As travellers, we admit the Danish capital exudes a unique charisma. It begins with Copenhageners being some of the happiest people in the world. Actually, the entire nation has constantly topped international happiness surveys in the last decades, drawing curious folks from all corners of the planet to unearth the secret of locals’ kicking spiritedness. However, at a closer glance, we discover that a trip to this Scandinavian gem reveals more than just a feel-good factor.
For gastronomic art aficionados, Copenhagen reverberates vigorously. As the standard-bearer of the New Nordic Cuisine movement, the capital is awash with restaurants — parading a total of 17 Michelin stars — as well as cafés and bistros, which constantly experiment with locally-sourced ingredients.
For the design connoisseur, Copenhagen also marks high, boasting cutting-edge architecture, art galleries located in quirky locations and hip bars.
Plus, the city is also known for its generous green spaces and a clever bicycle network, which will righteously leave any diehard cyclist with an unbearable amount of envy.
Unsurprisingly, the city also impresses in the musical arts, as each July it becomes the quintessential destination for round-the-world jazzheads. Since 1979, Copenhagen Jazz Festival has been enveloping the capital in intense musical feasts of some of the world’s best performers. Today, the capital still welcomes some 250,000 guests who flock to soak up effervescent jazz gigs, which literally take over the streets, concert halls, cafés and even the charming Nyhavn canal, where buskers have no limits in entertaining outdoor diners.
In 2015, the 37th edition of the festival (3rd-12th July) is once again poised to take over the capital and its permanent and temporary population. Here are some tips for you to make the most of your Copenhagen escapade during this vibrant summer event.
Early is cool
This year’s Copenhagen Jazz Festival will feature a diverse palette of international legends and a mix of homegrown artists (and some 1,000 concerts), that will turn the entire capital into an explosion of sounds, ranging from classic bepop tunes to experimental jazz to smooth melodies.
Because the programme is incredibly voluminous, many events will take place in different associated venues at the same time, hence you should plan ahead and make your choice in advance for the desired period, venues and musicians. You can do so by checking out the official website, which brims with useful information and a detailed programme for the entire event. You can browse concerts by genres and neighbourhoods.
Before packing your bags, make sure to download the festival app, which is updated with all concert information, ticket links and daily news. There’s also the option to sign-in to save your personal festival programme, which will definitely come in handy during the trip.
Furthermore, with the festival’s growing popularity, it’s important to get in touch with your travel planner to book your accommodation at least two months in advance. Malmo, located a short 30-minute train ride away, is also a good option to base yourself in case the capital is fully-booked.
The festival pays tribute to freedom, creativity and the fluidity of the jazz genre and its transition from classicism to innovation and avant-gardism, but the wide spectrum of venues also provides an excellent chance for travellers to explore the city from a different perspective. Centuries-old castles, an old printing plant and the Carlsberg brewery’s picturesque grounds are just some of the highlights in terms of event sites.
The fest will be underway by noon daily and won’t stop until the wee hours. Performances will be held at open-air stages in historic squares as well as along streets, parks, canals, in small cafés and established clubs, and many of the gigs will be free.
Pedal into the past
The association of Denmark with jazz goes back to the 50s and 60s when the capital gained legendary status as one of the jazz capitals of Europe, thanks to an invasion of American jazz icons who set their creative base in the city. During the festival, you can also consider exploring the capital’s musical history in celebrated clubs such as Jazzhus Montmartre, one of the first venues where American greats such as Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster first played at, as well as other cult clubs such as Copenhagen Jazzhouse, La Fontaine and Ny V58.
Granted the capital is small and a joy to navigate for walkers, but it is advisable to rent a bicycle during the festival as that can help you move around in a much more efficient manner. And after all, this city is a cycling paradise at its heart. Just be sure to learn some of the city’s topography beforehand so you are better prepared!
Cycling is also a great way to encounter, and possibly interact, with locals. To the Danish, cycling is part of their daily routine and children as young as three years already begin mastering the bicycle.
With Copenhagen’s fame as a family-friendly destination and its myriads of cyclist-parents (and their famous cargo-bikes) whom you constantly see swishing excitedly around the capital, it is no wonder that even the festival will welcome children with an open heart.
If you have the stamina to bring your little one along, check out the “Jazz for Kids” segment of the festival, which aims to entertain your young’uns as well as involve them in creative workshops and educational programmes. After all, it’s never too early to expose children to jazz.