What will the hotel of the 2020s look like?
Maybe the Absalon Hotel, just three minutes walk from Copenhagen’s Central Railway Station gives some clues. From the exterior it is a classically elegant white 19th Century building. Step inside and there are changes afoot. The Absalon has even re-engineered the welcome. We are given a 100 Danish Krone bar voucher, which is all the encouragement we need to mingle.
Located in Vesterbro, the Absalon is on the edge of an area undergoing lively upscaling. Quirky boutiques, design shops and trendy cafes are popping up in a town within a town that is much loved by foodies.
A daily Steps League Table at the Absalon is revealing. Usually it’s topped by a couple such as Bob and Ruth who have notched up some 33,000 steps between them as they march round Copenhagen’s many sights. Remember there are over eighty attractions on the Copenhagen Card. That’s a lot of walking. Also, as the lift’s doors are camouflaged as book shelves you get the impression that management would prefer you to take the stairs.
Then there are the bikes leaning against the white facade. You’re probably already getting the idea that Copenhagen with its buzzing bike-lanes and double-decker bike parks prioritises two wheels over four.
At the Absalon you can decline housekeeping services in return for a gift. Choose from a day’s free bike hire, a large grapefruit scented hand-wash, a bag of chocolate-coated nuts or a bar voucher for 100 DKK which will buy you two beers or a cocktail. It’s an eco-friendly initiative that is popular with guests.
Take a cruise on Copenhagen’s waterways, passing under eleven bridges, to appreciate the Danes’ fascination with design. At the Architecture Museum, a balcony juts out over the canal, giving the coffee shop some of the best views in town.
In a flat land without mountains, the waste incinerator unit is a triumph of creative thinking. It is triangular shaped so that when winter snows arrive Denmark’s capital has its own urban ski slope.
Somehow, the diminutive Little Mermaid has become the symbol of Copenhagen. As one distinctly unimpressed American visitor said, “Back home, we have bigger burgers than that.” Copenhagen has far more impressive sights. Both the waterside National Theatre and the Black Diamond Library, unsurprisingly shaped like a black diamond, are both tributes to the Danes’ love of the arts. Even the Headquarters of Maersk, the global shipping company, is artfully constructed as a building of blue eyes.
Back at the Absalon Hotel, there’s a reaction against sparse Scandi minimalism. For the recent refurbishment the hotel turned to a London Designer, Tricia Guild OBE. Wooden flooring is replaced by deep-pile plush carpets. Gould brings splashes of colour to the spacious rooms which are quiet urban oases in the midst of one of Europe’s most popular cities.
The Absalon does a great buffet breakfast and then leaves dinner to the specialists. A short walk away, Uformel Restaurant is the cheeky younger brother of Michelin-starred Formel B Restaurant rebelling against the New Nordic cuisine. “No dogmas” is free-wheeling Uformel’s mantra.
Situated in a high-ceilinged former meat-packing warehouse Uformel’s polished concrete walls epitomise the spirit of urban regeneration. Installing a back-lit wall of a wine-cellar and hiring one of Denmark’s top cocktail mixologists helped create one of Copenhagen’s coolest venues.
Uformel goes along with much of the New Nordic food manifesto. Yes, there is an emphasis on local foods, seasonality and top quality vegetables. But Uformel moves beyond Scandi shores to integrate the rich tastes of the Mediterranean into its dishes too. Top quality Danish Beef tartar, wrapped in an intensely flavoured lattice of sun-dried tomatoes, epitomises Uformel’s menu.
A trip or two to Reffen, Copenhagen’s new street food market, showcases the Danes’ willingness to take on board ideas from around the world, developing and innovating along the way. There are over 50 start-up businesses including bars, food stalls and creative workshops. Micro-designed to the last detail, they all aim to be environmentally friendly recreating, recycling and reusing whenever possible.