Christiania A Hymn to Freedom in Copenhagen
One of the unusual features of Copenhagen, which also happens to attract flocks of inquisitive tourists from all over the world, is Freetown Christiania (Fristaden Christiania). Located in the central borough of Christianshavn, it has the odd privilege of being autonomously ruled by a neighbourhood community which declared its independence from the Danish State and the European Union, as clearly marked on a sign at the exit from Christiania which reads: “You’re now entering the EU”.
The origins of Christiania go back to 1971, when a group of Danes occupied what was a derelict military precinct with abundant green areas which they decided to turn into a playground for their children. Guided by the spirit of the times, their move sparked a debate about what to do with that abandoned area. Members of the counter-culture movement known as Provo ended up occupying the area and founding a community where they set about putting into practice their anti-system ideas. After the occasional attempt at evicting them by the government, the latter gave in and allowed the neighbourhood community to flourish under self-management as a social experiment.
Amazing as it may seem, that hippy community, which now numbers some one thousand members, is still operating 45 years on. Be it the free atmosphere, the overridingly friendly vibes, or interest in seeing a small sample of Utopia in operation, the fact is that Christiania is the second most widely visited spot in Denmark after Copenhagen’s paradigmatic icon – The Little Mermaid. The community can be visited by guided tour or just wandering about freely, although visitors have to observe a set of rules voted by the community. Among these is a ban on private property, talking on mobile phones and taking photographs. Outsiders should particularly heed the latter, the most controversial prohibition and one that has at times threatened the survival of the community, where the smoking of cannabis is allowed.
The main drag in Christiania is Pusher Street, where you will find bars and vegetarian restaurants for engaging in “slow food”, as well as shops where you can buy craftwork and souvenirs of the city. One of the advantages of this area is that items are cheaper and no taxes are paid. Among the major charms of visiting this “freetown” is the contrast it strikes with the rest of Copenhagen. Untarred streets with no cars – and therefore no noise – military constructions converted into homes or common areas and a huge amount of colour and vegetation everywhere. A wholly anarchical picture in an atmosphere of total calm in which time seems to stand still.
Be sure to make a foray into this unusual enclave of freedom in the Danish capital – book your Vueling here.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by News Oresundmore info
10 tips for foodies in Copenhagen
By Isabel Loscertales from Gastronomistas
Small, pretty and laid-back, the Danish capital is the perfect destination to enjoy a culinary break. Noma, voted best restaurant in the world three years in a row (2010-2012) and with two Michelin stars, put the city on the international gourmet map and revolutionised the country's cuisine. But there's more foodie heaven beyond Noma. Copenhagen is proud of its desire to update tradition, its love for all things organic, its 'hygge' spirit (pretty, cosy ambience), its passion for design, its sun terraces... Between mouthfuls, make sure not to miss a stroll along Strøget shopping street, the colourful Nyhavn canal or the Tivoli Gardens; take a selfie with the Little Mermaid; explore the liveliest neighbourhoods: Vesterbro and Nørrebro; or wander around the independent area of Christiania - the centre of counter-culture. Go on foot or, like the locals, ride a bike. Here are ten tasty stop-offs for you:
1. New Danish cuisine
If you have plenty to spend, make sure you try and book for Noma online (Strandgade, 93). The chef, René Redzepi, was a pioneer in updating traditional Danish cuisine and recovering local ingredients with a special penchant for all things organic, natural and raw (wild herbs, etc.). He signed the New Kitchen Manifesto in 2004 (à la Lars von Trier) with other chefs which stirred up some trouble. If you do not fancy spending 1600 kroner (around €193) for the set menu (wine not included), you can always have a nosy at the old warehouse where it is located, on the Christianshavn wharf. If it's full, try the two starred Geranium run by Rasmus Kofoed (Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8º)
If you're on a tighter budget, we recommend Höst (Nørre Farimagsgade, 41), a cosy restaurant that won the best design in the world award at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2013. A spot-on combination of industrial interior design (warehouse like) and rural touches (some details evoking a farmhouse), and a lively-cum-intimate ambience are the two main features here whose raison d'être comes from these contrasts. For example, the ceiling is made from (recycled) wood and the floor is concrete. Spread over two floors and several rooms, we recommend ordering the set menu (actually, the rest of the menu is fairly short). It comes in at 295 kroner (around €35, wine not included) and offers two dishes and dessert, as well as several surprise amuse-bouches. Try the trout with black chanterelles, cauliflower (uncooked slices), mushroom jus and lots of fresh herbs as a starter; beef shank with mashed potato, carpaccio, beetroot and Madagascar pepper sauce for your main; and Jerusalem artichoke ice cream with an apple, muesli, meringue, sautéed Jerusalem artichoke slices and crunchy caramel crumble. Surprising delicious mixes.
