My trip to Copenhagen started off with a sprint through Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, after forcing my way through security due to missing my alarm. I was the last on board.
After an in-flight nap, an airport coffee, and a quick train ride, I found myself on the doorstep of one of Europe’s cultural capitals. Similar to Stockholm in some Scandinavian ways, unique in many others, I love Copenhagen, and you will too – especially since the recent drop in the Danish Kroner currency rates is making the city a very value luxury destination.
Here are my personal suggestions for Copenhagen: what to do, where to eat, and where to stay.
Wander Around Christianhavn
Christianshavn is one of those weird neighbourhoods which has a unique history – there’s still an area called Christiania that continues to be a self-governed “social experiment.” The area is a bit rough and tumble, but perfectly safe, and great for photography. It feels like Amsterdam with its canals, street art (e.g. graffiti), and unique architecture.
Vor Frelsers Church offers the best views of Copenhagen, but the stairs are on the OUTSIDE of the spiral (not for those afraid of heights). Little Mill is a restored, tiny windmill with tons of history.
Listen to Jazz
Another favorite thing about Copenhagen is the jazz. My interest in jazz started by listening to Miles Davis covers over Sunday brunches in Amsterdam, but Copenhagen is where I truly fell in love. The city has an annual Jazz Festival (in July), but the year-round scene is relaxed, casual, and great to enjoy over a beer or glass of wine.
Jazzhus Montmartre just recently re-opened and it attracts great talent. La Fontaine is also amazing.
Travel by bicycle is very popular in Copenhagen, and the city is designed to make bike travel relatively easy. I find that most of the city sights are very easily found on foot, but if you want the experience, you can do so for free with one of the “City Bike” stalls found all over town. Just grab a bike, pedal, and drop it off at the next City Bike stall.
Copenhagen made for a great cultural visit, and I actually found a lot of the best experiences were not the ones on everyone’s “top 10” lists. The National Library is an interesting building (they have tours which I didn’t take), but most don’t know they have a photography museum inside which is superb.
Charlottenburg is one of the largest (space-wise) contemporary art museums in Europe. It has a wonderful Scandinavian feel to it. If you choose to check out Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park right in the center of town, visit in the later afternoon just before sunset, so you can explore the grounds and then enjoy the space when it is at its most atmospheric — after dark.
Another hard-to-find-but-worth-the-excursion destination is the Museum of Art in Public Spaces. It’s exactly what it sounds like, but so much cooler than I was picturing.
Daytrips: if you want to get out of town for the day, my top recommendation is Elsinoire (Helsingor/Helsingør). It is an easy one-hour train each way, and I loved just strolling around the town and especially the city’s highlight, Kronborg Castle.
When I tell people that they’ve got to check out the designer shopping scene in Copenhagen, they usually look at me and say “Oh, you mean IKEA.” (Which is from Sweden, by the way.) Yes, the IKEA ‘look’ is pervasive in all of Europe these days, but only the cleanness and simpleness of it, not the meatballs-in-the-lobby side of it.
So many independent artisans call Copenhagen home – you’ll even find independents working in larger department stores! For a start, visit the Danish Design Center for an overview, then dive into the shops such as Hay House (furniture), Bungalow (antiques), Stillben (ceramics/glass).
A collective of artists also run a number of must-see fantastic shops on the street called Ravnsborggade.
Copenhagen certainly has the chops to call itself a world-class dining capital – they have some of the oldest restaurants in Europe still operating, and many places that are next to impossible to get a table. Krogs is the city’s oldest fish restaurant, and a wonderful place. Feel free to ask for help as their menu has a lot of odd options. Famo is a low-key Italian place. Frederiks Bastion is very cool for the ambiance alone. Don’t miss the sweet treats at La Glace.
Over in Christianshavn, Noma is world famous, so good luck getting reservations (if you must, ask your hotel concierge). Try Cafe Wilder or Ravelinen as an alternative.
Where to Stay
In a town with so much culture, finding some value luxury lodging is an easy task. The strange-sounding Hotel CPH Living is actually a floating hotel boat with a great location and great views right in the city center. The rooms are quite comfortable and there’s even a sundeck to relax on.
I’m a big fan of the Radisson Blu chain and their Blu Royal Hotel has a great location with tons of cool views. The hotel has a sauna and fitness room, if that is high on your priority list.
My last suggestion is the Clarion Collection Hotel Mayfair for its wild decor. Each room is different, and the style is a blend of old and new world. Of course, the rooms are quite comfortable and they have a great breakfast.