Copenhagen is the essence of Scandi cool and hipster with its progressive politics, neo-bohemian neighborhoods, avant-garde design, bicycle culture, and funky street art. It is also an exceedingly beautiful city blessed with picturesque cobbled streets, meandering canals, world-class museums, regal palaces, and convivial vibe. Having lived there for two years, we both fell in love with the city and all it had to offer. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Copenhagen.
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Table of Contents
How to Get Around Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a very compact city and its flat terrain makes it easily walkable. Walking is certainly the best and most pleasurable way to see Copenhagen. Just be careful not to step on to the bicycle lanes that run along beside the pavements. This is strongly frowned upon as bikes have the right of way here. The normally placid Danes take serious umbrage to that, especially during rush hour.
In order to save some time or save some energy, you can also get around Copenhagen using the city’s efficient public transportation system. This will prove particularly useful in order to get to some of the further lying attractions.
All the major attractions in Copenhagen are easily accessible by public transport, and switching from one form of transport to another is very seamless. The Copenhagen public transport network has an integrated ticket system based on geographical zones. Most of your travel within the city will be within two zones but some attractions may require you to travel three or four zones. For example, travel between the city and the airport covers three zones.
A Copenhagen City Pass gives you the freedom to make unlimited use of public transport. The 24-hour pass costs 80 DKK while the 48-hour pass costs 150 DKK. The City Pass can be purchased at the ticket vending machine at all stations or can be bought online. A more convenient way to buy the City Pass is getting the “DOT Tickets” app.
Single-trip tickets (valid for 90 minutes) can also be purchased when boarding the buses. You can buy single-trip tickets at ticket vending machines or 7-Eleven kiosks at the train and metro stations. Alternatively, you can purchase a Rejsekort (www.rejsekort.dk), a touch-on, touch-off smart card valid for all zones that gives you a 20% discount outside rush hours. You can plan your trip using public transport on Rejseplanen.dk.
Copenhagen is synonymous with cycling and has an excellent bike infrastructure. It is the most bike-friendly I have ever seen, with cycle lanes over much of it. Copenhagen is probably also the only city in the world where there are more bikes than people. Bikes are also a fast and handy way to get around the city. Copenhagen’s excellent city-wide rental system Bycyklen offers high-tech ‘Smart Bikes’ with GPS, multispeed electric motors, and locks.
Bikes can be even be taken free of charge on the S-trains (S-tog) but are banned during rush hour if commuting through Nørreport Station (07:00-09:00, 15:30-17:30 on weekdays). Enter the train carriages which have large white bicycle graphic symbols on the windows. Bikes can be also be carried on the metro (except from 07:00-09:00, 15:30-17:30 on weekdays). Bike tickets (13 DKK) can be purchased at the metro and S-train stations. Keep in mind that they are not sold on buses.
Take precautions when cycling in the city and follow the rules of the road at all times. Cycle lanes can be rather pugnacious, especially at peak times.
You probably won’t need to use taxis at all while visiting Copenhagen since the city is so well served by public transport. However, if you do need to use a taxi, you can either hail a cab in the street or get one from a taxi rank. Taxis can also be booked on the phone by calling one of the various taxi companies in Copenhagen, for example, TAXA 4×35.
Is the Copenhagen Card Worth It?
The Copenhagen Card is a convenient city pass that accords you free access to over 85 of the best attractions and sights in the city. In addition to this, the Copenhagen Card also offers discounts for restaurants, bars, and sightseeing tours.
The other advantage of having the Copenhagen Card is that it gives you unlimited free access to the city’s public transport network in the greater Copenhagen region. The Copenhagen Card has a 24-hour, 48-hour, 72-hour, or 120-hour validity.
Ultimately, the question of whether the Copenhagen Card is worth it depends on how much you want to get out of the city. If you plan on visiting a lot of cultural attractions and museums, then it is definitely worth investing in the card. The Copenhagen Card is an inexpensive way to experience the best of Copenhagen. If not, then maybe the Copenhagen Card isn’t worth buying.
Things to Do & See in Copenhagen
There are loads of great things to do in Copenhagen and this vibrant city is a thrilling and superb getaway for those on a short break. Whether your interests lie in architecture, museum hopping, eating, shopping, biking, or just chilling in the park, there’s something to do for everyone in Copenhagen.
For your convenience, this post includes a free map of the top sights in Copenhagen. You can find the addresses of the attractions by clicking on the icons in the map. Below we have compiled a list of the best things to see and do in Copenhagen.
- Be Enchanted At The Famous Tivoli Gardens
- The Little Mermaid
- The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid
- Marvel at the Gefion Fountain
- Explore Copenhagen City Hall
- Amalienborg Palace
- Frederik’s Church
- Take the perfect selfie at Nyhavn
- Take a Canal Tour
- Explore a mini-Amsterdam in Christianshavn
- Visit the Imposing Christiansborg Palace
- Try and Spot Agnete and the Merman
- Rosenborg Castle
- Relax in The King’s Garden
- Old Stock Exchange
- Take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens
- Weave Your Way Up The Round Tower
- Go Shopping on Strøget
- Climb Up the Church of Our Saviour
- Church of Our Lady
- Kongens Nytorv
- Be Marveled By The Black Diamond
- Explore Alternative Lifestyles in Christiania
- Chill At Islands Brygge
- Torvehallerne Market Hall
- The Lakes
- Experience the Multicultural Vibe in Nørrebro
- Visit Assistens Cemetery
- Snap Instagram Worthy Pictures at Superkilen
- BaNanna Park
- Check Out the Brick Expressionist Grundtvig’s Church
- Take a Stroll on Frederiksberg Alle
- Frederiksberg Palace & Gardens
- Venture Underground in the Copenhagen Cisterns
- Experience the Hipster Vibe in Vesterbro
- Go On a Bicycle Ride
- Seek Out Some Colorful Copenhagen Street Art
- Wander Around the Carlsberg Quarter
- The Meatpacking District
- Learn about Denmark’s past at the National Museum
- Discover Classical Art at the Danish National Gallery
- Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
- Check Out Islamic Art at the David Collection
- Hirschsprung Collection
- See Classic Danish Designs at the Design Museum
- Thorvaldsen’s Museum
- Sample Danish Craft Beer
- Danish War Museum
- Feast on Danish Cuisine
- Pick-up Danish Souvenirs
- Marvel at Copenhagen’s Modernist Architecture
- Go On A Day Trip
1. Be Enchanted At The Famous Tivoli Gardens
The iconic Tivoli Gardens are undoubtedly one of the top 10 things to see in Copenhagen. Tivoli first opened its gates in 1843, making it the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. Coincidentally, “Bakken”, the world’s oldest operating amusement park lies only about 12 kilometers north of central Copenhagen.
With its amusement rides, carnival games, exotic buildings, splendid manicured flower gardens, and entertainment venues, Tivoli does have a bit of a kitschy vibe but somehow its glitz and razzmatazz manage to win over even the most hardened cynics. Irrespective of whether you have an affinity for amusement parks or not, the atmosphere at Tivoli is magical enough to warrant a visit.
The Tivoli Gardens are named after the Jardins de Tivoli in Paris, which were themselves named after a place called Tivoli just outside Rome.
Although many of the rides at Tivoli are not as terrifying as some modern parks, there are a few worthy ones. If you aren’t lily-livered like me and are looking for an adrenaline rush, you can join the masses of people whizzing along on the high-speed thrill rides, such as “The Dragon”, “The Demon” and “The Starflyer”. I prefer something more mellow like the old wooden roller coaster.
There is much more to Tivoli than thrill rides and roller coasters and part of its allure stems from the beautifully landscaped gardens and eclectic architecture. There is a vast array of entertainment at Tivoli; a variety of theaters provides an arena for an impressive diversity of events. I guess this sort of justifies its hefty price tag.
One of Tivoli’s major attractions is Tivoli Lake, which is home to fish and ducks and is perfect for a leisurely stroll. The lake was carved out of the old city moat and is extremely scenic due to the presence of a Japanese style pagoda from 1900. St George III, a huge 18th-century frigate turned restaurant, is also moored here.
My other favorites are the exotic Pantomime Theater and the palatial Moorish-style onion-domed Nimb building which now houses two restaurants as well as an upscale boutique hotel.
A certain Mr. Disney derived a lot of inspiration from his visit to Tivoli in 1950. Supposedly, he was so captivated with Tivoli that he exclaimed to his wife, “Now this is what an amusement place should be!”
There is no single theme to Tivoli. It is exotic, romantic, and designed to arouse an atmosphere quite different from day-to-day life. Tivoli really comes to life after dark and turns romantic when its trees and pathways are lit by thousands of incandescent lamps and Chinese lanterns. Visiting Tivoli in the winter before Christmas is an unforgettable experience. Jacky was fortunate enough to work at Tivoli one winter, so she really saw it at its best.
