Colorado’s capital Denver is located on the Prairie rim – a plain at the lofty altitude of 1,600 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by high mountains and therefore offers a really charming panorama of this enormous mountain range. Therefore Denver is also the ideal springboard for the Rocky Mountains. But the city also has a lot to offer guests – in addition to the steel and glass skyscrapers, there are also remains from that era, as Denver was a gold digger camp.
Denver has a long, interesting history. During the Great Gold Rush in 1858, there was a camp for thousands of hopeful gold prospectors. Towards the end of the century, Denver was one of the most elegant cities within a radius of almost 1,000 kilometers. Today it is not only the gateway to the snow-covered ski regions but also one of America’s most charming and vibrant cities, whose charm lies in the mixture of impressive nature and refined art.
Denver is the capital of the US state of Colorado and lies at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains at an altitude of 1,600 m above sea level. A spotlight aimed at the 13th step of the Capitol marks this point. Denver is therefore also called the “Mile High City”. The city covers an area of 400 km².
The city center of Denver is home to about 600,000 people, but in the entire metropolitan region, there are more than 2.5 million, which is about half the population of Colorado.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is located 43 km northeast of Denver. Non-stop flights from Frankfurt, London, and Reykjavik connect the city with Europe. Many US carriers also offer connections from several European cities with a change on the east coast.
One of the biggest surprises for Denver visitors is the climate: very low rainfall (between 300 and 400 mm per year) and more than 300 sunny days per year (that’s more sunshine hours per year than in Miami or San Diego) make the city a ‘fair-weather paradise’ with extremely frequent blue skies.
Winters are cold, dry and often sunny. At night the temperatures often drop to -10 ° C, at noon they usually reach above freezing point 0 C. Cold air infiltrations from the north, bringing temperatures as low as -20 °C and heavy snowfalls, occur sporadically. Snow rarely stays in Denver for long.
In summer Denver enjoys a low relative humidity, which makes for beautiful, sunny days and cool evenings. The average daytime temperatures in August are 30° C. After sunset it gets cool quite fast and the temperatures drop to 10 to 15 degrees. The mild weather is partly due to the altitude of the city. Only in the afternoon, there can be short thunderstorms, but most of them are over quickly.
Sights in Denver
The colorful center of the city is LoDo (Lower Downtown). This district has the highest density of Victorian buildings in the country. Today there are quaint shops and well over 100 pubs, cafés, restaurants, and nightclubs. The baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, play on the Coors Field in the heart of LoDo, surrounded by classic red brick buildings. The 16th Street Mall, the city’s pedestrian precinct, is served by a free shuttle bus that runs past towering skyscrapers and elegant historic buildings. An excellent impression of Denver’s typical mixture of new and old can be gained from the facilities of the Capitol. Also worth seeing is the surroundings of the Civic Center Park, a garden oasis with statues from the Wild West.
A short walk from LoDo is Denver’s artists’ quarter. The highly interesting new wing of the Denver Art Museum is the most striking and eye-catching building. The outstanding, glass titanium building is also a symbol of the chic new image of the metropolis. This is the first building in the USA designed by Daniel Libeskind. The star architect became known through the Jewish Museum in Berlin and won the competition for the reconstruction of the former World Trade Center in New York. The new wing of the museum is located near the castle-like main building, designed by the Italian modernist Gio Ponti. The rooms house one of the most important and largest collections of Native American art, classics from the West and works by Picasso and Monet. In addition, seasonal exhibitions take place on a regular basis.
Right next door is the Clyfford Still Museum, the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to the works of the famous representative of Abstract Expressionism, who died in 1980. At his request, the museum was built especially for his works of art.
Soon the quarter will also be supplemented by a new building of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, which is currently located in another district of Denver. In addition to the great works of the painter Vance Kirkland, the Kirkland Museum also has a huge collection of artistically significant furnishings from Art Nouveau to Pop Art to Bauhaus to admire. The museum is currently closed and will open in autumn 2017.
Nearby is the majestic Denver Library, designed by British master Michael Graves. Across the street is the modern History Colorado Center. It provides a fascinating and playful insight into the history of mining, cowboys and indigenous people in the state. Children, in particular, can try out, touch and experiment a lot here and thus get to grips with the region in a playful way.
The Black American West Museum is dedicated to the history of colored cowboys. In fact, a third of the cowboys on big cattle drives were colored. Mostly they were slaves who were freed after the civil war. The museum is best reached by tram.
Denver’s tram is one of the most innovative public transport systems in the USA. The route network is currently around 300 km long and connects the city center with the suburbs and also includes the airport. Denver Airport (DEN) is another symbol of the city’s courageous mission statement. In terms of area, it is the second largest in the world and the largest in the USA. The focus is on the dynamic terminal building with its white, tapered tent roofs, which reflect the glowing gold of the mountains into the distance and are reminiscent of Indian tents as well as the peaks of the Rockies.
