10 Best Museums in Copenhagen Offer Something for Families, Art Lovers, and Military Buffs

Even those who normally think of museums as boring places where old things collect dust should consider visiting at least one while they are in Copenhagen; not only to escape the inclement weather on a cold and rainy day but also to have those preconceptions bust by some of the most modern, dynamic and hands-on museums in Europe. Many of them, like Thorvaldsens Museum and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, are housed in gorgeous old buildings stunning to visit for their own sake; others, like the Nationalmuseet and the Post & Tele Museum, offer the chance to let children loose in an educational and creatively stimulating environment.

Should you find yorself in Copenhagen in weather much too sunny to be spent inside a museum, take a day trip up to the Frilandsmuseet in Lyngby, the open air annex of the national museum, and let the children play among geese, goats and old mill buildings. Or roam around stately Christiansborg, home to the fascinating Teatermuseet housed in the 18th century Royal Court Theatre.

Copenhagen's most offbeat museum is perhaps the Medical Museion on Bredgade, a fascinating and diverse collection of medical curiosities, while city museum Kobenhavns Museum has boosted its profile, as well as its exhibits, from recent Metro line excavations.

Unlisted but worth a mention are Designmuseum Danmark and the Arbejdermuseet (Workers Museum); while the Royal Danish Arsenal, Tojhusmuseet, and its naval annex the Orlogsmuseet in Christianshavn are a must for fans of old weapons.  


Photo courtesy of Orlogsmuseet

This rather inconspicous museum is located on a two- area story building overlooking the canals of Christianshavn, and is an annex to the Royal Danish Arsenal. While rather old-fashioned, it has a fairly extensive display for those interested in naval memorabilia. Exhibits of naval artifacts date from the 1700s onwards, and there is also a smaller collection of classic Danish paintings with a naval theme. Upstairs, the Cold War brings history into more recent times; see how Denmark would have defended itself had the Soviet threat ever become a reality. A children's area, meanwhile offers play aboard a ship complete with replica cannons.

Local Expert tip: Combi-ticket available with Tojhusmuseet when used on the same day.

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Medical Museion
Photo courtesy of Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen

Located in the former Royal Academy of Surgeons building from 1787 (the lecture hall, hardly changed, is still used by medical students), this rather macabre museum is dedicated to the history of medicine and run by the University of Copenhagen. It's an offbeat mix of artefacts, crossing wildly in theme from dentistry to the hygiene of 19th-century prostitiutes, and its far more modern research wing, hosting talks, exhibitions, and events in English as well as Danish. Note that due to the 200+ year-old location, the medical museum remains inaccessible to wheelchair users.

Local Expert tip: Guided tours in English July and August at 2.30pm.

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Located in the original court theatre in Christiansborg and built on the orders of King Christan VII in the 1700s, very few plays were actually performed here before a fire ravaged through the royal complex later in the century. The theater was left relatively intact, but was left abandoned until it was established as a museum in 1904. You can walk on the old wooden stage, check out period costumes and bask in the theatrical lighting: Budding divas and princesses will love the authentic atmosphere of this charming little museum, which presents the history of Danish theater from the 1700s until the present day. The museum sometimes presents plays relevant to the museum context: Check the museum website for details.

Local Expert tip: Combine with a visit to the other parts of Christiansborg.

Read more about Teatermuseet →

Post & Tele Museum
Photo courtesy of Post & Tele Museum

While a museum of postal and tele communications might not seem particularly fascinating, this museum, located in the old Copenhagen post office not far from the Round Tower, has done a great deal to make its exhibts appealing to families in particular with large play area, free entry, digital and interactive exhibits, kids' activities during school holidays, and a top floor cafe, Hovedtelegrafen, with one of the best views in Copenhagen. It's also accessible for the disabled, with provision for both hard of hearing and visually impaired visitors. Permanent exhibitions follow communications in Denmark, from the establishment of the King's Postal Service in the 1600s through to today's digital age.

Local Expert tip: Check out kids' play area "inside the stamp", a playground cum exhibition that's sure to stimulates kids' imagination as well as tire them out.

