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Amsterdam vs Copenhagen: Which city is right for you?

Both capitals offer super-cycling, cultural pursuits and a healthy dose of the cool factor, but which is better for a post-COVID city break? Let’s head into the great outdoors to find out…

Tulips from just outside Amsterdam (Shutterstock)

Amsterdam

Near the canal in Zaanse Schans; one of the capital’s celebrated canal-spanning bridges (Shutterstock)

Near the canal in Zaanse Schans; one of the capital’s celebrated canal-spanning bridges (Shutterstock)

Population: 813,562

Total area: 219 sq km

Famous for: Canals, ‘coffee’ shops, and its  (unofficial) reputation as the cycling capital of the world.

Copenhagen

Bright harbour-side hub of Nyhavn, Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Bright harbour-side hub of Nyhavn, Copenhagen (Shutterstock)

Population: 583,000

Total area: 88 sq km

Famous for: Its ‘most-liveable city’ status, culinary delights and coastal charm, highlighted by the primary-coloured harbour, Nyhavn.

Amsterdam vs Copenhagen... the city

 

 

 

Amsterdam conjures visions of bicycle-blurred streets cut with canals – and then the red glow of its nightlife. That image doesn’t encapsulate all the capital is, though: historic, independent and multicultural. You’ll find your own piece of it in one of its eclectic, market-lined neighbourhoods.

Its ‘most-liveable city’ status, culinary delights and coastal charm, highlighted by the primary-coloured harbour, Nyhavn.

 

 

 

At compact Copenhagen’s heart is the now- global phenomenon that is hygge. Think cosy cafés and candlelit winters. But the city still has its fun – and its quirks. The 19th century amusement park Tivoli Gardens (left) is the centrepiece, while edgier Freetown Christiania is defiantly un-hygge.

Amsterdam vs Copenhagen... culture

 

 

 

From modern science (NEMO) to quirky cats (De Katten Kabinet), the city’s museums have it all. First head to Museumplein for the Rijksmuseum and its Van Gogh gallery – see Sunflowers, Wheatfield with a Reaper and numerous self portraits (ear still intact). The oft-quiet, free-to-browse Amsterdam City Archives are also a must-visit.

 

 

 

The National Museum does ‘traditional’ grandly, but exploring the contemporary art galleries scattered throughout the city is infinitely more horizon-broadening – and delightfully colourful. Zoom in on the trendy Vesterbro district, where the Galleri Bo Bjerggaard and V1 Gallery both showcase poppy visuals, sculptures and installations.

Amsterdam vs Copenhagen... cycling

 

 

 

Bikes outnumber humans in Amsterdam; cycling lanes sit between all regular roads and pedestrianised paths. You’ll need to keep pace in the inner-city, but for quieter scenery, ride out Amsterdamse Bos forest on the city’s edge. Fitter cyclists can devote a day to the 22km+ bike trail leading to and from the quaint fishing village Volendam.

 

 

 

A 30-min cycle away from the centre on Amager island, Kastrup Sea Baths offers the chance for a dip in the Øresund, with views to Sweden. Kalvebod Faelled – a wildlife-packed meadow – rounds off a trip to this less-visited corner of the city. If you’ve time, drive 1 hr 40 mins south to the trails and chalk cliffs of Møn island, too.

Amsterdam vs Copenhagen... more outdoors

 

 

 

Gloriously green Vondelpark (right) is Amsterdam’s largest city park and sits at the foot of busy Leidseplein, or enjoy a wild swim at Het Twiske or Sloterpark, both reachable by bike. The beaches of the resort town of Zandvoort aan Zee are 25 mins away by train, as is Zuid-Kennemerland NP, home to sand dunes, wild deer and horseriding.

 

 

 

A 30-min cycle away from the centre on Amager island, Kastrup Sea Baths offers the chance for a dip in the Øresund, with views to Sweden. Kalvebod Faelled – a wildlife-packed meadow – rounds off a trip to this less-visited corner of the city. If you’ve time, drive 1 hr 40 mins south to the trails and chalk cliffs of Møn island, too.

Verdict

Cosy Copenhagen’s your choice for city and coastal treats while Amsterdam’s  a classic all-rounder: things to do, nightlife and the great outdoors. Both cities offer cycling nirvana and are handling COVID as well as can be expected, so the choice remains yours…

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