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How to celebrate your Eurovision victory (or defeat) in Copenhagen

By Peter Walker for CNN
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • This year's annual Eurovision song contest is being held in Copenhagen
  • The Danish capital is increasingly famed for its nightlife
  • Denmark is celebrating the 25th anniversary of legal same-sex civil partnerships. It was first country to permit them

(CNN) -- Eurovision -- the curious annual song contest that sees a continent united around its televisions for an evening of high-energy songs, spangled costumes and ill-advised drinking games -- is once more upon us.

Founded in 1956, it was intended as a way to bring together once-warring nations through the innocent medium of pop music.

It hasn't necessarily ended the rivalries (the voting-based results system is notoriously territorial), but for the hundreds of millions watching on TV, Eurovision is a well-rehearsed, almost comforting routine.

The annual Eurovision contest sees a continent united for a night of high-energy songs, spangled costumes and ill-advised drinking games. This year's Grand Final takes place in Copenhagen on May 10. The annual Eurovision contest sees a continent united for a night of high-energy songs, spangled costumes and ill-advised drinking games. This year's Grand Final takes place in Copenhagen on May 10.
Bright lights of Eurovision
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Copehnagen for Eurovision winners and losers Copehnagen for Eurovision winners and losers

It's less comforting, however, for the competitors and fans dispatched to an unfamiliar city -- this year's Grand Final will be held May 10 at the B&W Grand Ballroom in Copenhagen -- to uphold or betray national honor with only leotard-clad backing dancers for company.

Copenhagen: 10 Things to know before you go

Help is at hand, though.

Herewith our insiders' guide to maximizing post-Eurovision joy, or minimizing sorrow, in the Danish capital.

Drinking and dancing

Copenhagen is compact for a major capital, with a shade over half a million inhabitants, but it's increasingly famed for nightlife, especially in the Meatpacking District -- just like the similarly scenester-filled area of New York -- near the central station.

Here the nightlife concentration is sufficiently dense to allow disgruntled central European crooners to stumble from bar to club.

For those determined to dance, locals suggest KB18 (Kodboderne 18; +45 33 313 933), or Culture Box (Kronprinsessegade 54; +45 33 325 050).

Slightly closer to the contest's harbor-side venue is the dingy but welcoming Eiffel Bar (Wildersgade 18; + 45 32 577 092) in Christianshavn, a possible home-from-home for this year's face fur-fixated French entry, Twin Twin.

Cycling Copenhagen: Greener than Eurovision.
Cycling Copenhagen: Greener than Eurovision.

The walls are covered in Parisian iconography and the beer is dirt cheap.

The more adventurous could venture to one of the city's most defiantly hip nightclubs, Sunday (Lille Kongensgade 16; +45 53 668 228), which boasts an in-house team of Thai transgender dancers and a mission to -- their words -- "push the borders of wicked indecency."

Eating

Enough about Noma, already.

The seashore-foraging, micro-herb-arranging repeat winner of the best restaurant in the world crown is undeniably astounding.

But the chances of getting a table are roughly the same as Portugal's prospects of ever winning Eurovision (this year's entrant, Suzy, was kicked out in the semi-finals, adding to half a century of failure).

Perhaps off limits too are various offshoots such as Amass, run by a former Noma head chef, or Bror, where the specialty is braised lamb's head with whipped brain and stuffed eyeballs -- which sounds almost as tricky to digest as Latvia's saccharine Eurovision entry.

Danish restaurant Noma named the world's best

A better bet is smorrebrod, the traditional Danish open sandwiches that are escaping their lunchtime roots and entering the world of fine dining.

Smorrebrod and 10 more new American sandwich heroes

Many of the better known outlets tend to be booked up, but you can try Dyrehaven (Sonder Boulevard 72)off Vesterbro in the city center, which doesn't take reservations and attracts a fashionable crowd.

For more basic fare still, there's always Copenhagen's many and famous hot dog stands.

Harry's Place (Nordre Fasanvej 269) is a little ways outside the center, but locals make the trip for both the sausages and the trademark chili sauce, known as krudt -- the Danish word for gunpowder.

Same-sex marriage

Not for everyone, obviously, and arguably a little hard to arrange on a night out.

Nevertheless, this is one of the Eurovision-based attractions promoted by Copenhagen officials.

On the rocks? Seek out the Little Mermaid.
On the rocks? Seek out the Little Mermaid.

Throughout the Eurovision weekend the city is encouraging any couples to tie the knot.

Ceremonies can be held on a specially arranged "wedding boat" cruising the harbor.

The marriages are intended to mark both the 25th anniversary of same-sex civil partnerships in Denmark -- the first country in the world to permit them -- and Eurovision's open-minded reputation.

With its focus on flamboyant acts and tight sequined outfits, the contest has always had a decidedly camp air, a reputation sealed when Dana International, an Israeli transgender woman, won in 1998.

Her mantle has been passed this year to Austria's entrant, Conchita Wurst, the bearded drag alter ego of singer Tom Neuwirth.

Cycling

Something of a Danish cliche, perhaps -- the city has one of the highest rates of bike use in the world -- but stick with us, because Eurovision 2014 needs all the environmental help it can get.

Most bike-friendly cities in the United States

This year's event had proudly branded itself the greenest contest ever -- until newspapers discovered electricity for the venue itself is being provided by 26 very large, very smelly diesel generators.

Contestants can pedal serenely away from the fumes, and the humiliation of being beaten by Malta's Mumford and Sons-lite entry, Firelight, on Copenhagen's famous network of segregated bike lanes.

Organizers are laying on fleets of bikes for Eurovision use, and the city is littered with rental shops. (Rent A Bike Copenhagen, Adelgade 11; +45 32 12 50 50 and Gasværksvej 5;+45 50 32 11 00).

For those feeling particularly homesick -- or humiliated -- the city's airport, only about six miles from the center, is connected by yet more of those ubiquitous bike lanes.

The Little Mermaid

While arguably the most iconic symbol of Copenhagen, the bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen's famous fairy tale character is underwhelming in real life, standing little more than a meter tall.

Five places to find mermaids

Her harbor-side location, however, is restful -- the perfect place to sit and contemplate what might have been had the seams on the lead dancer's costume held together a little longer.

It's a place to consider also that even if Copenhagen's attractions aren't enough, things could have been much, much more sedate.

The capital won its bid to host the event against a series of notably smaller Danish locations.

Among them was Herning, a city on Denmark's Jutland peninsula whose tourist information board lists "libraries" as among the chief attractions.

Peter Walker is a journalist based in the UK. He spent some of his formative years in Denmark.

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