Copenhagen is gearing up to host the 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest from May 5 - 10, but that's not the only honor bestowed upon the Danish capital this year. The renowned environmentally friendly city has also been named European Green Capital for 2014 by the European Environment Commission. Here's why that matters to visitors.
A Greener Eurovision
This year, Copenhagen's green aspirations will play a major role in its hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest. The city claims that all aspects of the event production will be carried out in an eco-friendly way, from food and beverages provision, to transportation.
The city has constructed new bicycle paths connecting the Eurovision Island (the area surrounding Refshaleøen, an abandoned shipyard) to the city center, making it as easy as possible for visitors to join in with local bicycle culture and choose an eco-friendly (and cheap) mode of transport. You can rent bicycles for $6 per hour from Bycyklen or on a donation basis from Copenhagen Free Bike Rental – though, as a famously bicycle friendly city, there are also many other bicycle rental companies to consider. Visitors to the Eurovision Village on Gammeltorv and Nytorv squares will also be able to enjoy organic street food from nine food trucks from May 4-10 thanks to an initiative from the Copenhagen Cooking festival. And the Eurovision Village’s Green Room will be open to families to participate in free and environmentally friendly activities all week. Literally a green room, the green lounge area will be made of grass and flowers, and children will be able to create trays of seeds and pots made from recycled newspaper.
There are plenty of ways to be an eco-tourist in Copenhagen. From flying SAS, which aims to lower emissions by 20 percent by 2020, to cycling alone or with a guided bicycle tour through companies such as Cycling Copenhagen and Bike Mike Tours (both from $55 for a three-hour tour); to dining at a farm-to-table restaurant.
Hotels, too, are environmentally conscious, with 71 percent in the city being eco-certified. With solar panels on the façade, a groundwater-based heating and cooling system, a 10,000 liter tank to collect food scraps for biogas conversion, and furniture partially made from recycled materials, Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers is one of the greenest hotels in the world. Rates start at $190 per night. The boutique Andersen Hotel (from $190) has 73 individually designed rooms and achieved Green Key certification in 2013, while the Brøchner Hotel Group, which includes Hotel Danmark, and Hotel Astoria, became the world's first CO2-neutral hotel chain this year.
Fresh Air in the Summertime
Given the harsh winters that Scandinavians have to endure, who could blame them for embracing summer in a big way? Copenhagen comes alive in the summer, when cafés spill onto the sidewalks, and festivals fill the air with music and activity.
Distortion, the city's biggest festival, features five days of dance music throughout the streets of Copenhagen. Each night a different neighborhood hosts a street party with more than 40 thumping sound systems lining the streets along with thousands of revelers. The party gets going in the early afternoon, but following residents' complaints over the last few years, it now moves indoors as night falls. The final night's party takes place at Refshaleøen (the same site as Eurovision) and will have DJs playing on 11 stages to 8, 000-11,000 guests.
For music with a different beat, the Copenhagen Jazz Festival is one of the biggest festivals of its kind in Europe. Held over 10 nights, from July 4-13, the festival attracts some of the biggest names in jazz, as well as over 250,000 fans. Many festival events will be held in outdoor venues such as the courtyard stage at Huset Kbh Gårdscenen community and culture center, at the traditional old Danish restaurants Krøgers Have and MG Petersens Familiehave, Højbro Plads on Strøget, and on Nyhavn Canal.
Another highlight of the Copenhagen summer is open air swimming in the Harbour Baths along the waterfront. From June 15 through August 31, you can join locals taking a dip in the five pools, the most popular of which is that of Islands Brygge, which extends into the harbor from the northwestern coast of the island of Amager. Rest assured, as befits a green capital, the quality of the water is checked daily and has to be approved by the authorities before swimmers are let in.