6 December 2009

Copenhagen's Life-Sized Nordic Cool

Friday Night Moving
Here's a piece I wrote for The Guardian a couple of years ago. Appropriate, perhaps, now the the world is descending on our fair city.

Copenhagen is an aesthetic capital that is content with its laid-back, cool attitude and rather unimpressed with the delusions of grandeur suffered by other European cities. The city centre is a charming labyrinth of cosy streets peppered with trendy cafes and boutiques. The surrounding neighbourhoods are relaxed areas where the Copenhagener can be seen in its natural environment.

What the city lacks in Eiffel Towers and Big Bens it makes up for with its curious mix of historic buildings and ultra-modern design. In the summer months, flocks of bewildered tourists from the armada of cruise ships (Copenhagen is the third-busiest cruise destination in the world) can be seen wandering about wondering what it is they should be looking at.

At least they can wander without worry, as much of the city centre is designated as pedestrian areas with "Strøget" being the crown in the work. The street stretches from the Town Hall Square to Nyhavn on the harbour. Wandering about a city has rarely been easier or more desirable.

With the strength of other European currencies the city is hardly as expensive as it once was. Shopping for designer items is a treat and done while taking in striking modern architecture like the new opera house or the Black Diamond building, both on the harbour. Design is often regarded as Denmark's greatest cultural export so they put a bit of elbow grease into it. The best way to get around is on a bike. The city boasts one of the world's most developed network of bike infrastructure and you won’t be alone: 37% of Copenhageners cycle to work or school every day and 55% of all trips in the city are by bicycle.

If "big is better" is your thing, then Copenhagen will disappoint. Upon seeing the Little Mermaid statue on her rock on the harbour generations of puzzled tourists have uttered the same remark: "But she’s so SMALL!" Upon hearing this a Copenhagener will merely shrug and remark, "She’s life-size". All with a crooked smile and a twinkle in the eye,

Which would be an ideal motto for Copenhagen. Life-size. An ego to match any other capital but an ego which is wrapped up in a Nordic coolness that makes any visit to the city a calming, groovy and aesthetically appealing experience.


Unknown said...

Well written, Mikael... and I like the "life-size" analogy for Copenhagen. Very cool.

Ricardo said...

Great article!

Here in Portugal, many people, mostly elderly people, love to go on bus trips where they spend a few hours in each city.

Others with higher purchase power leave on these 2 or 3 weels trips during which they stop for a mere day or two in each city. Just enough to visit all the typical touristical places available.

It's the fast food of tourism. It gives you a sense of satisfaction which you can only recall thanks to the hundreds of photos taken. You don't have time for those exquisite moments that can only be caught if you really see the places through your retin instead of the cameras lens.

I prefere to linger in every city I visit. Breathe the same air its people, enjoy the lifestyle of that city. Copenhagen seems to be a great place for that kind of tourism, rather than the canned visitors aboard the cruisers.

More and more, by reading your posts and watching your pics, copenhagen calls for a visit.