The out-of-office, carefree glow has faded since my five-day jaunt around Copenhagen but the restorative effect of a city break continues to pay off. It is fairly obvious, I know, but I often need to force myself to go away to realise that travel, particularly the solo kind, is a wonderful way to open up to the world and new possibilities.
I didn't let the mildly grey weather forecast deter me as, all around, Britain was glistening in the sun, nor did I let that most readily available of excuses – money – derail the adventure. Yes Copenhagen is among the most expensive cities in Europe – 15 to 20 per cent more than London by my bottled water, coffee and train ticket index – but it more than makes up for it with its comforting sense of ease and indulgence in life's pleasures. (Incidentally, I have since read that the heavy cost of bottled water is a ploy to encourage more people to drink from the tap, a source that is filtered and perfectly adequate. I think they need to replicate this in the Southeast.)
In any case, there is no shortage of ways to roam on a budget, from finding a quirky gem of a flat in the hip quarter of Norrebro on Airbnb, to taking the free tour, on foot or by bike. And for food, you could do a lot worse than survive on a diet of smorrebrod (open sandwiches), quintessential street food from the pølsevognen (hot dog stands) or one of the many falafel and kebab stores dotted around the city. Of course, treat yourself at least once to impeccably prepared Nordic cuisine from a local favourite such as Relae or brunch at chefs' favourite Granola. But for everything else, there's Fakta, the supermarket. Danes love to buy a few six-packs and congregate by the riverside during the summer. And they can. So join them.
As stoic as the Danes are, winters can be harsh so summer is a time where the city is in full bloom … at its best … buzzing, although not in the 24/7 London sense. (Exuberance is not the first word that comes to mind in this city.) I arrived in the midst of a busy calendar: the jazz festival had just finished, fashion week was winding down, electronic music festival Strøm was in full flow and preparations were underway for "Northern Europe's biggest food festival", Copenhagen Cooking.
Three things that Copenhagen does very well are style, comfort and cleanliness. The city has received numerous awards over the past few years including topping the UN's first Global Happiness Report in 2012 and Monocle's 'Most Liveable City" and "Best Quality of Life" surveys the following year. A large part of their success has been their will to preserve the city's "green and blue" spaces, together with a careful consideration of what amenities will improve the lives of residents and their families without clogging up the wheels of commerce. Next, as the 2014 European Green Capital, Copenhagen will act as a blueprint for efficient and democratic urban planning with ambitious aims to have 50 per cent of people cycling to their place of work or education by 2015 (35 per cent cycled to their workplace or school in 2010) and a commitment to reach carbon neutral status by 2025.
There are plenty of blog posts listing fascinating facts about the city like this, or offering useful tips like this and this, so I thought I would briefly make five observations about Copenhagen; the things that made the biggest impression on me during my stay.
1. BEAUTY IS EVERYWHERE
One day was all it took for me to develop a real complex about the attention I was giving the locals. I am not saying that there is a Helena Christensen hanging on every street corner, but almost everyone, man or woman, is alarmingly attractive and yet blissfully unaware of one another. They dress well too (and not just in draped black and grey or tight leather like a Rick Owens or Acne model). No wonder the world's most popular sperm bank is located in Denmark (Aarhus), ready to dispense some of these good-looking genes to the rest of the world.
What a refreshing contrast to the head-turning and ogling so prevalent in other countries like England. But by beauty I also mean the municipal art, the architecture, the grounds, the abundance of elegant human-centred design – from big statement pieces such as Henning Larsen's Copenhagen Opera House and the man-made beach at Amager Strandpark to more everyday creations including the Eames high chairs in the airport and those luxury wood-grain table trays on the train that gracefully rise into place… When you have been raised in such an aesthetically rich environment how can you not appreciate beauty in its many forms?