Great Danes: Copenhagen’s Gastronomic Renaissance
WHERE TO STAY:
Ibsens Hotel: For nearly thirty years, since 1982, the Brøchner family has been housing guests in hotels that beautifully exemplify the Danish spirit of "hygge" - and that sense of blissful hospitality is pervasive throughout a stay at one of the four Copenhagen hotels that comprise the Brøchner Hotels group.
"It’s in our hearts" is the Brøchner Hotels company motto, so perhaps it is not surprising to feel immediately at home upon crossing the threshold of Ibsens Hotel. Located in the charmingly bohemian neighborhood of Nansengade (right down the street from the brand-new produce and food hall, Torvehallerne), Ibsens was acquired by the Brøchner family in 1997 - and completely redesigned in 2011.
In keeping with the Brøchner Hotels philosophy, the owners sought out local artisans to help furnish the boutique hotel - and the result is a hotel-cum-gallery, with both permanent and temporary art exhibitions on display in the cafe and courtyard and throughout the building’s six floors.
All of the Ibsens’ 118 rooms offer free WiFi/Internet and cable TV and are colorfully decorated in a clean, spare, and slightly retro style. The design sensibility is similar to Ace Hotel, complete with turntable and vinyl records in the downstairs lounge. Guests include fashionable hipsters as well as beautiful blond children accompanied by parents who appear to have stepped from a Banana Republic catalog.
On Friday nights, Ibsens hosts a music night, complete with DJ and live music, which brings in locals from the neighborhood who mingle gregariously with hotel guests. The atmosphere is more laidback cool than insufferably hot - and again, a reflection of that Danish "hygge," which the Brøchner family seems to serve intuitively.
A block from the Copenhagen lakes, and a mere five minutes from the world’s longest pedestrian shopping thoroughfare, Ibsens is also connected to the Hotel Kong Arthur, another of the Brøchner Hotels. Guests at Ibsens can choose from among the two properties’ five restaurants - and then soak off the indulgences in Copenhagen’s largest spa.
Breakfast at Ibsens is a fresh and healthy buffet that features smoothies, muesli, yogurt, berries, nuts, croissants - and rye bread sandwiches that are so toothsome and delicious that it’s nearly impossible to eat only one. Request a wake-up call so that you can linger at the "mingle tables" where you’ll meet fellow travelers as fascinating as you.
With bicycles for rent, as well as an electric car called "Buddy," Ibsens is part of the world’s first carbon-neutral hotel chain, an honor held since 2008. Ibsens is also the first hotel in the world to accept Artmoney (bills created by artists in exchange for goods or services) - and the breakfast room wall is covered by framed Artmoney bills (available for purchase for approximately $40).
Ibsens is the sort of hotel that particularizes aspects of your most favorite homes. Claim it as yours.
LINK: Ibsens Hotel
WHAT TO DO:
Ordrupgaard Art Museum: Five miles north of the city center, in the tony suburb of Charlottenlund, not so far from Dyrehaven (the Royal Deer Park), there exists a sanctuary of art and architecture. What was once a private manor house, built in 1918 by a noted art collector, is now the Ordrupgaard Art Museum. Not unlike the Frick in New York, another museum housed in the former private home of a collector, Ordrupgaard holds an exquisite collection of art, primarily French and Danish.
A quick train ride away from Copenhagen’s city center and you find yourself walking through a leafy, bucolic neighborhood and up the drive to the entrance of this state-owned art museum. Bequeathed to Denmark in 1953, the Ordrupgaard also features a black lava concrete addition built by the prize-winning Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid. The extension, which doubles the museum’s size, opened in 2005 - and has, predictably, increased Ordrupgaard’s profile amongst architecture fanatics.
In fact, a day spent at Ordrupgaard is an architecture aficionado’s dream day, for the museum also owns the neighboring home of the groundbreaking Danish architect, Finn Juhl. Juhl designed the Trusteeship Council Chamber at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 1951-52, and his home, situated right next door to the Ordrupgaard, is preserved as he left it and filled with furniture of his own design.
Born in 1912, Juhl built his home within sight of the Ordrupgaard in 1942 and the L-shaped house remains as a perfect example of Juhl’s architectural theories - as well as a time capsule of timeless Danish design.
To be surrounded by the works of such innovative thinkers and philanthropists is inspiring - but if all the heady atmosphere proves enervating, relax in the cafe in the Hadid addition with a cup of perfect Danish coffee. You’ll be reminded again how it appears that everything is right in the state of Denmark.
LINK: Ordrupgaard Art Museum
National Galley of Denmark: Denmark’s preeminent museum for visual art is housed in an 1896 Italian Renaissance revival building, juxtaposed with a modernist addition built in 1998. A glass-roofed "Sculpture Street," complete with footbridges, links the two buildings. The collection includes more than 500 years of European art, including works by Titian, Rubens, and Rembrandt, and an acclaimed collection of French art with works by Matisse, Derain, Braque, and Picasso - but the primary reason for visiting might be the collection of Danish and Nordic Art (1750-1900), representing the "Golden Age" of Danish visual art. The contemporary Danish cafe in the modernist addition overlooks a beautiful park - and perhaps best of all, the entire collection is free. "700 Years of Art - For Free" is the museum’s tagline - and what could be more inviting?
LINK: National Galley of Denmark
Copenhagen Cool: In a city as cool as Copenhagen, you can’t help but yearn to learn the city’s secrets - which is exactly what Copenhagen Cool offers.
Imagine a friend who knows all the right places, the best vintage shops, the trendy boutiques, the cool cafés and the hot bars and restaurants, where to buy your coffee, and where to walk at sunset. That’s Copenhagen Cool’s specialty: showing you around the city and making you feel as if you’re living like the local who’s always in the know.
Copenhagen Cool’s website is a treasure trove of insider knowledge - and in English! - and if you book a tour with Copenhagen Cool, you’ll be walking the city’s streets with a new best friend.
LINK: Copenhagen Cool
Copenhagen Pride: Ever since Copenhagen was the host city for Europride 1996, Copenhagen Pride has worked to create a festival that celebrates the LGBTQ community and its inherent connection to the fabric of this multifarious city.
Every year, Copenhagen Pride takes over one of Copenhagen’s beautiful squares to create Pride Square. Apart from the Parade, there is a massive Pride Show at City Hall, as well as LGBT Midsummer and numerous parties at various clubs.
Held in August, when Copenhagen’s weather is the most clement, this year’s Copenhagen Pride will run from 15-19 August 2012.
LINK: Copenhagen Pride
(Travel feature continues on next pages: Where to Eat, Where to Shop, Where the Gays Go, Getting There...)