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Why The Happiest Place On Earth Is Actually Copenhagen

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Copenhagen offers a mix of historic charm and modern cool. - Photo by Sean Pavone


Copenhagen is the world's happiest capital -- haven't you heard? Regularly topping official global happiness surveys, this compact historic city of 1.2 million offers such an irresistible mix of cozy storybook charm and 21st-century cool, you too may want to move here ... immediately.

Along cobblestoned streets and pretty canals, ridiculously attractive locals pedal their bikes to their beautiful apartments. They shop at gorgeous organic supermarkets like Irma, worship midcentury modern design, and eat at restaurants serving the kind of locavore new Nordic fare that -- following the visionary Noma restaurant -- made the city the global food hot spot.

Shopaholics beware: You'll want to refinance your house to bring back artful fashions, lighting, and tableware. Yes, the steep prices might put a dent in your happiness. Then again, that crisp northern air, the stunning flowerbeds, and Europe's best people-watching come free.

Hotels

 

Hotel d'Angleterre has lovely rooms, and an indoor pool. Photo by Hotel d'Angleterre

Splurge: Hotel d'Angleterre
Right off Stroget pedestrian shopping street, this landmark grande dame in a stately 18th-century palace emerged from a two-year makeover with polished marble, silk wallpaper, inch-deep carpets, and spiffed-up original detailing. The design of the 90 dreamy rooms and suites plays off the original neo-classical look, the spa boasts the city's only indoor swimming pool, and the Balthazar Champagne Bar buzzes with blond fabulosi. Have lunch at Marchal restaurant. Its unstoppably creative Michelin-starred Chef Ronny Emborg cooks fashion-forward dishes like roast turbot with pink grapefruit, dill oil, and foamy mussel sauce. Doubles from $460.

Steal: Axel Guldsmeden
The local Guldsmeden boutique hotel deserves kudos for its fierce eco-commitment. In the trendy former red light district of Vesterbro, close to the train station and Tivoli Gardens, this 129-room property is stylishly green. Expect organic eggs for breakfast, soft bamboo fiber sheets on the four-poster bed, and fragrant Fischer Pure Nature toiletries by the stone bowl sink in the bathroom. Designed with teak, grasscloth, and Eastern textiles, the Bali-inspired guestrooms are an exotic break from Nordic minimalism. To lessen street noise, book a room facing the central garden. Doubles from $150.

Restaurants

 

Look for savory open-face sandwiches topped with her ring, hard-boiled egg, and beets and served on rye bread. Photo by Elana Danileiko / Thinkstock

Breakfast: Torvehallerne Market
Copenhagen's major caffeine cred is owed to the super-serious brews at cult micro-roastery the Coffee Collective. After sniffing out the almondy notes in your Guatemalan El Diamante joe at the new market outpost, stop by the incredible Grod porridge stall for organic oatmeal with dulce de leche. Follow that with chocolate-covered marshmallows from Summerbird.

Lunch: Slotskaelderen hos Gitte Kik
Locals adore the ur-classic smorrebrod -- open-faced sandwiches -- at this beloved parliamentarians' hangout. At the cozy space, housed in a 1797 building with dark wainscoting, choose between dozens of sandwiches arrayed on the counter. Herring in traditional egg curry sauce? Pickled halibut with dilled mustard or corned beef with fresh horseradish? We recommend smoked eel with scrambled eggs, and a bracing shot of aquavit.

Dinner: Kodbyens Fiskebar
Located inside a trendy former slaughterhouse complex in Vesterbro, this industrial-chic space trades in sparkling-fresh seafood with new Nordic accents. Don't be misled by the hipster vibe: Noma-trained Chef Anders Selmer delivers serious sophistication in dishes like hand-dived scallops with hay-smoked apples, or earthy squid accented with beets, bone marrow, and pickled elderberries. Just slurp briny oysters and sea urchins at the raw bar.

Drinks: Ruby
Cocktail connoisseurs gather at this grand 18th-century bar. Classic drinks come with modern locavore twists, such as the homemade quince cordial that transforms a gin gimlet, or a tangy daiquiri updated with rhubarb.

Tip: Eating out three times a day can get pricey. Luckily, all of the parks and waterside benches -- and fabulous food shops -- make Copenhagen a great picnic city. Buy dense Danish rye, craft cheeses, and smoky hams from Torvehallerne Market or Irma supermarket to eat on a lawn at King's Garden. Or take out a stylish canapƩ box from the cool Aamanns Deli.

Tip: Locals are justifiably proud of their microbrews. Currently the place to be seen is an outdoor wooden table of the hip Mikkeller Bar in Vesterbro. From the brewery's dozen-plus tap offerings, try the hoppy light.

For a complete list of the best things to do in Copenhagen, check out the expanded article on Bonvoyagemag.com.

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Anya von Bremzen is a contributing writer at BonVoyageMag.com, a publication of Cruiseline.com.