Copenhagen is a city of contrasts. On one side you have this stoic, righteous, Nordic attitude; and yet on the other, you have this incredibly quirky and alternative vibe that unbalances everything you thought the Danish capital would be.
This is precisely what makes Copenhagen so riveting and captivating. Out of all the must-see landmarks and pop-up restaurants and edgy boutiques, not one is like the others.
First-timer to Copenhagen? Here are the 26 places you’ve got to see and things you’ve got to eat. Velkommen til Danmark!
The ultimate Copenhagen postcard! Dating back from the 17th century, Nyhavn was constructed on orders of King Christian V from in 1673 by Swedish prisoners from the Dano-Swedish War of 1658–1660. Much like Amsterdam and other trade ports in the Early modern period, Nyhavn definitely wasn’t the chicest place to be; in fact, it was considered to be Copenhagen’d Red Light District, where drunk fishermen happily “mingled” with prostitutes. I swear it’s nothing like that today! ;-)
Dating back from the 1700s, this Rococo gem is the winter residence of the Danish royal family and is actually made up of four identical palaces forming a square upon which the statue of King Frederik V keeps a watchful eye. Amalienborg is where the daily changing of the guard ceremony occurs between 11:30 and 12:00.
The CopenhagenCard grants visitors access to Amalienborg and about 30 other landmarks in and around the city.
Church of Our Saviour
This otherwise unexciting church is noticeable from all over Copenhagen thanks to its 90-metres high golden helix spire. If heights weren’t one of the things I’m most scared of, I wouldn’t have hesitated to climb the 400-step outdoor staircase to enjoy yet another beautiful viewpoint of Copenhagen.
Copenhagen’s second most visited palace – which technically houses the Danish parliament, the prime minister’s office, and the Danish Supreme Court – does not disappoint. The palace itself is, naturally, absolutely splendid, but what really keeps drawing the crowds is the free-of-charge view from atop the 106-metres high central tower and the Queen’s exceptional collection of 11 French tapestries.
- Full-day Copenhagen highlights tour
- Copenhagen food tour
- Danish pastry cooking class
- Vesterbro tour with beer tasting
- Danish hygge & happiness tour of Copenhagen
- Copenhagen bike tour
Although its canals are nowhere near as famous as that of Venice or Amsterdam, Copenhagen does have plenty of scenic waterfronts to be explored. Boat tours are a nice excuse to simply sit back and let yourself be entertained by the guide’s often witty commentaries with the beautiful city of Copenhagen as a backdrop.
Call it a commune, call it a hippie paradise, call it whatever you like; the truth is that Christiania is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Characterised by its counter-culture that advocates for looser drug regulations and a freer, more democratic market, this neighbourhood is also home to inexpensive eateries, alternative art galleries, and collaborative workshops.
This guided tour focuses on alternative Copenhagen and includes time in Christiana, should you wish to visit with the commentary of a knowledgeable guide.
Whatever you do, though, do NOT take your camera out; locals do not take kindly to being photographed (hence the lack of picture for this entry).
Built as a scientific observatory back in the 1700s, the Round Tower is, to this day, the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. After a mind-boggling hike up the step-free spiral walk, visitors are rewarded with splendid 360° views of Copenhagen’s old town.
Housing over 13,000 species and 27 historic glasshouses over an area of 10 hectares, the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens are a must, especially considering they are free of charge. Tip: the wrought-iron staircase and mezzanine of the main building are a favourite spot among local Instagrammers.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Although not in Copenhagen per se, this wonderfully contemporary museum is well worth the short train ride up north. It is often referred to as the epicentre of modern art, after all! It consistently welcomes bold yet captivating exhibits visited by art lovers from around the world.
Located just a few subway stops west of Copenhagen’s centre, the 250-year-old Carlsberg Brewery hosts the world’s largest collection of beer bottles. It’s also an interactive and modern exhibit on the global history of beer, and that of Carlsberg’s more specifically. Like any brewery tour worthy of its name, the visit concludes with a generously-sized sampling.
The amusement park features a mix of modern and vintage rides that are very dear to local residents. Most notably, it includes one of the few remaining wooden roller coasters that still require a brakeman on board every train.
A great attraction to visit if you’re planning to see the Little Siren as they are both in the same part of the city. The Copenhagen Citadel is equal parts bucolic and historic; despite the abundance of joggers and young families on play dates, Kastellet is one of the finest examples of star-shaped fortresses in Northern Europe.
Rosenberg Castle & Gardens
It’s not as lavish as Amalienborg and not as popular as Christiansborg. However, Rosenborg Castle deserves a visit if only for a glimpse of the Danish crown jewels. Its collection of thrones, portraits, tapestries, and other memorabilia commemorates battles between Denmark and Sweden at the time of the famed King Christian IV.
It’s not featured in guidebooks. It’s not much of an attraction at all, actually. But this street has gained worldwide popularity thanks to its photogenic curb appeal and the colourful houses on either side of it. To be fair, though, it is one of the two oldest streets in the Old Town of Copenhagen; as such, it still features its original cobbling.
You can probably already tell by the lack of photographic evidence for this entry; I’m not the biggest fan of the Little Siren statue. I am just not sentimental in that way! And, anyway, my allegiance lies with the Lion King as far as children’s movies are concerned. But it nonetheless represents an important aspect of Copenhagen’s history. Indeed, the statue was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg himself as a gift to the city in 1913.
Day trips from Copenhagen
- Kronborg Castle, Frederiksborg Castle and Roskilde Cathedral
- Tour the seaside villages of Hornbæk, Gilleleje and Tisvilde on the Danish Riviera
- Kronborg Castle + Helsingør, Lund and Malmö in Sweden
- Vesterhavegaarden vineyard visit
- Hans Christian Anderson’s birthplace in Odense
- The cliffs of Møns Klint, Denmark’s tallest
- Dragsholm Castle and its Michelin-starred restaurant
Where to eat in Copenhagen
- The Coffee Collective
- Sømods Bolcher
- Nørrebro Bryghus
- Aamanns smørrebrødsdeli
- Café Auto
- Street food at Pølsevogn Papirøen