The Historic Union Station in Lower Downtown was completely renovated and reopened in 2014 to mark its 100th anniversary. Within a very short time, the restaurants, bars, pubs, and cafés now located here developed into the hottest hotspots in Nightlife Denver. A chic boutique hotel, the Crawford Hotel, has also been created within the historic walls of the station. The Union Station is and will remain the transport hub in the heart of Denver. Daily Amtrak trains run from here to Chicago and San Francisco. From the Union Station, you can reach Denver International Airport within 25 minutes by train. The free 16th Street Mall Shuttle also stops right outside Union Station.
With 200 parks and 17 boulevards, Denver is one of the greenest cities in the USA. By the way, some of Denver’s districts are also interesting for tourists – and can now be easily reached by tram. Highlands is a multifaceted district that has become famous for its arts and crafts. The SoCo (South of Colfax) neighborhood has hip pubs, the Santa Fe Arts District has galleries and Mexican restaurants, and the Littleton and Arvada neighborhoods have a nice suburban feel. The hip quarter RiNo (River North), which borders on the city center to the north, is especially trendy at the moment. For a long time, RiNo was a predominantly derelict industrial and warehouse district. Only in recent years has it increasingly become an attraction for young, creative people, who have settled more and more galleries, boutiques, urban restaurant concepts and breweries on the relatively inexpensive properties. They made RiNo one of the hottest spots in Denver.
The nights in Denver are characterized by a rich offer of entertainment possibilities. The Denver Performing Arts Complex, with a capacity of 11,000 seats, is home to both opera and concert venues, a theatre group and symphony orchestra, a stage for Broadway guest performances, and a venue for contemporary dance and ballet performances. Among the theatres is the restored Ellie Caulkins Opera House, one of the nine houses in the world equipped with multilingual translation monitors in the backrests. Rock concerts take place in the Pepsi Center, the Fillmore Auditorium or of course in the magnificent and legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in the mountains above the city.
Denver is one of the few cities home to professional teams from all four major American sports. There are the Colorado Rockies (baseball) on Coors Field, the Denver Broncos Football Team on the massive Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, the ice hockey team Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets (basketball) at Pepsi Center. In addition, the Colorado Rapids professional football team and two lacrosse teams, Colorado Mammoth and Colorado Outlaws, play their home games in Denver.
Every August, Denver’s downtown area also hosts the final stage of the ‘USA Pro Challenge’ professional cycling race, with a colorful supporting programme of performances, rock concerts, and many other attractions. During the summer months, smaller and larger international golf tournaments, such as the Solheim Cup, take place regularly around Denver.
Restaurants and Bars
Denver is a gastronomic paradise, not least because of the historic Larimer Square near the sixteenth street. Places like the Mediterranean-influenced Rioja or the modern Mexican restaurant Tamayo, whose chefs, like many others here, come from New York, are also among the culinary highlights. The master of modern cuisine Kevin Taylor owns excellent restaurants in the Opera House and a charming boutique in the Hotel Teatro. The Buckhorn Exchange with its huge steaks of buffalo and red deer is also worth seeing and offers other culinary delights.
Wynkoop is America’s largest beer pub and offers a range of home-brewed, British beers and typical snacks such as fish and chips. With its trendy pool hall on the first floor, Wynkoop is the pioneer of the LoDo scene and thus also determined the image of the city today. Meanwhile, there are more than 50 smaller breweries around the city center of Denver. In the meantime, more and more excellent distilleries and a good dozen winegrowers have joined them.
What can you do?
You should take a walk along the South Platte River to the Downtown Aquarium – probably the only aquarium with tigers. The nearby outdoor outfitter R.E.I. with its impressive building is also worth a visit. You should also visit America’s only theme park in the city center, the Elitch Gardens. It offers the whole range from roller coasters to water parks. There is also a cycle path next to the river, which is part of Denver’s 1,000-km network of cycle paths. If you don’t want to rent a bike for several days, the B-Cycle bike sharing system is the ideal solution for you.
With over 80 stations, B-Cycle offers a dense network of stations in many corners of Denver, so you can easily reach all relevant quarters. Participation in the program costs USD 8 for 24 hours, the first half hour is free of charge – so the B-Cycles are great to use as a “transfer vehicle”.
You can shop in the designer shops of the elegant Cherry Creek, but also in numerous galleries and boutiques in the colorful districts. There is another architectural highlight in Denver: the Museum of Contemporary History is the work of London architect David Adjaye, who brought a shining symbol to LoDo.