The Royal, designed from the ground up by the legendary Danish architect Arne Jacobsen, is quite possibly the world’s first designer hotel. Jacobsen was responsible for every detail, from the custom furniture (his famous Egg and Swan chairs were both designed with this project in mind) to the building’s bold high-rise profile, inspired by the glass face of New York’s seminal Lever House.
The hotel has since undergone a complete renovation, and though the swan and egg chairs still hold court in the lobby, the rest of the interiors are not exactly in museum condition. Except, that is, for room 606; this room remains untouched, just as Jacobsen designed it, a little shrine to the spirit of ’60, the heyday of modernist Scandinavian design, and the year the Royal, Copenhagen’s first skyscraper, was completed.
Those of you who are not here on a design history pilgrimage may be disappointed by unmistakable clues of the hotel's age — even Hotel d'Angleterre (by many years its elder) is aging more gracefully. However, the bones are god and furnishings have remained as contemporary as can be, with the kind of Danish design that will likely be studied in 40 more years (perhaps they will preserve it in room 707). The glass skyscraper exterior may look less than hospitable from outside, but inside it affords the rooms a generous measure of natural light, as the windows stretch from wall to wall, even wrapping around corner rooms.
The suites are on the twentieth floor, and all feature spectacular panoramic views of Copenhagen. Alberto K, the restaurant offering Danish specialities based on the seasons, is on this topmost floor as well, with the same striking view. Downstairs, Café Royal offers informal dining amidst Arne Jacobsen furniture, and the Royal Bar is a relatively old fashioned hotel lounge. No girls dancing in glass boxes or rooms made of ice; just a comfortable, subdued environment, complete with piano bar on weeknights.
Fitness facilities are nearly comprehensive, though there is no pool, and the conference rooms are the model of Scandinavian efficiency, with high-speed internet throughout, and a meeting consultant available to advise in all aspects of planning and logistics. The Royal is, functionally, the archetypal modern business/luxury hotel; but aesthetically it is the equal of any high-design boutique, perhaps owing to the era in which it was conceived, an era when design was intended to improve life for the masses, not just to provide a backdrop for a fashionable bohemian lifestyle. Thus it is refreshingly accessible, free from the pretentiousness that one must normally suffer as the price of admission to such a remarkable hotel space. If you are a design addict or a student of architecture, there will be plenty to interest you in Copenhagen, and the Royal is a must-see.