Each person defines what happiness means in a different way. Being happy is therefore an extremely individual matter – or is it? Not if the Danes are anything to go by! They have been viewed as the second-happiest people in the world for some time. According to the World Happiness Report, the source of their happiness lies in a mixture of factors such as life expectancy and the country’s gross domestic product. So much for the theory based on numbers. But if you get to know the country and its people better, it is clear that Danes have discovered their very own recipe for what is beautiful in life: ‘hygge’. It involves a special mixture of feeling secure, warm and safe, e.g. in the form of a cosy home or spending valuable time with family and friends.
Feeling at home in their country is not at all difficult for Danes: Denmark is a relatively small country but has more than 7,300 kilometres of coastline thanks to its unique location next to the North and the Baltic Sea. Mediterranean flair on endless sandy beaches can even be found on the aptly named ‘Danish South Sea’. If you have sturdy shoes, there are plenty of sights, museums and historical buildings to discover in the picturesque cities, regardless of the weather. And Copenhagen in particular has plenty to offer.
With 1,345,000 residents in the metropolitan area, Copenhagen is one of the smaller capitals. However, that does not affect people’s attitude to life. On the contrary: an urban area spread over several islands, a monarchy that is 1,000 years old and art and culture on every corner enable visitors to encounter a traditional or modern, serene or lively city, depending on their preference. Those who approach Copenhagen by boat or cruise ship recognise in a special way how closely the sea and the city are interconnected.
The sea is also what made the former Køpmannæhafn (old Danish for commercial port) in the Viking period into the kingdom’s largest and most important city for centuries. The royal family has not only ensured that the urban area has been constantly expanded but has also bequeathed the city important and prestigious buildings like Rosenborg Castle, Rundetårn and Børsen. Major projects such as the Free Port, city hall and main railway station have left their lasting mark on the cityscape since the end of the 19th century. More recently, the construction of the Øresund Bridge in 2000 enabled Copenhagen to become the unrivalled centre of one of the most important urban conglomerates in Europe thanks to its link with the southern Swedish city of Malmö.
The Tivoli Gardens are one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Opened in 1843, the area now offers more than 20 fairground rides – ranging from a nostalgic roundabout to a roller coaster. One of the great classics is the Ferris wheel with its characteristic star shape; then there are the gondolas in hot-air-balloon style and the unique view over the park and the city. It is worth visiting at any time of the year: painted Easter eggs, thousands of daffodils and lambs are the major attractions at Easter. Tivoli is transformed into a pumpkin country for Halloween with ghosts, spiders, scarecrows and some spooky surprises after nightfall. Things become particularly ‘hygge-like’ at Christmas with the glittering lights, Christmas sounds and the invitation from the Julemanden, the Danish version of Father Christmas, to join him in his warm parlour.
This small, 400-metre-long branch of the port, appropriately referred to as “new port”, is the postcard motif for Copenhagen. Colourful gabled houses contain restaurants, bars and cafés and form the longest bar mile in the city. Residents of Copenhagen regularly meet on the quay wall to watch the sun set and enjoy drinks they have brought with them. Port tours and old ship tours provide pleasure for any maritime enthusiast. This is a place where one can experience a time when the city had a commercial port. Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s best-known author, lived here too and wrote ‘The Princess and the Pea’, one of his most famous fairy tales, during that time.
The impressive Rococo-style structure dating back to the 17th century consists of four identical palaces. The Queen lives in one of them, which is easily recognisable by the flag which is hoisted when she is at home. Another palace is accessible to the public in the form of the Amalienborg Museum. A visit is particularly impressive during the changing of the royal guard every day. The soldiers leave the barracks at Rosenborg Castle at 11:30 a.m. and arrive in Amalienborg at midday, tunefully accompanied by soldiers playing musical instruments and drums.
The city’s best-known resident is surprisingly small, measuring just 125 centimetres. That does not detract from her status as the absolute tourist hotspot. Den lille Havfrue is a bronze symbol of the story of an unhappy mermaid, who would have loved to live on land, based on the fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen. The statue has been welcoming visitors to the Port of Copenhagen since 1913, right next to the Langelinie promenade.
Four streets and three squares join forces to form one of the longest pedestrian zones in Europe. The name Strøget is used as a synonym for shopping by residents of Copenhagen as well as visitors. The area is home to a variety of shops, ranging from low-cost chain stores to some of the most expensive brands in the world. The one kilometre or so from the city hall square to Kongens Nytorv can also be used for a little sightseeing tour. The Church of the Holy Spirit, the cathedral and the Storkespringvandet spring can all be visited with a shopping bag in your hand.
