The Danes were recently voted the happiest people in the world. Walther Griesé tells you how to be happy as the locals when you visit their capital Copenhagen.
For DNA Magazine (AU)/ Photo: Magnus Ragnvid
The Danes do have a lot to be happy about. Denmark is quite laid back and tolerant, a typical example being that it was the first country in the world to introduce same sex partnerships (in 1989).
‘Flexicurity’ and Care for the Environment
The country is in the midst of an economic boom largely contributed to the ‘flexicurity’ model. The ‘flexicurity’ model basically means your employer can sack you, giving them flexibility and the state will support you, giving you security. This model is now being closely monitored by the country’s fellow EU members. And the Danes care for the environment: The harbour in Copenhagen is clean enough to swim in – and people do – and appropriately the city will host the UN Climate Conference in 2009.
Be in the know
Before you leave home visit the website copenhagen-gay-life.dk, a non-profit information site run by the gay community. The site is in English, it is continuously updated and easy to navigate. Should you want to have a date waiting for you on arrival try your luck at the dating-site Boyfriend.dk, most Danish gay men (single or in relationsships) have a profile here and fresh meat is always welcomed. Once you have arrived pick up information leaflets at the Tourist Information which stocks the gay map and makes a nice pit stop as it sells some of the best pastry and cakes in the city at its in house bakery, Lagkagehuset. Local media consists of Out & About which lists bar etc. and an agenda in English. A more stylish take on local gay life is FRANKLY Magazine.
Have Hosts in the Know
If you like the expertise of friendly hosts with insider knowledge of the gay scene the most popular options are Carsten’s Guesthouse and Rainbow Copenhagen – both offer central locations and clean, no-frills rooms. The first attracts a younger party crowd whereas the second attracts a more experienced crowd who want to be in the centre of the action.
A design-driven city like Copenhagen of course offers designer solutions to suit any budget. DANHostel Copenhagen City is the world’s first designer hostel and favoured by the back pack set, the arty crowd is attracted to Fox Hotel where all the rooms are individually designed by international artists, and the fashionistas go for the city’s foremost design hotel Skt. Petri which also boasts a happening bar and a sret level café.
Experience Danish Gastronomy
Till recently the Danish contribution to global gastronomy was largely ‘smorrebrod’ (open-faced sandwiches on rye bread) and the hot dog stands which litter the cities. But things have changed dramatically as young dynamic chefs re-discover their gastronomical heritage and promote the local ingredients. Noma, co-owned by celebrity chef and television star Claus Meyer, and set in a warehouse by the harbour just scored a second Michelin star for its focus on Nordic ingredients. Geranium recently opened in a beautiful pavillion in one of the city’s most popular parks and its focus on locally grown organic greens and herbs secured rave reviews in the local papers and its first Michelin star.
Danish Gastronomy on a Budget
Luckily the emphasis on high quality ingredients trickles down to more affordable places as well such as (Claus) Meyer’s Delis or Danish-French cuisine at Madklubben and Den Anden. If you want to try old-school Danish ‘smorrebrod’, the owner/host Soeren at Skt. Annae will make sure you are well taken care of (lunch only). Should you find yourself craving Asian food, some of the best in the city is served by owner/host Juk at Khun Juk (Thai) and at Yan’s Wok (Chinese) where you can spot many of the city’s top chefs on their nights off.
Cosy Cafés and Bars
Copenhageners emphasize cosiness as one their city’s main characteristics and a good place to find it is in their popular cafés or bars. Oscar bar café is a favourite for coffees in the afternoon and the first stop on most pub crawls. The best of the old-school bars are Masken and Centralhjørnet where you’ll meet fans of Eurovision Contest music and entertaining bartenders (try asking them what a ‘cock tequila’ is …). Jailhouse attracts a more mature crowd with a preference for jeans and possibly a bit of leather.
Dance the Night Away
Most Danish clubbers choose their dance venue by the DJ and the style of his or her music making the mixed club Vega and club nights such as Dolk & Fixxx and Rocco their preferred choice. You should also keep an eye out for any event staged by the queer performance group Dunst. New comer Foxy tries to make everybody happy with a mix of popular music. After 3pm everybody – gay, straight or in between -ends up at the tiny dance floor and cruising at Cosy Bar anyway …
If you don’t strike gold at Cosy Bar try your luck across the street at the sex club Amigo Sauna or go for the outdorr cruising at the nearby Ørstedsparken.
