Sex and the City (or at least 1/2 of it) does Scandinavia
See + Do
Harbour Baths, Denmark
As part of Copenhagen's harborfront revitalization, the first city-center bath opened in 2002 opposite the Marriott Hotel in the Islands Brygge area (Kalvebod Brygge 5; 45-88-33-99-00; marriott.com/hotels/travel/cphdk-copenhagen-marriott-hotel). The following year, a second harbor pool opened, in hip Vesterbro, beside the Fisketorvet Shopping Center (Kalvebod Brygge 59; www.fisketorvet.dk). After closing for a season, the Islands Brygge reopened bigger, better, and more permanent, with three pools—one each for swimming, diving, and children—and an impressive view of the new Black Diamond Royal Library extension. After a major investment in its sewage and drainage systems, Copenhagen harbor's water quality has improved so much that the water is now as clean as that at the beaches outside the city.
Copenhagen 2100, Denmark
Tel: 45 39 16 65 65
More subdued than the sometimes-manic downtown housewares boutiques, this showcase of Scandinavian designer furniture, located in the Nordhavn district, is a lesson in style itself. The building is designed by Jørn Utzon, famous for the Sydney Opera House, and the selection of furniture, carpets, and lighting delicately updatesand pays homage toDanish Modern style. If you'd rather splurge on lunch, though, Restaurant Paustian is as tasteful as the shop's pared-down sofas (45-39-18-55-01).
Lot 29, Denmark
Copenhagen 1123, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 14 14 29
Lying a few blocks off the central Kongens Nytorv square, this clothing boutique edits its inventory down to a few real design contenders (Missoni and Etro make the cut). But it's the shop's own line of cashmere sweaters, produced in Italy, that win pride of place in a wood armoire, where they come stacked in pupil-dilating colors (sea blue, tangerine, soft lavender) behind locked glass doors, like a tease.
See + Do
Copenhagen Opera House, Denmark
Copenhagen 1438, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 69 69 69 (Royal Danish Theatre Box Office)
Opened in 2005, Denmark's first purpose-built opera house, a striated, bulgy glass module with a "floating" slab of a roof, asserts its presence on the harbor. The production calendar is equally aggressive: Elvis Costello's The Secret Songs, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's platonic relationship with songbird Jenny Lind, debuted in spring 2007, and the company regularly offers a mix of restaged warhorses like Tosca and adventurous surprises like the 2007 musical Matador, based on a Scandinavian television show. The Opera's main theater is sheathed in a glossy wood globe, suspended like a Tibetan bead inside the exterior glass walls, and the seamlessly revolving stage means there is always something to look at. Unfortunately, the projected supertitles are in Danish. Because tickets sell out fast, it's safest to survey the upcoming calendar before your trip and order online. Any last-minute discounts, though rare, are posted on www.kglteater.dk.
Illums Bolighus, Denmark
Copenhagen 1160, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 14 19 41
One of the flagship shops that save Strøget from turning into one long souvenir counter, Illums Bolighus is a casbah of contemporary Scandinavian design. You can pick up Georg Jensen silver and Rosendahl vases on the ground floor and bed linens upstairs. Just try leaving without buying one of the shop's own line of duck or goose down comforters.
Hay Cph, Denmark
Copenhagen 1112, Denmark
Tel: 45 99 42 44 00
A modern furniture boutique sitting a block off Strøget, Hay sells its own in-house designs. Breaking with the Danish Modern style, its current line splashes candy colors everywhere from felt pillows to leather string bags. Don't expect old-school geometric minimalism either; Hay's pillowy, pneumatic lounge chairs, in pastel tones, curl in on themselves, and look as doughy as a cinnamon roll. The company's Prince Chair, a soft rubber-and-felt butterfly design, was acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art in 2007.
