WOW! As expected, we have fallen in love with this city after a few days here. It is so accessible for families with children, with beautiful clean streets, pedestrian-only zones, green spaces and playgrounds around every corner. And the bike lanes! They run throughout the city, are separate from the pedestrian sidewalks, and are wide enough for 2 bikes to ride alongside one another (or to pass each other during bike-rush hour when the work day ends). The bike lanes even have their own mini-stop lights next to the regular stop lights at all of the intersections. Traffic lights here go from green to yellow to red, and then back from red to yellow (cars, start your engines again – no idling in this city!) to green. The locals speak such flawless English it is sometimes hard to discern whether someone is indeed Danish.
From conversations with friendly parents at playgrounds, we have learned that the Danish have a quality of life to be envied. They receive a minimum of 5 weeks paid vacation per year, just for starters. They finish each work day at 4:00pm (max 37 hours work per week), which has been confirmed by the major increase in bicycle traffic at that hour. The vast majority of households with children have two working parents, because the childcare is free and extremely high quality. One mother who lives in the city told me that her 3 year-old son’s daycare puts the children on a little bus and takes them out to the forests and beaches to spend their days in nature before returning them to the city at pick-up time. We met a father picking up his 3rd grade daughter from an after-school daycare program that is, of course, free for all elementary school children as well. Health care is free, education is free and excellent, and physical fitness is a priority. Everyone seems to have time for work and for play, regardless of income or occupation. And this is possible how? An income tax rate of 35% – 51% for the Danes – the good life doesn’t come cheap!
Highlights of our stay thus far include:
Rosenborg Castle and Royal Treasure, nestled in the heart of the city and surrounded by incredible gardens. A guided tour led us through the royal décor spanning the 16th-19th centuries, and of course, a treasure trove of crown jewels to ogle at.
We LOVED Copenhagen’s Experimentarium! We explored this hands-on science museum for 6.5 hours and could have stayed longer!
Exploring the city by foot and by bicycle: We spent a total of 12 hours over the course of two days just roaming the streets, trying out different playgrounds and visiting some of the main attractions like the Royal Palace and of course, the famous Little Mermaid statue.
Reflections from Jeff: The architecture! A brilliant mix of old and new, with a leaning to the contemporary, especially along the harbor revitalization zone. Turn a street corner and you are as likely to find a sleek modern building as a 16th century castle or church – it’s all jumbled cohesively together. Large residential, commercial, and civic buildings coexist within the same neighborhoods instead of complying with a strict zoning strategy. Every contemporary building I have seen sets itself apart in massing and explores the limits of the materials being used, whether modern or historic. The inherent uniqueness found in each contemporary building epitomizes the progressive logic the Danes have on life in general. They are proud of their history and make every effort to preserve their cultural landmarks, yet they are not fearful of detracting from that history by departing from it. Rather, their modern architecture is a playground for risk-takers, pushing the boundaries of design and innovation.
Copenhagen, much like other Scandinavian cities, is fiercely committed to progressive, energy-efficient design. Much of the current strategy consists of large off-shore wind turbine parks and district heating and energy plants powered by urban and household waste. Looking down from our 12-story hotel windows it’s amazing to see just how many buildings are draped with rooftop gardens and civic meeting places.
Here are some reflections from the girls:
Thayer: I really liked the Experimentarium because it had really fun stuff in it. I got to build with a crane and bricks and I got to go into a dark fun house with my sisters and we had to feel our way around it! Also the pool at our hotel is so great because it has these waterfalls and we play mermaids together.
Schuyler: I loved the “mini city” for bikes today at the park, with roundabouts and stoplights and crosswalks all just for kids on bikes! It teaches you how to ride your bike safely in a city. We had so much fun flying around on our bikes. There were even little parking lots and yield signs for bikes. I also noticed that the Danish architecture is really cool because they mix the old with the new and they aren’t afraid to be different from other countries and take chances with their style! And who doesn’t love the trampolines at the playgrounds!
Zoe: I loved the Experimentarium. One of my favorite things there was definitely getting to see and touch and learn about a sheep’s lungs, ribcage and heart. It was a live demonstration and very fascinating. I’ve never seen real organs before. I learned that in our throats we have little hairs that are brushing upward all the time when we breathe in to remove all the bacteria that our bodies don’t want. We could see those hairs on the inside of the sheep’s windpipe.
We leave Denmark tomorrow after 10 days here. We have loved our time in the city as well as at our small rental in the suburbs. We mastered the trains and buses, found some delicious bakeries and restaurants, and had a blast at Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli Gardens. Here are some final photos from our time in the city, including our FUN at Tivoli. Tomorrow, we’re off to Amsterdam!
See you in Amsterdam!