2. Jaeggerborgade Street, as 'in' as it gets
In the multicultural neighbourhood of Nørrebro is the city's hipster-filled street with rows of fantastic spots. In addition to vintage clothes stores, second hand book shops, décor and design boutiques, and art and record shops, there are a few essential foodie outlets. Coffee Collection, at number 10, serves the best coffee in the city thanks to skilled baristas and fair trade coffee. An aromatic spot indeed! The premises itself are very interesting, breaking down traditional barriers meaning you'll find a young guy making coffee as if he were in his own kitchen, with no bar and a huge coffee grinder next to him. The well-respected chef Christian Puglisi (ex-Noma and elBulli) has two highly recommended spots facing one another: Relae (no. 41), with a Michelin star and serving two set menus (one for meat eaters, one for vegetarians) for around €46 not including wine, and Manfreds & Vin (no.40), specialising in natural wines and tapas. In addition, there's the artisan chocolate shop Ro Chokolade (no. 25), the handmade sweets at Karamelleriet by Ipsen /Vigel (no. 36) and the organic bakery Meyers Bageri (no. 9), run by Claus Meyer (co-owner of Noma alongside Rene).
3. Meatpacking District: Industrial cool
The other fashionable neighbourhood is Vesterbro that hides a converted industrial area home to a gourmet oasis for hipsters in pure New York style (nor for nothing does it share the same name as the NYC district). The funny thing is that in Copenhagen, the area is still home to real meatpacking businesses. In addition to the very popular Kødbyens Fiskebar (Flæsketorvet, 100), an industrial premises serving seafood, and the huge Italian terrace Mother, inviting you to spend hours in the sun (Høkerboderne, 9-15), there is the organic BioMio (Halmtorvet, 19). Located in a former Bosch appliance workshop that still has the neon lights on the front, it houses a large room with communal wooden tables and an open kitchen. The menu offers organic international cuisine with dishes to share (such as green beans with celeriac or salmon rillettes), a couple of woks, half a dozen "knife and fork" dishes (the kamut wheat risotto is excellent) and several natural options. Prices average around €35.
4. Hipster bars for hipster city
Still in Vesterbro (although beyond the Meatpacking District), there is a couple of bars (amongst others) for taking a break. On the one hand, the Cafe Granola (Vaernedamsvej, 5) has coffees, juices, milkshakes, breakfasts, sandwiches and cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere playing Motown in the background. On the other, the modern anti-design Bang & Jensen (Istedgade, 130). Famous for its wall with a painting of a sailor re-done in different artistic styles, cool youngsters come here for a quick bit or cocktail at the rickety tables and chairs.
5. La Glace: The most famous cake shop
Copenhagen's oldest cake shop (Conditori) is also famous for being Hans Christian Andersen's favourite. Enjoy its handmade cakes in a classically charming ambience. Its speciality, The Sports Cake, was create in 1891 for the play 'Sports Man' and is made from nougat, whipped cream and caramelised choux pastry. A recommended calorie-filled temptation. Skoubogade, 3.
6. The smørrebrød or open sandwich
It is one of the best known Danish dishes and ideal for a reasonably priced informal meal (Copenhagen is not exactly known for being a cheap city). It comprises a slice of bread and butter topped with different ingredients: smoked fish such as salmon or kipper, cold cuts, pâtés, eggs... alongside some type of pickle or extra something (capers, onion, dressing...). It can be enjoyed at traditional spots such as the Ida Davidsen (Store Kongensgade, 70) or the always busy Schønnemann (Hauser Plads, 16). Some chefs have even come up with updated versions, adding a more foodie touch. This is true for Adam Aaman who, after his success in Copenhagen (Øster Farimagsgade,10), has opened an Aamanns branch in New York.