Dansk Møbelkunst, Denmark
Copenhagen 1260, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 32 38 37
Probably the best source for beautiful, vintage (1920-1975) Scandinavian furniture, this shop in the city center pays homage to a conga line of Nordic maestrosArne Jacobsen and Hans J. Wegner to Ole Wanscher and Finn Juhl. You might find a Jens Nielsen folding chair, made of two crossing, streamlined slivers of beechwood, but, whatever's in stock, browsing is a lesson in effortless beauty and effervescent simplicity.
By Malene Birger, Denmark
Copenhagen 1106, Denmark
Tel: 45 35 43 22 33
Anchoring the new midtown design mall Gallery K, this eponymous boutique is a showcase for one of Denmark's favorite designers, and suggests why she dominates the local fashion week. Updated Empire dresses hang next to Moroccan-inspired cotton tunics, though simplicity isn't always the keynote. Among the most popular recent designs: a hippie redux cotton shirtdressprinted with yellow and purple flowers and ending in a ruffled bottomthat doesn't need any accessorizing, beyond bare feet and a guitar.
Copenhagen 1201, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 13 00 81
One of the exuberant shops lining Laedertraede, a boutique- and gallery-filled street that runs parallel to Strøget, Grønlykke exemplifies one camp of the recent Danish backlash against minimalism. The small two-story shop carries Polish, Chinese, and Indian pillows, ceramics, and quilts that read like a globalist manifesto. Most shocking to the Scandinavian eye: the riot of floral chintz that typifies so many of the shop's imported textiles. Next door, a sister shop sells kitchenware in the same colorful style (45-33-32-26-79).
Royal Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen 1160, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 13 71 81
One more reason to brave the constantly packed Strøget is this flagship. You'll find Royal Copenhagen's classic blue-and-white service, of course, but more intriguing is the Flora Danica tableware: Based on the 3,000 engravings of a historic horticultural survey of Denmark, it's one of only two 18th-century services Royal Copenhagen still produces today (the other is the Blue Fluted pattern). Hand-painted blossoms and plants, some still trailing their roots, are an ode to the stark elegance of the organic—and the antithesis of those sentimentalized wreaths of overripe Victorian flowers that clutter too much tableware. The Flora Danica Fungi collection, which locates the beauty in puffballs, woolly milkcaps, and toadstools, almost exudes a woody whiff. If all that tableware makes you hungry, make a beeline for the in-house Royal Café, where Flora Danica patterns are blown up as murals and smørrebrød sandwiches are rolled into a "smushi," the Danish form of maki (theroyalcafe.dk).
Open Mondays through Thursdays 10 am to 6 pm, Fridays 10 am to 7 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm, and the first Sunday only of each month noon to 5 pm.
See + Do
Tivoli Gardens, Denmark
Copenhagen 1630, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 15 10 01
Only a city as whimsical as Copenhagen would bill an amusement park as its main attractionbut of course this isn't just any amusement park. Forget bumper cars and carnival barkers. Opened in 1843, Tivoli encompasses a 20-acre garden, a Chinese pagoda, a merry-go-round of Viking ships, and an open-air pantomime theater, all lit by colored lanterns at night. There's also The Paul, a Michelin-starred restaurant (45-33-75-07-75; www.thepaul.dk). Tivoli used to open in high season only (mid-April through September), but the garden now unlocks its gates for a holiday market of garland-draped cottages selling peppermint sticks, marionettes, and candy apples during the Christmas season. And, for the first time in 2006, Tivoli opened around Halloween, to coordinate with the fall Danish school break, though its take on the holiday is less fright night than gourd lanterns and pumpkin men.
See + Do
Rosenborg Castle, Denmark
Copenhagen 1350, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 15 32 86
Christian IV's 17th-century summer palace sprouts like a Renaissance mirage in the center of the city, its red-brick turrets and towers rising above an oasis of parkland, gardens, hedgerows, and a moat with swans. Although the palace, like many other Copenhagen landmarks, is currently undergoing renovations, some of the showiest rooms remain open to the publicamong them the Winter Room, paneled with Flemish landscapes of the changing seasons, like a lowlands book of hours, and the basement vault, which houses the crown jewels, including a gold goblet balanced on a fierce ivory skull base. The royal portraits hanging everywhere underscore the odd Tweety Bird physiognomy of the early Danish royalsa mixture of bulbous forehead, pursed rosebud lips, and beaked nose, which found its climax in schizophrenic Christian VII's haunted, horsey face.
