Despite its small stature, the bohemian nation of Denmark has often stood fearlessly as an outspoken voice of acceptance for individuals from all walks of life. The trailblazing country was at the forefront of gay rights before they were even up for discussion elsewhere. In 1948, Denmark became one of the first countries to have a gay and lesbian organization; the first gay magazine, Vennen, was first published a year later. In 1989, the world’s first same-sex union was legalized, followed by the first gay adoption (of a partner’s child) in 1999, and since 2012 same-sex couples are legally allowed to get married in church. Because of these progressive attitudes and its open-minded environment Denmark is a popular destination for the most discerning gay and lesbian jetsetter. Whether you’re going in August to attend the spectacular Copenhagen Pride Festival or just looking for a relaxing getaway through a land that was once home to fairy tales and Viking plunderers, there’s never a bad time to visit Denmark's enigmatic capital.
Located just north of Germany, the country of Denmark is composed of thousands of islands — all traversable by a network of numerous bridges. The second largest landmass — Zealand — is home to Copenhagen, one of the coziest cities in the world. This isn’t an accident: “Cozy” (hygge) is one of the Dane’s favorite words. The canals in Nyhavn and Christianhavn are dotted with romantic fishing boats as well as old, tall ships; the narrow streets are covered with cobblestones. Don’t think cozy is synonymous with small, though. In addition to having one of the liveliest gay and lesbian scenes in Europe, Copenhagen’s wealth of museums, restaurants, and shops is sure to impress any adventurer.
EAT: Fine Dining and Fairway Food
Denmark is Scandinavia’s gourmet capital with 17 Michelin stars spread among 15 gourmet restaurants. For the frugal traveler, there are more modest meals that are nearly as delicious.
• Kadeau: (Pictued) This eatery serves authentic Danish food — beetroot, sloan, whey, etc. — in a beautiful setting. (Wildersgade 10A 1408 København K, kadeau.dk)
• Restaurant BROR: Another fail-safe stop for authentic Nordic food, BROR is run by two handsome gents with cooking cred. The intimate eatery seats 46 lucky people. (Skt. Peders Stræde 24A, 1453 København K, restaurantbror.dk)
• Radio: This restaurant serves locally-grown Danish food in the site of a former broadcast facility. (Julius Thomsens Gade 12 1632 København V, restaurantradio.dk)
• Noma: Widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. Rene Redzeli’s Noma, which overlooks Copenhagen’s beautiful harbor, has reinterpreted Nordic cuisine, placing an emphasis on foraged ingredients such as reindeer, moss, and spruce needles. (Strandgade 93; noma.dk)
• Nose2Tail: Here the focus is on the pig, the whole pig, and almost nothing but the pig. The tender-sweet mackerel, served hot off the outdoor barbecue, is among the few standout exceptions. Almost everything cooked at Nose2Tail comes from within a 50-mile radius and is organic and free-range. (Flaesketorvet 13A; nose2tail.dk)
• Nimb Brasserie: One shudders to imagine how Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park opened in 1843, would fare on this side of the Atlantic (it would probably be run over by fast-food chains). There are fries on the menu at Nimb Brasserie, but it’s an elegant brasserie overlooking the gardens, so order them as a side to gently poached sole, or with the white asparagus and crab appetizer. (Berstorffsgade 5, Nimb.dk)
SLEEP: High-end and Hip
Stay in a hotel that features classic Danish design, or try something more cutting-edge, but lower-priced.
• Hotel Central & Cafe: The world's smallest hotel, this one-room operation includes a 130-square foot room tucked into a curving street. A truly singular experience. (Tullinsgade 1, 1618 København V, centralhotelogcafe.dk)
• Ibsens Hotel: This seriously homey hotel was rebuilt in 2011 and decorated with the works of local artists. Everything about this place screams home-away-from-home. (Vendersgade 23, 1363 København, arthurhotels.dk/ibsens-hotel/)
• Radisson Blu Royal Copenhagen: This property is the world's first hotel envisioned by designer Arne Jacobsen; style aficianados flock to room 606, which features Jacobsen's mid-century furniture and stylings. (Hammerichsgade 1 København, radissonblu.com/Copenhagen)
• Andersen Hotel: (Pictured) This moderately priced boutique hotel is close to Kødbyen, Copenhagen’s rapidly gentrifying meatpacking district, and a five-minute walk from the Central Station (Helgolandsgade 12; Andersen-Hotel.dk)
• Hotel D’Angleterre: Denmark’s leading five-star hotel rises above the stunning King’s Square like an empress on her throne. With over 240 years of decadent history, this knockout is the personification of elegance and antiquity. (Kongens Nytorv 35; dangleterre.dk)
• Hotel SP34: Located in Copenhagen's old Latin quarter, this newly-renovated hotel features 118 rooms and numerous amenities, including a daily wine hour. (Sankt Peders Stræde 34, brochner-hotels.dk)
SEE: Forget the Car
Everything you need to see is within walking, pedaling, or train distance.
