Spotlight on Copenhagen: Under the Bridge

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In the first part of our series on the Danish capital, Georgina Wilson-Powell discovers the world of ‘Nordic noir’ and crosses ‘The Bridge’…

In the last few years Copenhagen has shown it has many strings to its bow; from a fine line in mid-century style furnishings to the New Nordic food movement. But it’s also a must visit destination if you’ve been captivated by the bleak worlds of Nordic Noir TV. First shown in 2011, The Bridge, has provided a tense, effortlessly stylish look into relations between Sweden and Denmark and how the residents in these urban bookends saw each other. As series three approaches, I headed Scandi-side to discover whether these urban bookends were really all that grey.

I meet other The Bridge fans at a Metro station in the Vesterbro area of Copenhagen. A truly international bunch, they show the global love of a show that features Saga, a female Swedish detective with no social skills and her long-suffering Danish partner Martin. A group of 15 of us set out on foot to discover their world in Denmark.

From five star hotels to a shelter for homeless men, The Bridge’s locations span a range of real places that I would never have seen visiting the city alone. The pinnacle of our 90 minute tour is the austere city police station, now a regular in so many Nordic dramas.

Copenhagen Police station

After the success of series one (which was sold to 160 countries and inspired two remakes), The Bridge’s producers used the sets to show off Danish design. From the quirky reception of a five star hotel to Martin’s Instagrammable house, The Bridge might look bleak from the outset, but it’s studded with design gems when you look closely.

To recreate your own Danish haven at home, head to Strøget to shop up a storm at Hay House or Illums Bolighus or stay in Vesterbro for Designer Zoo, an uber-cool complex that sells a range of unique artists and designers.

Copenhagen has developed at a rate of knots since The Bridge first hit our screens and Vesterbro, once only known for prostitutes and saucy shops now hums with gentrified life. Down at the old meatpacking district (where half a body is found in series one), a weekly street food market has popped up along side permanent restaurants such as Fleisch, which offers nose to tail dining.

Copenhagen Axel Guldsmeden

After the tour I checked into Verstbro’s all organic boutique hotel, Axel Guldsmeden which has its own spa. This small chain of hotels are dedicated to everything natural. From the rustic elegance of my room to the pretty courtyard where I ate a healthy organic breakfast, it’s a haven that’s also incredibly close to the station.

The next day it was time I followed Martin and Saga to Sweden. The train journey from Copenhagen to Malmo is as understated as both cities. At just over 40 minutes from the Danish capital to the most southern city in Sweden, it’s close enough to commute (as many do) and as I whizz along I get a ground level view of the wind farm spotted on my descent to Denmark that also features in the opening credits of The Bridge. For views of the actual Øserund Bridge, I have to wait until later that day, the train runs underneath the road bridge as I slip into Sweden unnoticed.

Malmö might seem like a strange place to have been made famous for its Nordic Noir industry. A former ship building city, the huge docks still lie mostly dormant now, but a network of canals, parks and sustainable building developments have created a city that is bustling with ideas. In order to stave off massive economic collapse, Malmö invested in leading design, architecture and infrastructure to lure country loving Danes and Swedes to its side.

Over on the Swedish side a bus tour once a month introduces fans of The Bridge to some of the most distinctive locations over the last two series of this cleverly shot crime thriller. As the production company is Swedish, it was easier to shoot most of the indistinctive locations here in Malmö, its back streets doubling for Copenhagen with ease. Tour guide Eva shows me to Saga’s flat, located in the upmarket West Harbour development that’s known for its sustainable residential housing. It’s almost unrecognisable in the bright summer sun.

“I never thought I’d be showing people this side of Malmö,” exclaims Eva, as we head down another slightly grimy back street so I can take pictures of where a plot twist happened. “I think these TV themed tours are brilliant, because they show people bits of the city you’d never know existed.”

We find the locations for offices in series two, the Swedish police station in artistic quarter Möllan (actually a hospice) and a series of car parks that were the setting for instrumental scenes in both series. What comes across is how well used the city is and how thorough the show must have been to have even found the locations that give it its distinct feel, the depressive greys and washed out greens which give it such an addictive air.

Malmo Lilla TorgNeedless to say that in real life, Malmö is bright, breezy and full of life. The old squares that make up the Lilla Torg area are full of tourists lazing about in endless restaurants in front of medieval houses and cobbled streets. The pedestrianised shopping area boasts endless Swedish design shops full of sleek furnishings while only a few minutes by bike will take you to no end of parks, where you can sit by the water and relax. Known as ‘the city of parks’ the third largest city in Sweden feels anything but urban. On the outskirts of the city are the cold baths, where generations of Swedes have bathed nude, the backdrop of a pivotal moment in the first series.

But before I can explore the real Malmö, we have one last stop. The Øresund Bridge itself. We drive ten minutes out of town to see the international connection that has brought Sweden and Denmark closer than ever since it opened 15 years ago. These eight kilometres might just be the most recognisable in Scandinavia as the white string cables provide a focal point that marks both the border and where the The Bridge universe kicked off, with a dead body laid out half in Denmark and half in Sweden. Eva turns the credit music on in her car and you can almost see Saga’s dirty green Porsche slip from view.

Essentials

The Malmö tourist board offers a downloadable map and guide for what to see in town from The Bridge, across all three series. Find it at www.malmotown.com.

The Bridge tours are highly recommended and can be booked at www.in-sight.se for Malmo and  www.nordicnoirtours.com.

Stay

In the old town of Malmo, Renaissance hotels offer a cosy, comfy night with five star elegance. For more information, visit www.marriott.com.

Or for a younger, more modern stay the new Clairon Malmo Live skyscraper is part of a new events arena and boasts a Skybar (with views of The Bridge). www.clarionlive.se.

If design is more your thing in Copenhagen, check into Hotel Alexander (not far from The Bridge tour) for a hotel dedicated to celebrating Denmark’s famous designers. Rooms are themed by decade and feature all original furnishings. For more information, visit www.hotelalexandra.dk.

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