The land of fairytales, bicycles and canals, Copenhagen is one of the happiest cities in the world. So if you can’t make it there right now, take the opportunity to virtually discover a little more about the capital of Denmark, through our guide to its artists, writers, food, drink and traditions.
A collection of short stories based around the city, Copenhagen Tales, compiled by editor Helen Constantine, contains stories spanning from the 1800s to the present day. Authors in this anthology include well-known names such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, to more local writers with less international repute.
Full of Danish wit and irony, this collection gives a sense of what it feels like to walk the streets of the city and explore its sights, scenes and people. Each story is accompanied by a photograph of Copenhagen, so curl up on your sofa and transport yourself to the city, as you enjoy the work of some of its best writers.
The signature spirit of Scandinavia, this clear alcoholic drink, distilled with the taste of caraway seeds and dill, has been made in the region for centuries; in fact, the earliest known reference can be found in a 1531 letter from a Danish lord.
In modern Copenhagen, aquavit is usually drunk at special occasions or as an after-dinner aperitif. Try it at home as a sipping spirit from a chilled glass, or in a cocktail such as the easy-to-make Aquavit Spritz: mix 50ml aquavit with 1 tbsp sugar, 1 cup of berry preserve, 4 cups of soda water and 8 twists of lemon. Skål!
Hans Christian Andersen is arguably the most famous Dane in history. The poet, author and playwright is responsible for creating some of the world’s best known fairytales, including The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes. His influence can still be felt in the names of pubs and bars and in statues of his characters. This museum, built around the home in which he was born, is an encyclopedic look at his life and art.
While the museum’s doors are temporarily shut, this impressive virtual tourallows you to walk around the museum and zoom in on every detail. The tour doesn’t stop there, however, as you can also pay a visit to the cinema room and watch a documentary about Andersen before exploring the rooms of his childhood home.
When in Copenhagen, do as the Danes do by sampling smørrebrød. Literally translated as “butter and bread”, smørrebrød is a traditional Scandinavian open sandwich consisting of dark rye bread, topped with a combination of spreads, meats, vegetables or cheeses.
One of the best things about this Danish delicacy is that you don’t need to go out and buy lots of ingredients – just use up whatever leftovers you have in your fridge. Start with your rye bread and spread with butter or avocado, before adding your protein, veggies and garnish. Serve with a chilled glass of aquavit.
As the happiest place on earth, it’s not surprising that the people of Copenhagen have their own tradition for spreading and little love and joy. The Danish term hygge simply means to acknowledge cosy, charming or special feelings and moments of contentment. While we may not be able to experience hygge in its home city right now, practising appreciation for the things we do have, such as a home, a pet, or family that’s at the end of the phone, could go a long way in surviving these difficult times.