One of Copenhagen's canals

Known for its gastronomy and cool vibes, with a focus on well-being and the outdoor life, Copenhagen encompasses all that’s best about Denmark. Shopping in Scandinavia’s perfect city’s a dream, and from May to August there’s biking and al fresco dining by the water’s edge. In colder months, embrace hygge and cosy up in the Copenhagen region’s beautifully lush hotels.

The best places to visit in Copenhagen

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Nyhavn is the iconic centre of Copenhagen (Source: Getty Images)

With its tall ships flanked by colourful sixteenth- and seventeenth-century houses, Nyhavn is the iconic centre of Copenhagen, and one of the best places to visit, harking back to a golden era of shipping and exploration. Watch the world go by at one of its many cafes and restaurants after a shopping spree along Strøget, the long pedestrianised street that connects City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) with King’s New Square (Kongens Nytorv) at the edge of Nyhavn. This former commercial port was once home to the fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote The Princess and the Pea at number 20. Take a canal tour from here to see the Little Mermaid statue and the stunning Royal Danish Opera House building.

Royal Palaces and Castles

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle houses the royal crown jewels  (Source: Getty Images) 

With a monarchy stretching back a thousand years, it’s no surprise that Copenhagen and its environs are dotted with historic buildings. Where to go for a flavour of this rich heritage? Try the idyllic Frederiksborg Castle, home to the Museum of Natural History, or the central Rosenborg Castle, housing the royal crown jewels. Even though Amalienborg Palace, between the city and the harbour, is still the winter residence of the Danish royals, visitors are free to wander over the beautifully cobbled central palace square - time your visit to witness the changing of the guard at noon. Peruse the palaces’ art collections, or go further and visit the NY Carlsberg Glyptoteket and the National Museum of Denmark. For a grand experience, stay at the refined Nobis Hotel Copenhagen, a Member of Design Hotels, housed in the former Royal Danish Conservatory of Music. The hotel enjoys a prime central location (though with great bus and metro links, nothing’s very far away in Copenhagen, even on foot).

Vesterbro

With its cool nightlife scene and hip cafes and restaurants, Vesterbro was once notorious as the red light district of Copenhagen. The meatpacking district here has some of the best bars and restaurants in the city. The best places to stay include the beautifully appointed Copenhagen Marriott Hotel with spacious rooms and floor-to-ceiling windows, affording views of the city and gleaming Sydhavnen harbour.

What to eat and drink in Denmark

New Nordic Cuisine

Copenhagen has led the way in the New Nordic food revolution, with 23 Michelin stars at the last count. Book way ahead for a table at noma, voted the world’s best restaurant for the fifth time in 2021, and famed for its use of fermentation and seasonal, foraged ingredients. Do not miss the rooftop restaurant SUKAIBA Copenhagen, located on the 23rd floor of the AC Hotel Bella Sky. The pan-Asian fine dining restaurant has been awarded the coveted title of Denmark's best hotel restaurant 2023 and offers a top-tier gastronomy experience. Beyond the big names though, great food can be found all over Denmark.

Open sandwiches

Open sandwiches

Open sandwiches are a must-try  (Source: Getty Images) 

Lunch in Copenhagen often consists of a smørrebrød – buttered rye bread piled with any number of ingredients, from meats and cheeses to smoked salmon, pickled herring and dill. For an informal experience of Denmark’s favourite snacks, head for chilled-out food market Torvehallerne.

Stegt flæsk med persillesovs

Stegt flæsk med persillesovs

Don't miss the national dish stegt flæsk med persillesovs  (Source: Getty Images) 

When thinking about dishes to try in Denmark, don’t overlook the national dish stegt flæsk med persillesovs: crispy pork, potatoes and parsley sauce. The winter treat of caramelised potatoes, or kartofler, is also a must. 

Beer and akvavit

You will have heard of the world famous Carlsberg brewery, but the country’s also known for other drinks, including akvavit, a spirit flavoured with herbs, and the spiced red wine winter warmer gløgg, which guarantees hygge vibes.

Liquorice and desserts

In addition to an abundance of creamy desserts, apples and berries, the Danes just love liquorice, with a special salted candy variety called lakrids. For a pastry or cinnamon bun, head to the Latin quarter and Copenhagen’s oldest bakery, Sankt Peder’s Bageri.

Top things to do in and around Copenhagen

Tisvilde

Beach huts in Tisvilde  (Source: Getty Images) 

The city is filled with iconic attractions and hip streets, with uber cool, eco-certified places to eat and stay like the Moxy Copenhagen Sydhavnen. To experience the full beauty of the region’s coast and national parks, head out of town on one of Denmark’s clean and efficient trains. The Danes love their summer homes, and Tisvilde is unmissable as the quintessential water’s edge retreat. A colourful, former fishing village north of the capital, it’s a tranquil spot to while away an afternoon.

Other interesting things to do near the capital include exploring Shakespeare’s inspiration for Hamlet at Kronborg Castle. Take a 45-minute jaunt north to the beautiful town of Helsingør, where nearby Kronborg Castle looks out towards Sweden. Take in the gorgeous sea views or wander back down through the small town’s narrow streets and timber-framed houses and cafes.

If you’re interested in Denmark’s Viking history, head to Roskilde. The best things to do here include boat trips and visits to the Viking Ship Museum. In summer the city is home to one of Europe’s largest and best-known summer music festivals.

Finally, central Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens amusement park is unmissable, but the even older Bakken park, founded in 1583, can be reached in ten minutes by car, in the woodland area of Dyrehaven, just outside the city.

Hidden gems in Copenhagen

Copenhagen

An aerial view of Copenhagen’s bohemian Freetown Christiania  (Source: Getty Images) 

A visit to Copenhagen’s bohemian Freetown Christiania, an autonomous, countercultural community, is among the most alternative things to do in the city. Already part of one of the world’s most tolerant cities, Christiania takes this a step further. Expect hippy market stalls, vegan cafes and bars to suit open-minded and inquisitive visitors.

The first country to legally recognise same sex partnerships in 1989, Denmark unsurprisingly has a thriving LGBTQ+ scene and music culture, which includes the Mix Copenhagen film festival. Centralhjørnet, opened in 1917 is the city’s oldest LGBTQ+ bar, and a hub for music and nightlife – and is welcoming to all.

North of hipster Vesterbro lies the Nørrebro district, which challenges its neighbour in the cool urban stakes. There are plenty of unique things to do here, including the lively street bars and culturally diverse food scene at Nørrebrogade, or taking in the views from the award-winning, sustainably designed Maersk Tower at the University of Copenhagen. Wander east of Nørrebro and you'll reach waterfront Nordhavn, which has blossomed from its original incarnation as an industrial port into an exciting neighbourhood. Here you'll find Fairfield by Marriott Copenhagen Nordhavn, with harbour-view rooms and a superb breakfast buffet.

Go deeper

Wienerbrød pastries

Wienerbrød pastries in Denmark  (Source: Getty Images) 

If you fancy something sweet to go with your coffee, just don’t ask for ‘a Danish pastry’! In Copenhagen, those flaky, jam-filled delights are known as Viennese breads, or wienerbrød. And be sure to try an æbleskiver or two – sweetened spherical doughnut-type treats sold by street vendors – for an authentic taste of Denmark.

Published: November 30, 2022

Last Updated: May 24, 2024

Article Tags:  Copenhagen , Denmark

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