The entrance to Tivoli costs 130 DKK. Tivoli has a carnival-like ticketing system that means you pay per ride with some rides requiring up to three tickets. So it’s better to purchase the unlimited ride pass (240 DKK) if you’re in the mood for a few rides. Check the Tivoli website for up to date opening times. I would recommend buying the skip the line ticket which will save you some time. Tivoli also has a wide range of eateries like the Tivoli Food Hall to satisfy your needs.
2. The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) is a perennial fixture on all the “must-see” lists for all visitors to Copenhagen. Despite being one of Europe’s most famous landmarks, the Little Mermaid largely comes across as a disappointment.
I think it’s because the clever angles employed in most promotional photographs make it appear, deceptively, much larger and more strategically situated than it really is. After all, it stands only 1.25 meters.
Visiting the Little Mermaid is by no means one of the very best things to do in Copenhagen, but you can’t really come to the city and not see it. Be prepared to encounter a drove of tourists clambering around the statue trying to get the best selfie.
The statue has an intriguing history. Created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913 this bronze sculpture shows the mermaid sitting on a rock in the water gazing at the passing ships in the harbor. The body was modeled on that of the Eriksen’s wife.
The statue itself is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s bleak, twisted fairy tale. In this melancholic story, a mermaid exchanged her voice for human legs in order to gain the love of an earthly prince but had to watch mutely as he jilted her for a real princess. In desperation, she flung herself into the sea, turning into foam.
3. The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid
All those who are disappointed with the Little Mermaid should definitely go see its lesser-known sibling, the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid. It lies just a 10-minute walk away from the Little Mermaid Statue and is totally worth checking out. There’s just something very appealing and heart-rendering about the quirky sculpture.
It is a surreal take on the Little Mermaid and is reproving of genetic alterations. The Little Mermaid in this sculpture has elongated skeletal legs and a contorted figure. A genetically modified Madonna sits atop it, surrounded by Adam, Eve, Christ, Mary Magdalene, and a pregnant man. Interestingly, it hasn’t been subjected to any vandalism like its famous sibling. I guess any further alterations would be futile.
The first medieval settlement on Copenhagen began around AD 1000 on the island of Slotsholmen by Sweyn I Forkbeard, son of Harald Bluetooth (who converted Denmark to Christianity). Copenhagen was officially founded in 1167 when a bishop named Absalon, who is regarded as the city’s founder, built a castle where Christiansborg Palace is today. Originally there was only a small settlement called Havn (harbor), but with the increased trading in the Middle Ages the name was changed to Købmannehavn, which means “the merchant’s harbor.” It was later shortened to its current name København.
Kastellet Fortress is one of the best-maintained star fortifications in Europe. This pentagonal shaped fortress is surrounded by high embankments and a deep moat. A fortress was first built on this site in 1626 and was finally completed in 1663.
Kastellet was built between 1662 and 1725 and was a cornerstone of King Christian IV’s defenses of Copenhagen. It is still in use by the army and inside there are long, red brick, slate-roofed buildings, and a parade ground and even a Dutch-style windmill.
Kastellet is one of our favorite things to see in Copenhagen and we have come here numerous times for a stroll. In general, the walkways of Kastellet, which overlook the moat, are popular with joggers and walkers. With traditional canons and scenic views, this free attraction is a great way to spend a morning. Kastellet is open daily from 06:00-22:00.
5. Marvel at the Gefion Fountain
Copenhagen has numerous fountains, but the Gefion Fountain (Gefionspringvandet) is undoubtedly the most spectacular in the city. Built in 1908, it is Copenhagen’s largest fountain and shows the Norse goddess Gefion with a group of strong oxen.
Legend has it that the king of Sweden vowed to give the goddess as much land as she could plow in one night. Gefion seized the opportunity by turning her four sons into oxen and harnessed them to a plow.
By the time the sun rose, she had managed to plow a sizeable chunk of Sweden. She then picked it up and tossed it into the sea, forming the Danish island of Zealand (on which Copenhagen is located). The hole left behind became Lake Vänern in Sweden (whose shape closely resembles that of Zealand).
After the red barracks of Kastellet, it’s now time for the yellow barracks in Østerbro, which are called ‘Nyboder’. This is a popular photo spot for locals because the yellow facades naturally look particularly beautiful on Instagram. In addition to their Instagram appeal, the houses also have historical significance. After all, they were once used to house naval personnel and their families. Civilians occupy these houses today.
7. Explore Copenhagen City Hall
The red brick Copenhagen City Hall is one of the veritable must-see attractions in Copenhagen. At 106 meters, it is one of the tallest buildings in Copenhagen and casts an imposing shadow over the bustling City Hall Square. The architectural style and design are very beautiful and are a blend of Italian Renaissance and medieval Danish architecture.
Apparently, it was modeled after the city hall building (Palazzo Pubblico) in Siena, Italy. Standing above the main entrance is a gilded statue of Bishop Absalon, the 12th-century founder of Copenhagen. On the roof are six bronze figures of night watchmen, which date from various periods of the city’s history.
Once inside, you will witness an architectural hodgepodge, as each section of the City Hall has its own unique style. The City Hall’s interior is dominated by the large, rectangular hall on the first floor. It has Italianate wall decorations and features a number of busts of some prominent Danes like Bertel Thorvaldsen, H.C. Andersen, and Niels Bohr. The City Hall’s rooms and chambers are full of architectural details such as intricate brickwork, mosaics, and decorated ceilings.
The main reason to visit City Hall is to see the magnificent Jens Olsen’s World Clock which is concealed in a room off the main foyer. 27 years were spent building this masterpiece and one of its many functions is to provide a calendar for the next 570,000 years!
You can either take a guided tour of the City Hall for 60 DKK or you can just explore the building on your own. The only difference is that with the guided tour you get to see the city council chamber and some other stately rooms that are off-limits.
I wouldn’t recommend the guided tour unless you’re really dying to see these rooms. You can just visit the tower, Copenhagen’s highest viewpoint, for 30 DKK. Guided tours are offered in English Monday–Friday at 13:00 and Saturday at 10:00.
8. Amalienborg Palace
Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of the Danish royal family. The palace complex is pretty big and consists of four identical Rococo-style buildings which open into one of the most attractive symmetrical squares in Europe. The buildings initially served as residences for four affluent families but when Christiansborg Palace burned down in 1794, the royal family bought Amalienborg from the nobles, and have lived here since.
At 12:00 the daily changing of the guards takes place here. This has been called one of Copenhagen’s greatest photo ops but it’s not very impressive if you ask me. If the marching band is playing at the same time, you’ll know that the queen is home. Although not true monarchists and being very liberal people with a culture of democratic equality, the Danes are very fond of their beloved chain-smoking monarch, Queen Margrethe II.
It is only possible to see two of the four palaces from inside. Christian VIII’s Palace features exhibits of the royal apartments used by three generations of the monarchy its reconstructed rooms are decorated with luxurious furniture, trompe l’oeil paintings, and antiques. Christian VII’s Palace Rococo style Great Hall is amazing.
Christian VIII’s Palace is the one which is more accessible to the public while Christian VII’s Palace can only be visited on a guided tour. It isn’t necessary to see Christian VIII’s Palace as the interiors are nothing special and you can see more interesting palaces in Copenhagen. However, if you are fond of ornate interiors, you should see Christian VII’s Palace. Guided tours need to be booked two weeks in advance and are only offered on the weekend.
Opening hours of Amalienborg Palace vary according to the season. You can check the opening hours and prices here.
The equestrian statue of Frederick V in the middle of the complex is the work of French sculptor Jacques Saly and took 30 years to complete. The statue reputedly cost as much as the entire complex.
9. Frederik’s Church
The striking Rococo-style Frederik’s Church (Marble Church) is one of the most prominent landmarks in Copenhagen. Its striking copper green dome is reminiscent of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and looms large over the Copenhagen skyline. The outside of the church features statues of Danish saints and important figures from international Christian history, ranging from Moses to Luther.
Pop into the church to see the really phenomenal dome and artwork in the church. The dome is supported by 12 substantial pillars, each adorned with rich frescoes in blue, gold, and green, representing Christ’s Apostles and the cherubim.
Visitors can climb the 260 steps to enjoy wonderful city views from the top of the bell tower. You can go to the top on weekends only at 13:00 on the dot. Unfortunately, only a few tickets are sold so be there early.
10. Take the perfect selfie at Nyhavn
Visiting the vibrant canalside district of Nyhavn is one of the best things to do in Copenhagen. The image of Nyhavn’s colorful facades on almost every postcard and travel brochure of Copenhagen. It’s hard to believe that this picturesque waterfront was once a squalid neighborhood of lowlifes, drunks, and prostitutes until the 1970s, full of all-night bars and tattoo parlors.
