Refreshing Copenhagen
Refreshing Copenhagen

Copenhagen must be one of the fittest cities in Europe with a whopping 40 per cent of locals commuting by bicycle.

Danes are so keen on cycling that it's a prime consideration in city planning and a number of new cycling highways linking the city to the suburbs are due to be completed by the end of the year.

And newer areas on the city's revitalised harbour are also accessible to bikes. During construction of the Royal Playhouse and the Royal Opera House, bicycle tracks and racks were as important as road access and car parks.

The city is predicted to grow by about 100,000 in the next 30 years and Danish Architecture Centre guide and teacher Rasmus Therkildsen says getting most of those extra citizens to ride bikes is crucial for those planning the new neighbourhoods Copenhagen will need.

A number of these ambitious masterplans are on display at the centre. But the Danes won't be levelling old factories and constructing apartment blocks; rather, there's a more thoughtful approach which encourages people to interact with their neighbourhood. According to Therkildsen, mistakes have been made and Copenhagen must learn from them.

One neighbourhood that hasn't gone quite to plan is Orestad, the biggest new development since the famous canals were built. The vision was for a sort of Scandinavian "downtown" which would attract people from all over the region, as well as a 25sqkm protected natural area.

"We built the second-biggest shopping centre in Scandinavia," Therkildsen says. "But people just did their shopping and then left and we learnt we had to add life to the area."

Despite that, Orestad's population is expected to skyrocket to 20,000 with as many as 80,000 working in the canal district.

On the site of the old Carlsberg brewery not far from the centre of Copenhagen, there are plans for a "city within a city". The new neighbourhood of houses, offices and sports facilities is expected to be completed in 20-25 years. In the meantime, many of the old brewery buildings are being rented as temporary offices and there's a go-kart track open in the area.

There's also a novel plan to turn an old power station into a restaurant and ski resort. It would be used year-round with recycled textiles taking the place of real snow when needed.

From the deck of a big yellow "waterbus" on Copenhagen harbour, Therkildsen points out a few success stories, including two low-rise green office blocks owned by a Swedish bank. At first glance they're nothing special but between them is a public park, designed like a Swedish hillside which will eventually extend to the next train station and will have cycle paths. New apartment blocks in the central harbour allow residents to moor their boat or kayak under their living room. "It's remarkable because only 10 years ago the canal and harbour weren't clean enough. It used to be that people didn't even want to see the harbour, it was so dirty."

This is a proud sea-faring nation and the Danes understand the importance of preserving the historic buildings on Copenhagen's harbour. The expansion of the Royal Library includes the Black Diamond, an exquisite new building made from Tanzanian granite but it adjoins a more humble but equally worthy red brick building still serving a purpose hundreds of years after it was built.

·Niall McIlroy visited Denmark as a guest of Emirates and Wonderful Copenhagen


  • fact file *

·Emirates fly twice daily between Perth and Dubai and once a day between Dubai and Copenhagen. The 10.30pm flight from Perth will have you in Dubai at sunrise and in Geneva by early afternoon. Until November 30, Emirates has return earlybird fares available from Perth to Copenhagen from $1807 per person. These fares are valid for travel from February 1 to September 30. A stopover is permitted in Dubai in each direction. See emirates.com/au.

·The Danish Architecture Centre is at dac.dk.

·The 306-room Copenhagen Admiral Hotel started life as a granary back in 1787. Much of the original structure was incorporated into the rooms when it was turned into a hotel in 1978. The wooden beams and whitewashed walls of the old granary give each room an individual look, no two are the same but many have big French windows looking out to the harbour and the new opera house. The hotel is just a couple of minute's walk from the city centre. See admiralhotel.dk.

·For more information on the Danish capital, visit the Wonderful Copenhagen website at visitcopenhagen.com.

The West Australian

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