Despite the insistence of tourism folks on marketing it under the stodgy nickname...

By Fran Wenogard Golden 

width=306Despite the insistence of tourism folks on marketing it under the stodgy nickname Wonderful Copenhagen, this Danish city really is a cool place. Seat of the oldest monarchy in the world, Copenhagen is also a politically progressive destination that's both youthful and friendly. Amid vestiges of a millennium of royal history and a wealth of historic buildings (many open to the public), visitors will find examples of the contemporary Dane's fondness for modern design, good food and lively nightlife.

The very public Danish royal family resides in the capital city (Queen Margrethe II lives in the rococo Amalienborg Palace). When a restaurant says the queen has visited, she really has. The biggest news in the city this year is the upcoming marriage of Crown Prince Frederik to Australian Mary Donaldson, after a not-so-secret courtship (the couple met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics). The fairy-tale wedding will take place May 14, and is sure to be a major extravaganza. Expect lots of special events and festivities in the city and watch for the appearance of more than the usual selection of Australian wines on restaurant menus.

width=179Visitors will find Copenhagen offers a wealth of cultural attractions, world-class museums, shopping and public parks. Winters are long here, but when the sun is shining, people flock outdoors to sit at cafés or stretch out on grassy knolls-sometimes even sunbathing topless. Copenhagen residents have a fondness for bicycle transportation. From May 1 to Dec. 15, bicycles may be used for free through a system that works much like luggage cart rentals at major airports. Find one of the city's 110 City Bike parking spots, drop in a 20 kroner coin (about $3), grab a bike and ride away. When you're done, return the bike to any City Bike parking spot and get your money back. Copenhagen also has a well-established bus system and a brand-new Metro. And you can easily cover Old Copenhagen, with its narrow cobblestone streets and old houses, on foot. For fun, head to Tivoli Gardens, an extraordinary historic amusement park in the center of the city.

A note of whimsy-one of Copenhagen's most famous residents was Hans Christian Andersen. The city will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the renowned fairy-tale author's birth-he wrote The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Clothes and The Princess and the Pea-in 2005.

width=164On the business side, Copenhagen is home to a full roster of consumer goods manufacturers and distributors, including Bang & Olefson, a top designer of home entertainment and audio systems; and LEGO, named toy of the century by Fortune magazine. (The name LEGO is derived from the Danish phrase leg godt meaning play well.) Skagen Designs, a Danish company noted for its watches, is another familiar name, although the company's Danish owners, Henrik and Charlotte Jorst, run the operation from Reno, Nev. Renowned Danish silversmithery Georg Jenson will celebrate its 100th anniversary in April and Danish brewer Carlsberg operates a Copenhagen brewery that's open for free tours.

Copenhagen-based shipping and oil and gas exploration firm A.P. Moller-Maersk Group has more than 60,000 employees worldwide and is currently funding construction of the Copenhagen Opera House. Featuring a cutting-edge design by Danish architectural firm Henning Larsens Tegnestue A/S, the venue-slated to open in January-is expected to rival Australia's landmark Sydney Opera House, which was designed in the late 1950s by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

width=274Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a proponent of E.U. expansion, heads up the Danish government. Rasmussen, who has called for international involvement in the stabilization of Iraq, was attacked for that stance last year when an activist drenched him in red paint. In general, though, Denmark's political culture is one of compromise and consensus among numerous parties. When Rasmussen took office in 2002, in a victory fueled by the combined support of the Liberal Party and the Conservative People's Party, it was the first time the Social Democratic Party had lost its position as the largest party represented in the Danish Parliament.

To date, Danes have resisted efforts to switch to the euro. The country's monetary system remains the Danish krone (or kroner in its plural form), made up of 100 øre. The international monetary designation for Danish kroner is DKK. Banknotes are issued in 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 kroner. The rate of exchange at press time was $1 = 6.06DKK.

width=200There's always something happening in Copenhagen. 

By Heather Eng

Copenhagen has an air of cool about it. Amid the quaint cobblestone streets and picturesque canals, Denmark's capital - and Scandinavia's largest city - has the unmistakable buzz of a place that's always churning out something exciting and innovative, whether it's a hip, new restaurant or a groundbreaking décor design.

Start your day at Radhuspladsen, the Town Hall Square, and stroll down Stroget, Copenhagen's famed pedestrian shopping street. Amid familiar shops like H&M and Aldo, you'll find unique retailers like the well-known Danish design mecca, Illums Bolighus (Amagertorv 10, tel 45 33 141 941).

After that, head to the water. The best way to see Copenhagen is, undoubtedly, by boat, so a canal tour is a must. DFDS Canal Tours (tel 45 32 963 000, leave approximately every half hour and offer multi-lingual commentary throughout the hour-long ride. As you float along, you'll see tourist sites, such as Amalienborg Palace, where the royal family lives, and the famed sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid. You'll also pass new attractions like the massive, modern, new Opera House. But just as enjoyable are the glimpses you'll catch into everyday Copenhagen life: In narrow inlets, some barely wide enough for the canal boat, you'll pass by locals relaxing and picnicking on boats docked right outside their residences.

Once you've come ashore, head to Nyhavn for lunch. This narrow waterfront inlet, formerly dubbed the longest bar in Copenhagen, was once a hangout for sailors and vagabonds. Now it's cleaned up and known for its alfresco restaurants. Stop into Nyhavns Faergekro (Nyhavn 5, tel 45 33 151 588) for Danish smorrebrod. These tasty, open-faced sandwiches come in scores of varieties, such as double-smoked salmon and small bay shrimp, served atop slices of homemade bread.

After you've refueled, spend some time catching up on your Danish history - from the Ice Age to the Vikings to present-day - at the Nationalmuseet (Ny Vestergade 10, tel 45 33 134 411), where admission is free. If time allows, make your way up the spiral walkway of the Rundetaarn, or Round Tower, a 17th century astronomical observatory (Kobmagergade 52, tel 45 33 730 373). From the top you'll enjoy panoramic views of Copenhagen.

For a casual evening meal, try BrewPub Kobenhavn (Vestergade 9, tel 45 33 320 060). This microbrewery, just off Radhuspladsen, changes its menu with the seasons - main courses for the spring included grilled veal steak with polenta and pork cheeks with smoked potato terrine - and infuses many dishes, such as the hop sorbet and chocolate soup, with its ales, some of which boast colorful, musical names such as James Brown Ale and Cole Porter.

After sunset, gather with the locals at Tivoli Gardens (Vesterbrogade 3, tel 45 33 151 001). From outside this historic amusement park's walls, Tivoli doesn't look like much. But once you're inside the gates, it's hard not to feel like you've been transported into a childhood fantasyland. Walk the grounds and take in the live music and tiny lights illuminating the picturesque park. If you're feeling daring, top off your night with a ride on the Daemonen roller coaster or the giant, spinning Star Flyer swings. 

Click here to see a quick 10 minutes Video city guide of Copenhagen.