Anarchists occupied a former military site in the Christianshavn district of the city in the 1960s and then established an autonomous community, which was tolerated by the State. About 1,000 people live in the alternative Christiana residential settlement, which covers an area measuring about 34 hectares. Visiting will appear to be laid back thanks to market stands, live music and street art. However, visitors should still follow some rules: cars and motorbikes are prohibited. Police raids on Pusher Street are a normal daily occurrence because of the drug trade – and taking photos is strictly forbidden there.
The port silhouette is dominated by the Royal Opera House on the island of Holmen. The monumental structure, built on an area measuring 41,000 square metres, is home to the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera and the Royal Orchestra. The programme reflects this variety: classics such as Giselle and Carmen or chamber concerts provide cultural pleasure for every taste. The steel/glass complex not only offers acoustic pleasures, but visual ones too: yellow Jura limestone on the façade, floors made of Sicilian marble in the foyer and a ceiling decorated with 105,000 sheets of gold leaf in the Grand Hall turn the visit into a real experience.
Copenhagen is well-known as a bike city. Almost half the residents of Copenhagen use their bikes to commute to work or the university. There are therefore bike lanes everywhere; even in the port area, special bridges for cyclists connect the individual parts of the city that are located on islands. Bikes can be hired on every corner, either through the official City Bike rental or through private rental companies. The city also has so much water that it is bound to be a swimming centre – for example, at free swimming pools next to the port and the sea, such as the Amager Beach Park facility, which is 4.6 kilometres long. Do you want to jump into the port basin on a warm summer’s day after a discovery tour? No problem! The water in the port is always clean thanks to underground tanks for rainwater and wastewater.
However, Copenhagen is not only the centre in the geographical sense. The city can also assert its claim to superiority in political, economic, educational, legal and cultural matters. It has the largest and oldest university, the most influential media and the most important museums and theatres in Denmark. Trend-setting fashion labels such as Baum and Pferdgarten and Filippa K as well as furniture design from Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wenger underline the Danes’ reputation for their special sense of clothing style and their Nordic home décor.
However, being the pioneer in fashion, design and culture is not all. When it comes to culinary delicacies, Copenhagen could well be called the gourmet capital of the Nordics. No fewer than 63 restaurants are listed in the Michelin Guide; 15 of them account for 24 Michelin stars. Two restaurants in particular have topped the leader board for years, with three stars each. The Noma was the best restaurant in the world for many years. Lamb from Greenland, seaweed from Iceland and crabs from the Faroe Islands are just some of the delicacies that you can enjoy as ‘new Nordic cuisine’; and this means that the restaurant is often fully booked six months in advance. The Geranium tops the list of 50 best restaurants and attracts gourmets with its completely meat-free dishes. Street food markets offer some contrast to what tends to be rather elite enjoyment. For example, the Papirøen near Nyhavn, which provides visitors with food from all over the world at stands constructed from old freight containers.
Anybody who would like to try something typically Danish during their visit to Copenhagen will not be able to avoid Smørrebrød. It is rye bread with a topping that usually consists of meat, crabs, cheese, sausage or pâté and is eaten with a knife and fork. The classic variants include Sol over Gudhjem with smoked herring, onions, raw egg yolk and radishes or Pariserbøf with steak tartare, onions, beetroot and a fried egg. For beer lovers, a beer from the world-famous Carlsberg brewery, headquartered in Copenhagen, is a perfect match. The rød pølse red sausage is a regular feature of Danish hotdogs, alongside roast onions and slices of sweet-and-sour gherkins. Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy desserts such as red fruit jelly (rødgrød med fløde), cinnamon buns (kanelsnegl) and Viennese pastries (wienerbrød).
Despite its geographical location on the edges of Denmark, Copenhagen is the country’s most notable transport hub. It is the most important port for cruise liners in northern Europe and air passengers flying to Scandinavia’s largest airport. Most companies have also concentrated their business operations in Greater Copenhagen. In logistical terms, Kattegat provides excellent shipping connections to Sweden and Skagerrak does the same for Norway. It is also easy to reach the Baltic States, Poland and Finland via the Baltic Sea. The country is directly connected with Central Europe by land via its neighbour, Germany, while the Øresund Bridge ensures road links with southern Sweden.
According to Statista, the manufacturing industry accounted for approx. 20.2 per cent of Denmark’s gross domestic product in 2021 – and the services sector accounted for approx. 65.7 per cent. The most important export goods include packaged pharmaceuticals worth US $14.5 billion, according to the OEC. As a result, logistics for the health products and pharmaceutical products are an important economic sector. Logistics specialist Rhenus provides international transport, warehouse and distribution services which meet Good Distribution Practice (GDP) standards from its two Danish sites in Copenhagen and Aarhus.
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