Considerate Copenhagen comfort in familiar surroundings
TEXT: LOUISE OLDER STEFFENSEN | PHOTOS © ABSALON HOTEL
In an age of chain hotels and fast travel, many travellers appreciate a calm and warm environment to return to at night. Copenhagen’s Absalon Hotel has been a home away from home for guests since 1938 and in the Nedergaard family for just as long. Over the years, the hotel has expanded from just 11 rooms into two separate boutique hotels, including Andersen Boutique Hotel on the other side of the street, but the family’s commitment to great service, friendly luxury and relaxed comfort remains as strong as ever – at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Absalon Hotel is one of the oldest family-run hotels left in Copenhagen. “I remember the hotel from my own childhood – in fact, I spent the first five years of my life living here with my parents back when my grandparents were in charge,” says Karen Nedergaard, who took over the running of the hotel from her father and uncle in 2002, having been trained in travel and hotel management in Switzerland and London. “I still have weekly meetings with my uncle Mogens, though, who likes to keep a bit of an eye on all of us.” At the moment, Nedergaard’s son works part-time at the hotel as a piccolo, so for the moment at least, four generations of Nedergaards have worked at the hotel.
Just five minutes from Tivoli, Copenhagen’s Central Station, and the cool meat-packing district, the sibling hotels straddle the border between the old, established Copenhagen and the trendy cafés and bars of Vesterbro. The old and the new meet in exciting ways both inside and out: the two hotels are located in lovely, classic late-19th-century Copenhagen buildings, which have been thoroughly modernised. The smaller Andersen Boutique Hotel was opened in 2012 and named in honour of Karen’s grandmother, Erna Andersen. Its interior style is slightly more young and playful, and Andersen features a complimentary Danish wine hour and organic breakfast. Both hotels also offer the unique CONCEPT24 service, whereby guests may keep their room for the full 24 hours regardless of check-in time. Absalon, too, offers up a host of traditional and unusual services, from babysitting to breakfast and bike rental. Room service can be supplied by two neighbouring restaurants.
In 2014, Absalon Hotel closed down for six months in order to make way for an intensive renovation, which looks to have ensured that the hotel will thrive for many more generations to come. The renovation reduced the number of rooms from 189 to 161, making way for a full set of very spacious, inviting en-suites. “It was very important to us that the hotel retain its unique character and the rooms their personality, but at the same time, we needed to move with the times and ensure that we are able to accommodate the requirements of our visitors as they are now – and will be in ten years’ time too,” Nedergaard explains. “For both hotels, we found the perfect partner in Tricia Guild and her Designers Guild expertise with boutique hotels in London. We’ve ended up with a look that is true to the hotel’s history but modern; elegant but characterful; and a beautiful mix of Danish design and something a little different. We’re simply thrilled with the outcome.”
Love and care in every detail
The rooms have been dressed in warm shades of either green, blue or purple, and richly nuanced textures and surfaces make exploring each room a little adventure in itself. “It’s something we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into,” Nedergaard notes. “We’ve made sure that the hotel engages all the senses – we’ve even got specially made scents that aren’t overpowering but provide an extra layer of relaxation and comfort.” The communal areas, including the lobby, breakfast area and backyard, make guests feel equally welcome. “A boutique hotel has to provide more than just a bed to sleep in,” says Nedergaard. “We must provide an experience and an enjoyable, comfortable space to live in when travelling, yes. But boutique hotels are also a space where lots of interesting people from all across the world converge, and we find that most of our guests enjoy interacting with us and meeting each other. So we’ve made sure that we have room and opportunity for that, too.”
Reviews and guest ratings, which average 4.5 stars, almost always mention the friendly and considerate service that Nedergaard and her team provide. “I still love the work that we do and the interesting people I get to meet through the hotels – both those that visit us and the people who work here. We employ a great team of people from across the world, and at the moment, I think we represent about 20 nationalities between us.”
In 2018, the hotels won the first prize for smaller companies in the Best Place to Work Awards, where they also received a special award for being Denmark’s best employer for young people. It seems that happy employees make for happy and attentive staff, and good staff makes for happy customers.