Colourful waterside townhouses, boats on the canals, Michelin-starred restaurants and miniature mermaids – Copenhagen is famous for a lot of things, but being a budget destination is not one of them. Scandinavia has some of the world’s highest prices, but Denmark’s are actually not quite as scary as those you find in Norway or Sweden. This pretty, laid-back city is worth the splurge – and it is possible to get a taste of Copenhagen’s high quality of life and designer style without spending big.
Although I do a lot of apartment stays, sometimes it’s nice to just check into a hotel and let someone else do everything for you. By the time I got to Copenhagen I was in serious need of relaxation, and the Absalon Hotel certainly delivered it. One of Copenhagen’s oldest family-owned hotels, the Absalon was founded in 1938 with just 11 rooms and is still owned by the same family today. It’s grown a bit since the 1930s though, and has recently been completely refurbished with design help from the English Designers Guild.
Narrow, gabled waterfront houses, a stream of boats along the canal, cobbled streets and cosy cafés – for a minute I thought I’d been transported to Amsterdam. But this is Christianshavn, Copenhagen’s canalside district. It was founded in the 17th century by Christian VI (yes him again, he was a busy boy) as part of his plan to fortify Copenhagen. And it does have an Amsterdam connection as its architecture was inspired by Dutch cities, with wide canals surrounded by warehouses and wealthy merchants houses. Today the warehouses are architects’ studios or art schools and the canals are full of yachts and houseboats.
I confess I’m a travel planner. Normally I’ll buy a guidebook, read blog posts and come up with a shortlist of what to see before heading to a new destination. But my Copenhagen trip crept up on me and by the time I boarded the plane I’d not planned any further than booking a hotel. I was heading out blind, but decided to embrace it. To just relax and try out the Danish lifestyle – to walk, cycle, sit in parks, eat smørrebrød and drink wine on long summer evenings – without having to tick off the must-sees.