• National Museum of Denmark: This museum covers 14,000 years of Danish history, with prehistoric artifacts and pieces reflecting the nation's current progressive reputation. (Ny Vestergade 10, 1220 København, natmus.dk/en)
• Danish Jewish Museum: This relatively-new museum (opened in 2004) explores Semitic history in Denmark, including the story of brave Danes saving their Jewish countrymen and women during the Holocaust. It was designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind. (Proviantpasagen 6, 1218 København, jewmus.dk/en/the-danish-jewish-museum/)
• Danish Museum of Art & Design: For something lighter, check out the works of Denmark's cultural class, including Kaare Klint and Jacob Jensen. The museum occupies a hospital from the 1700s. (Bredgade 68, 1260 København, designmuseum.dk/en)
• Louisiana: The statue of Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid is not the only show in town. Like most European cities, Copenhagen is wonderfully served by rail, making a day trip to nearby Louisiana — a contemporary art museum that sprawls alongside the ocean near Elsinore — an easy excursion. Sculptures by Alexander Calder and Henry Moore dot the landscaped grounds that sweep and swoop to the sea below. A spacious café offers an excellent Danish buffet or lunch. (GI Strandvej 13, Louisiana.dk)
• The Lakes (“Søerne”): After paying 20 kroner for an authentic jostle on bus No. 5, The Lakes (aka “Søerne”) unfold like a verdant Nirvana. Take a morning run or a peaceful stroll around the water in the shade of the chestnut trees. This is the real Copenhagen! (http://visitdenmark.us)
• Maritime Museum Denmark: (Pictured) Follow the sloping bridges down to the old dry dock between Kronborg Castle and The Culture Yard, and enter an underground museum designed by the internationally renowned architecture company BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group). The museum’s maritime collections are presented in evocative and dramatic exhibitions, with films projected directly onto the architecture of the building. (More information: Maritime Museum of Demark)
PLAY: Dirty-minded, Distinguished, or Disco
This small city has got a wide range of options for any gay man or lesbian looking for a memorable night out on the town.
• Club Christopher: (Pictured) Named for New York's famed Christopher Street, this super-club attracts a youthful crowd that can dance 'till dawn. (Knabrostræde 3 1210 København K, facebook.com/pages/Club-Christopher)
• Jailhouse CPH: If you have a police/prison fetish, this is your place. Decroated with a jail motif, this bar has bartenders serving you from behind bars — and they're dressed as cops! (Studiestræde 12 1455 København K, facebook.com/jailhousecph.dk)
• Never Mind Cafe & Night Club: A hot and sweaty party palace, this central nightlife spot recently renovated and looks better than ever. (Mikkel Bryggers Gade 11 1460 København K, nevermindbar.dk)
• Rust: Home to great concerts in intimate settings—sometimes too intimate. Apparently when the Scissor Sisters first played here, lead singer Jake Sears had to stop performing when a couple in front started having sex during the band’s Pink Floyd cover. (Guldbergsgade 8; Rust.dk)
• Oak Room: This always-packed bar is the place for after-dinner drinks. The mixed crowd may leave you feeling a little bi-curious. (Birkegade 10; oakroom.dk)
• Cosy Bar: This place has been around for 25 years and still attracts the same boisterous crowds it did back then. The party doesn’t get started until about 2 a.m., when most people head there from previous parties. (Studiestræde 24; facebook.com/pages/Cosy-Bar)
• Centralhjørnet in Copenhagen is the oldest LGBT bar in Denmark and perhaps in the world. Here you can enjoy cheap beers and a cozy bar atmosphere every day of the week. Centralhjørnet is also known to put on a show or live music once in a while. Everybody is welcome at this bar, even though it is a declared LGBT bar. (Kattesundet 18 1458 København K, centralhjornet.dk)
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