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Copenhagen

The waterside city of Copenhagen is packed with old-world fairytale charm alongside some of the world's most avant garde architecture. It is a vibrant, modern city with a long and fascinating history, having been the capital of Denmark for nearly 600 years and home to the oldest resident monarchy in the world.

The biggest city in Scandinavia, Copenhagen occupies a pleasant and strategic spot on the Baltic east coast of Denmark's largest island, Zealand, its harbour overlooked by the world-famous statue of the 'Little Mermaid'.

One of the first impressions that strike visitors to this busy, dynamic capital is the cleanliness and orderliness that prevails in its narrow medieval cobbled central city streets and along the picturesque canals in Christianshavn. Most of the myriad attractions for visitors are situated within about one square mile (3 sq km) of flat terrain in the centre, making it easy to explore on foot (or bicycle, which is the vehicle of choice for locals).

Five streets in the heart of the city have been merged to provide the world's longest pedestrian mall, running between Rådhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv, which are packed with historic gabled buildings, dynamic department stores, stunning shops, restaurants, pavement cafes, theatres, and world-class museums and galleries.

Despite the condensed city centre, Copenhagen is not short on green lungs: parks such as the ever-popular Tivoli Gardens abound in this city, which prides itself on its strict anti-pollution laws and lack of glass and chrome skyscrapers.

The family-friendly city that spawned beloved storyteller Hans Christian Andersen is, indeed, a modern fairy-tale: one of Europe's finest capitals that retains a provincial charm and sense of history along with its cutting-edge efficiency, offering its justifiably proud citizens an extremely high standard of living.

Information & Facts

Climate

The weather in Copenhagen is mild through all the four seasons. Summers bring temperatures averaging around 68°F (20°C), while in mid-winter temperatures hover just above or below zero. Rainfall is moderate too, but spread throughout the year, so showers are possible in any season. Grey skies are the norm rather than the exception in Copenhagen.

Eating Out

The lords of Michelin dining have bestowed 13 restaurants in Copenhagen with their mark of guaranteed fine dining. While obviously many popular restaurants in Copenhagen are not included, the honours are indicative of how far dining has progressed in the city.

Traditionally Denmark has not been known for its food, Frikadeller meat balls and cabbage being among the most popular of dishes. While there are some great Danish foods, their hot dogs and open-faced sandwiches are some of the best, much of the great dining in Copenhagen is of international cuisine. Particularly good in Copenhagen are French and Asian restaurants.

Dining in Copenhagen is usually a leisurely affair and patrons are encouraged to take their time and make a night of it. For quicker eats, cafés and hot dog stands are very popular and a fun way to meet people, or you can grab a fresh sandwich at one of the city's many bakeries. Stoget, Central Station, Grey Friars Square are all hotspots for restaurants. Tivoli also has a great selection of casual places to eat in a fun setting.

A service charge is included in the bill, but great service is often rewarded with a tip. Save money by paying with cash, as many restaurants charge a fee of between 3.75% and 5.75% for transactions on foreign credit cards.

Getting Around

Copenhagen's public transport is exceptionally safe, reliable, clean and inexpensive. The Metro, buses and trains in the city and surrounds operate on a one-fare system, where tickets are valid for all three types of transport with no extra cost for transfer. Services are frequent between 5am and 12.30am, with several night buses operating from the City Hall Square to the suburbs in between. On Friday and Saturday the Metro runs all night. The Metro runs from Vanlose Station to Lergravsparken in East Amager, to Orestad in West Amager and to Frederiksberg. Buses are yellow and bus stop clearly marked with matching yellow signs. Tourists are advised to obtain the 'Copenhagen Card', which offers free transport and free entry to most major attractions in the city. A favourite mode of transport for locals and visitors is the bicycle, and Copenhagen has cycle paths and routes along all major streets. Free bicycles are provided between May and September in a series of Bike Parks where it is possible to deposit a coin, obtain the use of a bicycle, drop it off at another park later and retrieve the deposit. For good quality bike-rentals, visit Baisikeli bicycle shop in Tursensgade; a benevolent company using the proceeds to benefit the poor in Africa, shipping second-hand bikes overseas regularly. So, roam the streets on a rented bike feeling inspired, energised and kind. Copenhagen is well supplied with licensed taxis, operated by five different companies. Taxis display a lighted sign when they are for hire, and can be flagged down anywhere. Cycle taxis, similar to the rickshaws operating in the Far East, have also been introduced and are popular with visitors. Traffic is usually congested in the city centre and a car can be a liability rather than an asset. The city has a complicated colour-coded zone pay parking system in operation during business hours.

Kids Attractions

Visitors travelling with children to Copenhagen will find an abundance of fantastic and exciting attractions geared towards children, making this a wonderful city for the whole family to enjoy.

A trip to Copenhagen must include a visit to Tivoli Gardens, which boasts beautiful miniature gardens, a theme park with arcade games and rides, and even open-air stages where plays and concerts take place. Another great attraction on warm sunny days is the Bakken Amusement Park, the world's oldest amusement park. The Nature Playground, located at Valbyparken, is also a must for day out in the sunshine and fresh air, and a good place for a picnic.

