Unexpected Copenhagen

“What was most unexpected during your visit to Copenhagen?” asked the reporter of Copenhagen’s Lorry TV2 channel. ‘Everything,’ I thought ...’just about everything’

It was a sudden invitation to visit Copenhagen by Air India on its inaugural flight to the city, which halted a tight work schedule fixed weeks ago. “Do you have an existing Schenzen visa?” asked Ravi Upadhayay, from Air India’s Corporate Communications office. “Not sure,” I said, “let me check.” My office informed me my visa expired in 2016. “Please get your passport and all papers right away to the visa centre... it closes at 4pm,” said Ravi. We screeched through traffic jams to reach the visa centre where passport pictures and papers were submitted. After a scrutiny of the papers, the lady at the visa desk flipped through the pages of my passport and stopped short. She lifted a mean eyebrow and said, “Your visa is valid. Renewed in 2016... valid till 2019.” We all looked at one another, registering surprise... shock... dismay and a “How could anyone be such a moron” look. Ravi grinned in delight. “You are set,” he said. “I’m sending you flight details.” “I’m going to Copenhagen day after tomorrow,” I announced to a surprised family. “Really?” was their cool response. “Enjoy.” The unexpected continued its run. An inaugural flight is always interesting. The airport was abuzz. Flight attendants were dressed in their glory... shimmering saris neatly tucked in. In sequence were flowers, garlands, lighting of lamp, cutting of cake, offerings of sweets and gifts, followed by congratulations all around. It was a great party – a great send-off. Next surprise. Air India’s Chairman & Managing Director, Rajiv Bansal, was travelling with us. We got to do our stories right away – at the airport and in flight as well. As any reporter will tell you, that’s manna from heaven. The reception at Copenhagen Airport was no less grand. Flowers, balloons, festive decorations, a bhangra dance by a Denmark student. There was Carlsberg beer, the famous Danish open sandwiches, cake, networking... a warm welcome, indeed, by our hosts. Our guide, Giuseppe Liverino (popularly known as G!), Project Manager, PR & Travel Trade, at Wonderful Copenhagen, took over once we left. Surprise! The weather was cool and pleasant... clear skies! An Indian dignitary had just shared that in the 14 days since he arrived, he saw just four rain-free days. So, we were blessed, indeed. Let me share right away that during our three-day stay, we had clear, sunny days, surprising Wonderful Copenhagen, as well as us. We thus saw another side to Copenhagen – brilliant clear colours, scents in the breeze, azure waters, vibrant blues and glistening greens. What was unexpected in Copenhagen? For me, it was the splendid outdoors of North Zealand. Since the only Zealand I know comes with ‘New’ as a prefix, I learnt that Dutch explorer Abel Tasman sighted New Zealand in 1642 and Dutch cartographers named the land Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. Hence, New Zealand! We drove to Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO site, better known as the castle that set the stage for Shakespeare’s legendary play Hamlet. Not surprisingly, the guided tour is called “In Hamlet’s Footsteps.” What took me aback was the costumed ‘Shakesperian’ guide Claudio, whose passionate reincarnation of Horatio in Hamlet brought the castle to life. A theatre actor on a great stage, it was Horatio who relived the dark moments of Hamlet in the dungeons, the palace chambers and the prayer hall...sending goose bumps and chills down his audience’s back as he playacted each scene against the right backdrop. A brilliant act indeed! A memory that has stayed with me is Louisiana – a contemporary museum, better described as ‘Modern Art by the Sea’. Lyrical as it may sound, the idyllic setting (views across the Sound (Øresund), showcases to perfection, a 3000+collection of modern art as well as masters like Picasso, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Yves Klein and Andy Warhol. The museum yields a treasure beyond its offerings of sculpture, painting and artefacts...a glittering sea on one side and undulating gardens on the other. There were walkways...green winding paths down the hillside to the sea, dotted with outdoor sculptures. A graphic design studio gave way to a library, juxtaposed with flowering trees, shrubs, water pools and gardens. I loved exploring unbroken trails, alcoves and green nooks.

The sit-outs were many at the Louisiana café – the venue restaurant, and every table was taken right up to the area overlooking the sea. For me, the hours spent here were a joy! What else did I love? A red wine from Sicily paired with fish and meat...oven-baked breads and pizzas at Bæst, a Michelin-star restaurant in the hip Nørrebro area, which served up fresh organic preparations...blending the best of Nordic cuisine with Italian! One of the freshest and longest walking tours in my memory was with Sine Smidt, Founder of Copenhagen Cool, as we took in the colourful canal of Nyhavn, the waterfront, Opera House, the brand-new Kissing Bridge); King’s Garden, the winter and summer residences of Danish royalties – and finally, a climb up the Round Tower, built in the 1600s, which provided a splendid view over town from the top. What better than to round off the evening than with a glass of Carlsberg beer! Carlsberg’s Head of Press, Nicky Jeffries, did the honours as she showed us around the wonderful world of beer, featuring historic memorabilia.

