Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Copenhagen – of course it’s wonderful

A week spent working in Copenhagen means it is time to update the markontour guide to the city, last edited way back in 2014!

Copenhagen is indeed wonderful! I love how easy it is to get around between the great museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants, being able to swim in the harbour in the summer, the fact that everyone still cycles right through the snow-bound winter, the open-door policy of the beautiful City Hall (a familiar sight to anyone who saw the first series of The Killing), the sight of community-owned wind turbines off the coast, and the wonderful friends I have made there. Copenhagen also has a deserved reputation as a green city leader and it is that which has led me to become a regular visitor over the past ten years. Here are a few of the places I love to go to when in town:

 

Live Music and bars

Loppen

This first floor venue is in the heart of Christiania, Copenhagen’s hippie, semi-autonomous ward where anything used to go – although there is a bit more law enforcement these days.

Mojo Blues Bar

Conveniently located near to City Hall, the main attraction of the Mojo Blues Bar is that it is guaranteed to have a live act on when I arrive at 10.30pm on the train from London, whichever night of the week. The bar is wood panelled, comfortably shabby and liberally decorated with magazine clippings from past shows. A decent pint is usually accompanied by a chat with someone from the friendly crowd, but equally it is easy to find an anonymous corner if you just want to listen to the band.

La Banchina

Hidden away in the former ship building area that is now something like Hackney Wick in London, this is a great little bar and restaurant overlooking the harbour and the crazy Danes who swim in it regardless of the temperature. Blankets available for the less hardy. There’s a tonne of street-food stalls nearby in the summer, plus a skate-board park with regular competitions, and at least a couple of wonderful brewery bars. A place to spend a whole summer’s evening.

La Fontaine, jazz bar

La Fontaine only has live music at weekends, which was a bit of a disappointment on my first mid-week visit, but it turned out to serve an equally agreeable function as a friendly, cosy bar for the lone traveller to sit and have a read, accompanied by a good pint and the comforting buzz of students in animated discussion (the main topic I overheard on my last visit was whether or not the media really reports anything about real struggle and life). There is also a wonderful wall painting depicting the family-tree of American jazz. It is a short amble down a few cobblestone side-streets from Hotel 27.

Alice

A new venue (2019) which staged a typically bonkers concert by the 95-year old Sun Ra and his Orkestra when I visited this week and seems to have a pretty amazing forthcoming line-up, mostly of jazz artists.

Museums

Tycho Brahe Planetarium

I am trying to visit the planetarium in every city I visit and this is one of the best, although I got transfixed by some skateboarding and missed the actual show, but the exhibition is fantastic. The eponymous Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer from the sixteenth century, was the first person to realise that the map of the heavens is not fixed after his self-designed astronomical sextant helped him correctly identify a new star appearing in the constellation of Cassiopeia in 1572. He called it a Nova Stella, and today we understand it to be a supernova – the last burst of life of big star.

Nationalmuseet

The national museum of Denmark and it is wonderful. The ground-floor is largely pre-history, including the magnificent bronze ‘Chariot of the Sun’ statue. Bronze Age Danes believed the Earth was flat and fish pulled the Sun up out of the water in the morning, handing it on to a horse that pulled it across the sky from noon through to the evening. It is so beautiful. Upstairs is a superb introduction to the history of Denmark 1660 to 2000, and then at the top a captivating exhibition covering Denmark’s northern colonies of Greenland and the Faeroe Islands. This museum needs a blog all of its own.

Glyptotek

A large art gallery and museum opposite City Hall, the atrium is worth a visit in and of itself. I must have visited ten times over the years, but rarely having more than half an hour to spare. Nevertheless, I love it and it is the place to go for some of the best of world art in Copenhagen.

Record Shops

Crate Beer and Vinyl

Beer and vinyl, what’s not to like! A lovely little second hand record store, where today I purchased a Janis Joplin live album I just can’t wait to hear. The rest of the street is pretty interesting too and the cafe next door serves decent food.

Sound Station

A place for serious record collectors. I visited based on a recommendation in Tim Burgess’  Tim Book Two and he isn’t wrong about how great it is.

 

Second Hand clothes shops

Golden Age, Norrebrogade 5

A decent selection of vintage and designer label pre-worn clothes

BauBau, Birkegade 3

A small store selling designer label second-hand. There was some really good stuff when I visited, although not cheap. Near enough to Golden Age to make it worthwhile visiting both.

Episode, Larsbjornsstraede

Two floors of vintage clothing at affordable prices.

 

Restaurants

Maven

According to my waiter (and since checked on the restaurant’s website), ‘Maven’ translates into English as ‘stomach’. It is a reference not just to the gastronomic delights on sale but also the area’s history the butchers’ district. Housed in a church that has been converted into an exhibition centre, Maven serves robust good food in cheerfully noisy and laidback surroundings. My memory is getting hazy, but I think I enjoyed a great dinner here as part of the C40 Green Growth network’s inaugural meeting.

Melee, Martinsen Street, Frederiksberg

A small, family run place which served an incredible pear, vanilla and chocolate dessert last time I was there.

Galathea Kroen

I think it is a Syrian restaurant, but it definitely has live music and the most vivid recollection is the strange decor that includes a snakeskin lampshade. It’s a pretty meaty menu, but there is decent veggie tapas if you look for it. Near Mojo and City Hall.

Noma

It’s got to be on the list and I admit that I have had the enormous privilege of having eaten here when someone else was paying. It is every bit as good as you have heard, all 20 courses of a typical meal.

Hotels

Manon Les Suites

A stunning, bohemian hotel with a rooftop lounge, courtyard pool with a Moroccan souk feel, and gorgeous rooms decked out in wood and leather, Danish style. They even provide a quality Marshall amp for your music. The breakfast is top notch as well and the nearby lakes are perfect for a morning run. Just wonderful and check out the birdsong on their website.

Hotel 27

On the same street as the Mojo blues bar (see above) and a stone’s throw from City Hall, this is where I habitually stayed for my first five years of visiting Copenhagen. It’s characteristically Danish in its clean, no-nonsense decor and easy-going ambience and the all-inclusive buffet dinner means you can grab a bite of something decent to eat whenever you arrive in the evening. The glass fronted dining room is a decent place to sit and work. It is about a fifteen minute walk to the harbour baths (see below) for a morning wake-up swim.

 

Other stuff

The Harbour Baths

How many other capital cities are there where you can safely go for a swim in the harbour? And who would have expected the exception to be in Scandanavia? It does actually get fairly hot in Copenhagen at the peak of summer, but the water is warm enough to extend the swimming season back into the late spring even for those of us whom nature has not endowed with substantial heat-retaining blubber!

Grand Teatret

A lovely old cinema that seemed to be mostly showing English language films, with Danish sub-titles.

 

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