7. Shooping: Torvehallerne & Royal Copenhguen
Luxury-loving palates can take away a gastronomic souvenir from the modern Torvehallerne market, in Israel Plads square (currently all upside down due to construction work). Encased in glass and split into two structures, the market offers all kinds of gourmet spots and small stands where you can grab a taste of something interesting. If you prefer a 'solid' souvenir, the artisan pottery from Royal Copenhaguen is renowned (the window displays are well worth a look). Amagertorv, 6.
8. Chic wineries
Two popular spots to have a wine in Copenhagen, in addition to the aforementioned Manfreds & Vin. On the one hand, Atelier September (Gothersgade, 30) is a charming former antique shop turned into a café and shop. You can try a natural wine in a cosy atmosphere with a stimulating mix of furniture and artistic original posters (when we were there, we saw a giant Tàpies one), all for sale. It also serves breakfasts and light meals. On the other, Bibendum (Nansensgade, 45) is a pretty intimate French-inspired spot that takes its name from Michelin's dog. As well as choosing from its selection of international wines by the bottle or glass, the tapas come highly recommended.
9. Carlsberg lager
No matter how much they craft their wine lists, the truth is Denmark does not have great wines. So what they do is make beer. Larger fans have a must-see in the city: the Carlsberg Brewery (two entrances: Gamle Carlsberg Vej, 11 or Bryggerhesten, 1), one of the most famous in the world. They offer guided tours lasting around 90 minutes that of course include a tasting. We also tried another highly aromatic full-bodied Danish beer, Nørrebro Bryghus, made in a small brewery. It is easy to find in different bars and restaurants although it also has its own place (Ryesgade, 3).
10. At the epicentre: Andersen Hotel
This new boutique hotel has three things we love: design, comfort and location. Tucked behind the Tivoli Gardens and next to the trendy Meatpacking District, in the heart of Vesterbro, it is an ideal starting point for exploring different areas in the city. Check if they have any bikes available if you fancy travelling on two wheels. Before heading out, take your time with the tasty hearty breakfast with endless combinations for a personal yoghurt flavour, different organic choices and delicious croissants. From 925 kroner (around €111) per night for a double room. Helgolandsgade, 12.
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The True Face of Copenhagen: beyond the Little Mermaid
By Iñaki Makazaga from Piedra de Toque
The most visited figure in Denmark and the main tourist attraction in the city of Copenhagen sits totally oblivious to the world at the end of a pier in the port (Langelinie). The Little Mermaid avoids all eye contact as she looks out to sea, almost with her back turned to her visitors. Perhaps this is because only she knows the true price of her fame (decapitated twice, mutilated three times and thrown out to sea several times) and the real story behind her own history. We decided to get on our bikes in search of answers and found the true face of Copenhagen: a city with a barbaric past that has now become a haven for peace.
We began our journey on the banks of the Sankt Jorgens Canal overlooked by the mansions reflected in its waters as we ventured out among the families, people enjoying sport and ducks picking at the grass. We pedalled along on the bicycles we rented from one of the 110 locations dotted around the city – one of the measures aimed at obtaining the title of ‘capital city with the best environmental quality’ in 2015. Every turn of our wheels left behind yet another tree as we travelled along the green corridor created by the canal. We took in the sights and decided to turn right at the third bridge to eventually arrive at the Botanical Garden and Museum (Botanisk Have) at 128 Gothesgade.
More than 20,000 different species of plant life now thrive in the grounds of these old city fortifications. The walls contain spacious gardens and the moat is full of aquatic and wetland plants, each with its own little information sign stuck in the ground nearby. We parked up the bikes at the entrance and walked in. It was March and there was a hint of change about everything as the snowy season began to loosen its grip. The earth was all churned up, the trees were leafless and the sky was grey. An enormous three-story greenhouse with four glass pavilions appeared in the distance where 1,000 varieties of cactus, coffee plants, pineapples and even palm trees are incubated and studied. We were overcome by temptation and bought two bags of seeds from the shop on the way out: one of Asian bonsais and another of red orchids. Maybe we thought we could take away our own part of the peace that reigns in this park and whose roots still soak up the blood of the people who fought to defend the city from enemy invasion.