Closed Mondays from November to April.
See + Do
Copenhagen 2920, Denmark
Tel: 45 39 64 11 83
Laid out like a stately country manor when it was first completed in 1918 in a Copenhagen suburb, this modern-art museum recently added Zaha Hadid's spatial, snail-shaped extensiona fluid addition that morphs into a grassy knoll at the rear, and merges with the surrounding, lush parkland. But the extension isn't just a study in aesthetics. Functionally adding galleries for special exhibitions, the new space also allows more breathing room for the museum's premiere collection of Danish 19th- and 20th-century realist and naturalist paintings, as well as its star line-up of French artists. Degas, Gauguin, Manet, and Renoir are all represented, though it's Corot's Windmill, which sits under a sky swagged with heavy clouds, looking almost Nordic, that seems most at home.
Closed Mondays; Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays 1 p.m.5 p.m; Wednesdays 10 a.m.6 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.5 p.m.
See + Do
Danish National Gallery, Denmark
Copenhagen 1307, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 74 84 94
After its renovation, completed in 2006, Denmark's most extensive museum of art now displays a new approach. While some works in its massive collectionembracing everything from Rubens and Rembrandt to Picasso and Munchare grouped chronologically, other canvases are now organized by theme. One gallery may hold several centuries' worth of portraits, allowing the rows of faces, variously framed by stiff Elizabethan collars and soft 18th-century lace, to build a cumulative power. Even so, the museum's golden-age Danish paintings remain the real revelation: bittersweet, contemplative landscapes lit by a falling, pearly Nordic light, and domestic scenes of elegant interiors that suggest the start of Danish Modern style.
See + Do
Black Diamond, Denmark
Copenhagen 1016, Denmark
Tel: 45 33 47 47 47
This waterfront extension to the Royal Library opened in 1999 and stretches from the original 19th-century structure to the harbor's dockside. The name gives it away: The cubist black monolithic landmark, designed by the Danish firm Schimdt, Hammer & Lassen, looks elegantly inscrutable and a little sinister. Inside, though, things turn warmer. The library now shares space with a multipurpose exhibition center, a concert hall which co-hosts the spring Copenhagen Opera Festival, a book shop, and the National Photographic Musuem. The Photographic Museum is famous for its major collection of early-19th-century photographs (including the largest daguerreotype collection in Scandinavia) along with an ambitious range of contemporary global photography. If all that busy culture works up an appetite, minimalist restaurant Søren K specializes in seafood, so the library's scholars can dig into a plate of grilled halibut with beetroot risotto betwen bouts of arcane research (45-33-47-49-49; www.soerenk.dk).
Copenhagen 1401, Denmark
Tel: 45 32 96 32 97
For many purists, the artistry and soul of contemporary Danish cooking begins and ends with Noma, considered one of the best restaurants in the world. Chef René Redzepi, who trained at those twin peaks of contemporary dining, French Laundry and El Bulli, painstakingly forages the complete Nordic harvest, from golden sea buckthorn to woodruff. He might pair Greenland shrimp with crisped potato skins, dill, and buttermilk powder; serve Danish Jersey beef flank with caramelized apple and sliced Gotland beets; or scoop an entire ecosystem onto a dessert plate by matching up local sheep's-milk mousse with an emerald-green granita composed of the garden sorrel those sheep grazed on. In his hands, something as homely as the rye kernel can look as gorgeous as a Perigord truffle. The setting itself—a converted historic warehouse beside the harbor that once stored whale fat—is a study in Nordic pride, with exposed brick, a heavily beamed ceiling, and sheepskin throws blanketing the backs of the '60s Scand chairs.