Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

Delegates to Sibos 2005 are enjoying the sights and sounds of one of Europe''s loveliest cities.

Since its founding around the year 1000, Copenhagen has been invaded by the Germans (twice), the Swedes, the Vikings and the British (again, twice). Jump forward one millennia to the year 2005 and the city is again to be overrun, with the foreigners now brandishing business cards and laptops rather than canons and frigates.

The capital of Denmark is playing host to invaders of a different persuasion with the 14th annual Sibos conference hitting Scandinavia's most cosmopolitan city. For four days the population of Copenhagen will swell by roughly 5,500, as Sibos returns to Northern Europe for the first time since SWIFT's yearly gathering rolled into Helsinki in 1998.

The lure of exhibitor freebies, sponsored cocktail parties and pre-planned meetings with renowned figures from the world of banking and finance technology aside, the host city of Copenhagen will unilaterally cater to the few hours of daily down time for any delegate lucky enough to attend.

As far as world landmarks go, no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without visiting the Little Mermaid statue in the waterside suburb of Langelinie. Collectively known as the symbol of Denmark, the icon was cast in response to the global popularity of native Dane Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale. The four-foot half-lady half-fish sculpture was cast by Danish artist Edvard Eriksen in 1913 remains one of the cities main draw cards, and more recently, the attention of petty vandalism.

Outside of the fables of Denmark, fans of history and architecture will find few dull moments in Copenhagen.

Named after the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris, Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens date back to the mid-19th century and remain one of the world's oldest intact amusement parks. Created by Georg Carstensen and approved by King Christian VIII, on the grounds that it distracted citizens from politics, Tivoli Gardens still features eastern architectural influences and several open-aired theatres.

Also in the vicinity of central Copenhagen, delegates can easily spend a few hours strolling the rococo grounds and the primary residence of Denmark's royal family at Amalienborg Palace.

For those with a passion for institutional architecture, the grandiose Christiansborg Castle and houses of parliament can be found on Castle Island and be reached by crossing one of the eight bridges that surround the building.

If you're planning on spending a weekend in the Danish capital, Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerod is the largest renaissance palace in Scandinavia and easily accessed from Copenhagen.

Outside of history and national landmarks, visitors to the Danish capital will have no problem satisfying food, drink and shopping cravings.

The city is also home to the Carlsberg Brewery and a flurry of bars and cafes serving up local delicacies including lox-style salmon and herring. Those after a bit of credit card therapy can whet their appetites at the flagship operations of Georg Jensen and Bang and Olufsen.

Slightly off the beaten track, the inner city suburb of Christiania is worth a look, if only to see how Copenhagen's other half lives. The hippie commune is a former naval base occupying 80 acres of prime waterfront real estate. Officially, it is still owned by Denmark's Ministry of Defense, who routinely threatens to evict residents. To avoid annoying the laid back residents of Christiania, it is recommended that cameras are left in the hotel.

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