After the maritime trade ceased, Nyhavn went through a metamorphosis. The old pastel-colored townhouses now contain an eclectic mix of antiques and specialty stores, along with restaurants and bars. The houses are not the sole attraction, however. Amplifying the ambiance is a motley collection of sailing vessels bobbing in the water from one end of the quay to the other.
Many of these establishments are crammed with tables serving the overflow of customers. When the weather is pleasant, you can find hundreds of people drinking and socialize along the sidewalk and quayside.
Nyhavn is also famous for being the one-time home of Denmark’s favorite son, storyteller Hans Christian Andersen, who lived at several addresses here. He wrote The Tinderbox, Little Claus and Big Claus and The Princess and the Pea while living at number 20, and also spent time living at numbers 18 and 67.
Nowadays, due to its immense popularity Nyhavn has become somewhat of a tourist trap. Prices at eateries here are some of the highest in Copenhagen. So if you just want to relax and dangle your feet off the pier I suggest getting a beer or an ice cream from the nearest corner store or supermarket as it will save you money.
11. Take a Canal Tour
When visiting Copenhagen, a canal tour is a must. Although you can hire a kayak, pedalo, or a motorboat, boat tours are the optimum way to see Copenhagen’s beautiful canals and waterside districts.
A canal tour is a great way to see Copenhagen as you get a unique view of the city from its waters. It will take you around the city’s harbor and through the canals of Christianshavn shedding light on Copenhagen’s maritime history along the way.
The quaysides of Christianshavn are studded with an eclectic mix of small boats and moored houseboats. Don’t forget to see architectural and cultural treasures like the Opera House, the Royal Danish Playhouse along the way!
There is a rich assortment of sightseeing boats, harbor tours, and ferries. The routes are all quite similar. I would personally recommend this fantastic canal tour.
12. Explore a mini-Amsterdam in Christianshavn
I specifically mention Christianshavn here because I think the canals here have more to offer than those in Nyhavn. Few tourists come here, which makes it much easier to enjoy the surroundings. Here you will also find many trendy restaurants, cafes that invite you to relax. Make some time to stroll some of the pretty streets around here like Strandgade. Christianshavn is definitely worth a visit!
Watch out for adorable 17th-century houses lining the canals that give it an Amsterdam like atmosphere. The pastel-hued houses are tall and narrow, with gables and crane hooks for pulling goods onto the upper floors. The quaysides of Christianshavn are studded with an eclectic mix of small boats and moored houseboats.
13. Visit the Imposing Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace is one of my favorite things to see in Copenhagen. It is steeped in more than 800 years of history and today the palace houses the Danish Parliament (Folketing), Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister’s Office. If there’s one palace in Copenhagen to be seen from the inside, it’s this one
The present building you see is actually the third incarnation of Christiansborg Palace built in Neo-Baroque style in 1928, the previous two burned down. Supposedly, the second palace was the best of the lot. If you’re a fan of the hit Danish political drama Borgen like me, you will know it as the workplace of Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg.
The highlight of the interior of Christiansborg Palace is definitely the Royal Reception Rooms, a series of 18 elegant palace rooms and halls that are sumptuously decorated with art, tapestries, chandeliers, fine furniture, gold, and marble. They usually play host to a spate of gala dinners, presidential visits, and ambassadorial meetings. Before entering, you’ll have to put on soft overshoes to protect the valuable parquet floors.
As with all grand palaces, the Throne Room is naturally one of the biggest draws. However, the Danish Queen Margrethe II is famous for her simplicity and has apparently never even sat on this splendid royal seat.
The Alexander Room is famous for its marble frieze depicting Alexander the Great entering Babylon. We loved the wonderful Queen’s Library, which features a fantastic gilded interior with opulent chandeliers, ornate stucco work, and a small segment of the royal family’s vast historic book collection.
The pièce de résistance is the Great Hall, home to a collection of 17 vividly colorful wall tapestries depicting pivotal events in nearly a millennium of Danish history. One of the tapestries showcases an intriguing Adam and Eve–style representation of the queen and her husband (albeit clothed) in a Danish Garden of Eden.
Below the palace are the ruins of the previous castles, including remnants of Absalon’s castle and the Copenhagen Castle. Among these remnants are each building’s ring walls, as well as a well, baking oven, sewerage drains, and stonework from the castle’s Blue Tower.
Two other places worth seeing at Christiansborg Palace are the Royal Stables and the Royal Kitchen. Antique coaches, uniforms and riding paraphernalia are on display at the stables. It’s worth taking a quick peek into the kitchen to see the assortment of shiny copper pots and pans of all sizes and shapes.
You can also ascend the palace tower, also one of the tallest in the city for sublime views of Copenhagen.
Christiansborg Palace is open daily from 09:00-17:00 (April-October) and Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00-17:00 (November-March). The price of admission to the Royal Reception Rooms is 95 DKK. If you want to see the ruins, the Royal Stables, and the Royal Kitchen go for the combined ticket which costs 160 DKK.
14. Try and Spot Agnete and the Merman
The Agnete and the Merman statue is one of Copenhagen’s hidden gems. Look over the side of Højbro Bridge to find the set of statues playing hide-and-seek with tourists from their home beneath the water. These bronze sculptures are based on an old Danish ballad “Agnete and the Merman” which chronicles the heart-wrenching story of Agnete, a young woman who leaves her family to start a new life in the sea with a merman.
The couple had seven kids and things seemed to be going great until one day Agnete returned to her past leaving the merman forlorn and pining for her. It depicts Agnete’s husband and her abandoned children reaching up towards the surface with outstretched arms, longing for her return. The sculpture is best seen at night when it is attractively illuminated.
15. Rosenborg Castle
The beautiful Rosenborg Castle (Rosenborg Slot) is one of the major points of interest in Copenhagen. Replete with fairy-tale turrets, moats, battlemented gateways, and stone lions guarding the entrance, this spectacular castle looks more like a romantic palace than a castle.
Rosenborg was built in the 1600s as a summer residence by Christian IV and named after one of his horses. The castle was only used as a royal residence for about 100 years and now serves as a royal museum of sorts. It contains a plethora of royal regalia including paintings, trinkets, and ornate furniture used by the Royal Family for generations.
Many of Rosenborg Castle’s rooms reek of Baroque and Renaissance decor. Don’t miss Christian IV’s Winter Room, probably the most well-preserved room in the castle that features rich wooden paneling and a fine selection of Dutch paintings. The and The ornate ceiling stuccowork and imitation marble-clad walls of the Marble Hall is amazing.
Top billing, however, goes to the sweeping Long Hall, home to exquisitely decorated with 17th-century tapestries and the King’s throne. The tapestries gracing the walls of this room are 12 woven works that depict the battles between Denmark and Sweden during the Scanian War (1675–79). The hall is also home to a collection of 18th-century silver furniture including three silver lions that once guarded the king’s throne.
If you like to see glittering jewelry, head to the Treasury where the famed crown jewels and royal paraphernalia such as Christian IV’s spectacular diamond-encrusted crown on display. In the basement cellar rooms, you can also find antique weapons including a pair of Colt revolvers given to Denmark’s king by President Lincoln.
The opening hours of Rosenborg Castle vary according to the season but it is generally open between 10:00-16:00. From November-March, the castle is closed on Mondays.
In order to bypass the queues – which can be dispiritingly long in the summer, purchase your ticket online. The ticket can be sent directly to your phone.
16. Relax in The King’s Garden
The lovely King’s Garden (Kongens Have) was established by Christian IV in 1606 as part of the Rosenborg Castle complex. The park was originally laid out in the Renaissance style, with a characteristically rectangular network of pathways that largely exists to this day. The King’s Garden is also home to many sculptures and fountains.
Today, the shady gardens are beloved by Copenhagen natives to stroll, relax, and sunbathe. In the summer and on holidays, you’ll often encounter many locals picnicking with copious amounts of beer and other beverages.
The King’s Garden is open daily, year-round. Hours vary, with opening time at 07:00 and closing time between 17:00 and 23:00, depending on the season. Admission is free.
17. Old Stock Exchange
The sprawling Old Stock Exchange (Børsen) is one of Copenhagen’s most famous attractions. This exquisitely carved building is known for its immaculate Renaissance facade and copper roofs. It was completed in 1640 and is home to the city’s chamber of commerce.
Børsen’s best attribute, however, is its glistening spire that resembles the entwined tails of four dragons. The tails are topped by three crowns symbolizing the friendship of the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. It’s a fabulous piece of architecture to photograph.
18. Take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens
I love botanical gardens in general as they provide a rich, relaxing experience in addition to seeing a diverse collection of exotic new plants. The Botanical Gardens (Botanisk Have) of Copenhagen are no exception and are one of my favorite things to see in Copenhagen. Founded in the 19th century along Copenhagen’s old city walls, the old fortifications and ramparts lend the gardens an undulating structure.
