The Independent


Best place to get lost: Indre By, literally the 'inner city', a compact web of winding alleyways, courtyards and squares which formed the heart of medieval Copenhagen. Strøget, a mile-long pedestrianised street, runs through Indre By and is lined by buskers known to perform until 5am. Warning: you're not likely to get mugged in Indre By (or anywhere else in Copenhagen) but you might feel you've been fleeced if you buy an ice cream.

Where to be seen: in any of the plethora of cafés, bars and music venues in the Nørrebro district, directly north of the city centre. The area is informally dubbed the 'Rhubarb Quarter' for the crop once grown there, not for the standard of the conversation in the nightspots. Nørrebro is also a stamping ground of the shadowy anarchist group, the Autonomous Movement, who allegedly started the riot that ripped through Nørrebro one New Year's Eve and was broadcast live on CNN.

Where not to be seen: paddling in a fountain on Strøget waving a bottle of lager. Copenhagen-ites are accustomed to this type of behaviour but it will be assumed that you are a Swede or a Norwegian on a drinking trip. In Denmark, alcohol is cheaper and more readily available than any other Scandinavian country. If you really are drunk, however, you face the prospect of waking up, not in a comfy Danish jail cell, but on a boat to Oslo.

Best place for a stroll: Rosenborg Gardens, which surround Rosenborg Palace, both of which were planned with great panache by king and amateur architect Christian IV in the early 1600s. Christian IV also gave Copenhagen the broad, elegant avenues which frame Indre By. Christian took the throne when Denmark was rich and claimed an empire stretching from Greenland to Estonia. When he died, the country was broke and the empire belonged to Sweden. Nonetheless, Copenhagen looked a whole lot better.

What not to eat: Don't ask for smörgasbord, an 'open table' laden with meat, fish and vegetable dishes, which is a Swedish creation. Danes specialise in smørrebrød, which also consists of combinations of meat, fish and vegetables but heaps them onto a single slice of rye bread. Smørrebrød is mostly eaten for lunch but some city smørrebrød shops are open around the clock. To find one, simply stop a passing local and allow the word 'smørrebrødsforretning' to roll off your tongue. Don't ask for bacon, either: Danes export it, they don't eat it. And don't ask for a 'Danish pastry', real Danish pastries have real Danish names and very little sugar.

Best place to buy drugs: the so-called Pusher Street of the 'free city' of Christiania, an area squatted by hippies in the early 1970s and since evolving into a self-supporting alternative community of a thousand souls, with vegetarian restaurants, craft shops and music venues. On Pusher Street, anything stronger than marijuana is frowned upon but varieties of the naughty weed, despite its illegality, are laid out for customers' perusal.

Best graveyard for a picnic: Assistens Kirkegaard. In their constant efforts to give the city still more green space, the authorities have designated part of this 18th-century cemetery a public park. Fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen is one great Dane buried here, but the hip place to munch your smørrebrød is beside the final resting place of the 'father of existentialism', Søren Kierkegaard.

Don't mention the war: Admiral Nelson led the Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1801 and this was followed by the seizure of the city by the British in 1807. The worthy City Museum records these facts and welcomes all-comers but turning up with an eye-patch and arm-sling might be pushing the tolerant Danes a bit too far.

Corporate Sponsorship: Is nothing new. Dane Niels Bohr probably hadn't been drinking when he formulated the theories of quantum mechanics in the 1920s but his research was aided by endowments from Copenhagen-based brewing giants Carlsberg. Interestingly, the brewery's founder also built the city's excellent Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum.

Don't bother with: The Little Mermaid, a tiny sculpture overlooked by a large crowd of tourists who relentlessly photograph it. If you can't resist, take a quick look and then pretend to be more interested in the much bigger Gefion fountain, alongside, depicting the Goddess Gefion and her four sons, after she turned them into oxen.

Best place for smut: Museum Erotica, where the exhibits range from saucy postcards and sex toys to a collection of dildos. "Many of our visitors come again and again," an official told me.



© mick sinclair  

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To read many more articles and reviews (over 140,000 words-worth!) written by Mick Sinclair, buy Adjusting the Stars: Music journalism from post-punk London