The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

CAPITAL IDEA: Copenhagen: a quick guide

Welcome to another “Capital Ideas”—our somewhat idiosyncratic, ever so slightly tongue-in-cheek guide to various world cities, perfect for the ever discerning readership of this blog. We know our readers are always visitors, never tourists (an important distinction).

Do feel free to contribute your own ideas or suggestions in the comments section, we’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

Capital: Copenhagen.

Why? Because we got to get ourselves prepared for 2014that’s why!

What’s happening in Copenhagen 2014? Only the greatest thing ever! I’m talking Eurovision.

Oh dear, that was two weeks ago. Are you still withering on about that? Excuse me, if I’m still on a Eurovision high. And who wouldn’t be after the winsome, elfin like charms of Emmelie de Forest winning it for the Danes with her delightful song, “Only Teardrops.” I’ve been listening to it for two weeks straight. Having won this year’s Eurovision, Denmark will be hosting next year’s tournament giving us the perfect opportunity to go over and visit the Danish capital.

To be honest, I’m not that big a fan of Euro pop. What a sour puss! Still, there’s plenty of things for you to enjoy while I’m off getting my Euro groove on.

Such as? Grab a bike and cycle around the city.

Well, that sounds like a nice and easy way to tour around. It is! Copenhagen really is a bike friendly city. Some companies that you can rent from can be found here. In fact, you can cycle all the way to the statue of Hans Christen Andersen’s Little Mermaid, which sits on a rock in the harbor—it’s quite the tourist attraction, if a little underwhelming, but you don’t like to say as the locals are so pleasant and you don’t want to hurt their feelings as they really are proud of it.

You really are a true diplomat, aren’t you? If you find yourself really charmed by the Hans Christian Andersen theme then you can also visit the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale house. It’s operated by Ripley’s Believe it or Not!—so perhaps is best enjoyed if you’re bringing the kids. Although to be honest, just wandering around the New Harbor district is like stepping into one of the famed Danish writer’s stories.

And what about more adult-orientated options? Then you might want to consider visiting Freetown, Christiania—definitely best not to bring the kids if you’re going there.

What is it? A self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood of about 850 residents—well, that’s how it’s described on Wikipedia, though you might know it best as a commune.

Hardly sounds like a tourist spot. It is a fascinating place to visit in order to see the community that has grown up in the area. Just don’tto be glib for a changebuy any of the brownies.

So I really should go there to soak up the atmosphere but not inhale it? Exactly.

Anything else other than fairy tales and hippies for me to see? I’ve two recommendations for you and they both involve Carlsberg.

The beer people? Yes.

Great. What are they? Well the first is to visit the Carlsberg brewery. They have a Visitor’s Centre located at their original brewery that will detail the history of this famous beer . . .

. . . But will I get a sample of their product? I wouldn’t countenance recommending the Visitor’s Centre if they didn’t hand out samples.

So it’s probably the best Visitor’s Centre in the world? Yes, very droll. The cost of your entry fee is good for one sample and, considering the high cost of food and drink in that part of the world, it really is the cheapest drink you’ll find in Copenhagen, unless someone offers you a bottle of something in Christiania.

And what’s the other Carlsberg suggestion? It’s the “Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek”.

Probably best that I don’t try and pronounce that after a couple of pints of Carlsberg. True.

What is it? It’s an art museum. Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg brewery, amassed a vast collection of art that he gifted to the state. It has one of the largest Rodin collections in the world. It really is a wonderful place to lose yourself in.

Other recommendations? If you love a bit of royalty, then the Amalienborg Museum allows a glimpse into the regal side of Copenhagen. The Amalienborg itself (a square on which four identical palaces are located) is an amazingly relaxed place to visit and cycle around considering it is an official residence for the Danish royal family. I’d also recommend the Museum of Copenhagen for a fascinating overview of the history of the city.

What should I read? Well, Denmark’s golden age is marked by the writings of Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard. Do you want fairy tales or existential philosophy? The choice really is yours. More recently, Peter Hoeg is a Danish author who has had considerable international success with his novel Smilla’s Sense of Snow. Karen Blixen (who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen) is unarguably the most acclaimed Danish novelist of the C20th. Her best-known work, Out of Africa, is perhaps not the most evocative novel for someone planning a trip to Copenhagen on account of its Kenyan setting, but irrespective of that it is still very much worth your time.

What should I watch? Early Danish cinema is dominated by the figure of Carl Theodor Dreyer. Most of his great works—such as The Passion of Joan of Arc—were French productions after he moved there in order to find greater opportunities than offered by the early Danish film industry. Out of his Danish films, however, Leaves From Satan’s Book is a classic of the silent era. More recently, Danish cinema among an English-speaking audience has been synonymous with filmmakers such as Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg who came out of the Dogme 95 Collective. Out of all their work it’s Vinterberg’s film Festen that I would most recommend you watch. Of late, Danish TV dramas have also been receiving critical attention. Police procedural The Killing spawned a poor American remake, and the political drama Borgen has developed a loyal following on BBC Four in the UK and Link TV in the US.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, another installment in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

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2 responses to “CAPITAL IDEA: Copenhagen: a quick guide

  1. Helena Halme (@helenahalme) May 30, 2013 at 1:50 am

    I love Copenhagen mainly because the people are so friendly! And I grew up on Hans Christian Andersen, so it’s one of my favourite cities in the world.

    I have another interesting little fact about the Carlsberg factory: in the 1980’s the management of the factory decided that the free beer the employees enjoyed as their perk while at work would have to go. The workers, however, had different ideas and went on strike. I think the free limitless beer for employees still stands today. Or is this just another Nordic myth?

  2. ML Awanohara May 30, 2013 at 7:16 am

    @ Anthony – I just got done watching A Royal Affair on Netflix, the 2012 Danish historical drama directed by Nikolaj Arcel, starring Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander and Mikkel Følsgaard. I’m someone who enjoys period pieces, but even those who don’t might find themselves pleasantly surprised. Great (true) story of an educated queen from Britain, her mad Danish king husband, and a charismatic German doctor who took over the court de facto and brought in Enlightenment reforms. (The queen and he have a child together.) The British critic Mark Kermode picked it as one of this top two films of 2012. Another critic calls it a “rare, royal feast.”

    Speaking of feasts, another Danish film that I love is Babette’s Feast, which is based on a story by the inimitable Isak Dineson — who I think belongs in our Displaced Hall of Fame!

    Both films hint that underneath the pious, backwards facade, Danes have always had a warm, beating heart — ergo the friendliness that Helena describes finding in Copenhagen.

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