The Copenhagen Guide
While the city of Copenhagen has a population of under one million, it feels like a much larger town: This is, after all, the hometown of a new culinary tradition, a significant slice of iconic, modern design and architecture, and a bustling fashion scene. It all takes place in a landscape that dates back centuries, and is still marked by the spires of Christiansborg and Rosenborg castles, the technicolored Nyhavn waterfront from the 17th-century, endless green spaces, the Tivoli Gardens, and, of course, Freetown Christiana, which was settled by hippie squatters in 1971 and has since remained its own little, kind of lawless town, where vendors openly sell hash on Pusher Street.
In the culinary tradition, not only is René Redzepi re-opening the next iteration of Noma in 2018, but he has a restaurant called Barr, which occupies Noma’s old waterfront warehouse. Most importantly, though, boundary pushing restaurants and cafés from Noma alums have proliferated across the city. As for design, all of the historic furniture makers (Arne Jacobsen, Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner) are still offered in pristine antique shops in the streets near the design museum, and there is ample opportunity to see some incredible architecture, particularly if you venture outside the center of the city. Finn Juhl house and the Louisiana Museum are as staggering outside as the contents within. Like with other Scandinavian cities, biking is ideal, though the Danes cycle (year-round) with a certain ferocity and intensity that makes venturing into the bike lines ill-advised unless you know where you’re going and what you’re doing.
DR KoncerthusetØrestads Blvd. 13, Amager | +45.352.062.62
With a price tag of 300 million dollars, the new home of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra is also (so far) the second most expensively built concert hall in the world. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the structure looks like a weirdly translucent blue cube. This is completely intentional: at night concert scenes are projected onto the cube's surfaces to share the experience of what happens inside with the community outside. While the exterior looks pretty industrial, the concert hall itself (which sits 1,800 people) is visually stunning—the yellow cedar-wood used throughout the space is warm and inviting, with handcrafted seats and an incredible 6,000-pipe organ.
Louisiana Museum of Modern ArtGl. Strandvej 13, Humlebæk | +45.491.907.19
Called "Louisiana" as an ode to the original builder of the site, who had three wives—all called Louise—this waterside complex is one of the most unique places to appreciate modern art and sculpture in the world. The collection is hard to beat—two floors of Giacometti, works by Lichtenstein and Warhol, and the cosmic Yayoi Kusama installation (on loan to The Broad LA until January)—though the most moving experience is to be had outside in the Sculpture Park. Set against the shore of the Øresund Sound (the sea dividing Denmark from Sweden), dotted among the trees, you'll find the most incredible collection of over sixty sculptures, including works by Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, and Henry Moore. To see these literally larger-than-life sculptures in the outdoor setting most sculpture is made for, is truly spectacular.
Arne Jacobsen Gas StationKystvejen 24, Northern Suburbs
Texaco commissioned Jacobsen to create a new standard gas station model, which the architect completed in 1938. The new model was never implemented but the structure still functions as a gas station today (the modern gas pumps were added later). The station is essentially a concrete box clad in white ceramic tiles—the distinctive feature is the oval-shaped canopy above the pumps (affectionately called "the mushroom" by locals). While the canopy looks a little obsolete, Jacobsen's philosophy that every design element needs to have a function is definitely at play. The canopy acts as a shield from the rain by day and as a streetlight (the canopy is bottom-lit so the light diffuses to illuminate the whole station) by night—functional, beautiful, smart.
Arne Jacobsen BellavistaStrandvejen 419-451, Northern Suburbs
Architect Arne Jacobsen is credited as being the founding father of modern Danish functionalist design. Jacobsen was prolific, producing over one hundred buildings throughout his career. The seaside town of Klampenbord is home to a whole complex of Jacobsen-designed buildings and structures, including a theater, housing complex, and beach cabanas. The architect won the commission for the site in the '30s and added more structures in the '50s, all in the international modernist style—white-washed walls, split-level apartments–to ensure sea views for all occupants.
