Things to do in Copenhagen

Get Your Bearings in Copenhagen

By Jane Graham
Copenhagen Expert

See & Do
Stay
Eat
Party
Shop

Things to See

The bulk of Copenhagen’s attractions are close to each other and can be reached on foot from most downtown hotels. The city’s no.1 attraction, Tivoli Gardens, is centrally situated a short distance west of the Central Train Station just minutes from most Copenhagen hotels, while royal palaces Amalienborg and Rosenborg and museums like the National Gallery and the National Museum are also within the downtown area. If you’re pushed for time, a combined canal and bus tour will let you see most of the city in the space of an hour or two.

Caution:

Many of Copenhagen's museums, major and small, are closed on Mondays.

Where to Stay

Copenhagen’s traditional hotel district immediately to the west of the Central Train Station has spread south towards Dybbelsbro, and now includes super-modern high rises. If you’d prefer to be a bit closer to the action, however, lodging options in the heart of downtown range from five-star luxury landmarks D’Angleterre and Sankt Petri to flashpacker hostels like Generator.

Avoid:

The less-than-perfect neighborhood next to the Central Train Station; there are so many better options with more attractive views.

Hot Tips:

Many local hotel chains offer supersaver weekend promotions online to woo non-business guests.

What to Eat

Copenhagen’s restaurants cluster in streets and squares like Gråbrødretorv and Nyhavn, with outside tables from April to October, but pander mostly to tourist tastes and with long waits in high season. The canal streets of Christianshavn boast some of the most upmarket restaurants in the city (booking advised if not essential), while for cheaper evening eats and a more eclectic choice of cuisine -especially for vegetarians - Vesterbro is ideal.

Be Sure to Sample:

Smørrebrød (open sandwiches), pastries.

Places to Party

A classical concert, a sweaty rock gig or electro danceclub are all nighttime possibilities in Copenhagen, though those visiting midweek in winter might find it a little quiet. The city’s buzzing gay scene is scattered around the city, while the glitziest spots are found in the Kongens Nytorv area. Copenhageners serious about partying meanwhile head out to clubs like KB3, in the former meatpacking district of Kødbyen, and a little further afield to raw Nørrebro.

Take It or Leave It:

Partying Copenhageners dress down, not up: ripped jeans might be a no-no, but suit and tie is quite unnecessary.

Where to Shop

Copenhagen’s pedestrianized shopping street Strøget grabs newcomers like a magnet, with landmark department store Magasin du Nord at its very end. It’s worth exploring offshoot streets however, particularly in the Latin Quarter north of the main drag, filled as they are with fascinating basement boutiques, many of them owned by cool local designers: And while stately Bredgade is known for exclusive antique dealers and private art galleries, a cheaper option can be found in the vintage stores of Nørrebro.

Best Local Souvenir:

A Danish designer gadget, blue china, warm knits.

Things to do in Copenhagen


Copenhagen is known for...

Five of Copenhagen's most unique features and characteristics.

1. The Little Mermaid:

The diminutive stature of this bronze-cast Hans Christian Andersen heroine hasn’t prevented it from becoming Copenhagen’s most iconic landmark, the subject of countless vacation snapshots and postcards since its installation on Copenhagen’s waterfront in 1913. Both loved and ridiculed, this long-suffering maiden – cast in her human form – has endured political actions and artists’ happenings in addition to the indignities of sightseers. In 2010, The Little Mermaid was used to promote the Denmark brand internationally and physically shipped for exhibition at the World Expo in Shanghai.

2. Cuisine:

Since 2000, the Danish – or “New Nordic” kitchen has been regarded as among the world’s best, a modern reinterpretation of traditional Danish cuisine that uses seasonal, local produce to be organic and climate-friendly. Few visitors to Copenhagen will succeed in dining at world’s best restaurant noma, but that doesn’t mean missing out on a lunchtime “smørrebrød” plate of herrings on rye or a sample of the city’s best kitchens at covered gourmet market Torvehallerne Kbh. Come in August for annual culinary festival Copenhagen Cooking and see what the world’s media are salivating over.

3. Jazz:

Attracted by a more liberal attitude to issues like racial tolerance and free thought, American jazz musicians made Copenhagen their home in the 1960s and the city has been synonymous with jazz ever since. The center of the scene was Jazzhus Montmartre, and its key players included Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster and Kenny Drew. In addition to the city’s handful of top-notch jazz clubs, an international jazz festival is held every July, when jazz of all genres spills out onto the city streets in open-air concerts and happenings.

4. Christiania:

The autonomous Free Town Christiania was founded in 1971 on the site of an abandoned military camp and has continued its existence for over four decades, lending Copenhagen its reputation as a liberal, free-thinking capital. The Danish state, that has always owned and tolerated Christiania, has recently opted to rethink its relationship with the Free Town and in 2011 an agreement was reached whereby residents would be able to buy back the area from the state – thus ending four decades as an officially-tolerated squat.

5. Canals:

The image of pretty painted houses perched on the canalside is the archetypal Copenhagen scene. The city is ringed by canals, which is maybe why so many people mistakenly assume it is in Holland. Most popular are: Nyhavn, a former sailors’ haunt transformed into a lively summertime tourist trap, Gammel Strand, where a street market adds a lively air during the summer, and those around Christianshavn, an area so filled with canals it has earned the nickname of “Little Amsterdam”. Guided canal tours are some of the most popular activities for Copenhagen’s summertime visitors.