From popup clubs and block parties to late night jam sessions, Copenhagen's nightlife keeps dancing after the sun has risen

Copenhagen resident Hans Christian Andersen may have been the "Ugly Duckling" at a few local parties, but modern Copenhagen is a great place for nightlife of all types. Fans of classical music and opera should check out world class venues Koncerthuset, the concert house of national broadcaster DR, and national opera house Operaen; State subsidies keep prices down and allow classical concerts and opera performances to be accessible to all.

If you feel like modern jazz harmonies are following you around, note that Copenhagen has quite a history with jazz. World-class venues like Copenhagen Jazzhouse and Jazzhus Montmartre attract international names as well as opportunities to hear local legends improvising in an early hours jam session.

Copenhagen’s young entrepreneurs are famed for their popup venues and one-off street parties: Summertime festivals include Copenhagen Distortion, 10 days of street parties to celebrate Copenhagen nightlife (May) and the Jazz Festival (first two weeks in July).

Though its reputation as a club has rather faded, Vesterbro’s Vega continues to attract many of the biggest names in alternative music, while for underground acts, Christiania’s Loppen still keeps it down and dirty. Culture Box is Copenhagen’s premiere electronica club while partygoers of all persuasions are attracted to the dark side of Dunkel.

In Copenhagen, you can sleep all day and still get your dose of arts & culture: Try Karriere Bar in trendy meat-packing district Kødbyen, where even the bar, and the lamps above it, are works of art. If you like to drink in style, cocktail bar Ruby makes you feel at homeā€“if only all homes were kitted out as well as this.


Culture Box
Photo courtesy of Willy Lopez

Fans of electronic dance music should note this established offbeat venue on Kronprinsessegade not far from Kongens Have. Ever since two DJs passionate about electronic music teamed up to open Culture Box back in 2005, the club has played a key role in cementing Copenhagen's reputation as a city with a throbbing dance subculture; the decor is dark and a little neglected, but it all lends the place a look of hardcore Berlin techno, and its loyal fans can't get enough of it. Local as well as international visiting DJs come here to play for a crowd united in a love of electronic music at this two-story club (headliners in the main room, bar and lounge upstairs). Boasting one of the best sound systems in Copenhagen, Culture Box keeps its dance happy guests moving until breakfast time.

Local Expert tip: Come early for a few drinks at next door's preclub bar Cocktail Box, open for drinks and lounge atmosphere from 8pm.

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Photo courtesy of elchicogris/creative commons

Like the free state of Christiania where it is based, Loppen ("the flea") has been a mainstay of alternative Copenhagen for many decades, standing persistently fast as other fads come and go. Located in the large stone building close to Christiania's Prinsessegade entrance, Loppen is reliably dark, dingy and underground. There are concerts almost every day of the week (Mondays and Tuesdays, not so much) from cult names on underground punk scene to local alternative heroes. You can be sure of an interesting crowd, cheap(ish) bar and a walk on the wild side. Ticket prices are reasonable: From 50Dkr for local acts up to about 150Dkr for touring bands.

Local Expert tip: Why not check out restaurant Spiseloppen, situated in the same building as Loppen, for an offbeat dining experience and truly international kitchen.

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Karriere Bar

This arty cocktail bar and restaurant is dominated by its one-of-a-kind bar counter and accompanying lights, the work of artists Jeppe Hein and Olafur Eliasson respectively. Karriere Bar was one of the first establishments to take a chance on former meat-packing district Kodbyen, a district that has since established itself as one of Copenhagen's most dynamic quarters. The idea behind Karriere is that it should be a place where art meets social space, giving art meaning by placing it in a functional, social environment. Owned by artist Jeppe Hein and his sister Laerke, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the bar, Karriere is not just about the aesthetics; menus for both evening meals and cocktails are substantial and select, and largely homemade and organic. Karriere's events calendar offers experimental music/art on Thursdays and DJ nights at the weekend (after midnight a 23+ age limit is imposed).

Local Expert tip: Happy hour at Karriere is between 10pm and midnight on Fri-Sat.

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Photo courtesy of Ruby

In Copenhagen, nothing's strange about the city's hippest and most forward-looking cocktail bar being housed in a listed townhouse from the 1700s. Ruby is exquisitely furnished with oriental rugs, chandeliers and chesterfield sofas, with added fresh flowers all making its guests feel like they've been invited for drinks at a private apartment - a very classy apartment, that is, and the drinks are even finer. The carefully constructed cocktail list is refreshed four times a year according to season and is both classic and innovative. Like a gourmet restaurant, the emphasis is on the best ingredients combined with great service: drinks are mixed with care and served with consideration.

Local Expert tip: Need a vitamin boost after a night on the town? Ruby offers an orange-colored "Bloody Sunday" made from carrot juice, cilantro and ginger.