There is plenty to see at the Botanical Gardens. Native Danish plants account for the majority of the 20,000 species gathered in the Botanical Gardens but there are some highly exotic ones from all over the globe. There is a small forest, waterfalls, and greenhouses, one of which contains more than 1,000 varieties of cactus.
Best of all is the sultry palm house. It is home to a vast array of species from across the globe and provides a wonderfully warm refuge when it’s icy or raining outside. Also, it will give you the chance of taking some beautiful shots of the cast-iron staircases of the rooftop walk!
While the Botanical Gardens are free to enter, entrance to the sultry Palm House costs 60 DKK. Opening hours of the Botanical Gardens are 08:30-16:00 (October-March) and 08:30-18:00 (April-September).
19. Weave Your Way Up The Round Tower
The Round Tower (Rundetaarn) is situated in the Latin Quarter and forms one part of the academic Trinitatis Complex along with the University library and Trinitatis Church. The Round Tower is a 36-meter high structure dating back to the mid-17th century and is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.
The tower was erected on the orders of Christian IV. The tower is famed for its unique 209-meter long cobbled spiral walkway, unique in European architecture and which winds seven and a half times round to the top. From the rooftop, visitors are accorded magnificent panoramic views over the city.
The Round Tower is open daily from 10:00-20:00 (April-September) and 10:00-18:00 (October-March). The price of admission is 25 DKK.
HISTORY 101: KING CHRISTIAN IV
The story of Copenhagen can’t be told without mentioning King Christian IV. Christian was the ruler of Denmark from 1588 to 1648 and his accomplishments had a tremendous impact on the nation’s capital than any other king in history. His vision was to make Copenhagen a modern city and one of the main centers of commerce in Northern Europe, which is why he used Amsterdam as a template. That, coupled with his vivacious personality and tumultuous private life have accorded him a leading position in Danish history. King Christian IV is also responsible for many of the famous buildings and attractions you see in the city today, for example Rosenborg Castle, the Old Stock Exchange and the Round Tower, just to name a few. Unfortunately his profligacy put a tremendous strain on the empire’s finances and when he died in 1648, he left his realm virtually bankrupt.
20. Go Shopping on Strøget
Copenhagen is a veritable shopper’s paradise and shopping here is a most pleasurable experience. In the heart of the inner city is Strøget, Copenhagen’s principal shopping area and its equivalent of London’s Oxford Street.
Strøget is basically a chain of five pedestrian streets (Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv, and Østergade in that order) that link City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv. The stores on Strøget become more exclusive in the direction of Kongens Nytorv.
Strøget and the adjacent pedestrian streets offer everything from designer labels and bargain clothes, to porcelain, exclusive silver and antiques. Indulge yourself in alternative shopping on the many independent shops, antique stores on Læderstræde, and Kompagnistræde.
If you’re on a tighter budget, check out the quirky little boutiques, record stores, and secondhand shops on streets like Skindergade, Larsbjørnstræde, and Studiestræde. Exclusive boutiques, top designer brands, and the latest in cutting-edge fashion can be found on Kronprinsensgade.
Copenhagen’s largest department store Magasin du Nord can be found at the corner of Strøget and Kongens Nytorv. Housed in a gorgeous 19th-century building, Magasin is considered to be Copenhagen’s answer to Bloomingdale’s in the US and Selfridge’s in the UK. Its goods range from designer clothing and accessories to mid-range labels and funky fashions, luxurious home decor, and jewelry.
As you make your way up Strøget, keep your camera close by as there is a lot of beautiful architecture to see. In particular, the corner of Amagertorv Square features an alluring assortment of Dutch Baroque facades.
21. Climb Up the Church of Our Saviour
Of all the churches in Copenhagen, the Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelsers Kirke) is my favorite. This alluring 17th-century Baroque church is famous for its corkscrew-shaped golden spire. Although the interior of the church is nicely decorated and houses a huge organ (carillon), most visitors come here to test their courage and stamina while scaling the spire.
You’ll need a robust set of legs to climb all the 400 steps. What makes this climb exhilarating and terrifying at the same time is that the last 150 steps are outside, which only get narrower as you ascend. Needless to say, this climb is not for the acrophobic or faint-hearted. If you do manage to make it all the way to the top, you can reward yourself with some fabulous vistas of Copenhagen.
The Church of Our Saviour is open from 10:00-16:00. The entrance to the tower costs 35 DKK. Note that the tower is not accessible in inclement weather.
22. Church of Our Lady
The Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke) is the city’s most important church. Considering it is Copenhagen Cathedral, the church has a rather somber exterior. The original church was built soon after the city’s foundation in the 12th century but has had a rather checkered history since then.
The building as you see it today is a beautiful example of Neo-Classical architecture in Denmark. The interior of the church is striking for its 60-meter long nave and the impressive collection of massive statues depicting Christ and the 12 Apostles by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
The Church of Our Lady is open daily from 08:00-17:00. Free entrance.
23. Kongens Nytorv
Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) is the largest square in Copenhagen and probably what you would call the city’s central square. The square was initially laid out in the 17th century by King Christian V and was heavily inspired by French city planning of the time. The huge equestrian statue is at its center shows the king dressed as a Roman emperor.
Kongens Nytorv is one of Copenhagen’s focal points and there are no less than 12 streets radiating from it. Looking around, you’ll notice a number of stately buildings such as The Royal Theater (Det Kongelige Teater) and Charlottenborg Palace. It’s almost impossible to conceive the square was once outside the city gates and the site of the town gallows in medieval times.
Among the fine array of architecture surrounding Kongens Nytorv, the impressive facade of the five-star Hotel d’Angleterre, Copenhagen’s finest hotel, stands out. This grand old hotel has entertained a retinue of celebrities on their visits to Denmark.
24. Be Marveled By The Black Diamond
The Black Diamond (Den Sorte Diamant) is one of the most eye-catching sights along Copenhagen’s waterfront. This sleek, angular building gets its name from the black granite plates and glass, and the prismatic sharp edges of the exterior. The granite was actually imported from Zimbabwe and polished in Italy. The glistening tiled exterior is highly reflective making it an Instagram favorite.
The building is actually an extension of the Royal Library, Denmark’s national library, and is connected to the old Neoclassical building via a vast glazed atrium. The new building is home to the National Photography Museum, a concert hall, and a restaurant and café.
It is worth stepping inside to see the suspended balconies that seem to float in mid-air and the vast ceiling mural. Be amazed at how the glass facade in the atrium held up by iron girders. I love how no slope of the building is identical, ensuring each angle has an impressive view.
You can enjoy lovely waterfront views while sipping cups of coffee. There’s just something so cozy and inviting about Nordic libraries. No wonder folks here read so much!
The Black Diamond is open from 08:00-21:00 (Monday-Friday) and 09:00-19:00 (Saturday). In July and August, the library closes at 19:00 on weekdays. Free entrance.
25. Explore Alternative Lifestyles in Christiania
Nowhere else in Copenhagen do you see examples of the city’s liberal and progressive politics than at Christiania, an anarchist, and partially autonomous community. Visiting Christiania is unquestionably one of the best things to do in Copenhagen.
Christiania evolved as a social experiment in the early 1970s after a bunch of squatters set up shop in a deserted military barracks and were proponents of starting a free town. It gradually burgeoned into a functioning alternative society and today is home to about 900 residents.
The residents of Christiania formulate and live by their own rules. They also have a certain set of rules for visitors that are expected to be followed.
Strictly speaking, Christiania doesn’t contain any sights. The central area has bars, organic eateries, souvenirs, and a couple of quaint little artisan shops. Christiania has always been linked with hippy drug culture and its infamous Pusher Street is where hash and skunk weed are openly sold.
The real joy visiting Christiania, however, is experiencing the whimsical handmade houses and buildings, colorful murals, and the nature around the lake. Many of the most interesting things to see in Christiania are located in the vicinity of the old city moat on its eastern side. Just be mindful to be respectful and considerate since these are private quarters.
Today, Christiania is no more dangerous than any other area of Copenhagen. It’s fun and interesting, not because of its history but because it has lots of artisan shops and an atmosphere you won’t find in any other district in Copenhagen. Although it’s safe to walk around during the day, you should avoid coming here at night, and visitors shouldn’t take pictures on Pusher Street.
26. Chill At Islands Brygge
If you want to take a breather while sightseeing in Copenhagen, head to Islands Brygge to unwind. It is a popular waterfront area in central Copenhagen.
Up until the mid 20th century, Islands Brygge was a dilapidated industrial and dockland area with a rather seedy reputation. Since 2000 it has undergone a massive facelift and now the quayside along the harbor is one of the most desirable places to reside in Copenhagen.
