cyclists glide one after the other on the bike lane between the Kongens Nytorv bus stop and the sidewalk. It’s sunny, but last night’s barely forgotten chilliness still bites those toes, naked in brightly coloured Birkenstocks. On their way to kindergarten, kids are having breakfast among a jumble of toys, in parent-propelled cargo bikes, while school children are in charge of their own pedals, with an easiness defying any danger. In Copenhagen, you don’t grab your bike only on weekends or holidays, you do it every day; over half of the capital’s population does so, covering about 1,3 million kilometres every day on a 400 km-long bike lane network. OK, so the children might be adorable, but so are suited-up vikings on their speed bikes; some of whom might just be members of the parliament – 60% of them cycle to work.

To see Copenhagen from your bike seat, go to Cykelbørsen, the biggest bike-rental company in Denmark and get your two-wheeler for 10 euros a day. On cyclodeo.com you can check how a bike tour of the capital looks like.

Nature at its highest

A young girl is stretching on a bench in the Botanical Gardens. It’s all so quiet. This green patch, dating back to the 1600s, seems light years from any hint of urban life; trees and bushes shape Japanese gardens, ducks are plunging through water lilies, worry-free squirrels dine in the middle of alleys. Not far, in the Royal Gardens, summer picnics – the veggie-rich, bring along all your hyper-energetic kids picnics – are the thing right now. A female art director sets up a stage for an evening play; loud hippies protest against the World Cup and social inequality in Brazil.

Get started

At a kaffe hus. For dark coffee or the hygge atmosphere, the Danish go through winters near warm espresso machines and stay awake through polar summers in hundreds of coffee houses in town. At Coffee Collective everything is raw honest – there’s the coffee roaster, here are the origin coffees. The three guys who opened 3 different venues across Copenhagen believe in a transparent supply chain, so they keep in touch with coffee farmers across the world, whom they visit every year. Then, on the narrow Værnedamsvej street, where right or left, you don’t know where to stop and eat/drink/buy, Rist Kaffebar is the morning pit-stop for some quiet time, a good newspaper, a fruity porridge and a latte in short, heavy glasses; all with a back window looking into a flower garden.

Functional discretion

The Danish surely know what do with spaces – outdoors or indoors. In Copenhagen, furniture and decoration stores might arouse your domestic side. One could not complain about Illums Bolighus and its floors full of copper pots, lamps, tea kettles, pillows, raincoats and unexpectedly useful paraphernalia. Beyond mass produced items, on Niels Hemmingsanse street (or gade), the owners of Stilleben became famous worldwide for selling a combination of functional, unique objects, from painted cutting boards to towels and minimalist jewelry. Even bargain shops will draw you in with fasteners or retro bottle corks. What Ikea?

The great beauty

It’s easy dealing with not-so-sunny days with everybody around being so ridiculously pretty and lively. Talking about a genetic lottery is pointless; but women here are not pure fairy tale beings; they seem well-grounded, comfortable with their age and beach-bronze skin, lighting the streets with their stylish gym clothes or cycling on heels. Danish men – no objections there. Copenhagen urbanites don’t struggle for a health lifestyle – their daily routine includes workouts and a cuisine revolving around a close-to-nature, Nordic diet.

Endless feasting

Apart from Michelin-starred restaurants and a smorrebrod solving any hunger crisis, locals often stop at Torvehallerne market, in Norreport; at first sight, it’s just two glass domes and traders selling produce in the open air. But things get complicated when you go in and can’t get out; it’s a gourmet vicious circle: Greek mezes after Spanish tapas, sushi next to fish tacos, oiled Italian focaccia sliced for tasting. At Palæo, there’s no room for cereals or dairy; the pork synced with caramelized shallots and porcini mushrooms is wrapped in omelet; you can top that with juices ranging from blueberry-mint to pomegranate, lemon and red pepper. After some spicy fish meatballs at Fiskefrikadeller, a Fransk Snegl cinnamon roll from Laura’s Bakery might be a good idea; followed by a vanilla and raspberry Hindbærsnitte sandwich.

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