Visitors to Copenhagen generally leave with a ridiculous Viking helmet of the kind you’d only ever wear after ten bottles of Carlsberg, a small troll figurine or a replica of the Little Mermaid. So what can the more discerning shopper take with them that really encapsulates the best of the Danish capital, but at the same time won’t burn a hole in their wallet and can easily and safely make the journey home?
Copenhagen is certainly famous for its porcelain, and while you can pick up some Royal Copenhagen bargains at a flea market, it’s not the easiest thing to throw into your suitcase: Nor is a designer Bodum coffee maker or a Bang & Olufsen hifi particularly transit-friendly.
One suggestion is clothing and textiles. Danish women have a flair for scarves, wearing thin ones in the summer and thicker ones in winter, but always in wonderful bright colors or pastel shades: A wander around the city’s downtown shops will uncover plenty of them. For both men and women, a classic Mads Nørgaard striped long-sleeved T-shirt is a must for every Danes’ wardrobe (see picture): the designer’s flagship store on Strøget sells these at DKK 400 (roughly $70).
The ‘Danish souvenir’ shop (well, the name says it all really) on walking street Strøget offers a wide selection of Viking, troll and mermaid paraphernalia, while department stores Illum and Magasin are ideal for typically Danish clothing and homeware. Design hunters should check out the shop of the Danish Design Center, which is almost an exhibition in itself.
Kay Bojesen, a Danish designer and craftsman who was apprenticed to Georg Jensen, may have died back in the fifties, but the brand lives on in traditional wooden soldiers, monkeys and other very European-looking figures and old-fashioned toys. Find these in Illum, Magasin or the Danish Design Center. Alternatively, see if you can find a cheaper version in one of the city’s many second-hand stores, antique shops or street markets.
While you’re browsing, check out the collectibles in the Minimii design line. These Arne Jacobsen miniatures start at DKK 199 for a doll-size swan chair, though this year’s most decadent souvenir has to be the Arne Jacobsen dolls’ house (pictured); this replica of Jacobsen’s famous building from 1929 retails at just under DKK 10,000 ($1800).
Photos courtesy of Kay Bojesen design (top); Mads Nørgaard and Minimii.