Railroad cars, ships, and machines can still be found here and are a throwback to the area’s past. Island Brygge’s architecture is an intriguing blend of old buildings and modern architecture. Islands Brygge’s ambiance makes it a perfect place for a walk, relaxing, and people watching.
If you’re visiting Copenhagen in the summer months, you can take a refreshing dip in the sparkling clean harbor waters of the Harbor Baths (Havnebadet). This popular open-air pool offers a leisurely swim while taking in the great views of the city. There are three pools to choose from and they are separated from each other and from the harbor waters by floating bridges.
27. Torvehallerne Market Hall
Torvehallerne Market Hall is one of the best things to see in Copenhagen. Spread over an area of over 700 m², Torvehallerne is not only the largest covered market in Copenhagen but also the city’s premier food hall. It is split into two large steel and glass halls, each with its own offerings. Between the two halls is an area with communal picnic tables.
At Torvehallerne, you can find top products for all budgets and tastes, ranging from smoked meats, seafood, and cheeses to local specialties like smørrebrød. If you’re a foodie, don’t skip this place. Jacky and I regularly frequented Torvehallerne to eat at Grød, an excellent porridge bar.
28. The Lakes
Why doesn’t a Copenhagen guide speak about the Copenhagen Lakes? They are such an integral part of the cityscape that it is difficult to say that you were in Copenhagen without seeing the lakes. Ok, in all fairness this is just a strip of the three artificial lakes in the vicinity of the city center.
The lakes were built as part of the city’s defense system in the 16th century, and they were later used as reservoirs. Looking at them today, it is hard to believe that they were once used as a source of drinking water in Copenhagen. Today, they mostly serve a recreational purpose and are often frequented by joggers, sunbathers, and walkers.
29. Experience the Multicultural Vibe in Nørrebro
Nørrebro is one of Copenhagen’s most bustling and diverse neighborhoods. The area has undergone extensive refurbishment in recent years that has helped spur its transformation from a poor working-class district into one of the most popular places in Copenhagen to live in. I always enjoyed visiting Nørrebro since it has an unpretentious vibe and is relatively free of tourists.
Nørrebro has a high concentration of non-western immigrants. I still remember how when I walked down Nørrebro’s main street Nørrebrogade for the first time, I was amazed by the cavalcade of Turkish kebab shops, Middle Eastern barbers, and butchers, South Asian and African grocery stores and other bohemian stores.
While Nørrebro doesn’t really have any traditional tourist attractions, its allure lies in its atmospheric multicultural aura. There are a couple of beautiful streets here such as Jægersborggade, Ravnsborggade, and Elmegade where you’ll come across small designer boutiques, charming antique dealers, secondhand stores, art galleries, and top-notch organic produce shops.
30. Visit Assistens Cemetery
A cemetery might seem like a peculiar place to visit but Assistens Cemetery (Assistens Kirkegård) is one of the most popular green oases in Copenhagen. This isn’t your average run-of-the-mill tranquil graveyard, rather it’s more of a public park and serves as a recreational destination.
Copenhageners love coming here for picnicking and you’re often likely to encounter buskers, joggers, cyclists, and sunbathers tending the graves. You might see the odd person tending to a grave.
Assistens Cemetery is the resting place of prominent Danes like Hans Christian Andersen, the famous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, and acclaimed physicist Niels Bohr. Try to spot their graves while taking a romantic walk.
Assistens Cemetery is open daily from 07:00-22:00. The entrance is free.
31. Snap Instagram Worthy Pictures at Superkilen
In addition to Assistens Cemetery, one of my favorite sights in Nørrebro is Superkilen. Superkilen is an ensemble of three public spaces. For a long time, Nørrebro was known as an area where racial tensions sometimes used to boil over. Superkilen was designed to bring people together, no matter their color, religion, or beliefs. The project was and still is very popular today.
The ensemble consists of three regions – The Red Square, The Green Park, and The Black Market. All have their own character and purpose.
The red square is mainly used for sporting activities. The green space mainly consists of green areas that invite you to walk and picnic. The black square is intended for fun and games. It is also a very popular photo motif.
32. BaNanna Park
BaNanna Park is one of the funkiest things to see in Copenhagen that usually goes unnoticed by tourists. It is a small green park that was formerly an old building site that is now home to some interesting artwork and a 14-meter high climbing wall. BaNanna Park is worth the detour if you’re on the lookout for something offbeat.
33. Check Out the Brick Expressionist Grundtvig’s Church
Along with the Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki, Grundtvig’s Church (Grundtvigs Kirke) has the most unique exterior design to any church that I’ve seen. It is one of the best examples of brick expressionism architecture I have seen.
Grundtvig’s Church is made entirely of pale yellow bricks, a staggering six million of them! The church was completed in 1940 and took 19 years to build. It was built in commemoration of the Danish priest, poet, and reformer Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig. The imposing facade of Grundtvig’s Church reminds me of one of the soaring high-rises from Fritz Lang’s sci-fi classic Metropolis.
The church has a cavernous, unadorned interior with towering columns, pointed arches, ribbed vaults. There are absolutely no frescos or stained glass windows. Even though it is extremely simple and undecorated from inside, the overall effect is extraordinary. The beechwood chairs inside are a fine example of Danish design.
Grundtvig’s Church is one of the most underrated sights in Copenhagen. A visit here comes highly recommended especially if you’re an architecture buff.
Opening hours are Tuesday–Saturday: 09:00 – 16:00 and Sunday: 12:00–16:00 (12:00–13:00 during winter). Best of all, entrance is free.
34. Take a Stroll on Frederiksberg Alle
Frederiksberg Alle is one of my favorite places to see in Copenhagen. This leafy boulevard was originally laid out in 1704 and runs from Versterbrogade to the Frederiksberg Palace Gardens. It was supposed to serve King Friedrich IV as a direct link between the west gate of the city and his new summer residence.
Located in the affluent borough of Frederiksberg, it is home to some ritzy Italian and French Renaissance-style buildings. Number 23 is reminiscent of Rosenborg Castle thanks to its two mini-towers. The two double rows of linden trees flanking its sides also enhance the street’s elegance.
35. Frederiksberg Palace & Gardens
Frederiksberg Palace is one of my favorite royal residences in Copenhagen because only a few tourists make it here. This ocher-colored palace was completed in 1735 in Italian style as a summer residence for Frederik IV. However, the palace was used relatively little by the royal family during its existence. Therefore, it was later handed over to the Danish Military Academy, which still operates from there today.
Frederiksberg Palace itself is not open to visitors, but the palace gardens are more than a worthy place to stroll around. They span more than 30 hectares and have hardly changed since they were originally built in the 18th century.
The gardens are extremely well-manicured and encompass a network of canals and tree-lined paths. Be wood by waterfalls, grottos, an Apis Temple, and a Chinese summerhouse when wandering here. You can often see swans, geese, ducks, and herons.
36. Venture Underground in the Copenhagen Cisterns
If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Copenhagen, you ought to pay a visit to the Cisterns (Cisternerne). The Cisterns once contained the supply of drinking water for Copenhagen and could hold as much as 16 million liters of clean water.
This former subterranean water reservoir is now one of Copenhagen’s most unique art venues hosting one major exhibition each year. The exhibitions are usually thought-provoking and enjoyable.
Once you descend underground to the cavernous cisterns, it is virtually completely dark except light sources, so you get to explore in the twilight. The music playing in the background kind of lends this place a spooky vibe.
The Cisterns are located under Frederiksberg Hill in the core of Søndermarken Park. The opening hours of the Copenhagen Cisterns are Tuesday-Sunday: 11:00-18:00 (until 20:00 on Thursday). The entrance costs 70 DKK.
37. Experience the Hipster Vibe in Vesterbro
In my opinion, Vesterbro is the hippest district in Copenhagen and my absolute favorite neighborhood in the city. Once one of Copenhagen’s poorest areas and a bastion for the working class, it has reinvented itself with the onset of gentrification and artists and creative types moved in.
In 1967 Denmark became the first country to legalize pornography and Vesterbro was very much in the thick of things, harboring Copenhagen’s infamous red-light district. Today, however, there’s scant evidence of the seedy nightlife that once made Vesterbro a no-go zone.
The area is now full of organic food shops, fashion boutiques, and funky tattoo parlors. These along with a bevy of independent shops, great new bars, and cool eateries, is a prime example of why Vesterbro is often mentioned in the list of coolest neighborhoods in the world. One of the great things about Vesterbro is that it is relatively devoid of tourist hordes compared to the touristy spots.
Hit the streets of Istedgade and Vesterbrogade for a motley of enticing fashion stores, design boutiques, antique shops, independent galleries, bohemian shops, bars, and restaurants. On Istedgade, you’ll still find the occasional smut peddler, for which it became infamous in the 1970s. Don’t miss cute little Værnedamsvej, Copenhagen’s answer to Paris, and which is home to some fine delicatessens, wine bars, chocolate shops, bistros, bakeries and cheese shops.
