Denmark’s gorgeous capital is green in every sense of the word. Its verdant parks and trees make it aesthetically pleasing all year around, and its dedication to sustainability and eco-innovation has put it on the global map in recent years. Copenhagen has a high quality of life, but be warned – you’ll be paying suitably high prices for the privilege.
That said, Copenhagen is often ranked one of the happiest and least corrupt cities in the world. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s one of the safest European cities, or that the water in Copenhagen Harbour is so clean you can swim in it (literally, there are dedicated swimming spots called Harbour Baths!), or perhaps it’s because Michelin-star restaurants such as Noma (voted the best in the world for the past two years running) are becoming more commonplace in Copenhagen than a McDonald’s in middle America.
Orgasmic food aside, Copenhagen has a wealth of architectural and cultural gems on offer, including Amalienborg Palace, the winter home of the Danish Royal Family. The Danish Royals are almost unreservedly loved by the Danes, and are famously quite down to earth. Prince Frederik married an Australian real estate agent he met in a bar in Sydney, for example, and flew her favourite band (Aussie rockers Powderfinger) to Copenhagen to play at their wedding. Take that, Kate and Wills!
Whether you’re people-watching in the pedestrianised Strøget in the centre of Copenhagen, gasping in awe at the beauty of Rosenborg Castle or joyfully letting loose at the historic Tivoli Gardens Theme Park, you’ll be delighted and inspired by the cheerful, intelligent and courteous locals as they watch you discover something they’ve known for centuries – that Copenhagen is pretty close to perfection.
Copenhagen’s Top 10
10. Round Tower Once an astronomical observatory, now the best viewing point for the city
5. Danish Museum of Art & Design Seeing as Denmark is known for design, this museum is worth seeing.
9. National Museum 14,000 years of Denmark’s cultural history in one place. Score!
4. Tivoli Gardens The second oldest amusement park in the world! There’s a pantomime theatre, roller coasters and plenty of other activities to keep you amused.
8. Copenhagen Opera House One of the most modern in the world (and also one of the most expensive – construction cost over US$500 million).
3. Vor Frelsers Kirke A baroque church known for its corkscrew spire. It also has a staircase on the outside, which you can climb if you’ve got a head for heights.
7. The Museum of the Danish Resistance Records the resistance efforts of Denmark during the dark days of World War II.
2. New Harbor (Nyhavn) This harbour is lined with vibrantly coloured townhouses from the 17th and 18th Century. Definitely with a picture.
6. Rosenborg Castle A Renaissance castle that was originally a country summerhouse built in the Dutch Renaissance style.
1. Little Mermaid This iconic statue sits on a rock in the harbour. The statue is based on the famous Hans Christian Andersen tale (not the Disney movie).
- National Museum - Learn much more about Danish history on a bilingual tour.
- Museum of the Danish Resistance - World War II history you may not have known about.
- Viking Ship Museum - The vikings are only one part of Danish history, but fun to learn about.
- Danish Jewish Museum - The history of the Jews in Denmark.
- Post and Tele Museum - This museum is all about the history of communication in Denmark.
Copenhagen Art & Culture
- Copenhagen Opera House - Excellent performances, and the architecture is fascinating.
- Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek - One of the only art museums that goes back 6,000 years.
- Danish Museum of Art and Design - See examples from many eras of Danish design.
- The David Collection - Features fabulous Islamic art, some from medieval times.
- Christiansborg Palace - Take the guided tour through the magnificent rooms and the ruins.
- A.C. Perch's Thehandel - This is a gem of a teashop where you can buy your tea or take high tea in the tearoom upstairs.
- Galleri Beck-Fischer - A gallery in one of Denmark's historical districts featuring modern artists from Beijing.
- Illum - Danish and Scandinavian design, several floors of furniture, porcelain and even kitchen accessories.
- Fisketorvet Shopping Centre - This is a large mall with many and varied shops and a theatre.
- Somods Bolcher - A candy factory where you can take a factory tour and buy candy at outlet prices
Gay & Lesbian Copenhagen
- Amigo Bar - Karaoke bar and some of the best performances in the city.
- Masken - Really more a pub than a bar, it is a small and intimate space.
- Sebastian Bar & Café - A meeting place to find out about all kinds of events and happenings.
- Pan Club - A big dance club that has a mixed clientele, but everyone seems happy.
- Men's Bar - This is a men-only club and the dress code is rubber and leather.
