Copenhagen: Free Ice cream Day!

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Queuing round the block in Hellerup, Copenhagen

Did you queue? Because if you did, you must have met most of Copenhagen outside the ice cream shop today.

The Danish ice cream chain, Paradis, opened for business this weekend. And to mark the end of winter – yes I know it’s still February – it was giving its ices away for free. What a brilliant brand campaign.

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If you’ve spent any time in Denmark you’ll know just how much Danes love their ice cream. And having tasted what’s on offer here, I have to say I’m with them. Any flavour you want, including of course, liquorice, you can have.

So even though Danes HATE queuing, they’ll do it for ice cream, from now until the end of the summer. They won’t be free, but if you haven’t yet tried one, you must!

Copenhagen unites after terror attacks

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Thousands attend Copenhagen memorial

I’ve just returned from a very moving public memorial to those killed and injured in the terror attacks in Copenhagen at the weekend. Thousands of people gathered in Østerbro near the Krudttonden cafe, where the first shooting took place, to hear speeches and music. Despite the crowds this was typically Danish – calm, respectful, united.

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Flowers laid near the seen of the first shooting

Among the speakers was Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. She spoke mostly in Danish but also offered her thanks in both English and French to those supporting Denmark in its time of need. “We feel we are not alone,” she said to big cheers. Also on stage was the French ambassador to Denmark, François Zimeray, who was caught up in the first attack. He talked about this being a ‘before and after’ life event and thanked the Danish police, acknowledging that without them “I wouldn’t be standing here”.

And everywhere I looked you couldn’t fail to see the increased police presence. Of course, that’s what you’d expect in a city that’s been under attack. But having lived in Copenhagen for almost two years, it’s not what I’m used to. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen a police officer, yet alone one armed. In this capital, everything seems safe: young children cycle alone to school; parents leave sleeping babies in prams outside restaurants; children still play on the streets.

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Some of the crowd

There is a danger that this freedom and openness will now be lost. The country has a lot to deal with, not least the very public debate it’s been having for some time about immigration and integration. Tonight I felt hope that Denmark will do all it can to stay united. But with an election later this year, I just hope that won’t be exploited.

Denmark: Why this small country thinks big when it comes to children’s creativity

Charlie working hard on his collage

Charlie working hard on his collage

Denmark ‘gets’ children – and I don’t just mean childcare. Go to any museum or art gallery in this Scandinavian country and it’s geared up for kids. From exhibitions to children’s activities, little people matter here and it’s a joy to watch.

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This weekend, my husband, son and I visited Statens Museum for Kunst, the National Gallery of Denmark here in Copenhagen. It’s free to get in and is currently showing an exhibition which focuses on what home means to children. It includes a large instillation made up of packing boxes, behind which you find a video wall showing various moving images like bubbles.

Charlie's piece on the children's collage

Charlie’s piece on the children’s collage

But even before you get to this part, the gallery screams welcome. High ceilings, lots of space, no clutter. Charlie, aged 4, loves sitting in a caravan that’s on display (with a title that isn’t quite so child friendly: F**k the Danish Police). On Sunday he climbed down the marble steps and at the bottom found an open art class. We were given glue, hand painted paper and scissors and as the theme was collage, we were encouraged to give it a go. It’s creativity at its best and he loves it (as do we).

Charlie enjoying the home exhibition

Charlie enjoying the home exhibition

There’s also a children’s art centre here and on a previous occasion we paid a small fee to make a robot out of foam and wire and get covered in paint. Oh, and the food in the restaurant is delicious for all the family.

Charlie at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Charlie at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Travel north of Copenhagen and you come to one of my most favourite museums in the world – Louisiana. Adults have to pay an entrance fee but this museum of modern art is designed with family in mind. The art exhibitions are always a must, the restaurant serves great food and the area outside is perfect for a picnic, walk or hill rolling. As for the views, they’re simply spectacular.

Painting eggs at Louisiana

Painting eggs at Louisiana

But it’s the children’s wing at Louisiana that has encouraged us to buy annual membership. As soon as we walk in, Charlie is off to find the area that’s designed especially for him. Whether it’s sculpting from clay, painting, or playing with yellow lego bricks, this centre, spread over three floors, is a child’s paradise.

Lego at Louisiana

Lego at Louisiana

It’s not just here though. Take the Post & Tele Museum in the centre of Copenhagen. I love this place, and not only because it’s free! The exhibitions themselves are both fascinating for adults and interactive for children. My favourite part, however, is the area where you can design your own stamps and then take a sheet of them home – at no cost at all. Best of all there’s a play zone with four big slides for kids to enjoy. For those children who prefer a quieter atmosphere, the museum has built a little cardboard village in the same area, complete with shops and of course a post office. And as you’d expect there’s a wonderful restaurant located at the top of the building, complete with views of Copenhagen’s dreaming spires. So thank you Denmark for making it so easy for families to be creative. Other countries could learn a lot – I hope they will.