Consistently ranked one of the top cities to live in for its quality of life, Copenhagen is safe, clean and a beautiful place to live. The stable economy, good education and social safety net mean locals enjoy all the Scandinavian good life, while the shopping streets, cosy cafes and excellent restaurants are a boon to visitor and resident alike.

What is it known for?
If the Little Mermaid is looking a little green around the gills from her perch in the Copenhagen’s harbour it is because there is a new star in town: celebrity (yes?) chef Rene Redzepi. Copenhagen is suddenly the centre of the culinary universe, having hosted the recent “Glastonbury for food” festival on the waterfront, organized by Redzepi, champion of New Nordic Cuisine and chef/owner of Noma, twice voted the best restaurant in the world by the S Pellegrino World's Best Restaurant awards compiled by Restaurant magazine. Along with restaurants like Geist, Ralae and Geranium, Noma and Redzepi have turned the city into a foodie Lourdes, especially now that El Bulli on Spain’s Costa Brava has shut and gourmand pilgrims turn their hungry eyes to the north.

Copenhagen is one of the world’s most expensive cities, but with great local transport, an ingrained cycling culture (they have even installed low railings at stoplights for cyclists to rest a foot on) and environmental policies, it is also one of the most liveable. Joined by the Oresund Bridge to Malmo, Sweden, the entire region is becoming integrated, with Swedish firms investing across the sound that divides them, and vice-versa.

The Jean Nouvel-designed DR Concert Hall and the Tivoli Concert Hall in the famous Tivoli Gardens, plus the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and great jazz venues, put the city high on the cultural map. And a stroll on Stroget, the city’s pedestrian shopping area, provides the perfect people-watching experience.

Where do you want to live?
The most desirable neighbourhoods are in the centre of the city, areas like Indre By and Norrebro, Osterbro to the north, Vesterbro near the central train station, Frederiksberg to the west, and Christianshavn just across the Inner Harbour. Osterbro and Frederiksberg are more posh than Norrebro, which has a multicultural mix and has become very trendy. Vesterbro is an economically diverse area that includes the red light district.

Kristine Niss, a Copenhagen resident for 15 years, recently bought an andel in Vesterbro. An andel is a cross between a leasehold and a co-op, which gives you a share in a building. “This is the ninth place I’ve lived in Copenhagen,” she said. “Housing is very expensive and if you want to rent, you have to wait years on a waiting list.”

Developers in Copenhagen sunk a lot of money, pre-economic crisis, into building new, high-end apartment buildings a little farther out from the city in the suburbs of Orestaden and Sluseholmen. These units were originally for sale, but are now being rented out to young families. Another up-and-coming area is the island of Amager, home to the Copenhagen Airport. A traditionally working-class region, there are now two metro lines and a train link connecting it to the city centre and new development has come in. And Nordvest, an unlovely strip between Vesterbro and Norrebro is gaining a bohemian reputation for its affordable housing for students, creative types and other urbanites.

Side trips
Copenhagen is on the large island of Zealand, and many residents have summer cottages in the northern part where the beaches are the nicest. The northeast, the closest to town, is the most expensive, and land in the south is the cheapest. Malmo, across the Oresund Bridge, and other parts of Sweden are also popular for a quick getaway for a couple of days.

Cities like Berlin and London are quick and cheap flights, and are popular for weekend trips for locals, as many Danes speak English and German. “The country is so small, you have to leave it sometimes,” explained Niss. “People are used to travelling and don’t consider it much trouble.”

Practical info
House prices have come down from their highs in 2006 and 2007,  then were trending up the last few years and since the beginning of 2011 have come down again slightly. According to Niklas Alm of the property consultancy Newsec, a, houses, including villas and terraced or attached houses, currently cost 22,550 Danish crowns per sqm and flats cost 24,000 Danish crowns per sqm.

Renting is very difficult in Copenhagen, unless you sublet, because people spend years on waiting lists for apartments that are close to the city centre. Many parents sign up their children when they are born, so they might get a place by the time they are 18. However, buying “is transparent and transactions are easy with low costs,” said Alm. “There is good potential in a couple of years.”

Further information
The Copenhagen Post: English-language news, culture and ads
The Locals: City street fashion
Copenhagenize: Citizen cycling blog