The colours sizzle and sing as I step into the lime and turquoise reception area of Absalon Hotel in Copenhagen from the stone grey streets of Vesterbro. Colour is at the heart of this newly renovated boutique hotel, as the elegant CEO, Karen Nedergaard told me, when I stayed at the hotel in June; ” In Denmark everything is black and white but I wanted this to be different, to have an international touch.”
Having used Designers Guild furnishings in the sister hotel, Andersen Hotel (as in Hans Christian ) just across the road, Karen was keen to work with the design company again when her much larger Absalon Hotel was due for renovation. Karen and her designers worked with Creative Director, Tricia Guild and the Designers Guild team in their London and Paris showrooms, as well as visiting other hotels for inspiration.
Over many months of renovation, structural changes were made to the 160 room boutique hotel, opening up the ground floor to the street with larger windows for more daylight and restoring many of the traditional plaster cornices and door frames. But Karen was also keen to create the cosy feeling of wellbeing that is known here in Denmark as Hygge, telling me “anyone can sell a night’s stay but what’s difficult is to make the guests feel comfortable and relaxed so they want to come back, you have to work with the emotions as well.”
The vibrant colour choices on the ground floor were a conscious decision as Karen told me “Maybe the guests don’t want to have this in their own home, but they’ll remember that it was something different and that they felt well when they were here.” Interestingly Social Media also influenced the design choices, and old books and an antique telephone booth were placed around the reception area, knowing that guests would love to photograph these details and share the photos with their friends. The new Absalon Hotel aims to attract the well-travelled, design conscious traveller, both Danes and international travellers spending a few days in Copenhagen or starting their cruise here.
During my stay for the opening party I was thrilled to meet my design heroine, Tricia Guild, Creative Director of Designers Guild, who was there as guest of honour to open the hotel. Over the years I’ve loved Designers Guild fabrics for the colourful designs that reference global and vintage inspiration but always feel fresh and modern. Tricia told me that she feels hotel design around the world is a new way for travellers to learn to express themselves;
“Hotels are no longer 5000 rooms with the same wallpaper in every bedroom, they are really design spaces and I think that’s brilliant. People travel more, they see more individuality and I think that tempts them into being more individual themselves.”
I hope you enjoy the video below where Tricia Guild gives her thoughts on the Absalon Hotel Design
I chatted with Tricia about the many sources of inspirations she has drawn from her travels, from the renaissance art of Florence to the vibrant saris worn by women in India. It might be an impression from the colours of the landscape or the wild flowers growing, yet everday situations can also be inspiring; “You can walk down the street and be inspired if you keep your eyes open”. A great collector of vintage and antiques, Tricia told me how she loves the great Scandinavian designers like Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl and uses their iconic furniture designs in her interiors.
For the Absalon Hotel, a classic Designers Guild silky taffeta stripe fabric called Zetani was used in a different colourway for each floor. The vibrant shades were picked up in other elements of the furnishings, wallpaper, furniture and accessories with the help of the Copenhagen Designers Guild team at ZenOut Home in Hellerup.
Our cosy room up on the 5th floor under the eves reminded me of a circus tent with stripes of green, lime and fuschia on a base of silver grey and black. The rooms up here were a little more luxurious, with deep green carpet and air conditioning (not that we needed it in June). We had all the essentials; a flat screen TV, fridge and safe, but the trendy design was not at the expense of details such as the built in reading lights on the headboard and lighting under the bed to guide you in the night. There was a touch of glamour in the mirrored wardrobe and glass chrome tables, with an easy chair to relax and a view over the rooftops of Vesterbro. The only thing I could have done without was the strange perspex box on the wall displaying a design item, since I kept banging it as I passed to get to the wardrobe.
The bathroom was ultra-modern with Philippe Starck fittings softened with creamy marble tiles and cool lighting effects from Phillips so you can bathe in any colour of the rainbow. To avoid waste, the toiletries from Karmameju were in dispensers above the bath and sink but there’s no skimping on quality from this Danish skincare company that uses pure, natural ingredients.
On other floors the scheme is silver grey with highlights of royal blue and green or softer lilac and plum and here wooden floors have been used for a Scandinavian touch. While there’s no restaurant in the hotel, there is plenty of seating space and a bar area where guests can relax in the evening with coloured lighting that changes mood depending on the time of day.
