Business trip: Copenhagen

Ranked as the easiest place in Europe to do business, this compact, walkable and easy-to-navigate Danish city might be the best city in the world for a work trip.

Copenhagen may be the best city in the world for a business trip.

It is compact, walkable and easy to navigate. The travel time between the airport and city centre is just 15 minutes via easy, frequent rail links. Its upscale hotel stock is plentiful, varied, well-maintained and design-inspired. Fine dining and entertainment options abound. And while English is widely spoken, most residents possess a firm command of three or four other languages.

Despite its laid-back reputation (and the presence of an amusement park in the heart of the city), Copenhagen is very serious about business. For example, the World Bank’s Doing Business 2013 Index  ranked Denmark as the easiest place in Europe to do business for the second year in a row. Companies are drawn to the southernmost Scandinavian country for its sound infrastructure, innovative thinking and efficient government, leading investment bank Goldman Sachs to recently state that Denmark has the highest commercial success potential of any country in the world, thanks to these factors.

Most visitors’ first impressions are formed when stepping off the plane and onto the homey hardwood floors at compact Copenhagen Airport, which has ranked as Europe’s most efficient for eight of the last 10 years by the Airport Research Society.  SAS Scandinavian Airlines is the flag carrier of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and Copenhagen Airport is its primary hub, offering nonstop flights to points across northern Europe and around the world plus a bright two-storey business class lounge.

Also known among locals as simply Kastrup, (the name of a nearby suburb) the airport is located 8km south of city centre, and is connected to the city, suburbs and outlying regions by both metro and rail links. Fares to city centre by S-train or Metro are 36 Danish kroner each way. S-trains depart from Terminal 3 every 10 minutes during the day for the 15-minute trip to Copenhagen Central Station

Automated Metro trains depart as often as every four minutes during the day, and make multiple stops along the Airport metro line. Taxis take about 20 minutes to reach the city centre (depending on traffic) and cost about 250 Danish kroner; credit cards are accepted.

Copenhagen’s Metro system is in the middle of a massive upgrade and expansion, adding two new lines and 17 new stations, so be prepared for detours around gritty, noisy construction sites on city streets and squares. When complete in 2018, the state-of-the-art system will carry 130 million passengers a year, greatly reducing vehicular traffic and making streets safer for the 40% of Copenhageners who commute by bicycle.

Hotels

Elegant
The beloved, neo-classical Hotel d’Angleterre reopened in May 2013 after a two-year, down-to-the-studs renovation resulting in 60 expansive suites and 30 standard rooms. The ornate, sugar-white building is located in the heart of town next to the Royal Danish Theatre Old Stage on Kongens Nytorv Square and connected to the famous Strøget pedestrian shopping street. Even if you cannot afford to stay here (rates start at around 2,900 Danish kroner per night), stop by the hotel’s trendy champagne bar Balthazar or dine at its classy Nordic/French Marchal restaurant where you will rub shoulders with local or visiting dignitaries, celebrities and socialites. 

For a refined, boutique hotel experience, check out the 17-room Nimb hotel, located across the street from the Central Station, and adjacent to the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park. All rooms were renovated in 2009 and feature elegant four-poster beds, wooden floors, fireplaces, Bang & Olufsen audiovisual systems and views through arched Moorish windows to the gardens. Any of Nimb’s four restaurants are perfect for entertaining clients or colleagues. 

The historic waterfront Admiral Hotel opened as a grain warehouse in 1787 and was converted into a 366-room, six-storey hotel in 1978. The popular hotel is both modern and rustic, with hulking exposed Pomeranian pine beams in all public areas and most rooms. Key to the hotel’s popularity is its central location on the harbour, with dramatic views of the striking new Royal Opera House. It is also near most embassies and the stately, Rococo Amalienborg Palace, the official residence of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II. Soak up waterfront views while dining on new Nordic cuisine at Salt, the hotel’s Terance Conran-designed restaurant.

Edgy
Copenhagen is home to what is likely the world’s first “edgy” hotel, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, designed and built in 1960 by Arne Jacobsen, one of Denmark’s most celebrated architects and designers. The meticulously maintained 260-room, olive-green, glass and steel high rise is an icon of mid-century modern design, including Jacobsen’s famously curvaceous swan or egg chairs. The hotel offers a variety of rooms at various price points, but the best are the “Royal Club Rooms” on upper floor corners with sweeping views across the city out to the Baltic Sea, or across the street into Tivoli Gardens. The hotel is located a block from the city’s Central Station and on the edge of the Vesterbro district, one of Copenhagen’s hottest new neighbourhoods.