- New Harbor - Walk through this picturesque neighbourhood or take the canal cruise.
- Tivoli Gardens - Have fun riding the rides in the amusement park and create memories for your children.
- Copenhagen Zoo - Nice enclosures with photo ops of the animals.
- Frilandsmuseet (Open-Air Museum) - Relive how the ancient Scandinavians lived as you walk amongst the traditional houses.
- Botanical Gardens - A magnificent garden featuring 25 acres of native and tropical plants.
- Cheer for the national football team at Parken Stadium.
- Biking is huge in Copenhagen, and don't miss the Six Day Race run every year in pairs.
- Yachts and yacht racing is a popular sport in Copenhagen as it is so close to the sea.
- Gymnastics is second only to football in popularity in Denmark.
- Golfing is available on three different courses, and the Copenhagen Golf Club is just three miles to the north.
Copenhagen LocalIndre By
Translating to ‘the inner city’, Indre By is the historical centre of Copenhagen. In this district you’ll find the Royal residence Amalienborg as well as Charlottenborg Palace, where the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts is now stationed.
Indre By is brimming with restaurants. Make a beeline to The Jewish Museum or the Statens Museum for Kunst (where you’ll find works by Picasso, Rembrandt, and other masters). For more artsy adventures, visit Det Kongelige Teater (The Royal Theatre) where you can enjoy ballet and theatre.
Also in this district is Stroget, the best shopping in Copenhagen and the biggest outdoor pedestrian shopping area in the world. You’re welcome, ladies. Gentlemen, our apologies…
Christianshavn is an artificial island, known for its ‘freetown’, Christiana. The car-free, 24-hour town is semi-legal, which means it is run autonomously by its residents as opposed to the government. Operating as a sort of commune there are ongoing discussions about its future as a self-run town, but at the moment it’s a fine example of that beautiful Scandinavian liberalism.
You’ll also find Christianshavns Bådudlejning of Café (Christianshavn boat rental and cafe) where you can down a coffee on the floating dock or rent a boat to sail the canals of Christianshavn.
Denmark was the first country to legalise pornography in 1967 (love those Scandos), and in Vasterbro you’ll still find clusters of sex shops. Istedgade used to be the red-light district, and while it still pays the odd homage to the old days in the form of an adult toy store, it’s better known these days for its fashion boutiques. You’ll find innovative local brands and independent labels here.
Besides the shopping, the main attraction is the Old Carlsberg Brewery (the functioning brewery has since moved). Here you can feast your eyes on the largest collection of bottled beers in the world, and the entry fee will also get you two beers to keep you occupied on the tour.
The Danes have a long history of eating at home, and it’s only in recent decades that Copenhagen has really come into its own on the culinary scene. That said, when the people of Copenhagen decided to start dining out, they certainly did it in style – the city currently has 13 Michelin-star restaurants. Eat now, and regret the calories later.
Formel B. The Danish and French-influenced menu at Formel B. is fixated on fresh ingredients (the chefs even have their own farm!), and changes every fortnight.
Geranium serves gourmet Scandinavian fare. The dishes are impeccable and precise. Near Kongens Nytorv & Nyhavn.
Era Ora: An Italian restaurant in Denmark? Yeah, well it’s the best one in the country, so eat up!
NOMA Tuck into some Nordic food and swoon. The menu features a wide selection of seafood, but if you can, go for the degustation and enjoy.
Godt: Only seats 20 people at a time, so it’s intimate to say the least. The international menu is influenced by daily market produce.
Kong Hans Kaelder interweaves French, Danish and Asian cuisines. Wine and dine where King Hans used to, and you’ll feel all royal in no time.
MR: Named after chef Mads Reflund’s initials, the modern Continental set menus are faultless.
Pierre Andre Delicious classic French food, which is innovative and flavourful.
St. Gertrud’s Kloster: You get outstanding international fare at this eatery. What you don’t get is electricity! Only, oh, about 1500 candles.
The Paul is a Michelin-starred restaurant, where some kind of important people like Bill Clinton have dined.
In February, Copenhagen transforms into fashion central for two weeks. Copenhagen Fashion Week attracts more than 1000 exhibitors – and quite a few exhibitionists – every year.
In mid-April, a new festival, CPH:PIX (Copenhagen International Film Festival) presents 170 film screenings.
CPH Distortion is the craziest party you’ll find. Spanning five days, over 60 parties are held in the city’s districts, streets and clubs.
