Copenhagen frequently tops rankings of the world’s happiest, most liveable and best-designed cities.
This is likely
because the city strives for sustainability in nearly every aspect of policy
and culture. While Denmark’s capital may not be perfect, its successes in a few
key areas provide teaching points for metropolises around the world.
central to Danish life. According to BBC News, parents typically receive an entire year of maternity/paternity leave (which can be spread out over nine
years), half fully paid and half up to 90% paid. In addition, government
subsidies often cover 75% of pre-kindergarten
childcare costs and
the majority of education and healthcare. Culturally, BBC News adds, there
is little pressure to work
overtime, leaving people more time to spend with their families.
While all of
this leads to much higher taxes (Denmark has the highest income tax in the
world), Danes are willing to bear the cost since, studies show, they have a high degree of trust in
of liveability in Danish culture is exemplified in the sustainable
infrastructure of its capital city. Copenhagen is friendly to pedestrians, and
perhaps even friendlier to cyclists. Nearly 480,000 people (40% of residents) commute
by bike each day, causing some to call Copenhagen the number
one cycling city in the world. The city’s bike-sharing program, Bycyklen København, provides bikes to locals
and visitors for free, and Copenhagen has a network of about 350km
of off-road bike paths, complete with traffic lights. Plus, there’s the S-tog
commuter train, the Metro and an extensive bus system.
usually prefer to cycle or take public transport since there are deterrents to
driving in Denmark – namely, some of the highest
petrol prices in the world and a petrol tax of about 4 Danish kroner
is also central to city policy. Most new buildings, for example, are required to have roofs covered with plants and vegetation,
and most old buildings have been retrofitted to meet these standards. Green roofs reduce storm water runoff and help control the building’s
interior climate, reducing both utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions. In
plans say that by 2015, 90% of residents will be able to walk to a green
space in just 15 minutes.
also trying to diversify its energy portfolio, purchasing some wind energy, for
instance, from the nearby Danish island of Samsø. Samsø is an inspiration for Denmark’s capital, as
it is an entirely carbon-neutral island that produces 100% of its
electricity with wind power.
As Copenhagen itself
strives to be carbon-neutral itself by 2025, sustainable economic growth
remains a major concern. To address the challenge of merging environmental and
economic goals, Copenhagen will host the Global Green Growth Forum, an annual summit of 200 world leaders, this October.
Science and technology
The city’s many
research companies are being joined by thriving medical technology and
communications technology sectors, all big job creators, according to the German
news source Der Spiegel. The broader entrepreneurial tech sector is flourishing
as well. Copenhagen is turning into a major startup city, which some attribute to its commitment to design and its
culture of collaboration. The city hosts
many events to support entrepreneurs, such as startup “bootcamps” and competitions
for seed funding.
One of the
biggest contributing factors to Copenhagen’s happiness and liveability is
purely cultural: Copenhageners know how to have a good time while also taking
care of the environment. Copenhagen consumes more organic food than any other place in Europe, is home
to more breweries per capita than anywhere else in Europe (many
of which are organic),
and also has more Michelin stars than any
other Scandinavian city – 14
to be exact. Leading the city’s recent food
and drink renaissance, is Noma, a local food-obsessed establishment named the world’s best
restaurant two years in a row.
is also blossoming in Copenhagen, with craft
cocktail professionals promoting inventive
concoctions beyond just beer.
Travelwise is a BBC Travel column that goes behind the
travel stories to answer common questions, satisfy uncommon curiosities and
uncover some of the mystery surrounding travel. If you have a burning travel
question, contact Travelwise.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the number of residents that commute by bike each day. This has been fixed.