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Straddling two countries, ”resund is a classically Scandi mixture of Danish and Swedish cultures, whose booming economy is reflected in the sunny nature of its people.
Set on Denmark”s most easterly island of Zealand and just 16km from Sweden via the incomparable ”resund Bridge, Copenhagen is the natural magnet that attracts overseas visitors and business travellers.
This is logically the seat of government, where the Royal Family resides and where innumerable conferences and events take place ” not to mention the bustling hub of Copenhagen”s Kastrup Airport ” capable of up to 81 hourly movements and featuring classic generous Scandinavian use of wood and glass.
And nowhere perhaps outside the UK, is there more evidence that Denmark is a constitutional Monarchy, with the capital festooned with flags and the Crown symbol of the Royal Family seemingly embossed everywhere, nowhere more so than on one of the city”s most known exports ” Carlsberg beer.
Shakespeare of course, famously set his brooding masterpiece, Hamlet, at Kronberg Castle in Elsinore (pictured below), to the north of the city, but the modern royals ” reputedly the oldest monarchy in the world - occupy a splendid set of buildings in the heart of Copenhagen where Queen Margaret II has reigned since 1972.
Perhaps the best way to have a quick injection of Copenhagen is to see it from the water ” with 405 islands Danes are never very far from the sea and their Viking heritage is now felt in a more benign way, with enormous shipping companies such as Maersk operating more than 600 ships worldwide.
Providing the weather co-operates ” it”s generally on a par with London or Amsterdam ” a harbour and canal tour gives a snapshot of what is one of Northern Europe”s most vibrant cities, starting with the postcard-pretty Nyhavn with its myriad splashes of pastel colours and where Hans Christian Andersen penned some works.
Motoring into the busy harbour past crowded cafes, the leviathan Copenhagen Opera House looms enormously over the water and is next to the Royal Yacht ” a stunning vision of white and gold ” that the Danes have clearly seen fit to keep unlike their royal British cousins.
On a Sunday, be prepared to share the water with dozens of sightseeing boats, learner dinghies and commercial vehicles, but a quick dive under one of Copenhagen”s vast array of low bridges takes the visitor through the city”s comprehensive canal network. It”s not Amsterdam, but is extremely enjoyable nonetheless.
One of the more bizarre settings in Copenhagen is Tivoli Gardens, an eclectic mish-mash of architectural styles that has evolved since 1841 to create a sort of Danish amusement park, replete with rides, restaurants and concerts set in wooded parkland. It might not be for everyone”s taste, but it is generally a must-see, if for no more than an afternoon.
Bridging the gap
Copenhagen is set in the ”resund region ” unusual in that it encompasses two countries ” Sweden and Denmark ” with access easily assured thanks to the staggering engineering achievement that is the ”resund Bridge.
Surely, this has to be one of the modern wonders of the world. Taking five years to build, the 16km link is the longest cable-stayed bridge for motorway and rail traffic in the world, taking almost 12,000 cars and 17,000 rail passengers every day.
Really it”s worth taking a trip to Sweden just to cross the bridge itself, as it combines utilitarian Scandinavian practicality with breathtaking design, incorporating an S-curve for no other reason than for aesthetic brilliance. It dominates the Copenhagen vista looking out to sea, competing only with arriving aircraft into Kastrup and enormous wind farms churning out clean electricity.
Driving to the bridge, drivers plunge into a 3.5km submersed tunnel between an artificial peninsula at Kastrup and the specially-constructed island of Peberholm, before emerging 187ft (57m) above the sea. Looking left or right out of a car window, the impression is of flying across the water, while the spectacular 669ft pylons are a physical reminder of just how staggering this project is.
Another breathtaking part of it however, is the price. At an eyewatering ”34 (”22.80) for a single car trip, this is one expensive way to visit Sweden, but the builders have to recoup the DKK 30bn (”2.7bn) that it cost to build the ”resund Bridge in 2000. This is supposed to be paid off in 2030, but as is the way of these things, Channel Tunnel, French peage, etc, how realistic will it be that these projects then revert to being free?
The Scandis have long been renowned for their design skills and right on the shores of Malmo and opposite the bridge, is one of the strangest. The Turning Torso, designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava ” Olympic Stadium, Athens, Lyon Satolas train station ” is an extraordinary 623ft tower that twists through 90 degrees and offers stunning views of Malmo and across to Denmark.
Business travellers can hire the 54th top floor for functions, while the tower also features a residential complex of sought-after suites and flats in Sweden”s tallest building. An interesting addendum is the machine to clean this eccentric building weighs in at a cool 18t.
Malmo itself is clearly not on the same scale as Copenhagen, but is replete with dozens of parks and lakes, that in the summer sunshine, belie the fact that Sweden clearly enjoys a colder climate in winter. Its waterfront location hosts a large array of sports, both nautical and beach-based, while the famous Malmo Stadion football ground hosted matches in the European Championships in 1992 and was home to Swedish legend, Henrik Larsson.
Any visitor to the ”resund region is clearly going to go home with a lighter wallet ” the cost of living is on the high side ” but its alluring range of attractions coupled with an interesting architectural mix ” some of it downright quirky ” make for a memorable two-country trip.