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Jazzhus Montmartre
Photo courtesy of Cafe Montmartre

When it reopened in 2010, Jazzhus Montmartre was about paying homage to a vital part of Copenhagen's musical history. The new non-profit Jazzhus Montmartre is open thanks to the endeavours of Rune Bech, a passionate jazz lover who well remembers the hey day of Copenhagen's jazz scene, when from 1959-1976, Montmartre was the second home to jazz legends like Stan Getz and Dexter Gordon who moved to Copenhagen because of the club. Montmartre even warranted a cool, beatnik pic in a 1964 edition of Playboy. The golden age ended in 1976 when the club moved to Norregade, closing completely in 1988 after the sudden death of owner Kay Sorensen (Jazz-Kay). Concerts at the new club generally start at 8pm and all types of jazz are showcased. The classy restaurant affords the chance for a pre-concert dinner from 5.30pm. For big name concerts, booking ahead is advised.

Local Expert tip: Montmartre offers students a half price discount with valid ID.

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The name comes from the Danish word for dark or murky, and this gay-friendly, open-to-all nightclub exudes a shady, dark aura of living slightly dangerously more familiar to cities like Berlin and London than to Copenhagen. Don't be afraid, however: Hidden away a little north of Radhuspladsen on Vester Voldgade (just across from Hotel Fox), the small club Dunkel exudes a friendly atmosphere and the club crowd, both gay and straight, come for a good time and to hear some of the biggest names on the international club scene. Dunkel's dance floor is not particularly large, which is why clubbers often end up on the sidewalk outside. Music is prioritized over image, which is why Dunkel has been nominated as one of Copenhagen's best clubs by readers of a local Danish guide to Copenhagen.

Local Expert tip: If the night is going well, it won't stop just because the clocks turn 5am. Dunkel's parties can last well into the morning.

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Copenhagen Jazzhouse
Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Jazzhouse

Copenhagen Jazzhouse is the official center of Copenhagen's thriving jazz scene, opening in 1991 to fill the void made when Jazzhus Montmartre closed some years earlier. The venue presents around 200 concerts a year from visiting stars as well as the more interesting acts of Copenhagen's homegrown scene, and is known for its intimate performances enjoyed by audiences huddled around candle-lit cafe tables. The lively program offers a combination of classic jazz, swing and more experimental, modern jazz and is one of the key venues for Copenhagen's annual Jazz Festival held in July. From summer 2012, Copenhagen Jazzhouse will have two new stages, the "Stor Scene" (big stage) and the "Lille Scene" (small stage). While most concerts start at 8pm, there are late-night concerts from 11pm every Friday and Saturday under the headline "Natjazz". Copenhagen Jazzhouse opens on June 1 2012 after extensive renovation.

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Photo courtesy of Lars Schmidt

You don't have to be fan of opera to have heard of Copenhagen's opera house: Inaugurated amid much fanfare in 2005, the Henning Larsen-designed masterpiece is one of the most expensive opera houses ever built anywhere in the world, costing well over 500 million US dollars and arguably Denmark's greatest architectural sight of modern times. The interior of this harborfront landmark is no less impressive, with a foyer tiled with Sicilian marble and huge glass lamps designed by Olafur Eliasson; the auditorium ceiling meanwhile is made from no less than 105,000 sheets of gold leaf. Operaen is home to the Royal Danish Opera and also hosts visiting companies. Operas performed here have included a full version of Wagner's Ring Saga, which lasted several days. While guided tours are offered in Danish only most weekends, the lobby is also open to sightseers up until 7pm on concert days; try taking the inexpensive harbour bus from Nyhavn.

Local Expert tip: Tickets for performances are sold off at cheaper rates from the box office of the Kongelige Teater on Kongens Nytorv from 4pm the same day.

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Photo courtesy of Kristian Gade

At the end of the '90s, during Copenhagen's first wave of gentrification, Vega was about as hip as it got, deep in gritty district Vesterbro and the preferred hangout for the quarter's many students and beautiful young things. A former trade union hall from the '50s, Vega is housed in a listed building designed by the well-known Danish architect Vilhelm Lauritzen and originally called "The People's House". These days, Vega's focus is more on concerts than club nights, attracting Danish names on the verge of international breakthroughs as well as overseas alternative stars. Vega has two concert halls: Store (big) Vega can hold up to 1500 guests and welcomed stars like Bjork, Moby and even Kylie Minogue, while with a capacity of 500, Lille (small) Vega is an ideal stage for intimate concerts by singer-songwriters.

Local Expert tip: Ideal Bar, Vega's preclubbing lounge, affords the chance to party mid week and hosts inhouse DJs as well as visiting names.

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Photo courtesy of Federico Parodi

The concert house of national broadcaster Danmarks Radio was moved out to the new broadcasting headquarters DR-Byen in Orestad in 2009. The ultra-modern, purpose-built cube is the creation of noteable French architect Jean Nouvel (Brad Pitt is amongst his fans) is cobalt blue and appears to have been carved out of the sky during the day, and as a projection screen after dark. With a significant amount of rivalry between the Royal Danish Theater (of which the opera house is part) and Danmarks Radio, Koncerthuset had a lot to live up too, and by and large it has succeeded, with world-class acoustics and a vast concert hall of dark wood, with capacity of 1800; its centerpiece is the immense silver organ with 6,144 pipes. Koncerthuset's artistic profile is non-elitist and concerts of all musical styles are performed here , both in the main stage as well as on the smaller stages.

Local Expert tip: The best way to reach Koncerthuset is by Metro. The nearest stop is DR-Byen.

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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