If you want to understand why Copenhagen is Europe’s greenest city, make your way to Dronning Louise's Bro (Queen Louise's bridge) in downtown Copenhagen during morning rush hour. An estimated 35,000 bicycle commuters stream across this bridge every day, making it one of the busiest cycling spots in the western world.
It is not just the absence of hills that makes
Copenhagen a cyclist’s city. It is that environmental awareness is both fundamental
public policy and a way of life here. Copenhagen, was the first city in the
world to adopt a planet-cooling mandatory green
roof policy, and it has plans to be the world’s first carbon-neutral
metropolis by 2025.
Recently named Europe’s
coolest green city by the Ecologist magazine, Copenhagen is a showcase of
climate-friendly Denmark. It is a place of environmentally-conscious transport,
organic restaurants, carbon neutral beers, eco-shopping, enviro-hotels and
green spaces to revel in – all right in the heart of the capital.
Hop on your bike
Each day 1,200,000km are cycled in the Danish capital.
Nearly 40% of all Copenhageners get to work or school by bike, and the city
plans to have half of its citizens commuting on two wheels by 2015.
For visitors or citizens that do not own a bike, Bycyklen
Kobenhavn is Copenhagen’s free bike-share scheme, with more than 100 depots
throughout the city centre. Turn up, put your 20 Danish krone coin in the slot
as a deposit, and you can ride all day. There are also guided bike tours of
the city from April through September.
If you are not a cyclist, you can still travel
low-carbon aboard Copenhagen’s little yellow CityBus
11A. It is electric, emits zero exhaust fumes and cruises down the narrow
city centre streets to all the classic sights.
Eat organic, drink carbon neutral
Eating and drinking in Copenhagen is one of the ways locals
cast a vote for the environment. The city is Europe’s largest consumer of
organically-grown food – with an emphasis on local where possible. Downtown, there
is an entirely organic supermarket, Øko Best,
and several outlets of the mostly-organic fruit and vegetable market chain Din
Baghave (which translates as “Your Backyard”). Look out for products marked
with a red “ø” for økologisk (Danish
for organic). For fancier food (much of it environment friendly), try the smart
new downtown Torvehallerne
Copenhagen’s eat-organic ethic extends to its
restaurants. Decorated in gorgeous deep colours and with a very Danish “hygge”
feel, atmospheric Cap Horn in the
waterfront precinct of Nyhavn serves beautifully homemade organic fare. A slow summer
brunch on the terrace overlooking the Nyhavn canal is about as perfect as you
can get. At BioM, you
can eat organic smørrebrød (a Danish
open sandwich) accompanied by organic beer and wine – in fact the place is so
organic, the whole restaurant gets Denmark’s official red “ø”.
To slake your thirst in an environmentally-sound
manner, seek out Globe Ale,
Denmark’s first carbon neutral beer. It’s served most places that stock any
When you are done eating and drinking eco, hop on your
bike and shop Copenhagen sustainably. The alleys off Strøget, the main shopping
street, are stocked with local eco-labels like Jackpot, Noir and Gongini, and many vintage shops sell
recycled cool. At Ecouture by Lund, you will
find natural materials (organic cotton, silk, flax, hemp, bamboo and wool)
styled into unique and gorgeous clothes, with just a hint of the bohemian. Or
drop by the base of the enfant terrible of Danish fashion, Henrik Vibskov on
Krystalgade and browse through his organic clothing collection.
Pure Shop in central
Copenhagen’s Grønnegade has every conceivable type of organic beauty product
and perfume; and clothes and gifts for the organic baby can be found at Sungifu.
In Copenhagen you can sleep with a clear environmental
conscience, too. The C02-neutral Crowne
Plaza Copenhagen Towers bills itself as the world’s greenest hotel. The
building integrates northern Europe's largest solar array into its façade,
has a groundwater-based heating and cooling system, and consumes 90% less
energy than other comparable hotels in the city. Of course – this being
Copenhagen, the Paustian-designed
interiors are eminently stylish too.
If small, intimate hotels are more your style, try Hotel Alexandra, a chic Green Key award winner where the organic
breakfast makes a perfect start to an environmentally sound day. Likewise, Green Globe-accredited Hotel Axel Guldsmeden in
Vesterbro takes its environmental responsibility seriously. Everything from the
power to the cleaning products – even the mini bar -- is sustainable or
organic, plus there is an organic cafe on site.
Get into the green
If part of being green means having outdoor spaces to
revel in, then Copenhagen does that consummately. The city has wonderful parks
and gardens, the biggest of which is tranquil Fælledparken,
Copenhagen’s “commons” which has expansive lawns, forests, jogging tracks and
plenty of space to breathe in nature. Southwest of the city is Kalvebod
Fælled Vestamager – a seaside meadow and marshland that is the largest
expanse of natural landscape this close to a metropolis, anywhere in Europe. It
is an important habitat for wading birds and a great recreational resource for Copenhageners.
Just five kilometres from the city centre is the clean
white sand of Amager
Strandpark, Copenhagen’s summer beach hangout. But the best testament to
how clean and green Copenhagen really is can be found in the heart of the city.
pool at Islands Brygge is one of four, centre city summer pools. It is hard
to believe that the harbour in a metropolis of 1.2 million people can be good
enough to swim in – but the water quality is consistently scored as being
Perhaps that is what Copenhagen does best. It takes
environmental awareness, turns it into fun – and then dives right in.
The article 'Living green in Copenhagen' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.