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The Danes have no problem smiling and it is easy to see why. According to a prestigious magazine, Denmark's capital Copenhagen is the most livable city in the world, not to mention one of the most eco-friendly, such that it aims to become the world's first zero-emission city by 2025.
Striking a harmonious balance between avant-garde architecture and respect for nature, the royal city—founded in 1167 by Bishop Absalon—hides its old-world charm beneath vibrant culture and an ultra-modern ambiance. Home to the oldest university in Denmark (1479), Copenhagen also boasts one of Europe's oldest amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens, which opened in 1843. Inspired by the Parisian gardens of the same name, the Danish version is a magical mix of roller coasters, art, nature and exoticism.
Another fairy-tale sight worth snapping is the famed Little Mermaid sculpture, based on the tale by the storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Commissioned to sculptor Edvard Eriksen by the founder of the Carlsberg brewery, Jacob Christian Jacobsen, the statue stands only 125 cm high and was apparently inspired by Danish ballerina Ellen Price, although it was actually modeled on the sculptor's wife, Eline Eriksen.
Cultural heritage and fresh thinking can be seen in the city's surprising variety of architectural styles, from the essential rococo spirit of the Amalienborg Palace — the historic winter residence of the royal family — to the Opera House with its oddly shaped auditorium. Does it resemble a pumpkin, a violin case or a conch shell? Nobody has managed to solve this curious conundrum yet. The solution may well be hidden among the bookshelves of the striking Black Diamond, an extension to the ancient Royal Library that resembles a dark, monolithic structure from a sci-fi movie. From science fiction to scientific fact: Copenhagen holds two records, for being the city with the highest proportion of university graduates in Europe (33%) and, more importantly, for having produced the most Nobel prize winners for science.
Copenhagen—from the Danish København meaning "Merchants' Harbor"— is a haven for those who want to commune with nature, as well as those who want to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle. In addition to the city's metropolitan attractions, many visitors are drawn to its 8 km of sandy beaches, which are half an hour's bike ride from the center.
Shopaholics won't want to miss out on a stroll down the Strøget, the city's most famous pedestrian street, or a trip to the lively districts of Vesterbro, Østerbro, Nørrebro and Frederiksberg, which are lined with boutiques selling vintage wares and refined apparel.
In no time at all Copenhagen has developed a new Nordic cuisine that offers indulgent culinary experiences, with coveted Michelin stars twinkling over no fewer than twelve of the city's restaurants.
But alongside the trendy star-studded eateries, slow food and street food are also popular. Few tourists can resist the urge to try a traditional Smørrebrød, a tasty open sandwich covered with salmon or herring, or a Flødebolle, an on-the-go dessert comprising a dollop of soft, creamy marshmallow on a marzipan base covered in chocolate.
Pack your bags and choose the comfort of an Alitalia flight to visit Copenhagen.