38. Go On a Bicycle Ride
Cycling is one of the things Copenhagen is famous for and it would be injudicious to come here and not go on a bicycle ride. Despite facing strong competition from Amsterdam and Utrecht, Copenhagen reigns supreme as the ultimate bike metropolis.
Approximately a third of all journeys in Copenhagen are done courtesy of pedaling. Bikes outnumber cars by a ratio of 5:1 and there are more bicycles than people in the city.
As I’ve mentioned earlier Copenhagen has a convenient city-wide bicycle sharing system operated by Bycyklen. Cycling in Copenhagen can seem a bit intimidating at first due to the sheer number of cyclists but this can be overcome by following a couple of basic rules.
Remember to always exclusively stick to the bike lanes, keep to the right, follow the traffic lights, use hand signals when turning, and always give way to pedestrians at intersections and traffic lights. Last but not least, don’t ever ride your bike against the traffic flow. Follow these rules closely so as to not incur a hefty fine.
39. Seek Out Some Colorful Copenhagen Street Art
Although street art in Copenhagen isn’t as rich as the quality of street art in Berlin, London, or Buenos Aires, the city has cultivated a rich and diverse street art scene. As a result, many pockets of the city have become a colorful playground for both local and international urban artists.
Walking around Copenhagen, you’ll find street art and graffiti practically everywhere you look, especially in Nørrebro and Vesterbro. Street art ranges from murals painted on buildings to intricate statues conveying everything from political statements to lighthearted scenes.
You May Also Like→ Check out where to spot the coolest street art murals in Copenhagen.
40. Wander Around the Carlsberg Quarter
Even if you’re not big on beer chances are you’ve heard of Carlsberg. The Danish brewing giant is based right here in the Carlsberg Quarter in Vesterbro. J.C. Jacobsen opened the brewery in 1847 and its production numbers rose rapidly. Therefore, owner J. C. Jakobsen decided to convert the surrounding area into a housing estate for his workers.
Today, you’ll find many interesting historic buildings and industrial architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s worth coming here just to see these even if you’re not big on beer.
One of the most notable attractions of the Carlsberg Quarter is the famous Elephant Gate and Tower. It consists of four life-size granite elephants adorned with swastikas. Keep in mind that the swastikas were influenced by Jacobsen’s interest in Asian mythology, not by politics. Swastikas are a revered symbol in many Asian cultures and stand for good fortune, loyalty, and strength.
The main attraction here is the Visitor Center that now houses the Visit Carlsberg Museum. A tour of the museum informatively demonstrates the methods of beer brewing and lets you marvel at the world’s largest collection of unopened beer bottles, over 22,000 of them! It ends near the horse stables, in a bar where you can sample the different beers produced by Carlsberg.
Please note that the visitor center is presently closed for renovation. Check the website for updates before your visit.
41. The Meatpacking District
The Meatpacking District (Kødbyen) is a traditional working-class district in Copenhagen, where meat processing took place primarily in the late 19th century. The name stems from the district of the same name in New York. Courtesy of Denmark’s thriving pork industry, this area was once reputed to have been home to the highest concentration of butchers in Europe.
Despite the exodus of the meat industry, the Meatpacking District saved itself from becoming a decrepit ghost town by turning into a creative cluster and becoming an integral part of the Copenhagen art scene. It is the quintessential embodiment of industrial chic and many of the former white meat halls are home to art galleries, art collectives, and many other establishments of the same ilk here.
The district really comes to life in the evening, in addition to the galleries you will also find some of the trendiest restaurants, bars, and clubs in Copenhagen.
42. Learn about Denmark’s past at the National Museum
Visiting the National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) is one of the best things to do in Copenhagen, especially if you’re a history buff like me. The permanent collections of the National Museum innovatively retell more than 10,000 years of Danish history and culture. Unlike other museums of its ilk, the exhibits are presented in a way that is both engrossing and educative.
An eclectic array of artifacts ranging from prehistoric to modern times are on display here, including, most notably, Egyptian and classical antiquities, coins and medals, and Viking rune stones. Two of the most intriguing items of the collection are the classic Sun Chariot, a striking piece of pagan art dating from 1200 BC, and the marvelous Gundestrup Cauldron, Europe’s oldest example of Iron Age silverwork that is adorned with animals and mystical figures.
Through Denmark’s colonization of Greenland, the museum opens its doors to Inuit culture, and the exhibition of embroidered costumes and traditional equipment from Greenland is well worth a look. The collection of artifacts from China, Japan, and the Far East which includes immaculately costumed Samurai warriors and 18th-century Imperial Dragon robes is equally intriguing.
The National Museum is open daily from 10:00-17:00 (June-September) and Tuesday–Sunday from 10:00–17:00 (October-May). The price of admission is 95 DKK.
43. Discover Classical Art at the Danish National Gallery
The Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst) is Denmark’s largest and most prestigious art museum. Housed in two contrasting buildings set in the idyllic Østre Anlæg Park, the museum’s rich collection of paintings and sculptures means that you could spend an entire day here and still find some new artistic discovery.
The backbone of the museum’s collection is the collection of paintings from the 19th-century or the so-called “Danish Golden Age”. I must admit that I didn’t really know much about Danish art before I visited the museum but was astonished at the quality of the landscapes.
Two of the standouts of the Danish Golden Age for me were Boys Bathing at Skagen, Summer Evening by P.S. Krøyer, and A View through Three of the North-Western Arches of the Third Storey of the Coliseum by C.W. Eckersberg.
The museum’s collection of European art is also pretty good with a strong focus on Flemish, Dutch and Italian paintings. Be dazzled by the works of Lucas Cranach the Elder, Bruegel, Rembrandt, and Rubens among others. Look out for the amazing Christ as the Suffering Redeemer, undoubtedly the museum’s chef-d’œuvre by Andrea Mantegna.
If you prefer contemporary art, look for quality paintings by Leger, Derain, Matisse, and Modigliani as well as the odd Picasso. Matisse’s evocative Portrait of Madame Matisse is a Fauvist masterpiece.
The Danish National Gallery is open from 10:00-18:00 (Thursday-Sunday and Tuesday) and 10:00-20:00 (Wednesday). The admission costs 120 DKK.
44. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
If someone were to ask me what my favorite museum in Copenhagen was, I’d most likely answer Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Housed in a distinctive building, dominated by a copper and glass dome, this splendid museum is home to Northern Europe’s largest bounty of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art.
Terrific busts of prominent Roman public figures including those of General Pompey, Emperor Augustus, Emperor Hadrian, and the evil and depraved Caligula can be found in the Roman Collection. The collection of Ancient Egyptian Art ranges from delicate vases to some huge sculptures; notable pieces are the small figure of an ancient hippopotamus and the colossal figure of Ramses.
The trove of treasures doesn’t end here and the museum has a magnificent collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. You won’t want to miss Van Gogh’s stark Landscape from Saint-Rémy and Degas’ remarkable bronze ballerina The Little Dancer.
Glyptotek’s stunning collection features the biggest names in French sculpture, including Rodin, Barye, and Maillol Carpeaux. These compete for attention with a fine group of Danish sculptures.
Even if you’re not fond of museums, go and see Glyptotek’s Winter Garden. This green oasis of palm trees, planted beneath a glass dome is an enticing blend of Mediterranean plants set among ponds with goldfish and contemporary Danish sculpture. Look out for the Water Mother sculpture depicting a naked woman reclining in a small pool, surrounded by a group of babies.
A visit to Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek comes highly recommended. In any case, the museum also provides the perfect refuge on a rainy day.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is open Tuesday–Sunday from 11:00–18:00 (until 21:00 on Thursday). The price of admission is 115 DKK with free admission on Tuesdays.
45. Check Out Islamic Art at the David Collection
In my view, the fabulous David Collection (Davids Samling) is the most underrated museum in Copenhagen, somewhat of an overlooked gem. Housed in a Neoclassical building dating from the early 19th century, this is a great place to visit if you have an interest in Islamic art.
The museum’s Islamic section includes paraphernalia collected from the geographic sphere of Spain to India and ranges from the 7th to the 19th centuries. The wealth of treasures includes textiles, rugs, Qurans, paintings, calligraphy, jewelry, ceramics, prints, coins, weaponry, and ancient daggers inlaid jewels, etc. Many of these can be found in pull-out drawers as there isn’t enough room to display them all hanging.
The Islamic collection is augmented by European artworks such as 17th and 18th century Dutch and French paintings plus Meissen porcelain, silverware, and glassware. There are also some beautiful landscape paintings by C.W. Eckersberg that are worth taking a quick look at.