Local Fashion is Booming
Like the Aussies the Danes like their fashion casual but whereas this means thongs and boardies in Australia it is more likely to mean boots and knitted sweaters in Denmark. However Danish clothing design is booming at the moment and Copenhagen is rapidly becoming the fashion capital of Northern Europe. You’ll find the largest selection of Danish designers at Illums and the area around Kronprinsensgade and Galleri K. Some of the names to watch out for are Bruuns Bazaar, Samsoe & Samsoe, Sand, Henrik Vibskov and Wood Wood.
Shop with the Local Gay Fashionistas
If you want to shop with the local gay fashionistas go to 1206 for the assistance of owner Henrik Kejser or to Hardware run by veterans René and Jeffrey – both shops design their own lines as well as carry clothes by international designers.
Form Follows Function
Danish furniture design is finally breaking out of the legacy from midcentury greats such as Arne Jacobsen and Poul Kjaerholm. To see the former and future greats visit Illums Bolighus and its neighbour Royal Copenhagen (don’t miss the revamped Royal Café or the antique shop in the basement). To see the funky new comers vist Casa Shop run by boyfriends Pablo and Torsten or stray outside the city centre to go to Normann Copenhagen.
Antiques and Art
For furniture you’d normally find at outrageous prices in antique shops in Australia go to Bredgade – Klassik is especially worthwhile – where you’ll also find the best auction houses and established galleries such as Asbæk and Galleri Mikael Andersen. The Permanent collection at Kunstindustrimuseet (The Danish Museum of Art & Design) is great for reference. The museum also stages popular outdoor plays and ballet performances in its idyllic courtyard in the summertime and its café is a nice pit stop.
See the High Lights By Boat
A boat trip on the canals gives you a great feel of the city – it shows you the tourist high lights such as the Royal Palace, The Opera House and the new architectural gem The Playhouse – and helps you decide which sights deserve a closer look by foot. Most tourists are amazed at how close you can come to The Royal Palace, you can actually knock on the front door if you like. Don’t expect your most famous export Princess Mary to answer the door though, you are far more likely to bump into her when shopping for clothes or having a coffee in one of her favourite cafés.
Cruise Copenhagen By Kayak
If you feel particularly adventurous give in to the latest craze and explore the canals by kayak. ‘Kajak-Ole’ (Ole is one of the most common Danish boys’ names) will instruct you and take you on a guided tour which includes stops at his favourite cafés. Depending on which canal trip you choos you may pass the ‘Freetown’ of Christiania which embodies the city’s laid back spirit. It was originally an illegal settlement and recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary now negotiating legalisation with the government. It has become a society of its own with cafés, shops, a theatre and is now a major tourist attraction where you can actually book a tour.
Tivoli – The True Fairy Tale Garden
Another fairy tale garden worth visiting is Tivoli. Go on a Friday night where they have free open air concerts (free, that is, when you have paid the entrance fee to the garden) with artists ranging from major international acts to obscure local ones. Or go when Tivoli opens the annual Copenhagen Pride festival with the theme ‘Tivoli Goes Gay’.
Travel like a local
‘Now I know why all the Danish boys have great butts’ an American friend told me excitedly ‘they bicyle all the time …’. And if you want to blend in this is the mean of transportation you should choose. The easiest way is to pick up one of the free city bikes. They are not racers but all you need to do is to deposit a 20 kroner coin (approx. 3.5 AUD) and then return the bike once you don’t need it anymore. If you want a better model rent one for the duration of your stay. Then again if you stay at a trendy hotel they will probably have hotel bikes … For longer distances try the new, clean and well-designed Metro for which the city is justifiably proud.
Go in (our) Summer
When it’s winter in Australia it’s – theoretically anyway – summer in Copenhagen. Apart from some mild and sunny spells the temperatures aren’t very high til May. Don’t go in July where the city is basically closed down due to local holidays.
August is the Liveliest Month
August is brilliant monthe to visit as everybody is back from holiday with loads of energy and there are plenty of events such as Pride, Fashion Week and the Copenhagen Cooking Festival. When Copenhagen hosts the World Outgames in 2009 they will also take place in August. In the autumn it gets darker and everybody cosies up which can be great, and especially October with the Copenhagen Gay & Lesbian Festival is a happening and social time of the year.
Be Happy with the Locals
By now you should be well prepared for at great stay in Copenhagen. And remember: Most Danes speak English fluently and they are happy boys who like practicing it on tourists …