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Living in Copenhagen.

19 June 2011

Skt. Hans, the de-paganised midsummer

History lesson: Once upon a time, many many years ago, we were pagans and celebrated midsummer and midwinter - the longest and shortest days of the year respectively. Then came the Christian missionaries and, wise as they were, let us keep our celebrations but adjusted them slightly to - voila! - make them Christian instead.
So instead of celebrating the longest day of the year on 21 June, we now celebrate the birthday (24 June) of St. John the Baptist ("Sankt Hans" in Danish). Similarly, instead of celebrating the shortest day of the year on 21 December, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus. And in line with Nordic tradition, celebrations are held the night before; Sankt Hans eve 23 June and Christmas Eve 24 December.

Skt. Hans today: Not many Danes are aware of the origin of the name Skt. Hans or the reason why we celebrate on 23 June. It is not a religous celebration at all, but simply a midsummer celebration as it always was. You can't blame us, our winters are long and dark, of course we're going to have a party when the day/night ratio is 3/1!
So what do we do? Well, we gather in parks - often some public (local) person will have been invited to give a "bonfire speech" and say something meaningful, then huge bonfires are lit just before sunset (21:55), and we sing the Midsummer ballad. People often come early and have a picnic first.
A fairly recent addition to the tradition (1860s) is witch-puppets that are placed on the bonfire - please don't be horrified, it does not mean we used to burn people alive at midsummer!!! Rather the bonfires were meant to scare off evil forces such as witches and trolls.

Where to celebrate Skt Hans in Copenhagen

21:45 Speech at 'Mindeankeret' (the anchor at the end of Nyhavn by Kongens Nytorv) by writer Allan Mylius Thomsen.
22:00 Bonfire is lit on a platform in the canal.

21:30 Bonfire is lit on a platform in the lake.
22:00 "Sinatra night" at Plænen - free open-air jazz concert with the Tivoli Big Band.
22:30 "Tivoli Illuminations" light show over the lake.

Frederiksberg Have (in front of the palace)
21:20 Speech by Claus Meyer (industrious chef and the man behind Noma).
21:30 Bonfire is lit.

Blågårds Plads
18:00 BBQs are hot, bring your own food to cook.
19:15 Live reggae/dancehall music.
22:00 Bonfire, speech and Midsummer ballad.

Islands Brygge
Music, entertainment for the kids.
21:15 Bonfire is lit.

Christianshavns Vold
18:15 Children's bonfire (before bedtime - clever).
21:00 Bonfire is lit.

Ofelia Beach (by Skuespilhuset)
21:00 Speech by Minister of Culture Per Stig Møller.
21:15 Bonfire is lit.
21:20 Midsummer ballad, lead by opera singer.
You can enjoy a special Skt. Hans menu at the restaurant SALT which has a view of Ofelia Beach - book here.

Søerne (the lakes)
Peblingesøen in front of Kaffesalonen, by the wooden platform.
18:00 Funk and BBQ.
21:45 Bonfire speech.
22:00 Bonfire is lit.
Music continues until 23:30.

The Cafe Pavillion inside the park.
18:00 BBQ
20:00-23:00 Music
22:00 Bonfire is lit.

Amager Strandpark
No official program up at this time, but there are bonfires at the beach every year.

Weather forecast: Danish summer weather is infamously changeable. Stay up to date on the websites of the Danish Meteorological Institute and news channel TV2's weather service (they don't always agree, so check both).

12 June 2011

Estate Coffee

Estate Coffee is for the coffee lovers first and foremost. They sell their own brand of truly delicious coffee, to stay or to go. Those of the non-coffee-persuasion are not neglected, there is Kusmi tea and Valrhona chocolate drinks. This tiny shop and cafe even offers a small selection of excellent bread rolls, pastries, cake and sandwiches.
Take a cup of brew with you for a stroll along Søerne (the lakes) - or sit and linger over a slice of 'Death by Chocolate' cake (Valrhona of course), it's a challenge to get through!

1 Gammel Kongevej, 1610 København V
Open: Mon-Fri 7:30-21, Sat+Sun 10-21

7 June 2011

Copenhagen Carnival

Sun and samba go together. The Copenhagen Carnival is this upcoming weekend, 10-12 June. There will be glitter and feathers and dancing all over the city!

But you can put on your dancing shoes already on Thursday evening (at 23) when Danish dancehall reggae band Bikstok Sound kick the whole event off. You don't need to understand the lyrics to understand the beat. CPH Volume, 80 Enghavevej, Vesterbro.


Unlike some of the other parks that are built on Copenhagen's old defences, this is Copenhagen's old defences. This old star-shaped fortification is well-preserved and still houses a functioning military base. Not that you can tell – people have picnics here. Nice view of the harbour up on the eastern ramparts.

Free entrance. Public toilets. Playground. Note: No swimming in the moat.

1 Kastellet, 2100 København Ø
Open: The gates around the military base itself are open 6-22, the area outside the moats is always accessible.

A bite to eat in/near Kastellet

BBQing is not allowed on the ramparts, only the area outside the moat. Here you will find permanent BBQs as well as benches and a playground.
There is an Irma supermarket at Østerport Station, Oslo Plads (west).

At Nordre Toldbod (southeast) you will find Løgismose, a luxury food business which produces, imports and sells only the very best produce from Denmark and abroad. Especially the cheese, wine and chocolate is to die for.

16 Nordre Toldbod, 1259 København K
Tel.: 3332 9332
Open Mon-Fri 10-19, Sat 10-15

Buttermilk koldskål, typical Danish summer dessert

Fresh cake coming up


The restaurant Toldboden offers fresh-made seafood at prices from DKK 50, and a very expansive weekend brunch. (See separate post here.)

24 Nordre Toldbod, 1259 København K
Tel.: 3393 0760
Email: mail@restaurantjulian.com
Online booking possible
Open: Every day 11-22, brunch Sat+Sun 10-14

Østre Anlæg

Østre Anlæg stretches all the way from Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery, Sølvgade/Øster Voldgade) to Østerport station at Oslo Plads. Like several other of Copenhagen’s parks it is built on the city’s old defences. It is a very varied park with lakes, rose beds, rhododendrons, a playground with a fishing boat (on land), etc. You can easily find your very own little spot to enjoy.

This is also where the “Stella Polaris” event takes place: the first weekend of August every year, the park is filled with mellow chill-out electronic music and several thousand people lounging in the sun. Relax and enjoy. (12-21)

Free entrance to the park.

Entrances from Øster Voldgade, Sølvgade, Stockholmsgade and Oslo Plads.
Open: Always.

A bite to eat in/near Østre Anlæg

Dotted around the park you will find permanent BBQs and tables where you can place and use your own disposable BBQ: Facing Oslo Plads, at Püchler’s Bastion along the railroad tracks, and near Hirsprungs samling overlooking Quitzows Ravelin.
You will find an Irma supermarket at Østerport Station, Oslo Plads.

The restaurant Aamans offers very delicate interpretations of typical Danish dishes including the open-faced sandwiches 'smørrebrød'. Also takeaway smørrebrød, cheese and cake – perfect for your picnic in Østre Anlæg.
Dinner courses from DKK 235. Lunch courses from DKK 115. Takeaway from DKK 45.

10-12 Øster Farimagsgade, 2100 København Ø
Tel.: 3555 3310
Email: info@aamans.dk
Online booking available
Restaurant - Wed-Sun 12-16, Wed-Sat 18-23
Takeaway Deli – Mon-Fri 10:30-20:30, Sat 11-16:30, Sun 12-16:30