The Danish capital is one of Europe’s oldest cities and is regarded time and time again as the edgiest and most stylish city in Scandinavia. The royal city is a captivating mix of fairy-tale charm, midcentury design, and revolutionary cuisine. This industrial-chic city has so much to offer – from things to do, places to see, world-renowned restaurants and more. Check out the ultimate guide to Copenhagen to find out some of the highlights this great city has to offer.
The Lay of the land
Like most other modern cities, Copenhagen is divided into many smaller districts or neighbourhoods. Each neighbourhood offers a completely different style and atmosphere. Here are just some of the most popular areas and what they have to offer.
Indre By is the heart of Copenhagen and hosts most of the city’s top tourist attractions. Winding narrow streets and buildings give this downtown area a medieval theme. Christianshavn is located on a manmade island to the east of the city. Cobblestone streets give this area a really charming vibe. Overgaden Neden Vandet and Overgaden oven Vandet are two lanes either side of the canal which is lined by yachts and cosy little houseboats. In the summer you can rent row boats on the canal.
Østerbro and Nørrebro are the north and north-west districts of the city. These parts of the city are vibrant, colourful and trendy and are generally seen as the most diverse parts of town. Frederiksberg is the fashionable end of town and generally hosts an older, more established generation of tenants. Finally, there’s the hipster neighbourhood of Vesterbro. Home of the red light district and former working-class area this part of town is one of the most fashionable places to live and see in Copenhagen.
The cheapest way to get around Copenhagen is to walk. The city is extremely flat so exploring on foot is quite straightforward. If you’re not willing to walk there are metro, train, bus and taxi services as well. However, the best way to get around Copenhagen is by bicycle. The city’s design and layout make it incredibly bike-friendly and almost all of the locals use bicycles as their main mode of transport. There are several companies across the city that let you rent bikes for the day or longer if needed. If you’re tired of cycling you can even bring your bike onboard public transport.
Purchasing a Copenhagen Card is the best value for money. It gives you unlimited use of all public transport (including to/from the airport). On top of this, the card gives you free access to over 72 attractions and museums as well as discounts for various restaurants, rentals, and tours.
A city pass card is another option. This pass gives you unlimited use of public transport within designated zones of the city (including the airport). You can buy a pass for 24 hours or 72 hours and each pass allows two children under the age of 12 to travel for free as well.
Where to stay
Whether you’re planning on having a lavish and luxurious stay or visiting on a budget, Copenhagen has a wide range of hotels and hostels on offer, all located across the various districts of the city.
For those wishing to experience the finer side of things then Hotel D’Angleterre or Hotel Nimb are your best choices. Hotel D’Angleterre is famous amongst the locals, celebrated for its luxury, elegance and style while Hotel Nimb offers some of the finest gastronomy around in the picturesque setting of the Tivoli Gardens.
Those visiting Copenhagen for business should look to the professional and boutique hotels like Tivoli Hotel, Imperial Hotel Copenhagen and the Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. All are located within a short distance of the central station. Tivoli hotel has its own sky bar and indoor swimming pool while the Crowne Plaza offers guests a complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport.
Copenhagen is a notoriously expensive city so for those looking to travel on a budget, there are plenty of options too. Wakeup Copenhagen and CabInn Hotels are two chains of hotels with several locations all across the city. Copenhagen Backpackers is an eco-friendly hostel for those who are conscious of the environment. Urban House and Generator Hostel are two of the most affordable and recommended hotels for those travelling on a budget. Both are located centrally just a few minutes from the Central Station Urban House even has its own rent-a-bike shop and tattoo parlour for those that fancy a unique experience.
Things to see and do
Copenhagen has something for everyone. Whether you want the typical tourist visit or something a little more off the beaten track, the ultimate guide to Copenahgen covers some of the best things to see and do during your visit.
First of all, let’s run through some of the most famous and absolute must-see attractions in the city.
The Little Mermaid is quite possible the most famous statue in Scandinavia. Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale, the bronze statue attracts millions of tourists each year. Tivoli Gardens is very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. The expansive gardens host a range of fauna, architecture, musical spaces and an amusement park complete with traditional and modern roller coasters and rides.
Kronborg Castle is one of the finest examples of Renaissance castle to date and was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Christiansborg Palace is home to the Danish parliament and the vast palace has plenty of grandeur on display. The Great Hall – which displays the Queen’s Tapestries – is particularly impressive as are the underground ruins, the Palace Stables and the Royal Library Gardens.
So you’ve seen the major attractions and now you want to see a more authentic side of Copenhagen. Here are just a few of the lesser-known things to do in the city.
Nyhavn is the perfect setting to end a long day on your feet. Dine alfresco and soak up the atmosphere as jazz musicians fill the air with a lively atmosphere . Stroll along to the of the strand to find quieter picnic areas and for the young-at-heart, there are trampolines set into the pavement.
Freetown Christiania is a green and car-free community within Copenhagen. It was founded in the 1970’s after a group of hippies overtook an abandoned military barracks. Here they developed their own set of societal rules, independent of the Danish government. Assistens Cemetery is the final resting place for many famous Danish names such as Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kierkegaard, Hans Scherfig and Niels Bohr.
The Carlsberg Brewery is a great experience for lovers of the world famous beer. The grounds are full of historic buildings and guided tours bring you around the old brewing grounds and give you a chance to taste some of the types of beer produced today.
Where to eat
Danish food is highly indulgent and servings are usually pretty generous. Breakfast comes as standard in most hotels but make sure you save room for a coffee. Copenhagen has hundreds of beautiful and quirky cafés and bistros to choose from. Kent Kaffe Laboratorium turns the art of coffee making into a science – literally, while café Paludan doubles as a bookstore where you can enjoy your freshly brewed coffee surrounded by bookcases stacked with leather-bound books.
For lunch why not check out Almanak at the Standard for a taste of the traditional Danish open sandwich (smørrebrød) with a twist. Other recommendations include Toldboden at the Waterfront or head over to Paper Island and choose from the many food trucks and stalls. If the weather’s nice grab a beer and lay out in the many lounge chairs available to the public with a view of the magnificent Opera House.
Dinner in Denmark is a big deal and Copenhagen is home to several Michelin star restaurants. Noma was named the best restaurant in the world in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 but reservations are extremely hard to come by. The Meatpacking district houses plenty of new restaurants including WarPigs, Gorilla, NoHO and more. Madklubben is a chain of restaurants that offer a slightly more relaxed atmosphere and are much lighter on the wallet if fine-dining isn’t your thing.
For a truly unique experience; Restaurant Tårnet is located at the top of the tower in Christiansborg Palace. Guest can enjoy traditional Nordic food with a twist whilst enjoying stunning views of Copenhagen.
Danish people are incredibly friendly and almost everyone speaks English. In fact, Danish people are so friendly they don’t have a word for ‘please’ in Danish. The people are so polite it’s inherent that the sentiment of please is implied when you ask for something.
Like many of the other Scandinavian countries, Denmark is incredibly forward thinking when it comes to handling money. Unless you want to buy something from street vendors or markets, you can use your credit card to pay for most things provided you don’t mind paying a little extra for those pesky credit card fees.
The ultimate guide to Copenahgen, of course, doesn’t cover everything that Copenhagen has to offer. It is merely a guide to steer you in the right direction. The experience you want to have in this vibrant city is entirely your own. Make the most of the time you have in Copenhagen and ask the locals for recommendations on anything you’d like to see or explore outside of this guide.