GUEST REVIEW: SALLY O’BRIEN
The Hosts: There are five people in charge of CPH Living: Henrik and Hans Henrik (a social worker and goldsmith respectively), plus the Hede family from Zealand: dad Jørgen and his children Mrrianne and Michael.
The neighbourhood: Christianshavn, a small man-made island dating from the 17th century, is one of Copenhagen’s hippest and most central neighbourhoods. It’s home to charming cafes, thousands of bicycles, the long-running Free Town of Christiania, rustic half-timbered buildings, public housing and modern apartment blocks sheltering typical Danish good taste. It’s also the home of the world’s best restaurant, Noma.
The boat: Originally a German barge, the SS CPH Living embarked on her journey of transformation when she was dragged to Poland, extended in size and then refurbished in a Tallinn shipyard. In Spring 2008, she crossed the Baltic Sea and docked at Langebrogade 1C, before opening for business in June 2009.
The double-storey reception/breakfast area affords great views of the dark and brooding architectural gem that is Den Sorte Diamant (The Black Diamond; ), an extension of the Royal Library designed by schmidt hammer lassen, it’s not a bad spot to start an architectural reconnaissance of the city (guided tours available).
The rooftop area is entirely dependent on the weather–we scored grey skies and light drizzle during our stay, but it’s easy to see that on a sunny day it would make a perfect spot to plot the day’s activities, or recover from them with a sun-downer (which, this being Scandinavia, will take place long after dinner).
Other than these two communal areas, every other possible space is devoted to the hotel’s dozen rooms.
The room: Rooms are compact, but with typical Danish aplomb, the storage solutions are natty and it’s all clean lines, original artworks, wooden flooring, comfortable bedding and as much natural light as possible (thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows in every room). Bathrooms are stark, marine-hued and spotless and make good use of their limited dimensions, although we’re not sure why they need a window onto the sleeping area. If you’re travelling with someone you’re not on nudity terms with, it could get a little awkward.
Whether you’re aware of the rocking of the boat is a personal thing. We couldn’t feel it at all, our travel companion did. What will be harder to ignore is the music coming from the Tivoli amusement park during summer nights and carries across the water: light sleepers, pack some earplugs.
What we loved: How often do you get to sleep on a boat in the middle of a busy metropolis? Why can’t we do this sort of thing more often in maritime cities?
The closeness to the heart of things (Copenhagen is admirably compact and most things will be within walking distance if you’re moderately fit) yet the sense that we were staying somewhere special, a little off-grid: this is the only boat-el in Copenhagen.
Christianshavn itself is an intriguing mix of boho families, local hipsters, Greenlanders hanging out on the island’s main square and the denizens of the Free Town Christiania. Spending a day exploring its streets and squares is an easy pleasure for flâneurs.
Get into the mood: If you’re heading to CPH in the colder, darker months (anything outside July and August it sometimes seems!) then the gritty, rain-soaked crime drama Forbrydelsen (The Killing) is a must. Starring Sophie Gråbøl and Lars Mikkelsen, and available on DVD, the first series throws up more red herrings than a Danish buffet and is singlehandedly responsible for the revival of traditional Danish pullovers (you can buy one here).
Read (or re-read) Peter Høeg’s wonderful Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, which is partly set in the public housing projects of Christianshavn. The Danes do strong heroines like no one else.
Tips: There’s a breakfast buffet and vending machines for drinks and snacks, but if you really need good coffee (which can be hard to find in the city), and some fine baked goods, take an easy 10-minute stroll to arty Islands Brygge (just keep going after passing under Langebro — the bridge to your left as you face the hotel from the street) and stock up on great bread and pastries at Wulff + Konstali Food Shop (Isafjordsgade 10), or continue for another few minutes to either Food Shop No 26 (Thorhavnsgade 26 ) or Emmerys (Islands Brygge 79D), which both do scrumptious breakfast and snack offerings and really decent coffee.
Tariff: A room costs from DKK1000 (€135; £117; US$186; CHF165; AUD$180)
If it’s full: see other Hotels We Love in Copenhagen
Suggested lullaby: In keeping with a brooding noir theme, Help the Dead, by Danish duo Murder: A little bit mellow, a little bit spooky, a lot beautiful.
ABOUT SALLY: Sally O’Brien has written about travel, food and hotels for a number of publishers and publications, including Lonely Planet, Vogue Entertaining + Travel, Qantas, easyJet, the Sydney Morning Herald and Olive, covering cities such as Copenhagen, Bilbao, Geneva, Sydney, Madrid, Berlin, Turin and Basel. She’s lived in Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne and Lausanne and can be found at her website or her blog Swissing Around. Despite dropping her bags in hundreds of different places to stay over the years, she still gets het up about a great home away from home.