Is Copenhagen really all that?
December 20, 2009 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Is Copenhagen really as awesome as it seems?

After this post this morning on the blue I'm once again thinking of visiting what seems to me the perfect city. I read a piece in Monocle magazine recently proclaiming Copenhagen to be the most livable city in the world and ever since I'm been completely crushing on the place. I'm also an avid cyclist and it seems that Copenhagen is a mecca for anyone who wishes to embrace cycling culture.

So, I guess what I'm asking is what are the drawbacks of visiting/ living in Copenhagen besides it being expensive?
posted by photoslob to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a non-Dane who has lived the past 17 years in CPH, the answer to your first question is yes!
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2009


I don't know about living, but I visited about 10 years ago and LOVED it. I've been itching to get back ever since. One of the things I liked best (other than how beautiful it is ) was how friendly and helpful the people were, even though it was clearly obvious that we were tourists (two college-aged germans and an American).
posted by echo0720 at 10:26 AM on December 20, 2009


Your profile says you're in Florida, so one drawback might be the colder climate.
Take it from a former Floridian that migrated to New England many years ago: even a brief visit can be shocking temperature-wise.

Is Copenhagen typically abbreviated as "CPH"? If so, awesome! Signed, CPH
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2009


Go and visit. It's a perfectly pleasant city and I've loved my time there. What I'd say, though, is that "avid cyclist" might not exactly seek "a city where most people use bikes for basic transportation". Yes, they bike a lot; no, they don't care much about the bikes themselves. Maybe that's what you're looking for, maybe not.

It's expensive. It's got seasons and snow. It's fairly remote as European cities go - hope you like Norway and Sweden! It's big but not huge. It's international but not especially extra-cosmopolitan, though the people and the various aesthetics are some of the most beautiful in the world!

There's any number of pluses and minuses, and I certainly can't speak for the day-to-day life nor the process and difficulty of immigration, but I will say that the only reason to see for yourself is to do just that. :)

I'd be happy to suggest some places to stay if you send MeMail.
posted by kcm at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2009


Copenhagen is neat, but so are most Danish cities. I find Dutch cities to be equally awesome; Utrecht and Nijmegen ftw!
posted by scruss at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I just came back from Oslo and Lillehammer and really loved it. I was only there for a few days but I enjoyed all of the people I met. Oslo was a little too small for me but I could have stayed for weeks. It killed me that Copenhagen was so close but I was traveling on business and I just couldn't swing it.

As far as the weather, you're right CPH I am in Florida. My wife and I lived for a few years in Seattle and loved the city but the gray days got old. With that said, August in FL is like hell on Earth and I'm tired of sweating the moment I wake up 9 months out of the year. I won't even go into my utter contempt for more than half of the people I encounter daily whether they're trying to run me off the road when I'm riding or telling me how smart and mavericky Sarah Palin is.
posted by photoslob at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2009


I had a blast in Copenhagen - though I was only there a very short time. It seemed accessible, fun, vibrant, great architecture and (I thought) very nice people. Can't speak to the cycling culture though.
posted by bunnycup at 11:03 AM on December 20, 2009


As an American and a cyclist, I had a great time there. However, the skies were grey the entire time I was there, and a bottle of Tuborg was six bucks.
posted by fixedgear at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2009


I have no personal experience, but I really enjoyed this recent essay on Copenhagen.
posted by Sfving at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go for it! When I was there I remember enjoying the architecture in particular--the old/new hybrid buildings at the King's Library and the National Gallery were especially memorable. Tivoli Gardens were overpriced and disappointing, as I recall, so maybe best to avoid them.

I went in summer and had fine weather.

If you were going from the states, I'd work in trips to other cities in Norway, Sweden, Germany, or the Netherlands. There are plenty of cheap flights to get you from one place to another--or you can take long, relatively scenic train trips.
posted by col_pogo at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2009


I've lived in Copenhagen and Stockholm. Copenhagen is cool and fun, but Stockholm is prettier. It also seems less rainy (maybe the mountains in Norway catch the rain before it reaches Stockholm?). The swedes and the danes are equally nice, but it is MUCH easier to learn to speak swedish than it is danish. Swedish and Norwegian friends who visited me in Copenhagen could understand a lot, but couldn't speak it at all. Stockholm seemed to me to have more accessible parks and green spaces, and you could be out of the city in 15 minutes by bike, and then it's just farms and rolling hills and little woods. Very nice.
One thing I do like about Copenhagen is the giant windfarm off the coast. So pretty. No, I'm not kidding!
posted by conifer at 11:31 AM on December 20, 2009


The warm, light-hearted, egalitarian Danes make their entire country "all that," a lovely place.
posted by ragtimepiano at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2009


I lived in Copenhagen as an exchange student at the university nearly a decade ago. I'll second all the good things about it that have been said here (bikes, architecture, fun). It is not perfect, however.

