View Full Version : It's Official! Copenhagen is the World's Most Liveable City

Saturday, August 30th, 2008, 05:30 AM
It's official! Copenhagen is the world's most liveable city

"Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen..."
Those familiar lyrics encapsulate not only Danny Kaye's tuneful view of the Danish capital as it was over half a century ago, but also international magazine Monocle's opinion of the city as it is right now in 2008.

In its forthcoming issue, available on newsstands from mid-June, Monocle delivers its eagerly awaited verdict on the world's top 25 most liveable cities. The winner's citation reads: "Copenhageners rejoice: your city (and its design) has our gold medal."

Following in the wake of Copenhagen in Monocle's overall ranking for 2008 are Munich (last year's winner), Tokyo, Zurich, Helsinki, Vienna, Stockholm, Vancouver, Melbourne and Paris.

In addition to being named Monocle's No.1 city, Copenhagen also takes the prize for Best Design City - one of five new categories that the magazine has introduced.

Winning formula
So what is it that has gained gold for Copenhagen this year? Monocle spells out the winning formula: a combination of good ideas, good planning and manageable scale, plus a sound grasp of environmental issues, regional transport and a variety of subjective but nonetheless important elements like food culture, housing design and a sunny disposition that in the words of Monocle, "you have to get out on the streets and experience".


Copenhageners know that feeling well, especially when they take a cool and refreshing summer dip in one of the five outdoor swimming pools in Copenhagen harbour. Life in the city wasn't always like this – 15 years ago there were nearly 100 overflow channels feeding waste water into the harbour, creating a bacterial soup that nobody in his or her right mind would have plunged into. But thanks to long-term vision and massive investments by the municipality in wastewater treatment plants and overflow reservoir systems, Copenhagen harbour now enjoys bathing quality water.

It's just one result of the municipality's ambitious vision to make the capital a clean, green, varied and vibrant place to live and work. Infrastructural improvements are going on everywhere, but not in a thoughtless way that just fills up spaces with concrete and cars. Urban development is being geared to ensure that by 2015, 90% of Copenhageners will be able to walk to a park, a beach, an area of natural beauty or a swimming facility in less than 15 minutes. It takes a lot of investment of course, but the will is certainly there and so it seems is the cash.

Easy navigation
One of Copenhagen's big plus points is ease of urban navigation. The capital is laid out on a manageable scale on essentially flat land, making it ideal for bicycles. Today, more than a third of Copenhageners travel to their place of work or study using pedal power, keeping NOx, SOx and all the other undesirable exhaust gases out of the air. Again, the municipality is in there with its investments, developing a network of green cycling routes that by 2015 will enable 50% of Copenhageners to commute each day by bike.

Of course there are cars on the capital's roads, and at City Hall they fret about congestion just like they do anywhere else. But they have also invested wisely and well in developing a public transport infrastructure which is clean, affordable and operates with an efficiency that would make most other major cities green with envy. Many Copenhageners choose public transport for their daily commuting because it is solidly reliable. So they leave their cars at home, thus keeping the freeways more free.

One of the jewels in Copenhagen's public transport crown is the Metro system, which was inaugurated five years ago and is being continually extended. If you've flown in to Copenhagen International Airport, you may be familiar with these surprisingly spacious, driverless trains that whisk you into the city centre faster than a taxi while a pleasant, disembodied voice keeps you oriented en route.

Although one of the world's youngest metros, Copenhagen Metro has already received an auspicious accolade. Just a couple of months ago, in April, the international Metro Rail conference voted Copenhagen Metro the world's best subway, ahead of much more well-established systems in London, Paris, Tokyo and New York. And it's not only transport industry experts who are impressed; the latest customer survey shows that 98% of people using the Copenhagen Metro are well-satisfied with the service, which will take you from Copenhagen International Airport to the centre of Copenhagen in only 15 minutes.

Temptingly tasty
Food culture is an essential characteristic of any city with an appetite for life and Copenhagen offers a mouth-watering menu, its eateries and restaurants having enjoyed a wonderful renaissance in recent times. Inviting-looking cafés wafting wonderful aromas have sprung up everywhere, bringing with them one of the best barista scenes this side of Italy. There are cocktail bars aplenty that really know how to shake magic into a glass. And a new generation of young chefs has created a cuisine dubbed Modern Danish, which makes characteristic use of fresh, locally available ingredients infused with new and innovative flavours.

The success of this new culinary movement is evidenced in Pellegrino's 2008 'World's 50 Best Restaurants' listing, where the Copenhagen restaurant Noma has achieved a Top 10 ranking. Noma is quintessentially Modern Danish, fusing contemporary techniques with traditional Nordic dishes and ingredients, some of them sourced from Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands - the latter two being Danish provinces.

Thanks to the efforts of Noma and other like-minded restaurants, Copenhagen now boasts world-class cuisine that is both true to its geographical origins and deliciously cutting-edge in its ideas.

Sustainable city
Just outside Copenhagen harbour is a line of wind turbines stretching in a gentle curve out into the bay. It was the world's first wind farm to be successfully deployed in a marine environment, and attests to Denmark's pre-eminence as a renewable energy nation – wind energy provides a greater proportion (26% and rising) of total electricity production than any other European country.

Renewable energy, and the broader concept of sustainable development, is something that Danes take very seriously and nowhere is this more evident than in Copenhagen. Following the 1992 UN conference in Rio, which launched the Agenda 21 sustainable development programme, Copenhagen municipality embarked on an ambitious strategy (http://www.denmark.dk/en/menu/About-Denmark/Environment-Energy-Climate/Fact-Sheets/Will-Copenhagen-Still-Be-WonderfulIn-2015/WillCopenhagenStillBeWonderfulIn2015.htm )to make the city a genuine eco-metropolis – a hub for human, cultural and economic development on a sustainable basis including cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier food, less traffic noise, better use of resources, more green areas and greater biodiversity. And everywhere you look, the signs of success are there to see.

Coming to Copenhagen : the BIG event
Against this sustainable background, it can be seen as a just reward (aided perhaps by astute lobbying) that the Danish capital has been chosen to host the 2-week UN Climate Change conference (http://www.cop15.dk/en), known as COP15, in December 2009. The importance of this event cannot be underemphasised. For it represents the last chance for the world's nations to agree upon a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The political stakes are high, and drama is more or less guaranteed, as anyone who watched the emotional scenes at the COP13 conference in Bali will know – bear in mind that the Bali conference had nothing to do with the content of a new agreement; it was only a 'road map' towards a new agreement.

But the Danes have a particular talent for creating an atmosphere of consensus, and Copenhagen – with its good life quality, its sunny disposition, and its Agenda 21 activities in full swing – can be relied on to provide the most compelling backdrop. If there's anywhere on the planet that a post-Kyoto agreement can be reached, it's the wonderful place that Monocle magazine has just voted the world's most liveable city.