Finn Juhl’s HouseKratvænget 15, Northern Suburbs | +45.396.411.83
Post World War II, the notion that good quality, aesthetically pleasing design could improve the daily life of Danes emerged—meaning that something totally utilitarian, like a chair or table, should also be beautiful. Architect and designer Finn Juhl, aside from being one of the founders of this new era of modern Danish design, built and furnished his own home in the spirit of this new movement's principles. Basically untouched since Juhl's death in 1989, his home acts as the perfect exhibition space for his work. The house is an early example of open-plan, with white walls and large windows drawing attention to the functional yet incredibly sculptural furniture. There is no design piece in this house that doesn't serve a purpose, so the space is simple and devoid of clutter. You'll see some of Juhl's most famous pieces like the Egyptian chairs (1949) and Poet sofa (1942) in their natural environment—the minimalist Danish home. This is on the ground's of the Ordrupgaard museum.
Assistens KirkegardeKapelvej 4, Nørrebro | +45.353.719.17
Arguably one of the most atmospheric cemeteries in the world, Assistens Kirkegarde is an oasis of calm in the middle of the city. Despite its primary function, the cemetery is not a somber place, locals use it almost like a park to exercise, relax, and read in. It's filled with trees making it a beautiful place to take in the fall colors as you walk around and study the tombstones of the notable Danes buried there (including every child's favorite fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen).
Designmuseum DanmarkBredgade 68, Indre By | +45.331.856.56
This museum operates like a living Danish design catalog—all of Denmark's design history and ongoing evolution is recorded in the museum's archives and displayed through dozens of exhibits. Open to the public since 1895, the museum's mission is to bring an awareness to, and appreciation of quality, the element so inherent to Danish functional design—pieces built to last. The 20th Century Design and Industrial Craft exhibit is super informative and a great launchpad for people unfamiliar with the subject. If you've seen your fill of furniture, there are also several fashion exhibits.
Dansk MobelkunstAldersrogade 6c, Osterbro | +45.333.238.37
Founded in 1992 by Ole Høstbo, this gallery specializes in super rare, original pieces of Danish furniture created between 1920-1970. The mid-century period was dominated by the belief that utilitarian equipment (like furniture) could be beautiful as well as functional, and enhance the daily living experience in the home. Here, you'll see a mix of antique Danish modern and industrial design pieces on show. Høstbo's exhibit also makes its way through the world's major art and design fairs, bringing this significant period of Danish design to a wider audience. By appointment only.
Bagsvaerd KirkeTaxvej 14, Bagsværd | +45.449.841.41
This is one of the most unusually designed churches you'll ever come across. Completed by Jørn Utzon (also the architect of the Sydney Opera House) in 1976, the white concrete exterior looks like a non-event, while all the visual drama is contained inside. Once through the doors, the effect is reminiscent of being in a cave—illuminated by hidden glass panels in the roof, the light bounces off the undulating white, pre-cast concrete walls, and white tile floor. In keeping with the soft palette, the pews and organ are done in bleached wood with no ornate details. Overall, the effect is incredibly soothing, the birch tree-covered landscape outside doesn't hurt either.
Ordrupgaard MuseumVilvordevej 110, Northern Suburbs | +45.396.411.83
Home to an impressive collection of Golden Age Danish and French Impressionist art (including works by Renoir, Monet, and Manet), Ordrupgaard Museum's most interesting design addition is the late Zaha Hadid's extension completed in 2005. Hadid's building is intended to be a continuation of the landscape with no real defined form. As you walk through the galleries inside, the ceilings rise and fall with the terrain and there are constant splashes of greenery courtesy of the many windows. The exterior is a mix of black lava concrete and glass that reflects the changing colors of the landscape, the concrete roof in particular can look almost multi-textural when clouds pass overhead. Finn Juhl's house is also on-site. The museum will be closing in December for renovation.
Galleri Nicolai WallnerGlentevej 47-49, Nørrebro | +45.325.709.70
Galleri Nicolai Wallner, the biggest contemporary art space in Copenhagen, has recently moved from their old Carlsberg brewery location to a brand new studio. With several different forms of artistic media represented, the idea behind this gallery is to commit to exploring the same generation of artists long-term. For the repeat visitor this is a pretty interesting visual experience as you can chart the artist's evolution and development over time, but, even for one-time visitors, the industrial-style location and volume of artists showing make it well worth a visit.