On colder days when outdoor activities with kids are not an option, head off to the Denmark Aquarium, or for something a little more frightening, the Mystic Exploratorie is a fantastic place for kids to be thrilled and perplexed, as is the Eskperimentarium. For toddlers, the Kompan indoor playground is a wonderland of slides, balls and bright colours to be explored.

Language

Danish is the official language, but English is understood and widely used.

Money

Danish currency is the Krone (DKK), made up of 100 ore. ATMs are liberally sprinkled throughout the country, and all major credit cards are widely accepted, expecially Visa. Travellers cheques are welcome at banks and hotels. Most banks are not open at weekends, however Copenhagen has several bureaux de change which stay open late at night, seven days a week.

Night Life

Nightlife in Copenhagen has a couple of gears and the real party doesn't rev up until very late at night. To jumpstart the evening, most wait the night hours away in a huge variety of popular cafés and bars that usually serve both food and drinks. These can range from renovated historic buildings with new edgy décors to newly built and fashionable cafés.

Hybrid bars are a perfect way to begin the night as they change themes and almost reinvent their venue several times in a single night. This lets patron enjoy easy listening music and nice meals before late night DJ's take over with a dance club atmosphere.

Those looking for more culture than party may look to the 150-year-old Pantomime Theatre, which stages commedia dell'arte productions with free admission. The modern Tivolis Koncertsal offers classical entertainment from opera to symphonies. You can often find last-minute discounted tickets at the ticket kiosk across from the Nørreport train station at the corner of Fiolstræde and Nørre Voldgade.

For those that venture on in the early morning, the night clubs are just waking up. Venues pop up and disappear quickly in Copenhagen which gives a fresh variety of choices although old favourites, like once popular jazz clubs, are abandoned. However certain areas of the city such as Nyhavn and Boltens Gaard are long time Copenhagen nightlife districts that can always promise great venues. These often stay open until five in the morning when it isn't too far to begin again.

For updated listings of what's happening in Copenhagen, pick up a free copy of Copenhagen This Week at the tourist information centre.

Shopping

A day of shopping in Copenhagen is something to behold, as it is often a spectator sport for those without large amounts of money to spend. The most notable place to browse and spend is the Stroget, which comprises five streets and 2 miles (3.2km) of pedestrian shopping heaven. Copenhagen's main stores can be found along here as well as cafés for weary shoppers to stop and refuel.

At the top end of the Stroget, shoppers with a penchant for designer labels can splurge at Prada, Chanel and Versace among others. Magasin du Nord, Scandinavia's largest department store, can be found in this area too.

Bredgade and Læderstræde are popular areas for antiques, although you'll be hard-pressed to find true bargains. Ravnsborggade has many antique stores as well, along with a number of independent fashion boutiques.

Nørrebro Flea Market on Nørrebrogade and the market on Israels Plads are the biggest and oldest flea markets in Copenhagen. They run from April to October, and stock a myriad of items, from souvenirs and antiques to complete junk.

There is, of course, the obligatory souvenir shopping one must do when in Copenhagen, and Lego can be scooped up for a song here while Scandinavian Crystal and Royal Copenhagen porcelain are not to be forgotten.

Shops in Copenhagen are mostly open from 9.30am to 5pm or 6pm from Monday to Friday and from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays. Very few stores will open on Sundays, even supermarkets. VAT in Copenhagen is sky-high at 25% and is added on to the price of all consumer goods and services. Non-European Union visitors can apply for a partial tax refund of 18% on goods to the value of a minimum of DKK300, which must be spent in one store.

Visitors can also purchase goods from shops that participate in the Global Refund shopping programme by showing their passport. These stores can be identified by the Global Refund logo displayed in their window. Shoppers are given a cheque showing the refund they are owed which can be claimed at the point of departure when leaving the country.

Sightseeing

Attractions in Copenhagen are a mixture of living history and fun frivolous activity. Copenhagen is one large attraction in itself, as many of the cobblestone streets and rows of old Danish houses are much like they have been for centuries. Yet Copenhagen is adding ever more modern attractions to the heap of historic ones.

The unusual European habit of visiting unremarkable statues continues in Copenhagen as the Little Mermaid in Langelinie harbour is the city's most sought after, and often first, sight. Don't be disenchanted for long, as better attractions await in unique neighbourhoods, grand museums, and entertainment that can easily be reached on foot and are mostly centralised in the city centre.

A walk along Nyhavn Canal reveals the best of historic Copenhagen with old but well-preserved architecture and wooden boats showcasing the city's maritime history. The streets are full of shops and entertainment with a carnival-like appeal. To delve deeper into Danish history the National Museum at the Prince's Palace is a central Copenhagen attraction, as is The Copenhagen City Museum. There are dozens of museums in Copenhagen, offering everything from Old Masters at the Ordrupgaard art museum to the Tycho Brahe Planetarium.

Often-overlooked attractions in Copenhagen are the city's beaches, which have excellent facilities, though they can be crowded in fine weather. Of course, no visit to Copenhagen is complete without idling in the Tivoli Gardens or playing in its famous theme park.

Visitors can buy the Copenhagen Card, which gives them free entry to over 60 museums and attractions, free rides on public transportation, and discounts in many restaurants and shops. The cards are available in 24 hour and 72 hour varieties, and adult cards cost 31 euros and 62 euros respectively. You can buy the card at the airport or at many tourist offices around Denmark.

Time

GMT +1 (GMT +2 from last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

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