What’s next once you’ve done Visit Copenhagen’s top 30? These guides can help you get off the beaten track. There’s also some nice danglish about.
In the book 11 artists and writers, some Danish, some not, talk about their secret places in Copenhagen. The result is a “collage of pictures and words”, with a nostalgic feel. Whereas before things were wild, industrial, desolate, overgrown, messy, now they are ordered, neat, quiet, claustrophobic (and that was in 2011).
The old places are gone, there’s no wilderness any more. Everything is now designed by architects, with rules for everything.
Secret Copenhagen (223pp, €17.90/£13.99) is part of Paris based JonGlez Publishing’s series of ‘secret’ guides. Compiled by Johanne Steenstrup and Klaus Dahl, currently and formerly of SLKE respectively, it’s a treasure trove of the quirky and the unusual, perfect for reawakening interest and curiosity in those tiring of the prevalent yin/yang of cool/fairytale CPH. The book hints at a more nuanced and complex historical and cultural life, focusing on “unusual, hidden or little known aspects” and inviting visitors and residents alike to “look more closely at the urban landscape”.
There’s some real gems in there, enough to keep you going through the lengthy Danish winter and beyond, such as the city’s five paternoster lifts, the ‘rejection fences’ at Amalienborg, the mysterious face at the central station…A love of the avant garde – and concrete – shines through, a welcome change from the wholescale embrace of shiny new things. Out of town, a short stroll from the artificial fleshpots of Amager Strand will take you to Kastrup Værk, redubbed Bryggergården and Copenhagen’s oldest existing industrial complex, and who can resist the challenge of visiting Saltholm, a “natural paradise” beached in the Øresund?
Rather more “as you were” but with a useful interactive map is Københavner Grøn | Copenhagen Green, published in 2014 as part of #sharingcph. This is in the usual breathless adulation style, with a grating surfeit of adjectives (“from a bustling city centre to a veritable wilderness”). All the usual suspects are there, but it also ranges slightly further afield, including Køge Bugt and Vestvolden south of the centre.
100 spots are included on a map which can be searched by category and location. The whole shebang was exhibited poster style in the city centre over summer 2014, and can be purchased as a coffee table book (DK 200; free ebook also available) or pocket guide (DK 95).
Copenhagen is desperate to be a big city, but it tends to lack the grandeur and the grit. Just like the Danish landscape you won’t find excitement and extremes here – if you go looking for it you may well be disappointed. But there is interest in smaller things, details and quirks, which these books can help you find.
Seværdigt København: 88 steder: kendte, mindre kendte og helt ukendte/88 sights in Copenhagen (2015) from Peter og Ping, pocket sized if not priced (dansk edition: DK 150, English: DK 200), is literature driven, with lots of quotes.
We have nine sections: Centrum with 40 places, then rather less apiece in Vesterbro, Frederiksberg, Valby, Nørrebro, Østerbro, Christianshavn, Amager, Nordpå; happy to see a faceted index/register, if ordered by place rather than page number (grønne oaser og områder; kirker; museer; torve og pladser; huse, bebyggelser, steder; monumenter og skulpturer; spisesteder) plus a list of writers quoted and artists and architects named in the text, other people and literary figures…
It’s all of a period or type (modernism and beyond barely represented). I’m not really sure the content is up to the arrangement, and gasp! there are No. Maps.