We returned to our trail. We left behind the garden and the botanical museum to pedal our way through the areas surrounding Roseborg Slot, the royal palace built by Christian IV in 1606 as a summer residence that now also serves as a large museum. It houses thousands of objects related to the oldest monarchy in Europe and is full of paintings, furniture, weapons and jewels. The traffic light turned from amber to green and so we pedalled on.
The peace of the botanical gardens now changes to the hustle and bustle of central Copenhagen. The cars give way to cyclists between the buildings from which emerge the strong>spires of the Marmorkirken, a church inspired by Saint Paul’s in Rome and which was originally planned to be built using Norwegian marble. They soon realised there was a far simpler way to celebrate the 300-year reign of the family of Frederik V and the Norwegian marble was switched for Danish marble a century later in order to get the place finished. However, no expense was spared on the steps: 260 to reach the bell tower. The views of the city make the exhausting climb well worth it. We took the opportunity to check our map. We felt the call of the thriving city centre, with the pedestrianised Strøget street full of shops and terraces filling the cobbled medieval squares of Kongens Nytorv and Radhuspladsen. We left those for nightfall and continued towards the port where the Little Mermaid sat waiting for our visit.
We dismounted and walked the bikes for a while. We were in Nyhavn, the New Port, which was opened by soldiers between 1671 and 1673 so that ships could unload their goods in the city centre. It became the darkest part of Copenhagen for years, inhabited by sailors and ladies of ill repute. Cheap rooms, dark taverns, tattoo parlours and brothels. Nyhavn has emerged from its murky past and now offers one of the most attractive faces of the capital along the 300-metre stretch of port-front properties with narrow, colourful houses and pavements full of terraces. No matter how cold the weather is, a blanket, a heater and a candle embrace all visitors. Around the edge of the port can be found evidence of that era in the form of wooden ships such as the 19th Century lighthouse ship that has been converted into a restaurant. An anchor that belonged to a Danish frigate also recalls the maritime past and pays tribute to all those who lost their lives during World War II. We took photos of the brightly-coloured houses. Maybe Hans Christian Andersen himself looked out from one of them to look at the sky while penning his tales. The truth is that even the walls whisper their stories in this part of town.
Now back on our bikes we pedalled along the canal towards the sea with the humid wind blowing in our faces. The tide greeted us at the shore, together with a number of new pavilions. We entered the Citadel (Kastellet), another great fortification to protect against attack from the Swedes. The five-pointed star-shaped fort has also witnessed great swathes of history in this country. Used by Nazi troops as a main headquarters during World War II, it now belongs to the Danish army although the gardens and walls are open to the public. In the 19th Century, it was also used as a prison and small sculptures now speak of the horrors of war. A museum depicts the activity and names of the people who led the resistance against the Nazis. And the Little Mermaid, nowhere to be seen.
We kept on pedalling. It started to snow and a hoard of tourists announced we had reached another point of interest. At the end of the pier, resting on a rock and with her back to the tourists we finally met the star of one of the most famous stories written by Hans Christian Andersen. The very one who fell in love with a prince and who now waits for him to return looking out to sea. The snow continued to fall. The grey sky opened as if in slow motion: rain, snow, more rain.
Walt Disney tells us of a happy mermaid surrounded by seafaring friends who struggles to make her dreams come true. The reality proved to be much different. The colour of copper, alone, her nakedness constantly illuminated by camera flashes from the tourists. Yet she doesn’t smile. The thing is, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a different ending. The prince she gave up being a mermaid for ended up marrying another. The Little Mermaid died alone, without breaking the spell that would let her return to the sea without killing the prince. She preferred to wait, convinced that another ending would find her sooner or later. Like the Little Mermaid, Copenhagen has preferred to keep every palace, every fortification that speaks of its Viking and Barbarian past in order to convert them into gardens and museums that grow a new history of peace and tolerance. We joined the Little Mermaid and gazed out at the horizon in silence.
