Copenhagen

 

In 1989, the idea of any government legalizing same-sex relationships was unheard of. But the Danish people think differently: while HIV was at its deadly peak and conservative leadership gripped many Western nations, Denmark became the first to grant recognition to gay and lesbian couples. The move was in keeping with the Danish tradition of tolerance and the open-minded, ahead-of-the-curve thinking that permeates Copenhagen, the capital and largest city.

Adding to the gay relevance of Copenhagen in 2014 is the fact that the city is hosting Eurovision, a continent-wide song contest that Europe goes gaga for, especially its gays. In conjunction with the music contest, and in honor of the historic anniversary of same-sex unions, a Eurovision Pride Square will be erected in the city center and feature entertainment, tents, food and drinks. The Eurovision Pride Square will complement Rainbow Square, which is near Town Hall Square and serves as another monument to LGBTs.

This year has also been a big year for food in Copenhagen, largely considered the gastronomic capital of Scandinavia. Fifteen of the city's restaurants received a total of 17 Michelin stars, the highest honor for restaurants. Michelin is publishing a special Nordic restaurant guide next year where Danish restaurants, especially those in Copenhagen, are expected to figure prominently. Culinary travelers from around the world make sure to visit acclaimed Copenhagen restaurants like noma, Restaurant Geranium, Restaurant AOC, and Studio.

By now, it's a little rote to discuss the green cred of Copenhagen, but it shouldn't be downplayed. While American cities still struggle to get cars off the road and clear their skies, Copenhagen began paying attention to climate change in the 1970s and passed one of the world's earliest environmental protection laws. Biking is a way of life in Copenhagen and to live like an urban Dane, visitors should hop on two wheels and explore the cycle-friendly paradise.

The city, which ranks as one of the world's happiest, is also constantly in transition. Ten years ago any visitor, especially gays ones, would happily spend their entire stay touring the atmospheric streets and alleys in the medieval "Indre By" (City Center, pronounced more like "Indra Boo"). Nowadays a successful visit to Copenhagen includes jumping on a bike and making excursions to vibrant multi-ethnic Nørrebro, joining the local hipster eye candy as they sip coffee at the laidback cafés in Elmegade, or exploring the former no-go-area of Jægersborggade, which has turned into a haven for artisan workshops, organic wine and innovative Nordic cuisine. Another easy bike ride from the city center is Vesterbro, with its partly gentrified red-light district and the "meatpacking area" booming with informal eateries, bars, and alternative party venues. It's easy to love a city that loves you back.

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