Checking In and Checking Out

​Dream Design: Remarkable Places to Sleep in Denmark

by Kerri Allen
Nobis A living room at Nobis Hotel. Photo by Søren Kristensen / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.

COPENHAGEN - The Danes are known for their brilliantly creative design aesthetic — from ergonomic lounge chairs to perfectly sloped spoons. So why should their hotel design be anything less than dreamy? Travelers can rest their heads in spots as singular as a converted post office, a 14th-century castle, or a floating hotel on Copenhagen’s central canal.

The Courtyard at Villa Copenhagen. Photo by Stine Christiansen / courtesy of Villa Copenhagen.
Common spaces at Villa Copenhagen. Photo by Kerri Allen.
A superior room at Villa Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Villa Copenhagen.
A standard room at Villa Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Villa Copenhagen.
The Earth Suite at Villa Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Villa Copenhagen.
The Earth Suite at Villa Copenhagen. Photo by Kerri Allen.
Shamballa Master Suite at Villa Copenhagen. Photo courtesy of Villa Copenhagen.
A meetings space at Villa Copenhagen. Photo by Kerri Allen.

Conscious Luxury in Copenhagen

After a seven-hour Scandinavian Airlines flight from New York City to Denmark’s capital, I hopped a train to the central station. Standing oh-so-stately right across the street was Villa Copenhagen, a stunner of a design hotel opened by Nordic Hotels and Resorts in 2020 (a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and one of Fathom’s Best New Hotels of 2020). Converted from the original 1912 Danish Central Post & Telegraph Head Office, travelers can hunker down in conscious luxury for a night’s sleep or just stop by for a sustainably sourced cocktail.

The five-story property has 390 rooms that you’d never guess were there, as they all line the building’s perimeter, leaving guests’ focus on the sprawling common spaces and lounges. London-based firm Universal Design Studio created the sleeping rooms’ look: herringbone floors; tranquil shades of beige, sage, black, and white; and scores of creative hiding places to stash away items (helpful, since many rooms feel about the size of a postage stamp). The all-natural Skandinavisk bathroom amenities contain the fragrance of a boreal forest, and I now buy them routinely for my stateside home.

While many rooms may be small, the hotel common areas are massive, like the 8,600 square-foot Courtyard, where the owners encourage locals and visitors to gather. The zero-waste restaurant Kontrast re-opened in February 2022 (after closing during the pandemic), serving dinners with ingredients from local farms. Tucked onto the building’s roof is a lap pool, creatively and sustainably warmed year-round with excess heat from the hotel's cooling system. The pool is also open to the public by reservation and in 30-minute increments.

The property’s address, Tietgensgade 35-39, inspired the cheeky name of the wine and cocktail bar, T37, which was once the clearing room for letters and packages. Now, the space has a ceiling of draped leather straps from the grand old post office.

It’s all a short walk to Tivoli Gardens and Strøget, one of Europe's longest pedestrian streets.

Quite an entrance at Broholm Castle. Photo by Kerri Allen.
Broholm Castle. Photo courtesy of Destination Fyn.
Birgitte Suite at Broholm Castle. Photo courtesy of Destination Fyn.
At the table at Broholm Castle. Photos by Kerri Allen.

Broholm Castle: Fit for a Queen

After a few days, I checked out of Villa Copenhagen and hopped the clean and quiet DSB train for the 90-minute westbound journey to the island of Funen (pronounced “foon”). After a day of touring local attractions including as storybook Egeskov Castle and Skaarupøre Vingaard, I checked into the imposing Broholm Castle, dating back to 1326. As night was falling, the lights around the brick structure and surrounding moat made the building feel as imposing as any sentry. I lugged my suitcase up three flights of wooden stairs to the Alexandra Suite, skeleton key in hand, to a room overlooking a row of stately horse stables.

This is not a place to seek out Scandi-chic or Danish modern aesthetics. Everything about the castle is royal opulence — upholstered settees, heavy drapery, and claw-foot tubs. There are no TVs or phones in the rooms.

Broholm Castle’s on-site restaurant is excellent, serving entrees such as venison from “the castle down the road” and indulgent desserts featuring the Denmark’s plentiful rhubarb. The castle hasn’t always hosted paying travelers, but one of its most famous invited guests was Hans Christen Andersen. The mile-long Fairy Tale Track was named in his honor and, during the day, guests can explore it among the property’s own park.

A room with a view. Photo courtesy of CPHLIVING.
A ship-shape room at CPHLIVING. Photo courtesy of CPHLIVING.
Outside at Nobis Hotel. Photo by Krisine Boel / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.
The staircase at Nobis Hotel. Photo by Søren Kristensen / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.
Photo by André Phil / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.
A junior suite. Photo by Søren Kristensen / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.
The Nobis Suite. Photo by Søren Kristensen / courtesy of Nobis Hotel.

By Land or By Sea

Back in contemporary Copenhagen, one of the most unique places to stay is CPHLIVING, a floating hotel on the city’s ultra-clean canal. Each of the dozen rooms offers a panoramic view of the historic city. Unlike Villa Copenhagen, CPHLIVING’s rooftop terrace is for guests only, offering sun beds and hammocks for ultimate relaxation. The interior maritime design includes custom furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the water.

I, however, stayed on land at the newly remodeled Nobis Hotel Copenhagen. The original building was constructed in 1903 under architect Martin Borch and was one of the first concrete building structures in the city. Charmingly, it was the home of the Royal Danish Academy of Music from 1972-2008. 

The central the marble stairs remain lovingly worn down from generations of students' hurried footsteps. For the school’s annual Christmas gala, a small orchestra would stand on the reception level, while the staircase would fill with carol singers. The high ceilings provided glorious acoustics for the instruments. The school had only one organ, which is where Superior rooms 008 and 009 are today, while The Nobis Suite served as the audition room and intimate concert hall for special events. (Percussionists were relegated to the basement level, which is where today’s meeting rooms, restaurant, and spa are located.)

The exquisite new interior was designed in cooperation with Gert Wingårdh, a star Nordic architect. “If some luxury hotels can be compared with a Mercedes,” he says, “I like to think of this as more of a Bristol, a British customized luxury car with a personal, understated form of elegance.”

Whether a boutique hotel floating on a canal or a 14th-century castle surrounded by fairy tales, understated elegance and incomparable experience is what Danish design is — and has really always been — all about.