Sustainability is key at the 366-room Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers, conveniently situated between the airport and city in the modern planned district of Ørestad. The shiny black 25-storey tower is sheathed in solar cells, which provide 15% of the hotel’s electricity. Rooms are well appointed and modern, wi-fi is free throughout and guests can decline housekeeping service in exchange for a free meal at Storm, the hotel restaurant, which features organic produce sourced from a radius of less than 300km.

Nearby in Ørestad is the unusually trapezoidal and bright-white Bella Sky Comwell Hotel (with 812 rooms, it is the largest hotel in Scandinavia), which is integrated into the new Bella Convention Centre, one of Europe’s largest exhibition centres.  

Expense account
Business travellers are certain to hear about Noma, perhaps Copenhagen’s most famous restaurant as it is frequently ranked as one of best in the world Perfectly prepared and presented simple dishes, such as fresh milk curd and blueberry preserves; onion and fermented pears; or beef rib with lingonberries, have earned it two prestigious Michelin stars. That kind of notoriety means that reservations must be made months in advance.

Luckily there are several new alternatives offering a taste of the upscale “New Nordic” cuisine that Noma pioneered, several of which have earned Michelin stars of their own. For example, the popular Geranium, with beautiful views from its centre city eighth-storey location, has two Michelin stars. As a matter of fact in 2012, 13 restaurants in Copenhagen earned one or more Michelin stars—the most ever.

At Kadeau in the Christianshavn neighbourhood, the menu is dictated by fresh seasonal produce, meat or seafood from the nearby island of Bornholm, and most wines are organic or biodynamically produced. For a taste of summer, try the delicate flavours of a deep green dish combining leeks, skate, sorrel and fermented pea juice decorated with nasturtium leaves, or roasted turbot with green strawberries, burnt butter and whey. For dessert, try the unusual creamy combination of strawberries, buttermilk, white asparagus, rosehip and elderflower. And do not pass on the chewy, crusty house-made multigrain breads brought warm to the table.

Impress your guests with some of the finest Italian cuisine outside Italy at Era Ora, located canal-side in a 300-year-old building in Christianshavn. All ingredients – from salt, cheese and tomatoes to olive oil, lamb and flour – are flown in weekly from Italy. Block off at least three or four hours for a meticulously prepared and presented multi-course culinary adventure (set menu only; no a la carte). Groups of no more than 12 should request a reception or meal in the well-stocked wine cellar or a specially prepared feast served in the rustic private dining room located next door.

Off the clock
Copenhagen’s newest attraction is The Blue Planet, Northern Europe’s largest aquarium. The impressive modernist building (which looks like a giant metal seashell) is located on the water’s edge about 5km, 15 minutes by taxi or bus, southeast of downtown. While you queue to enter, peer out at the Øresund Strait, and see the Middelgrunden Wind Farm twirling in the distance (which supplies about 4% of Copenhagen’s electricity). You can also see the magnificent 8km Oresund Bridge that connects Copenhagen with the Swedish city of Malmo.

Go local
To truly feel like a local, jump on a bicycle and join thousands of Copenhageners on their way to work or school, shopping, picking up kids, or simply enjoying a sunny day in what is likely the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. There are about 350km of bike lanes in Copenhagen. Inquire at your hotel about bicycle rental or sharing programs.

When bicycling is not an option, consider renting an electric car  – a perfect way to check out sites beyond the city centre or off the beaten path. Best of all, parking is free for electric cars in Copenhagen as the city pursues a plan to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Don’t do this
Do not eat sandwiches with your hands in Copenhagen. For a typical Danish lunch, ask around for the nearest restaurant serving smorrebrod, the open-faced sandwiches considered comfort food by most Danes. Smorrebrod consists of a bottom layer of buttered dark rye bread topped with anything from pickled herring, cheese, cold cuts, pate or mayonnaise-based salads. Eat it with a knife and fork accompanied by a small glass of local snaps (aquavit) or a local beer such as Carlsberg. Chef Adam Aamann is generally credited with elevating smorrebrod to a culinary art and bringing it to the world at his eponymous restaurants in Copenhagen and New York City.