Note: This guide covers just the city of Copenhagen. I also did day trips to the North of Zealand, Odense, and Roskilde that I really liked. If in Copenhagen for longer than 2 days, I would strongly consider going on one of these trips. My top recommendation would be the North of Zealand.
Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, a small but rich nation located south of Sweden and north of Germany. While most of Denmark is part of a long peninsula, Copenhagen is actually on an island called Zealand. A modern bridge connects Copenhagen to Malmo in southern Sweden.
Copenhagen is considered by many to be a top city in Europe to both visit and live due to its many sights, pretty scenery, good food, and incredible functionality.
What to See:
Districts to Wander:
City Center– the historic city center is full of old buildings, shops, and restaurants. The main commercial street, which you will inevitably end up on, is called Stroget.
Vesterbro – modern but still walkable. Many of Copenhagen’s best new restaurants are here. Of note is the trendy Meatpacking District.
Norrebro – a very nice neighborhood without many tourist attractions
Frederiksberg – technically an independent city surrounded by Copenhagen. Contains some old restaurants and the city’s largest park: Frederiksberg Gardens
Freetown Christiania – Unique neighborhood built on squatted military barracks. Mostly inhabited by artists and those seeking an “alternative” lifestyle. Marijuana is consumed and sold openly. Photography is now allowed but do not take photos of people. There is nothing else like it in Europe or perhaps the world.
Christiansborg– This is the main palace in Copenhagen. Home to both royal reception rooms and the Danish Parliament
Amalienborg – Home of the Queen and her family. Actually there are four identical palaces. One of them is a museum about the Royal Family
Rosenborg – Historic palace from the 17th century. The basement contains the crown jewels.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek– Sculpture museum with the private collection of the founder of Carlsberg beer
National Museum of Denmark– very informative museum on Denmark’s history. Go here first thing in the morning otherwise it will fry your brain.
Museum of the Danish Resistance – brand new museum (2020) that covers Denmark’s unique WWII history. Stunning exhibits and use of video makes this one of the best museums I’ve ever been to
National Gallery of Denmark– Main art museum. In a pretty park with a bunch of other museums you can visit on a combined ticket.
National Aquarium of Denmark– Sleek architecture and within walking distance of the airport. A nice thing to do if you need to kill an hour or two before your flight.
Other Points of Interest:
Tivoli– One of the world’s oldest amusement parks that also is just a beautiful place to walk around. Right in the city center next to the main train station.
The Round Tower – Old observation tower in the city center.
Nyhayn– The canal with colorful buildings you see in everyone’s Instagram.
The Little Mermaid statue– The statue of the character from the Hans Christian Andersen folktale is nothing special, but the nearby park is beautiful.
What to Eat:
-Reffer (Copenhagen’s street food market. Many other Danish cities have a similar such thing)
-Any Danish hot dog cart (a cultural icon. Make sure to order it ristet – with everything)
-Smagsloget (HUMONGOUS Danish sandwiches)
-Vaffelbageren Nyhavn (popular Danish-style ice cream shop next to Nyhayn)
-Café Paludan (very old café. Great for breakfast, lunch, coffe or dinner)
-Halifax (local burger chain with unusual options)
-Warpigs Brewing (authentic American BBQ that’s really really good, collaboration between Mikkeller and Three Floyds from the USA)
-Det Lille Apotek (oldest restaurant in Denmark. Very traditional Danish food. They have a multi-course tasting menu)
-Schonnemann (lunch-only open-faced sandwich shop open since the 1800’s. Very Danish)
-Hansens Gamle Familiehave (the oldest of Copenhagen’s “farm restaurants”, very Danish)
-Noma (considered by many to be the best restaurant on earth. Expect to spend well over 300 Euros/person for what apparently is the meal of a lifetime.
What to Drink:
Note: nightclubs were closed when I visited due to COVID
-Mikkeller (Copenhagen-based craft brewer. Many locations around town, but the Vesterbro is the original location)
-Duck & Cover (upscale cocktails)
-Grab a beer from 7-Eleven and drink by the canals (the true Danish activity)
-Café Nemoland (in Christiania. Beer garden with live music)
Where to Stay:
The whole city is easily accessible by public transportation. Therefore, where you stay doesn’t matter as much as it would it other cities. See my thoughts on hotels.
I stayed in two hostels: the party Copenhagen Downtown Hostel and the upscale/chic Steelhouse Copenhagen.
2 days: Keep plucking things from the list. The “must-see” sights to see are: Christiansborg Palace, Tivoli, Nyhayn, Freetown Christiania, and the City Center.
3-4 days: Add day trips to North of Zealand and Roskilde
Airport: Copenhagen International Airport (CPH). The airport has two terminals and has flights to all over Europe as well as North America, Asia and famously Greenland.
From Airport to City Center: Trains and the subway can get you into town in just 15-20 minutes.
Trains: Both Copenhagen and the airport are well connected to both cities in Denmark and Malmo, Sweden (30 minutes) by train.
How to Get Around the City:
The city center can be fully explored by foot. For some of the outer neighborhoods such as Cristiania, the public transportation is very easy to use. Public transit tickets can be used on any medium (bus, train, metro). Even though there are no turnstiles, they do check tickets, so don’t try to dodge the fare.
Copenhagen is one of the world’s most expensive cities both to live in and to visit. Expect to pay (2020 costs):
35 DKK ($5) for a beer
70-100 DKK ($10-15) for a cheap meal
130-200 DKK ($20-30) for a moderate meal
100-120 DKK ($20) to visit a museum