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MICE location check: Copenhagen

Cosmopolitan, green and with that Nordic laid-back vibe – Copenhagen is one of Europe’s most attractive and innovative congress cities. The hotel industry and infrastructure are expanding, and a key location factor is the typically Danish, feel-good atmosphere.

Copenhagen’s residents are used to sharing space at the hotdog stand in the centre of the old town. Two types of sauce, gherkins and crispy roast onions threaten informal designer blouses and ties over an equally informal lunch. No one cares. They just taste too good. And it’s nice to stand here, have a bite to eat and enjoy the hustle and bustle.

There’s no doubt about it, Copenhagen’s residents know how to chill. This relaxed lust for life characterises the city as well as the informal juxtaposition of historical buildings and post-modern architecture, from rustic fish restaurants to renowned gourmet eateries.

The epicentre of cool
Christina Thostrup goes yet one step further: "Copenhagen is the epicentre of everything cool," declares the Sales Manager of the traditional hotel, Hotel d’Angleterre. "We simply have a great attitude to life. The city is clean, people are active. Everyone uses a bike and loves being outside." In fact, Copenhagen has more bicycles than inhabitants. The 600,000 city residents pedal 1.2 million km every day – that’s as many kilometres as the number of people living in the greater area of the capital.

Fresh air fanatics in front of the Marriott: why not bike or swim in "Europe’s greenest capital"?
Fresh air fanatics in front of the Marriott: why not bike or swim in "Europe’s greenest capital"?
Charlotte de la Fuente

But just as important, "the atmosphere is unpretentious and hyggelig," says Christina Thostrup. "Hyggelig". This hard-to-translate adjective represents cosiness, well-being and everything pleasant that Danes connect with home. According to Thostrup, the mix includes great restaurants with new Nordic cuisine and young, hip residents.

So while Copenhagen’s residents love being at home, they also love looking beyond their own four walls – and that applies in the kitchen, too. Copenhagen has 2100 restaurants, including gastronomical legends such as the multi-award-winning Noma (which is currently changing venue) and organic restaurant Geranium, awarded three Michelin stars.

Morten Jensen perceives the liberal and cosmopolitan attitude of his compatriots as a significant location factor: "our way of actively involving participants, our tolerance and advanced thinking offer an innovative climate for meetings and conferences." Event organisers value that." Jensen is the head of marketing at BC Hospitality Group, one of the largest hotel and conference associations in Denmark. The Group owns the Bella Center – where the largest dental trade fair (Scandefa) in Scandinavia was held in April, as well the most important Scandinavian fashion fair CIFF in August and the eurostar software exhibition in November – plus the Comwell Conference Center, the largest congress centre in the city. Hotels such as the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers and the AC Hotel Bella Sky are also part of the Group.

Danes never sleep
The Danes are experts in design, architecture, sustainability and clean technologies, and in turn, this draws firms from these sectors, says Morten Jensen. Medical professionals also value the innovative spirit of the city. In May next year, 10,000 kidney and dialysis specialists will travel to Copenhagen to attend the European Nephrology Conference. In June, 8000 anaesthetists will meet at Euroanesthesia in the Bella Center.

Jensen also claims that the compact nature of Copenhagen works in its favour. "Copenhagen is very clearly laid out, it’s easy to get around, to the airport, trendy, and historical locations." Yet despite their relaxed approach to things, the Danes aren’t inclined to rest on their laurels. In February, the Royal Arena, with 16,000 seats, opened in the Ørestad Syd area of the city. This new jewel of Nordic-functional design has several restaurants, bars and multi-purpose spaces.

But the very best addresses are exceptional backdrops to events, too. The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum, with its halls decorated by cannons, can also be hired out, as can the stages and halls of the Royal Theatre. The radiant Old Theatre, built in 1874 in baroque splendour, and the opera house, which opened on Holmen island in 2005 complete with Nordic-minimalist foyer, won’t be forgotten quickly by conference attendees.

Jesper Stubgaard, General Manager of the Hotel Skt. Petri, newly opened in June, thinks accessibility is important. "Copenhagen is very well connected. The high number of international flights is extremely important to event planners." Kastrup Airport offers more than 165 international direct flights, handled 29 million passengers in 2016 and is currently being expanded to take passenger capacities of forty million. Visitors can take the metro from the airport into the city in less than fifteen minutes. Copenhagen is also connected to the metropolitan area of Malmö in Sweden, via the Öresund bridge and the Drogden tunnel.

Two in one:  Nordic-Mediterranean  P Eatery in the Hotel Skt. Petri
Two in one: Nordic-Mediterranean P Eatery in the Hotel Skt. Petri
Charlotte de la Fuente

Probably the greenest city in the world
Another plus? Working with straightforward, multilingual Danes is a pleasure. Stubgaard says they also offer a wealth of experience. In December 2009, Copenhagen hosted the UN Climate Conference, COP 15, with over 27,000 participants. Stubgaard: "the security concept was excellent, coordination between hotels, event locations and planners all worked exceptionally well."

Copenhagen also took the content of the climate summit seriously. By 2025, the capital, which has already held European Green Capital status, will be the first carbon-neutral city in the world. The Danes are on the right track. Emissions have been reduced by fifty percent since 1995. The hospitality industry also focusses on sustainability. Over seventy percent of the 15,000 hotel rooms in the capital have an official eco-label.

The hotel scene is also developing dramatically. In August, the four-star hotel Axel Guldsmeden was extended by 65 rooms, after the Guldsmeden Group had already opened the Hotel Manon les Suites, with 87 rooms, in April. In September, the Nobis Copenhagen followed, the first hotel by the eponymous Swedish hotel collection.

Casually collective:  Hotel Bella Sky (behind),  Bella Center (right) and  Comwell Conference  Centre (next door)
Casually collective: Hotel Bella Sky (behind), Bella Center (right) and Comwell Conference Centre (next door)
Charlotte de la Fuente

Booming hotel scene
On top of that, two large hotels are due for completion in 2018. A Scandic conference hotel with 370 rooms and 1900 square metres of event space is currently being developed in the Kødbyen district. Copenhagen’s former meatpacking district is now a trendy area filled with bars, restaurants and galleries. The Øksnehallen can also be found here, a conference centre for up 4500 participants. The Arp Hansen Group is also opening a budget hotel in 2018, Wakeup, offering 585 rooms.

The boom continues. In the middle of next year, close to the main railway station, a hotel is due to open in the lower price sector by Danish chain Cabinn, with 1200 rooms, making it the largest hotel in Denmark. The Nordic Choice Hotels and the airport are responding with another record. In 2020, the 500-room Comfort Copenhagen Airport Hotel, is opening a conference centre at Kastrup Airport, with 3000 square metres of event space.

Norwegian hotelier and investor, Petter A. Stordalen, who developed Nordic Choice Hotels, is well aware that ." "Copenhagen is an internationally sought-after MICE destination." "A conference centre of this size can further strengthen the location in this perspective. Since the airport, motorway and railway are right outside the door and two hotels – the new and the existing Clarion – are just left and right, this means that it will be hard to find a better, more central location for an international event."