A creative's guide to Copenhagen: Hygge, Munch and an alternative hub within a city

Nestled on the coastal islands of Zealand and Amager, Copenhagen – Denmark's capital – isn't just super cool, it's ranked as the happiest city in the world. The home of "hygge" (which translates as 'cosiness'), it's a laid-back, bike-friendly, super liveable place with cobbled streets, arts and crafts, and a thriving food and drinks scene.

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What's more, Copenhagen turns 850 years old this year, so we thought we'd take a closer look at this remarkable, beautiful city, and offer some essential travel tips for all of you art and design lovers. There's a reason why they sang "Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen" in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. Here, we find out why.

Where to stay

You can't possibly visit Copenhagen without staying in one of the city's most stylish hotels. This is a leading design capital of the world, after all. Consider the rather cool SP34 in Copenhagen's Latin Quarter. It's a hop, skip and a jump from Tivoli and down a cute little street where you'll find bike shops, pastry shops, great restaurants and design stores. Bohemian and totally suited to your fussy creative taste, every bedroom has been designed with a Nordic touch.

Or what about the Hotel Alexandra, which claims it's "like staying with a Danish design-loving friend in Copenhagen"? Based just around the corner from City Hall Square, it's probably the only hotel on Earth with such a unique and large collection of Danish mid-century furniture. Perfect.

Nimb Hotel is another contender, right by the entrance to Tivoli Gardens and opposite Copenhagen's central station. A tad posh, its 17 suites are for the wealthier amongst you. A real treat with concierge and personal shopper services.

Our final recommendation is the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, designed by renowned Danish architect Arne Jacobsen. Sleek and modern, this place features suites that showcase the original Jacobsen décor from the 1960s. Nicely done.

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Views over Copenhagen | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Five touristy things you must do in Copenhagen

When you think of Copenhagen, you probably immediately think of Nyhavn – that gorgeous 17th-century waterfront where brightly coloured period townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants line the pretty streets stretching from Kongens Nytorv (King's Square) to the harbour front just south of the Royal Playhouse. Well, this is where we recommend you headfirst. Find a bar, sit by the canal and enjoy people watching as well as admiring the moored historical wooden ships.

Next up, head over to Christiania in the district of Christianshavn – a green and car-free neighbourhood whose inhabitants enjoy an alternative lifestyle. It was apparently founded in 1971 by a bunch of hippies who occupied an abandoned military barracks and developed their own set of societal rules, completely independent of the Danish government. Today, it's a mixture of homemade houses, workshops, art galleries and organic eateries. Plus there's loads of street art. A little like Glastonbury in the good old days. Just don't take any photographs – it's for your own safety, mainly because of the hash dealing – which is illegal in Denmark.

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The Little Mermaid | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

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Nyhavn | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

For a little exercise and to enjoy some decent views over Copenhagen, visit The Round Tower - a 17th-century tower and observatory, which is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. We especially love the spiral walkway that takes you up to the top.

Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park just a few minutes walk from City Hall and is considered a national treasure. Founded in 1843, Hans Christian Anderson visited many times, as did Walt Disney who allegedly fell in love with the gardens. With beautiful scenery, exotic architecture and lush gardens (not to mention a fair number of rides), Tivoli has something for everyone.

Last but not least, The Little Mermaid should definitely be on your list. Based on Langelinje Pier, the sculpture is over a hundred years old and is one of Copenhagen's most famous tourist attractions. The sculpture was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen. Made of bronze and granite, it was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who gives up everything to be united with a young, handsome prince on land.

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Art in Christiania | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Our top spots for art and design lovers

So you've done all the touristy stuff, now you want a little creative fix. Head over to SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark, Denmark's largest art museum which features Danish and international art from the past seven centuries. Expect to see classic works by artists such as Mantegna, Nolde, Anna Ancher, Derain, Rubens, Matisse, Hammershøi, Munch, Abramovic, Danh Vo and Elmgreen & Dragset.

Just south of Copenhagen lies ARKEN Museum of Modern Art, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Expect exhibitions from some of the greatest Modernist artists alongside contemporary art shows from new and established modern artists.

If you can sacrifice some time to travel 40km north of Copenhagen, then the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is worth the trip.

And of course, you can't visit Copenhagen without discovering more about Danish design and architecture, so head to Designmuseum Danmark to enjoy some local decorative art, crafts and industrial design. Or check out the Danish Architecture Centre which celebrates Danish architecture but also hosts some highly recommended walking architecture tours of Copenhagen.

If two wheels are more your thing, go to beCopenhagen for a cycling tour of Copenhagen's architecture.

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The Round Tower | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

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The National Gallery, Denmark | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

Great places to eat

For breakfast or brunch, go to the wallet-friendly Sidecar which offers a quality buffet brunch – expect fresh salads, delicious sandwiches and all kinds of cheese and mini croissants. You might also consider Bistro Royal at Kongens Nytorv – sporting the "best from the French and Danish cuisine".

When your tummy starts to rumble around midday, you'll want to experience the best food Copenhagen has to offer and that's the unique smørrebrød – literally, "spread bread", or open-faced sandwich. Aamann's 1021 gives you the best smørrebrød in town in a beautifully elegant restaurant setting. Or there's Selma, a more laid-back establishment in Vesterbro’s food market, WestMarket.

For dinner and a little jazz, it's got to be Jazzhus Montmartre, a renowned venue where American jazz giants Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Kenny Drew have played. Enjoy some Nordic soul food whilst watching some live music. Or to watch the pennies, head over to Copenhagen Street Food, a popular street market that serves up food from all corners of the globe. Even better, it's on the harbour front – perfect for watching sunsets too.

For more ideas on eating out, check out Visit Copenhagen's recommendations.

The most enticing watering holes

Beer lovers are in for a treat. Copenhagen loves craft beer and has plenty of bars where you can sample the delights from local breweries. WarPigs is certainly a great starting point. Based in the buzzing Meatpacking District, it features an on-site brewery and serves 22 taps of choice. Or there's Nørrebro Bryghus, an award-winning brewery and bar serving up local made beer and classic Danish lunches and gourmet dinners.

If you're more of a cocktail drinker, try Lidkoeb in Vesterbrogade. Its range of cocktails is based on whiskey, which makes for an interesting evening. Or Curfew is a nice spot on Stenosgade. With comfy plush sofas and luxurious interiors, this will feel like a right treat when you need to rest those weary tourist legs.

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Tivoli Gardens | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

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Strøget for shopping | Image courtesy of Adobe Stock

The best co-working spaces

If you're visiting Copenhagen on a "working" break, then there are loads of fantastic co-working spots for the discerning creative professional. Republikken on Vesterbrogade is a good place to start, as they offer day passes in its open workspace.

Rainmaking Loft is a great shout over on Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé. A cool and light space, it offers flexible day passes too with loads of benefits thrown in... i.e. free tea and coffee, fast wifi and printing facilities.

Or what about Rocket Labs on Hejrevej? You can book a day pass via Coworker.com, and discover more available spaces for that matter.


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