There’s no shortage of English column inches written on the joys of Copenhagen, but in recent years they’ve often revolved around hygge. It’d be easy to think of it as a city crammed with earnest people and wholesome pursuits, a place where everybody spends their time wearing thick, artisan knits and whittling spoons.
It’s less often you hear about how much beautiful, messy fun it is. And it is.
We don’t doubt that Copenhagen has any amount of wholesomeness you might want, there for the asking. But that coexists with the city that wants you to show you a ridiculously good, perilously heavy night out. A city that sinks trampolines into the street on Havnegade, just because. A city that grants 3am licences with a liberal hand, in a way that’d make a London bar-owner weep with envy. One where Mikkeller bars are sprouting out of every spare inch of pavement and vivid, often sinister, often smutty streetart rainbows across the streetfronts.
And there’s boutiquey Anderson Hotel, where we’re staying this trip – with its vivid, anti-minimalist aesthetic and the 5pm all-you-can-drink-for-free Wine Hour.
It’s not that the Andersen’s hygge-free. Far from it. A fireplace hangs against the wall in the foyer, armchairs and a scattering of chess sets lined up in the bar. Taking the stairs up to our fourth-floor room, there’s a series of encouraging messages and ‘surprise’ tubs – stocked with biscuits – waiting in an alcove for you at every landing. The breakfast buffet’s a thing of embed-for-four-hours egg-laden beauty. Bedrooms are light-drenched by day, and all heavy-curtained warmth by evening.
It’s just a stay at the Andersen leans toward the decadent, rather than the simple, stripped-back spoon-whittling sort. In part maybe because there’s so much decadence on their doorstep.
We already knew the hotel sat at the centre of a starburst of good food and bars, from a stay in 2017 at their sister hotel, Absalon, across the road. (You can read our paean to the beers and pizza of Vesterbro here.)
But with a great location comes great responsibility, and we do our level best this visit to explore unknown frontiers. From this year’s new discoveries, the nearby Uformel’s king among them for unstuffy special occasion food – candlelight, wine flights, bread of your dreams. We get starry-eyed and broth-splattered at Ramen To Birru – rejecting with totally unearned confidence the bibs they offer you when you order – but this is noodle soup so good it feels almost like an honour to have covered myself with it by the time we’re finished. And Italian Social Dining concept (*a bar, **with some food), Public’s a thoroughly lovely place to spend a Vesterbro evening, watching dusk fall over the meatpacking district and neon start blooming out of the darkness.
We’re expecting sedate, ye olde Danishe things from the trad-looking frontage of Frk. Barners Kaelder, just a few metres away from the Andersen. But it turns out to be brilliantly lunatic, poised between grandmother’s kitchen and moonshine basement-cabin, with checked tablecloths, green lighting, stags’ heads on the wall and a perilously strong batch of homemade aquavit behind the bar. And Hats, Boots & Bourbon on Istedgade draws us into two visits in three days, pulled back by the way the shop-bar’s welcome smells of bourbon and coffee and timber and leather.
The trip’s not an entirely unbroken sequence of eating and drinking things, because no matter how willing the spirit, we’re pushing that upper limit of how many pastries a human can get through. We end up seduced for hours by the tombstones and towering oaks of Assistens Kierkegaard, resting place of philosophers, poets and astronomers. We wander through furniture shops that feel more like galleries, for the nonchalant beauty of the woodwork. We join the 16,000 people visiting the Techfestival installations and signing up to beautiful, earnest manifestos on things like Daring To Put Yourself Into Your Life’s Work.
And it’s a testament to the allure of Andersen Hotel that we don’t stay out dawn till dawn, aquavit-hopping from bar to bar, from snegl-pastry to smorrebrod, and come back only to crash. We actually find ourselves making unnecessary pitstops back at the hotel. Because when you need a place to warm up from a windswept walk around Nyhavn harbour, there’s the fireplace and armchairs in the Andersen bar. Because when you need somewhere to recover from hitting the whisky bars or hot dog stands of Copenhagen too hard, there are worse places to do that than stretched out on our suite’s wide sofa, coffee machine in crawling distance. And because the Andersen’s Wine Hour is a really solid way to take the edge off an evening out at Copenhagen prices.
The Andersen Hotel: a really good time. Not necessarily that wholesome. Not unlike Copenhagen itself.
Andersen Hotel, Helgolandsgade 12, 1653 Copenhagen, Denmark. Rooms start at £135 per room per night, with breakfast.