COPENHAGEN BY BIKE:
Time: 2 hours
Route: Sankt Jorgens Canal in Norrebro, Botanical Museum, Roseborg Slot, Marmorkirken, Nyhavn, Kastellet, The Little Mermaid.
- Visit the museums mentioned: open from 10:00 to 16:00.
- Get a Copenhagen Card.
- Explore the city by bike and have lunch in the New Port after finishing the tour.
By Iñaki Makazaga from Piedra de Toque
Picture by Henrik Jessen
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Art In the Raw, Just Half an Hour from Copenhagen
A museum in Denmark named after an American state? This is not the only fetching fact about Louisiana. Located in the small town of Humlebæk, some 35 kilometres north of Copenhagen, Louisiana draws thousands of visitors each year to its alluring interior and exterior. Its contemporary art collection is truly extraordinary, as is – perhaps even to a greater degree – its siting, opposite the cold waters separating Denmark from Sweden, nestling in a vast area of parkland, trees and cliffs. Likewise its architectural design, seamlessly integrated into its surroundings.
The museum was founded in 1958 by the Danish businessman and philanthropist, Knud W. Jensen, who commissioned the first stage of the project to the architects Vilhelm Wohlert and JørgenBo. Oddly enough, the museum is not actually named after the American state, but on account of a coincidence – the previous owner of the land happened to marry three times, and each time his wife was named Louise! As the museum’s private collection is far larger than what can be displayed, many of the constituent works are loaned from one place to another. The building houses works by Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Asger Jorn (one of Denmark’s leading 20th-century artists), the Spaniard, Juan Muñoz, photographers such as the German, Thomas Demand, and the New Yorker, Cindy Sherman. And, what is likely the jewel in the crown – a room where a painting by Francis Bacon, and one of the most striking sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, are placed face to face, as if in the throes of an ongoing dialogue. In the garden we find several weighty sculptures, including one by Alexander Calder and another by Joan Miró – set just five metres apart and permanently chaperoned by the sea in the background – in addition to works by Louise Bourgeois and Max Ernst, among many others.
You have just until the end of January – be quick! – to see a long-distance exhibition hosted by the museum, as well as an installation which raises eyebrows. The exhibition reviews the extensive, colourist and provocative work of the multi-disciplinary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama (phallic sculptures, rooms painted in polka dots, rent garments and other marvels). The installation is a huge sculpture by the Canadian, David Altmejd, called The Flux and the Puddle, which takes up a whole room and is well nigh impossible to fathom – it involves a visceral, high-impact blend of methacrylate, food, taxidermy, strings and mirrors.
Louisiana is easy to reach from Copenhagen – at the Central Station in the capital, you take a Helsingor-bound train and get off at Humlebæk. That’s all. On your return, you are urged to explore the district of Vesterbro, adjoining the aforementioned Central Station. Once the haunts of prostitutes and crooks, it is now one of the most exciting and bustling city quarters, brimming with galleries, stores, cafés and restaurants. Make sure you stop off at Bang & Jensen, in Istedgade, which is open all day. Their lentil soup with curry and cilantro comes highly recommended, and you can also play some pinball and Arkanoid. Another landmark worth seeing is the so-called Meatpacking District, the former fish and meat market reconditioned as one of Copenhagen’s cool areas, where you can choose from among a host of appetising culinary offerings. For lovers of music and vinyl, the best spot in Vesterbro is undoubtedly Sort Kaffe & Vinyl, a small record shop cum bar. Or vice versa – a café with records. Its claim to fame is a small but carefully curated selection of folk, jazz, electronic, exotic and experimental music. For sleeping over and putting away a hearty breakfast the next morning, here are two recommendations in the same district: Bertrams Guldsmeden (very near Værnedamsvej, one of the prettiest streets in the city), and the Avenue Hotel, which has a beautiful patio if you happen to be there in spring or summer.
While the city itself is well worth the visit, the chance to see Louisiana and even spend some hours in Vesterbro makes this a well nigh compulsory trip. Why wait to book your flight to Copenhagen?
Text by Carles Novellas for ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by Carles Novellas and Anna Higuerasmore info