February 20 2002 12:00 AM ET
Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
The gateway to the Tivoli Gardens
There's much more to Denmark than that Little Mermaid. As the first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships, it welcomes gay and lesbian visitors and certainly knows how to show them a good time
When people make a list of must-visit gay capitals of Europe, they almost always put Amsterdam on top. And for good reason. In 2001 the Netherlands became the first country in the world to grant full same-sex marriage rights--with all the trappings accorded opposite-sex couples. And who can deny that Amsterdam, the site of the 1998 Gay Games, is still a hotbed of homo activity today?
But what too few of those list-makers realize is that Denmark blazed its own gay-rights trail a full 12 years before its tulip-covered neighbor to the south. And the country's quaint capital of Copenhagen more than holds it own against the world's other must-see cities.
Denmark became the first country in the world to grant government recognition--although still not full marriage rights--to gay couples in 1989. And the first gay union ceremony took place in the plaza at Copenhagen's City Hall, just steps from what has since become something of a bustling gay district.
And that plaza is, coincidentally, a great place for any first-time visitor to launch a tour of the city's best gay offerings.
Amagertorv, in the very heart of the city, forms the perfect backdrop for Christmas shopping.
Almost all of the city's gay bars, restaurants, and coffee shops are just blocks off Amagertorv, one of the main pedestrian streets that extend from City Hall. Check out the gay restaurant and café Kelleren and then later stop by the Oscar Bar and Cafe, Heaven Cafe, or Sebastian Bar and Cafe for a taste of the city's pub-like gay scene.
If dancing is more your scene, make sure to include a trip to the Pan Club, a multilevel facility that features both popular and circuit-style dance music. And if you're still awake after a night of dancing, stop by the Cosy Bar for an early-morning nightcap.
One of the world's oldest and best-known amusement parks, Tivoli is the venue of the biggest Christmas market in Scandinavia, with restaurants, ice skating, gift stalls, and traditional Christmas fair.
Like all European capitals, Copenhagen also offers a huge assortment of activities of interest to people of all sexual orientations. Stroll down Amagertorv for some of the city's finest shopping, including the flagship store for Royal Copenhagen and its sister store Georg Jensen. One of the world's oldest amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens, is also just blocks away from Amagertorv and Copenhagen's City Hall. Another definite thing to include in any visit to Copenhagen requires a 45-minute trek outside the city limits, but the Louisiana Museum is well worth it.
For more information about Copenhagen, check out the city's official gay tourism site at VisitCopenhagen.dk/gay.