Villa Copenhagen: a love letter to design

By Gabriel Power | 01 Dec 2021 | Travel, Design

Housed in the resplendent former Copenhagen Post Office building, Villa takes luxury accommodation to new heights

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In the pantheon of municipal buildings found in any typical conurbation, which - if any - are the most romantic? Is it the mayor’s office, with its mysterious, emotionally austere political machinations? Or is it perhaps the local library, awash with a dusty, oppressive silence? In a far-reaching quest to answer this question to which nobody has ever demanded an answer, one hotel in the Danish capital of Copenhagen might have served up a solution anyway; the humble post office. Now hear me out, as I’m aware that the mental image of sorting offices, fatigued postal workers scampering about, and the mere idea of having to mail a letter in general in this day and age, doesn’t exactly scream luxury to most people. But that’s simply because they haven’t laid eyes on the former Copenhagen Central Post Building, or the astonishing hotel that now occupies it; Villa Copenhagen.

The renovation of the Copenhagen Central Post Building into Villa Copenhagen is a project that has already proven to be well worth the gargantuan time and effort it took to complete. Not only has the overhaul given rise to a world-class five star hotel in its own right, but has also rightfully given the old building a new lease of life, and about time too for it is - joking aside - an absolutely stunning work of architecture. Finished in 1912, it is a prime example of Baroque Revival, its facade dotted with gorgeous ornate embellishments framing three tasteful archways which now serve as the hotel’s entrance, while atop the building’s mansard roof sits a domineering bell tower for an added historic flourish. 

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This is all praise one could heap on it merely from viewing it at street level, let alone exploring its interior, which is another masterwork entirely. And, sitting on the corner of Tietgensgade and Bernstorffsgade, directly across the road from Copenhagen Central Station, its new lick of paint allows it to serve as a striking and spectacular welcome to those arriving in the Danish capital by train, not to mention how much of a serene contrast it is to the joyous yet raucous chaos of the adjacent Tivoli theme park. Thus, spotting the overwhelming potential of the building in the years running up to PostNord’s vacation of it after a century-long residency, Nordic Choice Hotels and its CEO, Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen, jumped at the opportunity to buy the site and reshape it in their own image. 

And so, in 2020, Villa Copenhagen was unleashed upon the world, featuring a remarkable 390 rooms and suites, a heated rooftop pool, gargantuan events space and a lobby that is no doubt the envy of every hotel designer from here to Fiji. And it’s this lobby space that one first lays eyes on when entering the hotel. Once serving as a quaint courtyard, the area is now defined by an explosion of design features; a sort of maximalist yet utterly seamless smashing together of modernist and neo-Baroque sensibilities. The courtyard is no longer open-air and is instead covered from wall to wall with an undulating, tesselating glass canopy, allowing copious amounts of natural light to bathe the patrons in the lobby, be they awaiting check-in from the welcoming staff or sipping on a cocktail from the Courtyard Bar in the corner of the room. 

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Mouths agape and necks craned upwards, my family and I stumbled toward the check-in desk where I was handed a rather fetching wooden key card for our room, a Family Room designed to host my partner and I along with our two sons, aged 8 and 1. As is perhaps predictable with a hotel this size, the walk from the lift to our room was rather lengthy but nothing we couldn’t handle. Notable, however, was the stylistic shift from the communal area downstairs to the living quarters up here.

The hallways, like our rooms, were flooded with soothing, muted tones of slate, smoke and blue-greys dominating the interiors; having had our senses maxed out by the lobby, our room was a welcome, though stark, change of pace. A herringbone-patterned grey floor sat below what was essentially a spacious, high-ceilinged cube of a room adorned with tasteful artwork, white walls and a gigantic TV. The bathroom, taking up a corner chunk of the room, was a beautifully tiled wet room of sorts, with shower and sink sat side by side, the latter surrounded by intriguing frosted windows adding to the airy, modernist feel.

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In a nod to these Covid-tinged times, the hotel had introduced an app system for controlling the smart TV in our room using our phones, which prompted us to eschew exploring the city in favour of listening to some bangers on Spotify while getting ready to head up to the rooftop pool for our pre-booked slot. 

Yes, a rooftop pool in Scandinavia seems an odd choice, but Villa Copenhagen has made it work using an ingenious, eco-friendly tactic. Using residual heat and energy from the hotel, the pool water is heated, but don’t dive in expecting jacuzzi or geothermal spa temperatures; the water is merely warmed enough to allow for comfortable respite from the bitter winds of the Danish capital, while also remaining cool enough that swimming lengths doesn’t become a sweaty slog.

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Furthermore, this stunning outdoor area also features a bar, though sitting outside in the Copenhagen air with wet hair and naught but a dressing gown is one activity I was happy to leave for the locals to endure. The pool is also far from the only element of the hotel with a focus on the environment. Another example would be the Earth Suite, designed by Danish architect Eva Harlou, which is bordering on an art space in which sustainable, 100% eco-friendly design is shown off; everything from the walls to the bed is made from renewable materials.

After a brief dip and a bracing dash to get back indoors, we headed to the room to get dressed for dinner at Kontrast, located on the hotel’s ground floor. A charming, cosmopolitan brasserie which describes itself as “embracing and uniting the raw, quirky and more urban Vesterbro with the luxury and exclusivity that characterizes the inner city of Copenhagen”. Its menu is an intriguing mixture of southern Europe and North Africa, with some avant-garde quirks thrown in for flair - and flavour. 

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As my sons chowed down on endless refills of (admittedly very tasty) bread, my partner and I tucked into an array of unique dishes. I started with what was essentially a deconstructed tuna mayo sandwich, consisting of tuna still in the tin from Grøndals, with a side of mayo and chives. My partner, meanwhile, opted for the squid, served with grilled citrus, verbena and lemon balm for an added kick. Her starter was followed by a perfectly cooked entrecote, drizzled in a blanquette sauce, browned butter and brown beech, while I went for what appeared at first to be a classic risotto, served with mushrooms and parmesan, but topped with jalapeños. Sipping at a rich Zinfandel from 11th Hour Cellars as our kids finished off spreading a snowstorm of breadcrumbs across the table and floor, we digested our food before heading up for a deep sleep.

The following morning we ventured down to the aptly named Villa Breakfast, housed in the former sorting room of the old Post & Telegraph Office. Here, we helped ourselves to a mix of hot and cold ingredients, the highlight of which were the pastries and bread products fresh out of the oven from the on-site bakery dubbed RUG. After once again filling up on meat, cheese, eggs and just about any other breakfast item you can imagine, we set out into the wilderness of downtown Copenhagen for another day of exploring, rested and refreshed after our first night, and always looking forward to returning for our second.

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Villa Copenhagen is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts

villacopenhagen.com