The first time I was in Copenhagen in the mid-80s, I spent only one day in the city. However, I remember the good mood, the good disposition of its people, and the way they engage with foreigners perfectly well. What stands out the most was something that came to me while there, and that no other city has made me feel: “These people are happy.”
As it turns out, I did not have a wrong impression: for the fourth consecutive year, the city of Copenhagen has been chosen as one of the happiest cities in the world by the World Happiness Report, a study done annually by the United Nations. In addition, this capital city of the small kingdom of Denmark, with 5.6 million inhabitants, has been awarded three times with the title of the most pleasant city to live in the world by the British lifestyle magazine Monocle.
Copenhagen is a classic Scandinavian metropolis, full of extraordinary museums, exquisite restaurants, shops with the most exclusive brands in the world, and neighborhoods of great style and peacefulness. Even with all that, the Danish capital still cultivates a provincial atmosphere.
Believe it or not, Copenhagen does not have traffic congestion (I repeat: no congestion). More than half of the population gets around on bicycle. Free of noise pollution, the old town of Copenhagen encourages you to stroll, its terraces of bars and restaurants inviting you in to just sit and relax.
The World Press Report takes into account six factors for its happiness equation: income, healthy life expectancy, social assistance, freedom and generosity. And it is true – the city of Copenhagen has disputed the first five places with Helsinki, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Basel, where these rates are, indeed, very high.
After that first visit in the eighties, I have been to Copenhagen two more times. The last time I was there, about a year ago, I asked a friend what he thought about these statistics. He explained that they are happy because they are not ostentatious, and because they know to enjoy the little things.
“Even if the weather is not always in tune, here the heat is in the hearts and minds of people,” he concluded. It’s an incredibly simple philosophy.
What to see
Copenhagen has many and varied tourist attractions. First, I recommend either walking or cycling. Several spots are true testimonies of its history, including the dozens of local buildings built more than 450 years ago. The Castles of Børsen and Christiansborg are two wonderful examples.
Amagerbrogade, the longest shopping street in Denmark, is always full of people. There you will find Amagercenteret, an exclusive shopping center.
Another essential space is the Tivoli Gardens, a place of leisure for the Copenhagens, where the famous amusement park of the same name is located. Built in 1843, it is one of the oldest in the world, and little has changed over time. Another point of interest is the “free city” of Christiania, which has its own self-government.
Of course, a visit Nyhavn is a can’t miss. The most famous canal in Copenhagen, built at the end of the 17th century, has direct access to the sea from the old city. Nyhavn is lined with bars and restaurants, and is surrounded with beautiful houses, painted in bright colors.
Even if you do not have a lot of time in the city, you cannot leave without visiting the Langelinie Pier, where the statue of The Little Mermaid sits. Relatively small, this bronze sculpture is the most admired of the area. It was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story by the same name. ■