Copenhagen, the Danish capital, is a blend of the historic and the contemporary. Home to just over 1.25 million individuals, the metropolis is blessed with a plethora of enticing shops, cosy eateries and swanky nightspots; a cutting-edge art scene; and a pristine town centre, smattered with imposing 17th-century buildings. Copenhagen can trace its origins back to the 10th century, when it started out as a small fishing hamlet. Over the next 300 years it rapidly grew in size thanks to the location, being a convenient staging-post between the country's two most significant cities, the former royal capital of Roskilde, and Lund, which is nowadays in Sweden. Copenhagen is a natural harbour on the shores of the marine life-rich Oresund (the strait that separates Denmark from Sweden), which made it an important trading centre. The ancient heart of the metropolis - where you'll find most of the best restaurants, bars and galleries - is Indre By (Inner City). King Christian IV built most of this area during the Renaissance, which comprised adding various fortifications and architectural projects. Some of the ones that have survived are worth a visit, such as the 42-metre high astronomical observatory Rundetårn, Rosenborg castle and Kastellet fortress - don't miss the daily changing of the guard at noon. Indre By is characterised by a maze of cobbled alleyways and roads full of hip clothes and design stores - check out Bodum for kitchen accessories, Georg Jensen for impressive silver items and Dansk Møbelkunst for iconic furniture. Not to forget that the renowned theme park, Tivoli Gardens, is also in this district. Denmark's chief city grew by radiating outwards, so Indre By is surrounded by a melange of other quaint districts: Christianshavn, Frederiksberg, Nørrebro, Vesterbro and Østerbro. The latter, which is just north of the town centre, is a leafy middle-to-upper class area. Parts of it, such as Nyboder Mindestuer, with its rows of yellow 17th-century cottages, are so chocolate-box pretty that they could be in a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. A short stroll from these small houses, a bronze statue of the titular character from the Danish author's most famous fable, The Little Mermaid, has been erected. Also in this neighbourhood is the magnificent 1787-constructed Trekroner fortress - one of three artificial islands that defended the approach to Copenhagen's harbour. Situated on this stronghold, and several military buildings and a cafe, is a pleasant restaurant. The finest eatery in the metropolis has to be Noma in Indre By. This two Michelin-starred gem imaginatively reinterprets Nordic cuisine. A cool way to explore any country's culture is through the moving image. In the past few years, Denmark's films and directors have caused a stir on the world stage. Who could forget Dogme Productions' Festen and Idioterne, or Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Only God Forgives. To catch a glimpse of such dramatic works, which are part of a monthly programme of English-subtitled classic and cult Danish and international features, pop in to the Cinematheque. Another interesting stop-off is the islet of Slotsholmen. Along with fantastic museums like Dansk Jødisk, Thorvaldsens and Tøjhus, it is home to Det Kongelige Bibliotek. Fascinating exhibits inside this royal library include Out of Africa writer Karen Blixen's journals and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard's manuscripts. In 1443, due to its prosperity, Copenhagen finally became the capital of Denmark. During the next few hundred years, and having to withstand a devastating plague and two serious fires, the city had to repel various attackers. First came the Swedes (1659), followed in the early-19th century by a pair of successful assaults by the British navy. Such acts of aggression meant that Copenhagen added a series of defences - known as Vestvolden today - that made it the most fortified citadel in Europe. However, when the metropolis was invaded by the Nazis in the second world war, this level of protection was done away with, and a "finger plan" was adopted. It's easy to see why this innovative form of urban development is so-called, if you place a hand over a map of the city with your palm as the town centre. Copenhagen has four distinct seasons. In winter, the average temperature is about 1 degree Celsius, and one can expect between seven and eight hours of daylight. The ideal time to visit is from early June to late August, when temperatures over 18 degrees are common. To make the most of such weather, drop by one of the city's two harbour baths: Copencabana on Vesterbro or Havnebadet at Islands Brygge.