SP34 Copenhagen

I have been meaning to write about SP34 for some months. I actually stayed at the hotel in Sankt Peders Stræde at number 34 (hence the name) at the beginning of the summer. It was an odd and slightly stressful visit to Copenhagen but certainly not the fault of the hotel - in fact just the opposite. The hotel provided the quiet well-organised calm I needed.

An apartment in Copenhagen that I had seen advertised on the internet seemed ideal for what I wanted and the owner’s agent sounded very positive in the exchange of emails so I said I would book a flight and a hotel for that evening or the next day at the latest to view the place and, hopefully sign a lease. I would confirm arrangements, I typed breezily, within a couple of hours. The guess was that hotels would be no problem but flights might be more difficult. In fact it was completely the opposite way round. I could have got on virtually any flight I wanted out of London. Hotels were a completely different situation. I started with the on-line sites of a couple of hotels where I had stayed before but they were fully booked. That was at lunchtime. By 2.30 in the early hours of the morning I gave up the search. I tried all the chains, all the online sites of hotels I had vaguely heard about and ones I had never heard mentioned by anyone … ever. I even widened the search to Malmo and Lund and Roskilde without luck. Not long after midnight I had a message come up on one site that told me that of 697 hotels in the Copenhagen Region, only seven had a bed available for one night between then, late Monday night - early Tuesday morning and the following Saturday and none had two nights together. One of those beds was in a caravan 20 kilometres from Copenhagen and another was the last bed available in a dormitory with six beds. I began to feel paranoid … either there was something on in Copenhagen I didn’t know about - this was 10 days after the Eurovision Song Contest, so there was no obvious reason - or someone had somehow got at my computer and was playing some weird joke … I had been infected by the Copenhagen is full virus.

I had to admit defeat. Contacted the agent for the apartment first thing the next morning and explained I couldn’t get there until the coming weekend.

At some stage during the exchange of emails he suggested I try The Fox Hotel. Although I was desperate I still thought it sensible to check it out before booking. It didn’t sound my sort of place but, as I say, I was desperate. A review from the New York Times described the hotel as “a dazzling though not always comfortable array of fantasy lands” and the Guardian described it as “61 rooms in varying degrees of kitsch, camp and cool.” Not really sure what to make of that but they were fully booked, like everywhere else, so I had no chance to find out but I did notice that I was redirected to a new web site which said that the hotel had just been refitted and the pictures certainly didn’t fit with the descriptions.

With the trip moved on a few days I went back to the site and found the Fox was now actually the SP34 and part of the small Brøchner chain that also includes the Danmark and the Astoria - all in the same area of the city. I had some qualms about the position of SP34, close to the City Hall, just a block back from the traffic on H C Andersens Boulevard and not far from the west end of Strøget, the walking street, and its crowds ... so lively and central when I wanted quiet and calm … but I went ahead and booked.

The location in fact is really good. The main entrance has been moved from the west end to the centre of the long street frontage which makes it much more part of this “up and coming” area just north and west of the cathedral and the central university buildings and now called by some the Latin Quarter. There are good local shops and heading into the centre along Sankt Peders Stræde is much more interesting and much faster than negotiating the crowds on Strøget which for most tourists now seems to translate as the ambling and drifting street. Fine if you are soaking up the atmosphere but more like trying to get to the touch line on a rugby field if you are actually trying to get somewhere fast.

The hotel has two restaurants … one a sort of tapas and fish bar with tables spilling onto the street - a good place to watch the neighbourhood go by - and the other serving good burgers with the two linked by a long well-lit sitting area with high ceilings and a small but friendly and sophisticated bar and the main check-in desk. There is also a terrace bar up stairs on the courtyard side and a basement restaurant where the amazingly good breakfasts are served.

Furnishings are calm in classic Danish style, so with Ole Wanscher chairs in the meeting room/library and the latest CH88 chairs from Carl Hansen in the lobby but with some interesting twists of design so a very stylish bike from a shop just along the street was suspended on the back wall like a piece of modern sculpture - which it is. Some fittings like the curved wooden bed heads in the rooms seem to be custom made and lighting, bathroom fittings and, even if it sounds like an odd thing to notice, the curtain rails are of a very high quality. Ok ok but this is a design blog and I’m supposed to notice these things.

My guess is that someone made a clear and clever decision to go with things that would wear in gracefully.

Of course the first thing I asked when I booked in was why Copenhagen had been full. They had no real idea either but confessed that it had been a horrendous week with every five minutes or so desperate looking visitors staggering in with suitcases pleading for rooms, having come to Copenhagen on the assumption that, in the first weeks of the summer, it is always possible to just turn up and find something. That week it wasn’t. 

As for the apartment … to my great relief the agent kept it vacant until I had seen it a week later than planned. We actually went through the lease and signed and sealed everything sitting in the library at SP34. And yes, I’m sitting at my desk in the apartment right now typing this.