Coppenhagen… one happy town.

Story & Images by MARÍA IRIONDO

Danish people have been named the happiest in the world. In spite of paying high taxes, their healthcare, transport and quality of life, according to some, makes them number one in happiness. It’s easy to understand why when you visit their colorful capital: Copenhagen.

A vibrant and lively city that is at the forefront of environmental consciousness where heavy traffic is alleviated by ample bike lanes on some of the cleanest streets in the world, thanks to the danes’ obsession with protecting the environment. They have also pioneered food waste programs with organizations like the Stop Wasting Food Movement that has gotten supermarkets to offer discounts on single items as opposed to bulk ones, reducing food waste by 90%. Copenhagen is also home to the world’s first waste food supermarket Wefood which receives produce that is destined for the bin and is then sold at discounts of fifty per cent.

The best time to visit is the summer where you can appreciate the gorgeous landscaped boulevards and the glistening blue waters that surround the city. As you bike along some of the city’s western edge lakes, for a minute, you might feel like you’re riding along the Seine river in Paris. These three rectangular lakes: Peblinge Sø ( Student Lake), Sortedam Sø (Black Pond Lake) and Sankt Jørgens Sø ( St. George’s lake) are the perfect spot to rent a row boat or relaxing on its promenades.

Over the bridge, you’ll find the up and coming Nørrebro neighborhood with its eclectic mix of restaurants and cafés. What used to be a working class neighborhood has turned into a hip hub of plant covered buildings and parks such as the Superkilen which is split into three main parts: the red square with its urban cafés, the Black Market, a more traditional square with fountains and benches and the Green Park, ideal for picnics and dog walking.

As you head east, you can enjoy strolling down the wide avenues that lead to the more intricate cobblestone streets of the old town, lined with shops and taverns. The nearby Nyhavn (new harbor) is bursting with life with its colorful building façades and busy outdoor cafés where you can sit to admire the lovely antique sailboats that grace the docks.

The famous Tivoli gardens amusement park first opened in 1843. Here you may still ride on the world’s oldest roller coaster- the Rutschebanen. Dotted with exotic buildings with an Oriental flair, theaters, bandstands, restaurants and cafés, this beautiful park turns into a magical spectacle at nighttime with its unique illumination. Some of its newest rides are the Aquila, a giant swing and spinner with centrifugal powers up to 4G and the Condor 2GH in which riders are seated in a ring, facing away from the center and are spun around at high speed.

Not far, you’ll find one of the main attractions of Copenhagen: the little mermaid statue situated on the Langelinie promenade. This Danish icon is inspired by one of the colorful tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Suprisingly small, this bronze statue by Danish-Icelandic sculptor Edvard Eriksen is only 1.25 meters tall and weighs 175 kilos. Less than a mile away stands the stunning Copenhagen Opera House, designed by Henning Larsen, one of the most modern opera houses in the world.

As far as dining, there is a bounty of options for any budget. Lively taverns where beer and smoked herring are perfect for lunch, but if you fancy something a little more sophisticated there are plenty of restaurants that will more than satisfy. My favorite has to be Marv & Ben, located downtown on 4 Snaregade Street where you can indulge in the best of genuine Danish gastronomy with an eclectic menu of fish like the zander with kohlrabi and cockles or beef dishes such as the grilled pork with beetroot and elderflower, and there’s nothing like topping your meal off with one of its freshly prepared desserts like the wild blueberries, fermented honey and limegrass.

The Toverhallerne market, on Frederiksborggade 21, is a gourmet place for take out or to enjoy in their outdoor seating. Offering a wide selection of local and international food that is sure to please any craving you may have, right in the center of town. One of my favorites here is the Hallermes Smorebrod serving great open sandwiches stacked with varieties of meat, fish, seafood, spreads and sauces, the ultimate Danish treat!

For lodging nothing beats the Guldsmeden hotel, an environmentally friendly boutique hotel that offers comfortable rooms and organic food, a true haven of relaxation in the center of town. The Kong Arthur is a good alternative for those seeking the comforts of a four star hotel.

You can’t leave Copenhagen without a peek into the iconic Christianatown, a unique hippie commune that has brought a lot of attention to the Danish capital. This controversial neighborhood, created in 1971, is located on what used to be an abandoned military base. The 84 acre area began as a social experiment and has become an autonomous district of 1000 residents where you’ll find art galleries, cafés, restaurants, historic buildings and quirky murals. Most of the food is organic and smoking marihuana and hashish is permitted.

Whatever your fancy, Copenhagen has it all. Perhaps that’s why everyone is so happy.