In July, the sounds of smooth jazz echo around Copenhagen with the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.
In August, Copenhagen hosts the largest clubbing event in Scandinavia, RAW.
Strom is another August music event. A yearly electronic music festival, the festivities can be found at squares and concert halls, but also unusual locations.
Copenhagen Pride takes place every August. There are also numerous events and parties leading up to the vibrant parade.
Night of Culture (Kulturnatten) in mid-October celebrates Copenhagen’s culture. A badge for 70 Kr will give you access to major museums, exhibitions, churches, libraries and other cultural attractions.
For 10 days in October, the MIX Copenhagen – LGBT Film Festival puts on over 130 screenings of the world’s leading gay or queer films in a quest to find the best.
When To Go
Summer is the best time to visit Copenhagen, not only for its weather, but also for its many events.
Spring temperatures can unfortunately drop below zero occasionally, but usually it’s a lot milder during the blooming season!
Copenhagen’s summer is a pleasant 11-22°C (52-72°F) and the days are very long.
Copenhageners like to stay indoors during autumn and winter. The days are cold, short and dark. There is, however, the (slim) chance of a White Christmas, so it could be worth the trip.
Once in Copenhagen you can take your pick from a very comprehensive public transport system. Means of transport include the S-Tog (S-train service), metro, bus, boat (canal tours!), bicycles, and taxis. Beware, though, taxis, like most things in Copenhagen, are expensive.
What To Miss
Avoid Tivoli if you’re on a time-budget. Since it’s such a huge tourist attraction, it also gets really cramped.
Don’t step into the bike lane! Unless you’re on a bike, that is.
The capital and foremost city in Denmark is on a phenomenal streak of late. With accolades that credit the city's design, quality of life and cultural tenor, Copenhagen has become a bona fide world city.
The flood of good publicity comes in the wake of the completion of the impressive Oresund Bridge in the year 2000. The link between Copenhagen and Malmö, Sweden has been a boon to the economy of the region.
With a metro population of over 2.8 million people and official foundation in 1167, Copenhagen is one of the most important historical capitals in Europe. Status as a foremost design city, with scores of major development projects in the works, cements Copenhagen's appeal with tourists from around the world.
The winter home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg Palace is a fabulous archetype of the Rococo style. The dramatic four palace complex features an octagonal courtyard and lavish gardens.
Freetown Christiana is a semi-autonomous enclave of Copenhagen popular with bohemians, cannabis-lovers and backpackers. Although the original counterculture ethos has been somewhat lost, the area still retains a certain curious charm.
Kastellet is a former pentagram military fortification that today serves as a popular city park, recreation area and heritage site. Another attractive green space is Frederiksberg Park. Home to the Copenhagen Zoo, the Baroque and Romantic era park is one of the pre-eminent pulse points of the city.
A Dutch Renaissance exemplar built in 1606 as a royal summer house, Rosenborg Castle contains some of the most priceless artefacts in Denmark, from the crown of King Christian IV to the crown jewels of the royal family.
As a pedestrian commercial zone, the Strøget, in the center of Copenhagen, is without rival. A popular tourist spot, stores in the car-free sector of the city vary from posh international labels to souvenir shops.
In close proximity to the Strøget, Tivoli Gardens is a world famous amusement park whose present survival is somewhat of a miracle. Built in 1842 as a recreation area for the people, many of the park's original rides and landmarks endure.
As a capital of culture, Copenhagen has a lot to offer inquisitive visitors. The avant-garde and ultra-modern Opera House is home to wonderful performances throughout the year.
The National Gallery of Denmark, Arken Museum of Modern Art and National Museum provide tourists with three world class institutions, with a plethora of special events and exhibits.
The film festival scene in Copenhagen is one of the most eclectic in Europe. From the International Film Festival in September to CPH: DOX, a tribute to documentary films held in November, the city is a proven haven for cinematic buffs.
As a notable city for jazz, the annual Copenhagen Jazz Festival in July is a popular stop for international performers.With no less than 11 Michelin-star restaurants, Copenhagen has fast become a major culinary city. Copenhagen Cooking is a Nordic food and drink festival held in August and September in various restaurants, public spaces and Tivoli Gardens.
Copenhagen is generally mild throughout the year, with four seasons. Precipitation is spread out across the months and snowfall is sparse.
- Winter (November to February) -3-7°C
- Spring (March to May) -1-16°C
- Summer (June to August) 11-22°C
- Fall (September to October) 7-18°C
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