Who will enjoy Absalon Hotel? Anyone who loves colour and individual style and is looking for a cool base to explore Copenhagen. The hotel is conveniently located just a 5 minute walk from the main station in the trendy Vesterbro district so you are surrounded by hip bars and restaurants, but be aware that it’s the red light district too. The breakfast is a continental buffet with plentiful and varied choices including fabulous nutty Danish bread and all the speciality teas you could wish for. Staff are efficient, helpful and happy to help with recommendations or anything else you need. With a Concept24 policy that allows you late check-out, we think it’s the perfect hotel for your Copenhagen city break. Prices for a double room from around 1665 DKK (£160, €225 or $250)
You can also read my review of Andersen Hotel just across the road
Check out the neighbourhood
Dinner at Bio-Mio
A 10 minute walk down the road from Absalon and you reach Vesterbro’s trendy Meatpacking district where the boxy industrial buildings, some of which still house catering wholesalers, are being converted into restaurants and bars. There wasn’t too much happening in the day when we passed by, but at night this area is buzzing. If you want relaxed dining with a bistro feel we can recommend Bio-Mio which you’ll spot by the large neon Bosch sign. This organic all-day diner has an open kitchen running down one side, so you can watch the chefs at work, and you sit at high tables on bar stools and order your meal at the central till. We ordered from the specials board with simple, well cooked dishes under 200 DKK like my fish of the day that arrived topped with a swirl of fennel and leeks. Bio Mio website | English Menu | Address: Halmtorvet 19
Cocktails at Lidkoeb
Make your way through the side streets to the main drag of Vesterbrogade and tucked away through an arch you’ll find Lidkoeb, in an old restored townhouse. Up the stairs we sat in the wooden booths draped with shaggy sheepskins and sipped our summertime cocktails. Apparently the Danes love anything with ginger but I tried the Kolonihaven, fragrent of summer, made from geranium gin, cloudy apple and cucumber juice.
On the top floor is the cool whisky bar, serving only the finest whiskies and whisky cocktails. It’s a cross between a student attic and a gentleman’s club with old leather chairs, cut glass decanters and flickering candle-light. Lidkoeb website | Address: Vesterbrogade 72B
Hot dogs at Urban House
If you fancy something more gritty, to relive your student days, head across the road to Urban House Hostel where their bar serves gourmet hot dogs smothered in various delicious toppings. Choose from Classy Sassy, Grill’n’Chill or the veggie Green Spleen Dog, for an evening snack they’re a snip at 35 DKK. Urban House Website | Address: Colbjørnsensgade 5-11
Fun time at Tivoli
Tivoli is a must-see pillar of the Copenhagen scene; part amusement park, part landscape gardens, with restaurant quarter and entertainment venues packed in. During the day it’s great for families who’ll enjoy the rowing boats on the lake, old fashioned carousels and ballet in the open air pantomime theatre. As the evening wears on, the Chinese lanterns glow and the screams from The Demon roller coaster get ever louder as the teenagers and after-work crowd arrive for thrills and dinner.
There’s something for all ages to enjoy and the park maintains a quality, Danish feel that manages to stay charming rather than tacky. Tivoli Gardens are open April-end September and also at Halloween and Christmas. Entrance 99 DKK, Multiride ticket 209 DKK with other packages available. Tivoli Website | Address: Vesterbrogade 3
New Nordic cuisine at UFormel
For a sophisticated but informal dining experience our new find on this visit was uFormel, the cool younger brother to Michelin star Formul B. The restaurant menu offers small plates, with the idea that you order around four dishes, which are served in a succession of different courses. This is the place for adventurous palates and between us we tried scallops, ceviche, beef tartar, lamb and numerous and varied taste combinations. The decor is dark, the ambiance lively and loud (I found it difficult at times to hear any conversation) but the dishes priced at 100 DKK are well priced for the standard of cuisine. If you really want a blow out you could try 750DKK menu with wine pairings but I think it would have been too much. Read the review of uFormal from Alex Berger who joined us for dinner and took all the tasting notes for me. uFormel website | Address: Studiestræde 69
Culture fix at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Just a 10 minute walk from the Absalon Hotel and opposite Tivoli is the delightful Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This museum houses the art and sculpture collection of the 19th century brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen and is full of classical Greek and Roman sculpures as well as turn of the century marble figures by Danish sculptors.
We also enjoyed the impressionist galleries upstairs, packed with Gauguins, Van Goghs and Cezannes and the petite bronze by Degas of the Little Ballerina which my daughter loved. The winter garden with glass roof and tropical foliage has an elegant cafe where you’ll be tempted to stop for a coffee or light lunch. It’s free on Tuesday, otherwise 95 DKK. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek website | Address: Dantes Plads 7
Heather and Sophie-Anne flew with Scandinavian Airlines from London Heathrow to Copenhagen. SAS fly several times a day to and from London to Copenhagen giving you a choice of times to make the most of your time in Copenhagen. On arrival take the train or metro direct to the centre of Copenhagen.
Heather and Sophie-Anne used the Copenhagen Card which covers free public transport around Copenhagen as well as free or reduced price entry to many of the attractions in and around Copenhagen.
More things to do in Copenhagen
Light, Air, Water – finding a healthy holiday in Copenhagen – healthy tips for rest and relaxation on your spa break by the sea in Copenhagen
How to make New Nordic Cocktails in Copenhagen – cocktails to try that use authentic Danish flavours such as cherry wine.
Like Mother Like Daughter – What we loved on our trip to Copenhagen – My daughter, Sophie-Anne suggests some things to do in Copenhagen that mothers and daughters will both enjoy.
Thanks to Absalon Hotel for hosting our stay at the hotel, to Wonderful Copenhagen and Visit Denmark for providing some of the experiences mentioned and to Scandinavian Airlines for providing Heather’s flight to Copenhagen.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey