Style guides deem it the world’s most liveable city, but the Danish capital has plenty to please travellers, too. Copenhagen manages to combine Danish design, new Nordic cuisine and award-winning architecture seamlessly with greenways and cycle paths that lead to harbour swims and cream-coloured beaches.
Its playgrounds and legendary fairground attractions at Tivoli Gardens make this one of Scandinavia’s most family-friendly destinations.
But, it isn’t cheap, especially for travellers navigating with sterling. Luckily, the city has hotels for every budget, many of which provide a great base for sightseeing. Far smaller than neighbouring Oslo or Stockholm, Copenhagen’s chief attractions are clustered around the higgledy-piggledy city centre (Indre By) and pretty harbour, but don’t miss the canals and cobblestones of historic Christianshavn. For buzzy bars, shops and restaurants, head to Vesterbro and Nørrebro, the city’s hippest quarters; not forgetting Frederiksberg, with its green spaces and grand old buildings. Cycling is usually the quickest way to get around town and, thanks to miles of segregated bike lanes, is very safe. And, when that takes its toll, you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep bedding down at any of these carefully curated hotels.
For luxury: D’Angleterre
Dating back to 1755, d’Angleterre is the city’s ritziest hotel. With its lavish decor, dapper bellboys and cosy fireplaces, it oozes charm, and commands a prime location, too, overlooking one of Copenhagen’s grandest squares, just a stone’s throw from its high-end shops. Plus, with a Champagne bar, stunning spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant — Marchal, named after its founders — you can see why d’Angleterre attracts rock stars and royalty. But, despite its posh pedigree and festive facade (augmented by the annual illumination of its Christmas lights, a much-loved tradition), d’Angleterre never seems stuffy. A 2013 makeover gave it plenty of pep, and its 92 rooms and suites have a refined, modern feel — think marble bathrooms and Bang & Olufsen televisions.
Rooms: From £370 per night, room only.
For foodies: Nimb
You certainly won’t starve at Nimb. The five-star hotel has no fewer than six bars and restaurants, including a brasserie, steakhouse and a rustic, well-stocked wine cellar. Then there’s its location. Nimb sits before Copenhagen’s main railway station, putting the airport just 15 minutes away, and hugs the western flank of Tivoli Gardens. In fact, all but one of Nimb’s 17 rooms and suites offers views of the gardens, including the main stage, giving guests front-row seats for Tivoli’s summer concerts — this season’s headliners include Brian Wilson and Erykah Badu. Showcasing Scandinavian design, the rooms feature Arne Jacobsen chairs and lots of natural materials, such as Douglas fir and Swedish granite. November sees the launch of a northern extension, giving the hotel a spa, pool and 23 extra rooms.
Rooms: From £285 per night, B&B.
For water babies: CPH Living
You’ll find the best rooms at CPH Living on the ground floor. That’s because it’s built on an old barge docked on the eastern side of Copenhagen harbour, on the fringes of up-and-coming Islands Brygge. As you’d expect from a floating hotel, it bobs soothingly with the waves. But, forget about poky cabins and portholes: its 12 rooms are clean and uncluttered, and feature chrome fittings and maritime colours. You’ll get great views of the city skyline and harbour, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows, as well as from the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Besides the spectacular city architecture on view, including the shimmering granite of the Black Diamond library, you’ll spot cyclists traversing a nearby bridge, plus the odd swan or two swimming past your window. The breakfast buffet includes fresh fruit and Danish pastries.
Rooms: From £123 per night, B&B.
For artists: Ibsens
A retro neon sign isn’t the only thing that distinguishes Ibsens from its rivals. It’s also the world’s first hotel to accept ‘art money’, an alternative currency used by artists to purchase goods and services. The dining-room-cum-gallery displays the paintings that creatives have used to get discounts on stays. Renovated in 2011, Ibsens’ rooms are well-appointed with minimalist tones and designer furniture. The dormer windows of the timber-framed, top-floor accomodations provide pretty views across the rooftops, while the breakfast buffet offers seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers. Visitors can also stroll over to the nearby Torvehallerne food market, or take advantage of discounted access to the spa at Kong Arthur, the upmarket sister hotel next door.
Rooms: From £82 per night, room only.
For couples: Central Hotel
You won’t have to worry about overhearing guests in adjacent rooms at Central Hotel. That’s because there aren’t any. The first-floor hotel on the fringes of Frederiksberg has just one room — a bijou space straight out of a Wes Anderson movie. Eschewing Nordic minimalism, hotel owner Leif Thingtved scoured eBay for period pieces, including a vintage lavatory with an elevated cistern and chain, and a folding table and chair from the telephone booth of an English railway station. Throw in polished wooden floors, a globe and, making good use of space, a craftily concealed television, and the room is utterly charming. Guests can also enjoy a complimentary breakfast at Granola, a popular restaurant round the corner, or order top-notch coffee from the cafe downstairs. And yes, room service is available.
Rooms: From £240 per night, B&B.
For budget travellers: Generator Copenhagen
Let’s get one thing straight: Generator Copenhagen isn’t a hotel, it’s a hostel. But, don’t let that fool you. It has the design chops of many a fancy boutique. Think funky furniture, quirky art, a buzzy bar and indoor games galore, including a pétanque court because, well, why not? As well as its top-notch location in the middle of town, the premium doubles are smart and the shared dorms (including some for women only) are outstanding value. And you won’t struggle to make new friends. Befitting for the world’s happiest country, Generator has not one but two happy hours every evening. Skål!
Rooms: From £64 per night, room only.
For night owls: Andersen Boutique Hotel
With its vibrant colour scheme, Andersen Boutique Hotel offers a refreshing alternative to the muted accents much loved by Scandi hoteliers. Its uniquely decorated rooms and suites feature fabrics by Designers Guild in arresting hues of ocean blue and lime green, or cerise and purple. Befitting the bold style, Andersen has a casual vibe. Begin the day with organic produce at the breakfast buffet and, later, enjoy a complimentary glass of wine in the lobby. Located in hip Vesterbro, Andersen is perfectly placed for having fun; it’s at the end of edgy Istedgade, with the bars and restaurants of meatpacking district Kødbyen nearby.
Rooms: From £130 per night, room only.
Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)