With Copenhagen celebrated for its design and architecture heritage, here's how to discover this fascinating side to the Danish capital (Photo: Getty Images)

Denmark’s capital is known for its design and architecture heritage, going back to the work of Arne Jacobsen, Jan Gehl and Verner Panton in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, Copenhagen is a hub of style and design, from edgy fashion brands to interior design and the innovative buildings that dot the pristine harbour and waterfront areas. Take a tour on foot or by bike and discover this creative, liveable city, which was awarded the World Capital of Architecture for 2023.

Friday evening: Stroll by some of the city's best waterside buildings

The Royal Library in Copenhagen, nicknamed the "Black Diamond," holds an extensive Nordic collection of manuscripts and printed materials (Photo: Getty Images) 

Start your trip in Nyhavn, the city’s much-loved melting pot. This colourful harbour was where sailors and traders used to mingle and is now where some of the city’s most exciting restaurants have set up shop.

Work up an appetite by walking over the Kissing Bridge and along the harbourside to the Circle Bridge, designed by Olafur Eliasson. This stroll gives you views of some of the city’s most significant buildings along the water, from the modern Opera House and the Royal Theatre through to the Black Diamond, a modern vision of a library. 

Next, walk down a secret-looking alleyway from Nyhavn’s main drag and into the beautifully designed Goldfinch, one of the city’s many superb Asian restaurants, for dim sum and cocktails. Just across the King's New Square from Goldfinch, you’ll find The Socialist, A Tribute Portfolio Hotel, a stunning design hotel housed in an old transformer station with a striking bar. Other walkable options include Ruby, a classic Copenhagen cocktail bar set beside a historic canal, and Ved Stranden 10, a wine bar with a sommelier service steps from the city’s main pedestrian street, Strøget.

Saturday morning: Explore the city's superb design and architecture institutions

Put all this architecture and design in focus with a trip to one of the city’s excellent museums. At the Danish Architecture Center, landmark exhibition ‘So Danish’ walks through the history of Denmark’s building achievements, from the Viking age through to the Sydney Opera House, designed by Jørn Utzon. True to Danish form, the venue is a playful place to be, with a twisting Carsten Höller slide running through it. It is also just a couple of streets from Nobis Hotel Copenhagen, a Member of Design Hotels™, which has a stunning interior designed in cooperation with the Swedish star architect Gert Wingårdh, along with a show-stopping Marble Bar serving champagne and caviar.

Interior design fans will love the Design Museum Denmark, the city’s key design museum, where stories around interior design and lifestyle explore the past and future of life in Denmark. Its beautiful café is a great place to stop for a coffee, while the furniture showrooms along Bredgade nearby will also provide plenty of inspiration for design lovers.

Saturday daytime: Hop between the harbour areas vis a waterfront trail

Copenhagen's Harbour Circle is a scenic waterfront biking route connecting the city's picturesque harbour areas (Photo: Getty Images) 

Some of Copenhagen's most ambitious buildings lie along its pristine harbour. A great way to explore is via the Harbour Ring, a 13km walking or cycling route that runs past the Bjarke Ingels Group-designed harbour bath at Islands Brygge; the playful shapes and swimming platforms of Kalvebod Bølge (aka The Wave); and Copenhagen Marriott Hotel. Among this upscale hotel's dining options is Pier 5 bar and restaurant, which also enjoys an outdoor terrace with views of the water.

Continue to the south via Sluseholmen. Moxy Copenhagen Sydhavnen is one of the best hotels in the area, with a fun vibe and a great location close to the city’s efficient metro. The path continues to Islands Brygge, where an eclectic flea market selling interior design and vintage fashion stretches along the quay on select Sundays from May to September. Finish at Refshaleøen, where Copenhill, Copenhagen’s landmark multi-use building, combines a waste-to-energy municipal plant with a ski slope and hiking trail.

Saturday evening: Hit the architectural hotspot of Nordhavn

A charmingly unexpected addition to the summit of a multi-storey car park, Konditaget Lüders is an innovative playground and open-air workout space with a view of the sea (Photo: Getty Images)

The undisputed architectural hotspot of Copenhagen is Nordhavn. This newly developed north harbour is full of innovative and sustainable buildings, from the headquarters of the UN to fine-dining restaurant The Silo, housed in a former grain storage tower. Take the yellow electric ferry from Nyhavn to this unmissable neighbourhood, where you can bask on decked seating next to a floating swimming pool in the harbour. Beyond it, the city’s newest attraction is a round tower called the Tip of Nordø, a mixed-use building containing a public garden at the very edge of Nordhavn’s harbour. It’s not the only unexpected sight in the area: atop a multi-storey car park nearby, you’ll find Konditaget Lüders, an innovative playground and open-air workout space with a view of the sea.

Nordhavn itself has become something of a playground for architects, lifestyle brands and interior designers, with streets lined with boutiques, modern bakeries and design hotels. Discover sleek, Nordic-styled rooms with blonde wood walls and neutral shades at the charming and beautifully designed Fairfield by Marriott Copenhagen Nordhavn in the Århusgade neighbourhood. Alternatively, stay at the Residence Inn Copenhagen Nordhavn: the hotel offers a unique opportunity to enjoy luxurious living in a tranquil setting away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s easy, then, to return to the centre via the calm and well-designed metro, a mini modern architectural jewel hidden under the city streets. 

Sunday morning: Experience the joy of nature in the big city

Amager Fælled, a vast natural reserve in Copenhagen, offers a peaceful escape from the city's hustle and bustle (Photo: Getty Images)

Copenhageners like to keep themselves fit, and you'll see much evidence on Amager Fælled, the city’s main green space. In Copenhagen, you’re never more than three hundred metres from a green or blue space, and being in touch with nature is an important part of the Scandinavian experience.

While you’re in this Amager Fælled, where paths criss-cross through fields, bird-nesting sites and nature reserves, you’re never far from the city’s stellar architectural features. The two towers of AC Hotel Bella Sky Copenhagen intersect at a height of 75 metres above grazing cattle on the heathland nearby, leaning at steeper angles than the Tower of Pisa. It’s the largest hotel in Scandinavia and one of the tallest in Copenhagen: head to the 23rd floor for magical views of the city and countryside, together with polished Pan-Asian food at SUKAIBA restaurant.  

Sunday daytime: Take a stroll in a vibrant urban space

Superkilen park in Copenhagen is a vibrant urban space that celebrates diversity through its eclectic design (Photo: Getty Images) 

Explore the city like the locals on a slow-paced Sunday, starting with a trip to Nørrebro’s Superkilen Park. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, Superflex and Topotek1, it offers a multicultural space to play and hang out, popular with skateboarders, families and those looking for an urban place to stroll. Then head for an underground experience beneath Søndermarken park in Frederiksberg. There you’ll find one of the world’s most unique art galleries: Cisternene, where experiential artworks are created to suit this unusual underground space.

If you have more time, a trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is a must-do for design and architecture fans. The location of this superlative museum is exceptional, overlooking the Øresund Strait between Denmark and Sweden. Inside, artworks from Yayoa Kusama, David Hockney, Jean Dubuffet and more showcase the best contemporary art. The museum’s design shop sells superlative interior design pieces and coffee-table books as well.

Published: October 06, 2023

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