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Photo courtesy of Jane Graham

The Royal Danish Arsenal Museum on Slotsholmen is housed in the original arsenal for the nation's military and naval forces, built during the reign of King Christan IV (1604) for storing cannons and hand weapons. Pride of the museum is its vast hall, considered to be the longest arched Renaissance hall in Europe. The best time to visit is during school holidays (July, Easter, mid-October), when family-friendly activities like jousting and medieval markets take place. The museum is currently finishing a long-term project to modernize its exhibitions, including removing all weapons containing accessible ammunition, so don't be surprised if some of the space is closed to the public at the time of your visit.

Local Expert tip: Medieval activities in school holidays.

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Kobenhavns Museum
Photo courtesy of Fernando Mendonca

The city museum is located in a former shooting lodge on Vesterbrogade and while most tourist guides reference it simply for its room of Soren Kierkegaard archives, Kobenhavns Museum has undergone significant change since the year 2000 and is now a dynamic, interactive place that traces the history of ordinary Copenhageners throughout many centuries. The excavations connected with the building of the new City Ring line of the Metro have been coordinated by museum archeologists, and many fascinating finds are now on display at the museum. Digital and English language resources are good; free entry on Fridays.

Local Expert tip: A fascinating model of old Copenhagen outside the museum continues to be a hit.

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Outside the city
Photo courtesy of Christian Alsing

The Frilandsmuseet, or Open air Museum, is an annex of the Nationalmuseet located in Lyngby, a rural suburb about 20 minutes by S-Bahn from downtown Copenhagen - get off at Sorgenfri and then take bus no. 184 or 194 to the museum gate. An ideal day trip for families - at least on a day of good weather, as (like the name suggests) almost everything here is outside - Frilandsmuseet is an authentic recreation of farming life in Denmark over the past 350 years, with houses, and mills having been literally moved here from other parts of Denmark. Farm animals, from pigs to hens, roam freely, staff wear period costumes and historically-accurate activities take place in the many open farm buildings.

Local Expert tip: With the exception of two weekends in December, Frilandsmuseet is open May to October only: Free entry.

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Thorvaldsens Museum, a striking, classically columned building overlooking the canals across from Gammel Strand, is the oldest museum in Denmark, and houses the collection of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1884), who lived most of his life in Italy where he acheived great recognition for his classically-styled busts and figures. The museum opened in 1848, presenting not only Thorvaldsen's works but also his collection of 19th-century art and from Roman, Greek and Egyptian antiquity. The lavish building, the work of the celebrated Danish architect Bindesbøll, hardly seems Scandinavian, and a walk down the fantastically decorated corridors of the museum, with its strong colors and sharp light framing the sculptures on display, is quite an experience.

Recommended for Museums because: Thorvaldsens Museum is a fantastic example of 19th-century architecture.

Local Expert tip: Free audio guides are available in English.

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Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Photo courtesy of Kim Nilsson

Arguably Copenhagen's most beautiful museum, the stunning building of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, situated at the back side of Tivoli Gardens, was built at the end of the 19th century by Dahlerup to house the growing collection of brewery magnate and art collector Carl Jacobsen, who named it 'glyptotek' after the Greek word for a repository for sculpture. With its leafy winter Garden as an indoor oasis, the Glyptotek is the ideal rainy day destination. In addition to the changing exhibitions, collection of 19th century Danish art and rooms upon rooms of Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities, the Glyptotek's collection of French impressionist works, including important Gauguin paintings and sculptures by Degas and Rodin, is world class.

Recommended for Museums because: Quite simply, the Glyptotek is Copenhagen's most beautiful museum.

Local Expert tip: The Glyptotek is free on Sundays.

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Photo courtesy of Heidi de Vries

The national museum of Denmark is housed in the 18th-century Prince's Palace, a vast, grand building that combines romantic architecture with more modern, Scandinavian additions. The collections are open every day except Mondays, and span prehistoric Danish times to the Middle Ages, as well as an exhibition on the collection from the buildings days as a Royal Palace. For families, the Childrens Wing is a hands-on experience, with clothes for dress-up, shops and classrooms, all authentic to their era. Restaurant Julian is open for Danish lunches and organic, sustainable brunch.

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Meet Jane Graham

After touring most of Europe in her twenties, Jane was charmed by Copenhagen's relaxed tempo and moved there from her native northern England in 1999. Four young children at home has meant...  More About Jane