By Nick Duxbury
Copenhagen is often called the epicentre of Scandi cool, but the Danish capital is about far more than hipsters and hygge. It offers an acclaimed restaurant scene, a hub for interior-design innovation and, best of all, world-leading levels of happiness.
Scandi design has become synonymous with the type of minimal, functional, flat-pack home solutions made popular by a certain Swedish furniture giant. But for truly innovative Scandi design, Copenhagen is the place to go. To doff your cap to some of Denmark’s classic designers, shop at the likes of KLASSIK and the Republic of Fritz Hansen.
For a wealth of head-turning contemporary furniture, interiors and lighting, Illums Bolighus or Normann Copenhagen’s 1,700 sq m flagship store are essential, while Stilleben’s ceramics, glassware, textiles and jewellery draw a discerning modern design crowd.
Despite its long, cold winters and its capital’s high cost of living compared with other global cities, Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world. It has topped the UN’s World Happiness Report three times (it currently sits third behind Finland and Norway) and Copenhagen has become emblematic of the country’s proud reputation for happy living. The city is even home to a think-tank called the Happiness Research Institute, dedicated to helping cities, governments and organisations improve quality of life.
Copenhagen promotes a work-life balance, with residents enjoying the eighth-highest salaries in the world, according to Deutsche Bank; attractive working benefits, including five weeks’ annual holiday; and a welfare system designed to support foreigners as well as locals.
More than this, it is a safe city — Denmark is the world’s fifth most peaceful country, according to the 2018 Global Peace Index — with a lower crime rate than most European cities, 24-hour transport options and an inclusive family-friendly culture.
New Nordic dining
In 2010, there was a collective intake of breath from foodies at the news that a Copenhagen restaurant called Noma (since closed and reopened in a new location) had dethroned four-time Spanish winner El Bulli to the coveted title of world’s best restaurant.
Eight years on, the city continues to lead the New Nordic food scene, boasting 19 Michelin stars across 15 restaurants. These include the three-starred Geranium, led by head chef Rasmus Kofoed, a gold medal winner at the Bocuse d’Or world chef championship in 2011.
Kadeau and Aoc have two stars apiece. The former is known for cooking inspired by the Baltic island of Bornholm using Danish ingredients, while the latter is famous for creating a sensory experience, stimulating “as many of our senses as possible: taste, vision, colour and smell”, as the restaurant describes it.
Low carbon footprint
Denmark’s capital is fast becoming a template for clean, green living. Its eco hotels and organic food scene have long been a draw for the sustainably minded. But now Copenhagen is on a mission to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. As a cycling city, bikes outnumber cars, and 50 per cent of its population commutes along the 390km of cycle paths and highways.
The city has been a longstanding pioneer of sustainable design, encouraging the use of public spaces and championing green co-housing schemes to develop resilient mixed communities. The city’s planning rules even require all new flat roofs to be “green” — that is, planted with vegetation.
Overseas investors face restrictions on buying residential property in Denmark unless they obtain a permit to show they will make it their permanent residence. But for the committed, there could be a rare opportunity to get a foothold in a competitive housing market. After years of rampant price growth fuelled by cheap credit, a combination of a mortgage rate rise and new lending restrictions means Copenhagen’s market is finally cooling.
After a construction boom led to a 20 per cent surge in the supply of new homes in the city in the past year, sales are slowing, with 12 per cent fewer flats sold in January than the previous year. Lender Sydbank believes property prices are set to dip, with a 1 per cent fall in the first quarter of this year.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Wetouch Imagework; Line Klein; Ditte Isager; Alamy Stock Photo