The David Collection is very well curated. A tablet is given to you at the entrance and you can tap it on the RFID tagged relic of your choice giving you a detailed description of the item. The David Collection is open from 10:00-17:00 (Thursday-Sunday and Tuesday) and 10:00-21:00 (Wednesday). Free entrance.
46. Hirschsprung Collection
The Hirschsprung Collection (Den Hirschsprungske Samling) is a fantastic little museum worth visiting for anyone with an interest in Danish Golden Age art. I love the setting of the museum, situated in a Greek-style Neoclassical-style building whose facade is covered in light marble and elaborated with Doric columns.
The museum was the brainchild of Heinrich Hirschsprung of German-Jewish heritage, who made his fortune as a cigar manufacturer. His hobby was collecting all sorts of Danish Art, specifically from the Golden Age, and over 40 years of gathering art, he amassed quite an impressive collection.
The paintings are exhibited in a series of small rooms with elegant furnishings creating an intimate ambiance. Apart from some prominent Danish artists like C.W. Eckersberg, Købke and P.S. Krøyer, you probably won’t be familiar with the names of most of the artists who are on display (Jacky and I certainly weren’t) but the quality of artworks is dazzling enough to keep you entertained for at least an hour. I was very smitten with Krøyer’s dreamy Summer evening at Skagen beach – The Artist and His Wife.
The Hirschsprung Collection is open Wednesday-Sunday from 11:00-16:00 (till 20:00 on the last Thursday of the month). The entrance costs 95 DKK.
47. See Classic Danish Designs at the Design Museum
Denmark has chalked up a legendary reputation for design, so it comes as no surprise that Copenhagen is home to an excellent design museum. The Design Museum was founded in 1890 with the goal of encouraging both designers and consumers to create and seek out better-quality goods and also to communicate the idea of quality within the design. Since 1926 it has been located in one of the best Rococo-style buildings in Copenhagen, the former King Frederik’s Hospital.
The museum’s permanent collection is devoted to contemporary design covering handicrafts, industrial design, furniture design, household appliances, and housewares. The collection accentuates work by esteemed Danish designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, and Kaare Klint and tells the influence of Danish design on everyday household objects.
The chair collection is particularly enjoyable and presents just about every important Danish chair of the last century while highlighting the quest for the perfect chair. Besides this, look out for some furniture pieces that seem straight out of a surrealist painting.
The museum is also home to the largest library in Scandinavia dedicated to design. If you’re interested in picking up some Danish souvenirs, you’ll find design-orientated books, unique ceramics, glassware, and bric-a-brac at the museum store.
The Design Museum may not be everyone’s cup of tea and may seem interesting for applied art buffs, but for what it is, the museum is the best of its kind in the Nordics.
The museum is open Tuesday–Sunday from 10:00–18:00 (until 21:00 on Wednesday). Admission costs 115 DKK.
48. Thorvaldsen’s Museum
Thorvaldsen’s Museum is one of the best specialty museums in Copenhagen that pays homage to the legendary Danish Neoclassical sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen and houses the greatest collection of his works. It is a must-visit for anyone with an affinity for art and sculpture work.
It is certainly fitting that one of Copenhagen’s most eclectic art collection is housed in this grand ocher-colored building, which itself is worth a visit in its own right. Thorvaldsen mastered his craft in Italy and the frieze on the museum’s outer wall depicts Thorvaldsen’s return from Rome in 1838.
The vast collection of Thorvaldsen’s drawings, sketches, busts, marble statues, and reliefs are exhibited in colorful rooms that have beautifully decorated ceilings and marbled mosaic floors. Considering that he worked on some pieces for over two decades, his output of work is staggering.
A large chunk of Thorvaldsen’s output derives inspiration from Greek mythology along with works of classic art and literature. This shows as his massive sculptures of Cupid and Psyche, Pope Pius VII, Adonis, Jason, Ganymede in the Great Hall are the highlight of the museum. Note the exemplary plasterwork.
Thorvaldsen’s Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00-17:00. The entrance costs 70 DKK. Free entrance to the museum on Wednesdays.
49. Sample Danish Craft Beer
As with many places all over the globe, the craft beer revolution in Denmark has really taken off in the last 10-15 years. This has helped revolutionize the way people view beer now and long gone are the days when Danish beer was associated with Carlsberg and Tuborg. Copenhagen has been at the forefront of this revolution and is home to numerous excellent microbreweries.
The most famous of these Danish breweries is unquestionably Mikkeller. Mikkeller has helped define the practice of “gypsy brewing” and is famous for experimenting with unusual ingredients such as chipotle chili, lychee fruits, seaweed, avocado leaves, and Vietnamese weasel droppings.
Other noteworthy Copenhagen based craft breweries are Amager Bryghus, To Øl, Ølsnedkeren, WarPigs Brewpub, and Nørrebro Bryghus. These microbreweries along with Mikkeller brew hundreds of innovative and delicious IPA’s, stouts, sours, and porters each year. Whatever you try, you most likely won’t be disappointed.
These are just the major ones based in Copenhagen. Other excellent Danish microbreweries whose beers are worth trying are Hornbeer, Dry & Bitter Brewing Company, Bryghuset Braunstein, and many more.
You can sample Danish craft beer at some of the pubs run by these breweries in Copenhagen. Otherwise, head down to the store Kihoskh in Vesterbro that has a huge selection of craft beers.
50. Danish War Museum
The Danish War Museum (Krigsmuseet) is another museum in Copenhagen that is worth a visit just to see the building in which it is housed. It was built by Christian IV in the early 17th century as an arsenal. Its Cannon Hall on the ground floor, supported by 16 heavy center pillars, spans a length of 156 meters and is regarded to be the world’s longest Renaissance hall.
The exhibits on the ground floor will be of interest to anyone with a penchant for military history. They chart the history of artillery from the invention of gunpowder up to the present day. I’m a pacifist but the collection of historical guns, mortars, canons, and howitzers here is quite fascinating.
In the Armory Hall upstairs, you can see suits of armor, military uniforms, helmets, boots, shields, medals, ivory-inlaid pistols and muskets, and other paraphernalia. The entire exhibition is very well laid out and provides great insight regarding the whole history of arsenal and Danish military, going in chronological order through all the country’s conflicts.
The Danish War Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00-17:00. The entrance costs 80 DKK.
51. Feast on Danish Cuisine
Tasting some authentic Danish cuisine is one of the best things to do in Copenhagen. Traditional Danish cuisine may be fairly simple as compared to some of the more famous world cuisines but there are still a couple of iconic Danish foods that you must try.
Danish cuisine has always been rich in meat and fish dishes similar to its Nordic neighbors. Pork is undoubtedly the most popular meat in Denmark. Heck, there are five times as many swine as people in Denmark.
Some of the most popular pork dishes are the mouth-watering flæskesteg (roasted pork with crackling usually served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage) and frikadeller (pork and veal meatballs, fried in butter and usually served with potatoes). My favorite though would easily be stegt flæsk (fried pork belly served with creamy parsley sauce and potatoes). Recently, this was unanimously voted as Denmark’s national dish.
Smørrebrod is the wildly popular open-faced Danish sandwich that is usually made with rye bread. Popular toppings are pickled herring, smoked salmon, shrimp, roast beef, and grated horseradish.
Sausages are an essential part of Danish cuisine and you can’t visit Copenhagen without trying a traditional Danish hot dog (pølse), Denmark’s most popular street food. The classic Danish hot dog consists of roasted sausage with mustard, ketchup, remoulade, pickles, and onions.
When it comes to the sweet stuff, you should definitely try risalamande (rice pudding with almonds that is served cold, and topped with a warm cherry sauce), kanelsnegle (cinnamon rolls) and æbleskiver (orb-shaped pancakes served with jam or powdered sugar).
52. Pick-up Danish Souvenirs
Why not pick-up some classic Danish souvenirs to remember your Copenhagen visit? Some of the most authentic and popular Danish souvenirs include Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, Georg Jensen silverware, glasses by Holmegaard Glass, stainless steel by Bodum, and high-quality audio equipment by Bang & Olufsen. Magasin du Nord is a great place for buying high-quality Danish souvenirs.
53. Marvel at Copenhagen’s Modernist Architecture
Like many cities all over the globe, Copenhagen is undergoing a construction boom that has ushered in a spate of high profile projects and avant-garde designs. Though I don’t usually cotton to reinforced concrete, glass, and steel structures, I do appreciate good architecture when I see it. That is why I recommend this as one of the offbeat things to do in Copenhagen.
Denmark has had its share of celebrated architects such as Arne Jacobsen, Jørn Utzon, and Henning Larsen and it’s evident from the sleek new structures that have been erected that Danish creativity hasn’t lost its edge. Although many striking pieces of modern architecture in Copenhagen can be found on Nordhavn and the island of Amager, you can spot these all over the city.
