Located on the eastern shore of the Danish island of Zealand, cool Copenhagen was originally a fishing colony but has been Denmark’s capital city since the 15th Century. Vibrant, clean and beautiful, it has the most ambitious climate target of any world city, aiming to be carbon neutral by 2025, and already over 80% there, with an aim to take the city’s CO2 consumption from its current level of around 2.5 million tons to under 1.2 million tons in less than two decades.
Skiing on waste
The drive to become carbon neutral will be greatly helped by the opening this year of Copenhill, Denmark’s newest and cleanest combined heat and power waste-to-energy plant, which will have a roof top ski slope and viewing point. Inside, the entire energy plant is in operation 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, converting waste from Copenhagen households and companies to inexpensive, green district heating and electricity for the capital area – the plan is to produce heat for 160,000 households and electricity for 62,500 residences.
Buses and the metro run frequently and around the clock, and this year all diesel-powered buses will be changed to ones that run on electricity. But come rain or shine, most residents and many tourists get about by bike, and bikes outnumber cars in the city. Its inhabitants take more of their journeys by bike than any other city in the world, and own more bikes per person too. More places to park bikes will be built this year, and there are safe cycle lanes everywhere, including an iconic bridge structure called The Cycle Snake.
Copenhagen is the hometown of architect Jan Gehl, one of the world's leading authorities on sustainable urban planning, and you’ll find evidence of clever green thinking and sustainable design at every turn. Every new building has to have a green roof, and some of the most impressive of these include the three cruise quays, which are all furnished with 9,900 square-metre green roofs packed with live vegetation to both limit noise pollution and purify rainwater.
Great parks, gorgeous gardens and other green pockets where people can relax and breathe already dot the city, but there’s new budget most years for more. This year new green areas are being established on the edges of the city’s new North Harbour district to ensure a continued growth of cleaner air in the city. Bispepark will be transformed into a climate adapted park, and a new 28 hectare nature park double the size of the city’s iconic King’s Garden will be built.
The city is also expert at preparing for the consequences of climate change, spending money to work out what happens if the sea rises to their most low lying coastal areas, and devising car parks and plazas that can safely flood should the worst happen. Lots of local community areas have also been transformed over the years, including the former meat packing district, which is now filled with independently owned bars, cafes and restaurants.
Talking of food, the city has no less than 15 Michelin-starred restaurants, more than any other Scandinavian capital. Many eateries now have a large organic menu or are plating organic produce from their own greenhouses and gardens, among them the famous Noma, which has new premises with its own urban farm. Be sure to experience Reffen, a street food market in a former industrial area where you can try food from all over the world served from shipping containers, and then there’s Relæ, where 90-100% of everything bought and served is sourced directly from organic, local and small scale farms who all practice organic or biodynamic farming and are all certified organic.
Grace and favour
Above all for travellers, Copenhagen remains an interesting, safe and cultured place to visit for all ages. The beloved home in adolescence of fairy tale storywriter Hans Christian Andersen, whose character The Little Mermaid is a famous city landmark as a bronze statue, the city is packed with museums, modern art galleries and a huge array of designer-led independent boutiques.
Centuries old Nyhavn harbour, graced either side by stunningly colourful buildings, is clean enough for a dip. Jump up and down to release any bad energy on one of the five free waterside trampolines, then tour the harbour by a solar powered boat with GoBoat, who serve only-organic snacks at a picnic table carved from sustainable wood. Tivoli, the city’s historic and vintage amusement park, is now open in the winter as well as the summer, so coming here when it’s less crowded is a super option. When you do, eat at Gemyse, which sources organic vegetables from a local company and uses herbs from its own kitchen garden. And be sure to make time for Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen’s intriguing alternative neighbourhood of homemade houses, workshops, art galleries, music venues, affordable eateries and green open spaces. Read more.