15 of the Best Things to Do in Copenhagen
Hygge masters, innovative designs and overpriced coffee, Copenhagen was my first introduction to the Scandinavian culture. Visiting in January, it was (very) cold but the layer of snow covering the cobblestone streets gave it a fairytale-like charm. Copenhagen is a great city trip destination and if two to three days in a city isn’t a lot, it is enough to see the main sights and get a feel of the capital. So without further ado, here are the best 15 things to do on a weekend getaway in Copenhagen!
I would lie if I said I didn’t rush straight to Nyhavn as soon as I landed in Copenhagen. The picture-perfect colorful 17th and early 18th century houses combined with the boats tied up at the dock are one of the city’s most notorious sights. Stroll along the canal and stop at one of the cafes or restaurants bordering the waterfront to enjoy a coffee with a view.
Look for the Little Mermaid
Yes, you read that right. The Little Mermaid is from Denmark. Well, at least the author of the fairytale, Hans Christian Andersen, was. Although the original tale is a little darker than the Disney movie we all came to love, it’s still worth paying a visit to the bronze statue of Den
Travel back in Time at Rosenborg Castle
Set in the beautiful King’s garden, Rosenborg Castle is an example of the typical Danish architecture of the 17th century. The castle is the former residence of the royal family and was built by Christian IV in the Dutch Renaissance Style. It started as a summer palace and underwent four stages of development to become the castle you can visit today. If you’re into the monarchy, don’t miss out on the Knight’s Hall and the coronation thrones, as well as Denmark’s crown jewels. Opening hours vary according to the season and general entrance costs 115 DKK.
Bike Like a Local
The Danes take biking very seriously, much to my delight. Spoiled with bike lanes equipped with their very own traffic lights (and bike bridges!), exploring the city on two wheels is a real pleasure and the only way to do it to experience what local life is like. Rent a bike in one of the many bike shops around town or get around with a city bike.
Try Danish Pastries
You know I have a major sweet tooth so I would never pass on the opportunity to try local sugary delicacies… and you shouldn’t either! Danish pastries are a roll of pure deliciousness… but they’re actually not Danish. They’re Austrian! In Danish, they’re called Wienerbrød (Vienna bread). But don’t let this keep you from treating yourself!
Marvel at Marmorkirken
Marvel, marble… See what I did there?! (Hum, ok). The Marble Church officially called Frederikskirken is one of the most beautiful buildings in Copenhagen and one of the most impressive. Its sheer size and distinctive green dome inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome makes it stand out in the royal neighborhood. The entrance is free so don’t hesitate to step inside to check out the marble interior. It costs 35 DKK to get up the dome but you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.
Watch the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg
Located right next to Marmorkirken, Amalienborg actually comprises four palaces surrounding a courtyard with a statue of King Frederik V standing proudly in the middle. Amalienborg is the current residence of the royal family. Go at noon to see the changing of the guard taking place. You can also visit the museum that tells the story of the Danish royal family. Opening hours vary and general entrance costs 105 DKK.
Taste New Nordic Cuisine
Calling out all the foodies out there! You’ve probably heard of the two-Michelin-star Noma Restaurant, famous for its innovative dishes imagined by its founders, chef René Redzepi and Claus Meyer who reinvented Nordic Cuisine. The keys are simple: simplicity, purity, freshness and local high-quality products as expressed in their manifesto. If you have the opportunity to book a table at one of the best restaurants in the world, do it. However, there are other options to get a taste of New Nordic Cuisine including dining at Kadeau, Manfreds, PONY
Get up the Rundetaarn
The 17th century tower is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe and boasts an outstanding panoramic view over Copenhagen. Walk up the Round Tower’s spiral ramp to reach the observation deck and enjoy a break halfway through the climb at the old library turned into an exhibition room. Opening hours vary according to the season and general entrance costs 25 DKK.
Check out Christiansborg Palace
Today the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Ministry of State, Christiansborg Palace used to be up until 1794 the main residence of the Danish kings. Some rooms are however still used by the Royal family for events. You can visit the ruins, royal receptions rooms, kitchen, and stables. Open hours vary so consult their website before going.
Walk around Christiania
Christiania is nothing like the rest of the capital. The former military base was turned into a “freetown” by a group of hippies in 1971 and is today home to about 900 people living alternatively. Between the colorful homemade houses, art galleries, workshops, and cafes, you’ll forget you’re in Copenhagen. Explore the neighboorhood but remember that it is a residential area and not just a touristic attraction. I didn’t take pictures but you can (except on Pusher Street). While the people of Freetown Christiania are allowed to do what they please as far as their living style goes, Danish law now does apply to the town.
Climb to the top of the Church of our Saviour
Located a block away from Christiana, stop by the Church of our Saviour on your way back to the center. Famous for its black and golden spire, the Church offers a 360° view over Copenhagen from the top of its tour. Reaching a height of 90 meters, you will have to climb up 400 flight of stairs to reach the top. The last 150 stairs are on the outside of the spire!
Get lost at Glyptoket
Make time to visit at least one museum during your stay in Copenhagen. Most of them have a day during the week when the entrance is free so take advantage of it! I personally went for the Glyptoket museum, as much for its ancient and modern art collections as for the building in itself. It truly is a stunning museum with a beautiful indoor garden to relax in between galleries. Spare at least 3 hours to visit the collections that interest you most. Go on a Tuesday, it’s free! Otherwise, general admission costs 115 DKK. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 18 pm and until 22 pm on Thursday.
Shop on Strøget
Head to Strøget to shop until you drop. The commercial area stretches over Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet and Østergade street. From high street brands to luxury boutiques, there’s something for everybody. Wander off the side streets to appreciate Danish architecture and enjoy a coffee break.
Stop by Rådhuspladsen
As you reach the end of Strøget, make a stop at the City Hall Square. Take a look at the Italian inspired Rådhus, which is actually the tallest building in Copenhagen thanks to its tour, and watch local daily life unfold. If you can’t make it to the Little Mermaid, there’s a statue of Hans Christian Andersen on the square so you can at least snap a photo of the fairytale’s author.
Nyboder’s Yellow Houses
A visit to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without making a detour through the historic neighborhood of Nyboder. The area features terraced houses that were built in the 17th and 18th century to provide housing for the personnel of the Royal Danish Navy and their families. The seemingly infinite rows of little identical yellow houses will give you an insight into how people’s houses used to be like back in the days.
Browse the Royal Library
Finally, check out the Royal Library and its extension, The Black Diamond, where a copy of all works printed in Denmark since the 17th century are archived! The old and new building are connected by a suspended bridge and besides being architecturally interesting, the new building offers beautiful views of the river.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about Copenhagen and that it inspired you to visit the capital. Let me know in the comments what are the things you would want to do most in the city or what were the highlights of your trip if you’ve already been.
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