Scandinavia is well ahead of the curve when it comes to architecture and design. We discover Copenhagen’s beauty on Instagram, yes! By Malavika Bhattacharya
A crop of young local Instagrammers have taken it upon themselves to document Copenhagen’s coolest spots, steering clear of what a tourist normally associates with the city. Urban architecture, public spaces, and hidden backyards feature prominently in their photos, as do unique perspectives of well-known structures. Here’s a look at some of the most popular ones.
On a blustery afternoon, we begin our walk at the famous Baroque-style Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn, defined by its gleaming black and gold spire. “You can climb to the top for a good view of the canals, and you can even see Sweden,” Astrid says, making special mention of the spiral staircase that winds around its exterior. I don’t know it yet, but spirals—staircases or otherwise—are a recurring motif in local Instagrammers’ accounts.
Astrid and I make our way to Ørestad—a quiet, developing area with a somewhat industrial vibe. “Where are we going?” I ask. “A car park,” she calmly replies. This unpredictable introduction to a local’s Copenhagen sets the tone for a behind-the-scenes look at the city. The parking lot isn’t run-of-the-mill, of course. For one, the huge perforated façade is fascinating. Natural light streams through, and when viewed from afar, the holes create an image of parked cars, like a mirror to the interior. The multi-level interiors are an “Instagram favourite,” Astrid tells me, for the upward spiral view it provides.
Around the corner is a parrot green façade with blocky, asymmetrical balconies that I recognise immediately from the pictures I’ve seen. The Ørestad Plejecenter is a residential care facility for the elderly, and among the city’s most recognisable and photographed structures, with its colour-blocked buildings in shades of green.
From Old Stock Exchange or Børsen, which is among Copenhagen’s oldest buildings dating back to the 17th century, to the futuristic Bjarke Ingels iconic project 8 Tallet, or Eight house, the city makes for endless photo-ops. The city’s tallest tower, the 106-metre Tårnet or the tower atop Christiansborg Palace, which now houses a restaurant, the Parliament Building, and the National Museum are some of Instagram’s favourites.
On the metro to the city centre, we zip past a towering Mount Everest. Seeing my quizzical expression, Astrid explains that Mountain Dwellings—another ultramodern residential complex by the BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group)—is a terraced housing compound that sits atop a parking lot. Perforated aluminium plates cover the façade, creating a rasterised image of Mount Everest, visible clearly from the windows of the elevated metro. In this city, even a short ride on a public transport system reveals visual wonders.
We make our way down Studiestræde, stopping to gape at the eminently photogenic buildings that house lively gay bars and second-hand stores. We walk through the heavy gates of a building and stumble unexpectedly into the loveliest backyard. Away from the hustle of the street lie tangerine walls draped with a tangle of green creepers, cobblestones, and pots of purple and white flowers. “Backyards are some of the most beautiful spots in Copenhagen,” Astrid tells me. This particular backyard is home to the charming Galleri Krebsen, an art space displaying local artists’ works.
With hidden quirks in traditional spaces and dazzling modern architecture, it’s no wonder that young local photographers have capitalised on their city’s offerings. Walking past a wall in Nørrebroparken, a stretch of graffiti gives way to large photo prints displayed on the wall. Large-size Instagram images showcase tunnels, train tracks, and other commonly overlooked aspects of the city. The open-air gallery titled The Endless Treasures of Nørrebro features stunning imagery by Urban Explorer CPH (@urban_explorer_copenhagen) and seeks to “make you open your eyes more attentively, love and take care of our city.”
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Encouraging ordinary passers-by like me to stop and take note of the beauty that exists even in ordinary public spaces, the exhibit and my time with Astrid, has shown me that creative locals don’t have to look far for everyday inspiration—Copenhagen is the muse.