Admire the eye-catching facades, smart use of materials, whacky dimensions, and geometric shapes. Some of the best examples of contemporary architecture in Copenhagen are –
- Tietgen Residence Hall
- DR Concert Hall
- VM Houses
- 8 House
- Kastrup Sea Bath
- The Silo
- Copenhagen International School
- Tingbjerg Library
- Krøyers Plads
- Axel Towers
54. Go On A Day Trip
Once you are done sightseeing in Copenhagen, our final recommendation would be to take a day trip from Copenhagen. You can embark on a day trip to discover the Viking heritage of Roskilde, explore Hamlet’s Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, and get a sense of the royal lifestyle in the 17th and 18th centuries at Frederiksborg and Charlottenlund. You can even cross the Øresund to see Malmö and Lund in Sweden.
You May Also Like→ Check out our comprehensive guide to the best day trips from Copenhagen.
Where to Eat & Drink in Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s culinary scene is looking better than ever. There is a vast amount of dining options covering a broad spectrum of cuisines, meaning that even the pickiest of eaters will be satisfied.
With the success of the world-famous restaurant Noma, New Nordic cuisine which uses locally produced, seasonal ingredients has gained traction. Regional specialties such as horseradish and beetroot and rye bread are experiencing a resurgence. Some of the best bars, restaurants, and cafes in Copenhagen are –
1. Gasoline Grill – Beloved by locals, this legendary burger chain was recently named as one of the best burger joints in the world by Bloomberg. We can attest to their goodness as their burgers are juicy, meaty, and messy. Head there early though, they shut down as soon as they sell out.
2. DØP – The best hot dog stand in Copenhagen bar none. Although you can find hot dog stands all over Copenhagen, we recommend that you eat one from DØP. Their hot dogs aren’t only organic, they are also extremely delicious!
3. Conditori La Glace – Arguably the best patisserie in Copenhagen, La Glace has been delighting customers since 1870. The quality of their elaborately decorated cakes and pastries is spectacular.
4. Koefoed – Excellent place to sample New Nordic cuisine from the Danish island of Bornholm. Koefoed is also our pick for the best restaurant to eat traditional Danish smørrebrød in Copenhagen with over 15 different types to choose from.
5. Mikkeller and Friends Bar – The signature establishment of the world-famous Mikkeller microbrewery. The trendy Mikkeller and Friends Bar is one of the best craft beer bars in Copenhagen with 40 beers on tap and another 200 in bottles. Nice selection of bar snacks too.
6. Black Swan – Cozy little bar with an eclectic selection of global beers (especially Belgian beers) and fine single malts. My favorite bar in Copenhagen.
7. WarPigs Brewpub – Popular brewpub in the trendy Meatpacking District that serves mouthwatering Texan style beef brisket, spareribs, and pork shoulder. On top of that, they have over 20 outstanding American-Danish style craft beers on tap.
8. La Fiorita – Cute little restaurant serving Italian classics in an unpretentious setting.
9. Noma – Not that anything really needs to be said about this famous restaurant, but Noma is the restaurant that pioneered the whole New Nordic food movement winning a slew of accolades along the way. Noma utilizes ingredients that are native to Scandinavia and head chef Rene Redzepi is credited with coining the culinary concept of “foraging”. If you want to dine at the restaurant that was named the restaurant in the world four times, reserve at least three months in advance.
10. Grød – Amazing porridge bar chain that has managed to turn something as humdrum as porridge into something cool by using ingredients like licorice sugar, skyr (Icelandic yogurt), ginger syrup, hazelnuts, and raisins.
11. Bastard Cafe – Popular cafe in the inner city that is a great place to unwind and socialize with friends over a round of drinks. Apart from its convivial vibe, Bastard Cafe has a huge selection of board games.
12. KöD Copenhagen – Probably the best steakhouse in town. If you’re a hardcore carnivore and fancy a good juicy steak, you will definitely love this amazing restaurant.
13. Reffen Street Food Market – Reffen is the largest street food market in the Nordic region with over 40 food stalls and can seat up to 2500 guests. In addition to delicacies from all over the world, there are also concerts and ‘jam sessions’ on the weekend. Open throughout the year except between mid-December and late March.
14. Ruby – Ruby is a hip cocktail bar with trendy retro interiors, an elegant salon, and huge gilded mirrors. The atmosphere is certainly very much “hygge” and the ambiance is very quiet and relaxing.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a very compact city and most hotels and hostels lie within the inner city and the Vesterbro district. There aren’t too many hotels in the other districts. The inner city is where most of the major attractions are to be found so it’s convenient to stay in the vicinity. Of course, the further away you are from the inner city, the cheaper the prices are.
The range of accommodation in Copenhagen ranges from luxury boutique hotels and quality chain hotels to roadside inns, budget hotels, family-friendly hostels, self-catering apartments.
Hostel: Urban House Copenhagen, a popular choice for budget-minded travelers looking for someplace close to the city center. Located on the vibrant street of Istedgade, the hostel is only a 2 minutes’ walk from Copenhagen Central Station and only a short stroll away from Tivoli Gardens and City Hall. Plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.
Budget: Wakeup Copenhagen – Borgergade, an excellent choice if you’re on the lookout for a frugal, no-frills option in central Copenhagen. The location is fantastic, less than 10 minutes’ walk from Kongens Nytorv, Rosenborg Castle, Strøget, and the ultra picturesque Nyhavn canal There are plenty of shopping and dining options nearby.
Mid-range: AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen, a very good mid-range option. With its two tilting glass and aluminum towers that are linked by a sky bridge, Bella Sky casts a distinctive landmark on the Copenhagen skyline. It is located in Ørestad close to the Bella Center metro station which means it’s only a 10-minute ride away from the center and 15 minutes from the airport. Ideal for business travelers as Scandinavia’s largest conference center is next door.
Luxury: Nimb Hotel, this place is a sure-fire winner if money is no constraint. Located in the iconic Tivoli Gardens, this Moorish boutique-inspired hotel has striking Taj-Mahal style turrets. The elegant interiors are decorated with antique furniture, befitting that of a ritzy hotel. Service is known to be impeccable and will leave you feeling pampered.
Copenhagen Travel Tips
Best Time To Visit Copenhagen?
Late spring, the summer through to early autumn or more precisely the period from May to October is undoubtedly the best time to visit Copenhagen. The days are long, and the copious amounts of sunshine drives Danes to parks and waterfront cafés. The summers are usually fairly cool, but sometimes there is hot sunshine for a few weeks of the summer.
Another advantage of visiting Copenhagen in the summer is that many attractions, especially those with outdoor features, have longer opening hours.
Winter in Copenhagen isn’t the best time to visit (especially if you like spending time outdoors) and you can often expect gray skies, strong winds, and frost. Winter temperatures often fall below freezing, but it is seldom severely cold due to Copenhagen’s proximity to the sea’s warming influence. When the occasional snowfall does occur, the city takes on a fairytale quality and the brightness of snow and ice provides a beautiful reflective quality.
Is Copenhagen Expensive?
Yes, it is. Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world and visiting here won’t be light on your wallet. There are some ways to save money but all in all, prepare to spend more than on other tourist destinations in Europe.
Food and alcohol are two things that are very expensive in Denmark and will eat into your budget. For example, a cup of regular cappuccino costs 35-45 DKK, a pint of beer at a pub or a restaurant can set you back 45-90 DKK, and a small glass of wine costs 60 DKK plus. A typical cocktail usually costs 100-150 DKK, and the main dishes at a mid-range restaurant cost somewhere between 150-300 DKK.
Many lunch places offer a good-value meal deal which costs 100-150 DKK, which often includes a main course, plus salad or soup, bread, and coffee.
Otherwise, dining out is pricey. If you want to save money on food, our recommendation would be to head to the supermarket.
Is Copenhagen Safe?
The streets of Copenhagen are relatively safe compared to the bigger cities of Europe and North America, even though Danish tabloids detail muggings, stabbings, and other crimes of violence with relish. Violent crime against foreigners in Copenhagen is very rare, but you should still take your usual precautions.
Keep a close eye on your valuables. Do not carry large amounts of cash or valuables with you. Avoid unfamiliar, sleazy areas at night, especially if you are alone.
Late at night, the streets of Copenhagen are usually full of young people, some the worse for wear from drink. Though most are innocuous, some are known to be miscreants under the influence of alcohol.
How Does Tipping in Denmark Work?
As far as tipping in Denmark is concerned, service charges are included in hotel and restaurant bills. Gratuities for waiters, hotel housekeepers, tourist guides, and many others in the service sector are purely optional. Obviously, a little extra is appreciated for special services rendered, but it isn’t mandatory or expected.
Now, what do you think? What are some of the best things to do in Copenhagen? And is Copenhagen on your bucket list? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!