The capital of cool, design and of course beer is becoming an important destination on the European football map, as FC Copenhagen’s dominance on the domestic game continues to grow. However, Danish football still has many things to compete with in terms of entertainment for the locals in one of the greenest cities in the world.
Much has been written about the cost of living in the city: residents pay some of the highest taxes in the world, but in return enjoying one of the best qualities of life on the planet, underlined by a recent “happiness” survey that put the Danes firmly top of the pile in Europe. Residents of the city enjoy a fine work/life balance, stress-free commuting (more than 35% cycle to work) and some of the best parks and green spaces you will find anywhere in the world.
Denmark is home to some of the biggest and trendiest brands in the world. Lego may be a children’s toy but it's a design classic, as too is Bang & Olufsen and Pandora. But eclipsing them all is the king of brewing, Carlsberg. Despite the fact that beer is no longer brewed at the massive Carlsberg plant in the east of the city, the brand is synonymous with Denmark. Every bar you will visit in the city will sell Carlsberg – or Tuborg, which was acquired by the brewing giant in 1970.
Airlines are today falling over themselves to fly Brits over to Copenhagen, with no fewer than nine routes available from the United Kingdom. With more and more hotels opening their doors, surprisingly for Denmark prices are actually falling, making it a perfect time to make the short trip over.
The city’s defining monument is, of course, The Little Mermaid. The 1.25m statue, based on the novel of Hans Christian Andersen, has sat on a rock on the edge of the water for nearly 100 years – although she has suffered greatly over the years, including being decapitated, losing an arm and being blown up. Crowds still flock to her today despite the feeling of being completely underwhelmed when you actually get close up, having battled through the Japanese tourists.
The city has a number of areas to explore. Many visitors head for the (expensive) bars and restaurants that line Nyhavn, the waterside street of brightly painted 17th- and 18th-century houses where the tour boats all depart from. Christiania (or to give it its proper name, The Freetown of Christiania) is famous the world over for its alternative lifestyle, although the image of hippies hanging around smoking dope all day are today a work of fiction, and the local authorities are slowly taking control back of the small area.
The river front is going through major redevelopment work, with new hotels and striking office blokes seemingly continuously under construction. To the east of the central station you will find the Nørrebro, the multicultural part of the city as well as the old red light district. Here you will find restaurants to suit all tastes, with food replacing the women who used to line the streets.
Football is still not the major reason to visit the city, although with a fierce rivalry between the two biggest Danish clubs as well as numerous other clubs dotted around town it is a perfect weekend escape. You can't dislike a place where the staple matchday cuisine is beer and sausages.
Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport is one of the best in Europe in terms of design (as you'd expect), functionality and facilities. It's also well connected to the city centre with regular trains running from underneath Terminal 3. There is also a Metro line that runs to Kongens Nytorv and Norreport in the city centre. Single tickets for either cost 34.50Kr (Denmark never adopted the Euro; the exchange rate usually hovers between eight and nine krone per GBP). Alternatively you can catch bus 5A from the terminal outside Terminal 2 to Rådhuspladsen, which takes about 30 minutes and costs 22Kr.
As you exit the customs area of the airport, there's a Tourist Information Desk almost immediately in front of you. Free maps are available here, as well as the Copenhagen Card which gives unlimited travel and access to most museums. They can also assist with hotel reservations. The main office is located opposite the Tivoli Gardens main gate.
There is an efficient public transport system comprising of buses, trains and the metro. However, most destinations are within walking distance. If your legs are up to it then rent a bicycle from the main train station.
Tivoli Gardens, a Danish institution located in the heart of the city. Part amusement park with rides such as the world’s tallest carousel at just 80 metres tall, part pleasure gardens, it's the world’s second oldest theme park – the oldest is Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg, opened in 1583: the Danes have long appreciated the value of some R&R. Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843 and is Scandinavia's most visited theme park, was the inspiration for Walt Disney and his original Disneyland resort in California. The park also has a number of excellent restaurants, including one that has been voted as the world’s best: Paul, which can be found in the Nimb Hotel. Tivoli is open from late March to mid-October every year, with a short Christmas season as well.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
If you love modern art, one of the best museums in Europe is located just up the coast. Louisiana occupies a magnificent spot on the Øresund Sound at Humlebæk which is 25 minutes on the train from central station. Whilst exhibits are constantly changing, you will find work here from Andy Warhol, Picasso and controversial Danish artist Asger Jorn. The grounds are stunning during the summer where people sit and picnic enjoying the view over to Sweden, or in the winter when the snow transforms it into a scene from Narnia.
A trip across to Sweden is certainly worth a few hours. Either catch the train from central station, through Kastrup to Malmø, going under and then over the water on the Øresund crossing, opened in 2000 as the longest bridge in Europe, or head north on the train to Helsingør where you can catch the regular ferry for the 15-minute crossing to Helsingborgs. This trip is hilarious first thing on Saturday morning, when hundreds of Swedes travel to stock up on cheap(er) alcohol in the supermarkets in Denmark, then proceed to drink most of it before heading back on the ferry.
There are bars all over the city, and depending on the area, the clientele and the drink, you can either pay a fortune for your drink or not. There are a number of small British-type pubs in the side streets such as the Southern Cross in Løngangestræde where a pint, a game of darts and some football on the TV will have you thinking you are in your local back home, or you can head to the trendy bars of Nørrebro where being seen with a Carlsberg is definitely “so 2010”.
MEET THE SIDES
The two biggest clubs in the area are IF Brøndby and FC Copenhagen. Brøndby, based in a town of that name on the western outskirts of Copenhagen, have won 10 titles and five Danish Cups since reaching the top flight in 1981. FC Copenhagen – better known as FCK – came into being via a 1992 merger and have quickly amassed eight titles and four Cups. For more details on these two, see their individual club guides.
There are also other sides around Copenhagen who play at the top table. In the northern suburbs is a small commune called Farum; here you'll find FC Nordsjaelland, who for the previous decade have been playing in the top division of Danish football and causing a few upsets along the way which has seen they qualify for the UEFA Cup on a number of occasions. Their smart 10,000-seater Farum Park stadium is easily accessible at the end of the H and A S-Tog train lines.
More details on Nordsjaelland at Stuart Fuller's The Ball is Round
Not far south of Farum is Lyngby, home of Boldklub Lyngby, who have recently bounced about between the two national divisions. Whilst they haven't had the success of the big two, they can lay claim to two Danish championships, the last being in 1992 (a fine year for Danish football: the national team won the European Championship across in Sweden). Their smart little ground, surrounded by hedges and with grass banks behind the goals, is a perfect location for a late summer’s evening game accompanied by a beer and a grilled sausage.
More details on Lyngby at Stuart Fuller's The Ball is Round
Other smaller clubs are dotted around the city and regularly make a run on promotion to the Superliga, although few actually make it. However, that's not to say that an afternoon watching AB (Akademisk Boldklub) in their smart Gladsaxe stadium or Bronshøj BK play at the homely Tingberg are worth avoiding. On the contrary, football on the most part in Denmark is cheap, easily accessible and above all is beer friendly!
For an overview of what watching football in Denmark is like, read Stuart Fuller’s bluffers' guide here or head on over to FootballInDenmark.co.uk.
Explore Copenhagen with our interactive map – click, drag and zoom
Guide written by Stuart Fuller, editor of The Ball Is Round football travel website
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