Food... glorious food. Copenhagen offers a smorgasbord of delicious offerings. Two informal lunches stand out...one was typically Danish: Smørrebrød at Selma’s – high stool-counter seating around an open kitchen at WestMarket, in Vesterbro; and the other, a meal under a canopied cafe on benches, amidst a mild drizzle, at Torvehallerne. Both are popular spots amongst locals to grab lunch or a drink after work, get groceries or pick up gourmet chocolate. Ah! The most pleasant surprise came on my last night in Copenhagen! It was a stray evening, around 7 pm, not yet dark, where I shared my bag of croissants with Danish locals sitting out on a wooden bench on the promenade facing the canal... on the doorstep of my hotel, The Strand. Unexpected company, an unassuming exchange of idle talk, as if we all knew each other forever. An assistant in a store, a housewife, a student, a gymnast and me! We laughed and chatted... and I didn’t feel the chill of 6 degrees ... it was just a clear moon on a warm cheerful outing with friends. Wonderful Copenhagen, indeed!


Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Copenhagen is located just a few minutes’ walk from City Hall, and with the Copenhagen Central Station as its nearest neighbour, it is very easy to get to. Tivoli Gardens showcases exotic architecture, historic buildings and lush gardens. At night, thousands of coloured lights create a fairytale atmosphere that is completely unique. The rides are all designed to match Tivoli’s architecture and gardens. Some rides are wonderfully nostalgic. Others will match the expectations of the keenest thrill seekers.


Gemyse, in Tivoli, is where visitors can stroll through the restaurant’s garden before sitting at a table and enjoying a menu with a spotlight on vegetables. In close collaboration with Aarstiderne, a Danish company specialising in organic produce, Gemyse has a strong organic profile, with Chef Christoffer Brink at the helm. Gemyse offers Tivoli’s visitors a green and sustainable alternative without compromising on taste.


Copenhagen is an old harbour and maritime city, and one of the most beautiful and enjoyable ways to see it, is from a boat. Experience the idyllic harbours and canals of Copenhagen with a canal tour. During the tour, you will see: The Copenhagen Opera House, Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, the impressive Black Diamond Library, and, of course, the Little Mermaid. Make your departure from Nyhavn or Gammel Strand.


WestMarket in Vesterbro is the go-to place for all street-food lovers, whether it’s for freshly baked morning bread, a quick lunch or drinks after work. It is really a combination between a marketplace and a hangout spot, and some of the stands are great for grocery shopping or finding that French specialty that no supermarket ever has. You can even get an extravagant Gin and Tonic served in a golden quince cup, if you so wish. WestMarket is located at Vesterbrogade in Vesterbro, the west part of Copenhagen.


For many years Vesterbro was one of the local working class areas of Copenhagen, but during the last decade it has been transformed into a creative and cool quarter of town. Witness the urban renewal, which took place in the 1990s, explore the old meatpacking district, and enjoy the offerings of a wide variety of cafés, restaurants and galleries. Vesterbro is a cool and laidback area where people hang out at coffee shops or rummage through second-hand stores.


Kronborg Castle is probably the most famous Danish castle, known worldwide from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Towering on a promontory in Northern Zealand, Kronborg faces the Sound between Elsinore and Helsingborg, in Sweden. Grand fortifications with bastions and casemates used to protect the Danish land from unwanted visitors and were home to the royal family until the late 1600s. A tour of the castle with Horatio (Claudio) will take you through beautifully decorated rooms with Renaissance and Baroque interiors that reveal the residents’ decadent lifestyle.


Louisiana is located in Northern Sealand, with a panoramic view across the Sound (Øresund). Louisiana is an international museum with a considerable collection of modern art. The museum’s permanent collection includes more than 3.000 works and is one of the largest in Scandinavia. It takes its point of departure in the period after 1945, including artists like Picasso, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Yves Klein, Andy Warhol and many more.


Visit Carlsberg is located in Valby and celebrates the first Carlsberg Brewery. Experience the wonderful world of beer and hang out at the public Friday Bar in the summer. Visit Carlsberg is among the largest tourist attractions in Copenhagen and visitors will get closer to the roots of Carlsberg, the history and the beer. At this legendary landmark, you can use all your senses. You can smell the ingredients, discover authentic architecture, taste world-famous Danish beer in many varieties and get a feeling of, what Carlsberg is all about.


Bæst is an organic, Italian-inspired restaurant in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen. The restaurant has its own adjoined bakery – Mirabelle. After years of vegetable-centric cooking at the critically acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurant, Relæ, and its laid-back sister restaurant and natural wine bar, Manfreds, restaurateurs Christian F Puglisi and Kim Rossen opened Bæst – a combined bakery and restaurant paying homage to Puglisi’s Italian roots. The restaurant and pizzeria, Bæst, and the adjoining bakery, Mirabelle, are located in the heart of Nørrebro, a colourful and hip neighbourhood in Copenhagen.


Copenhagen is a food lover’s dream. At Torvehallerne, you will find over 60 stands selling everything from fresh fish and meat to gourmet chocolate and exotic spices, as well as small places where you can have a quick bite to eat. This is one of the most popular spots amongst locals to grab lunch or a drink after work. Protip: Don’t miss Mexican tacos by the former Noma Chef Hija De Sanchez.

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