As others have mentioned, it is very expensive, particularly to eat out in sit-down restaurants with wait staff (at least on a student budget). And while the central city is architecturally beautiful, the affordable housing in the suburbs (where I lived) is pretty soulless (tower blocks), and from there the city feels spread out (I had to take a commuter train to class). It's dark in the winter. Also, while I blended in with the crowd, my fellow exchange students who didn't reported occasional, subtle negative treatment-- there were definite issues with people perceived as non-European immigrants. The public vibe isn't chatty-- while helpful if you ask, beyond answering questions, people take a while to warm up to strangers. Lastly, at least in the early 2000s (I heard this has changed), I was surprised by the amount of indoor smoking-- on trains, in buildings, etc.

All this said, however, I made terrific friends and had a great year, and if (non-EU) immigration wasn't so impossible, I'd live there again in a heartbeat.
posted by neko75 at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2009


As someone who used to live in CPH, but has since left, here are a few items for the con column: the weather can be atrocious -- not as in really bad storms, but as in dark, depressing, and wet. Denmark, and CPH, are also fairly small and full, mostly, of Danes. So it's provincial and somewhat close-minded, and there's not that much diversity, although it seems like it at first blush. I lived there with my non-Danish partner for a while, and Danes are mostly very friendly to foreigners, most speak good English, but after a while many will revert to Danish and it's easy to be left out -- it's true insularity only reveals itself after a while.
posted by AwkwardPause at 12:24 PM on December 20, 2009


I've lived in Copenhagen and Seattle. If the grey days in Seattle were a problem for you... well, Copenhagen's weather is very similar. Seattle is a bit rainier, Copenhagen a bit darker.

I loved Copenhagen, by the way, but I lived there as a kid, years ago.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2009


I read a piece in Monocle magazine recently proclaiming Copenhagen to be the most livable city in the world and ever since I'm been completely crushing on the place.

I would suggest you visit first. I've never felt it was as great as to warrant all the positive attention it receives. It's very nice and pleasant: "hoogly," as the locals would say. But not knock-your-socks off amazing, that's for sure.

"So, I guess what I'm asking is what are the drawbacks of visiting/ living in Copenhagen besides it being expensive?"

Danes aren't the most open people, and can appear stand-offish at first. But after a few years that icy exterior slowly thaws and you might even learn their first name. Like most of Scandinavians, the most apt description I've heard is that they're like a bottle of ketchup: hit them once, nothing comes out; hit them again, nothing. Hit them once more, and then everything comes out. They also give Belgium a run for the money in the Most Middle-Class Nationalistic Personality contest, but the good news is there's no shortage of tiny flags to go around.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:49 PM on December 20, 2009


Response by poster: I would suggest you visit first.

I'm definitely going to. My wife and I have a 5-7 year plan to leave FL once our daughter heads off to college. My guess is we won't become ex-pats but you never know.

I've heard is that they're like a bottle of ketchup

Totally true. The people I met in Norway were kind of stand-offish but the moment they warmed up they were awesome.
posted by photoslob at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2009


Response by poster: If the grey days in Seattle were a problem for you... well, Copenhagen's weather is very similar.

The weather in the NW was definitely an issue. My wife and I grew up near the beach and water that you can swim in year round and even though Alki Beach was our favorite spot in Seattle we sadly never ventured farther than knee deep. The gray skies also made us a little nuts.
posted by photoslob at 2:03 PM on December 20, 2009


I've heard it's hard to emigrate there. If you're not at all affiliated with the country through blood or some other way, if you want to actually move there, you have to have a job or be a student, and you can't just move there for any job. I checked this out once out of curiosity.
posted by ishotjr at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2009


Copenhagen is wonderful; do visit. As far as drawbacks go, my only regret is that I didn't know how delicious Spandauer pastries would be from the first morning I was there. The Nationalmuseet and the Museum of the Danish Resistance are great and although Tivoli may not be to everyone's taste, I was so happy there that I cried. A trip up to Kronborg or over to Malmö is easy, via the user-friendly train system. We ate mostly cheap kebab places but Ida Davidsen was worth it. Struggling for another drawback...my traveling companion said that the hot dogs were just terrible.
posted by Morrigan at 3:10 PM on December 20, 2009


Christania is well worth a visit.
posted by signal at 5:59 PM on December 20, 2009


If cold, rainy, gray weather bothers you, CPH is not for you. In the winter, you might see the sun for 5 hours per day.
posted by jckll at 8:00 AM on December 21, 2009


"They also give Belgium a run for the money in the Most Middle-Class Nationalistic Personality contest."

Yes, this! But I'd say Norway would be a significant contender, too.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:45 AM on December 22, 2009


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