Something old, something new, something borrowed / Something blue / I’ve still got memories to tell me. The lyrics by songwriters Roger Frederick Cook, Roger John Reginald Greenaway and Tony Macaulay gave inspiration to this compilation of what to experience in Copenhagen. The best of the best in Copenhagen 2023 refers to previously published articles in Daily Scandinavian plus some additions. Let us entertain you!
Copenhagen has been named the World Capital of Architecture for 2023, so architecture in the capital will have its well-deserved place in this compilation.
If you download the new free app from the Danish Architectural Center you will be armed with in-depth details about hundreds of notable sites.
Copenhagen has a distinctly European feel, a friendly street-life, and unique café culture that will make you want to return time and time again. The city is perfect for wandering through at your leisure, or alternatively, make like a local and hop on a bike, the preferred mode of transport for many.
With so many things to see and do, it can be overwhelming to plan your itinerary. That’s why we’ve made this compilation to make it easier for you. Just pick your choices, and you’re guaranteed the best of the best in Copenhagen.
One of the most frequented and top Copenhagen sights is the town hall or Rådhuspladsen. The main square of Copenhagen is simply called Copenhagen town hall square or Rådhuspladsen. It is fashioned in an Italian Renaissance style with Danish influence that was popular during the timeframe of its build. On the main tower of the town hall is a large ornate world clock created by Jens Olsen, one of the pre-eminent clock markers who created one of the most accurate, large-scale devices in the world. The façade of the main town hall is ornate with beautifully detailed craftsmanship created by local designers and craftsmen.
An easy 10-minute walk from Tivoli along Vestergade brings you to the National Museum (Nationalmuseet), a must-see attraction for anyone with an interest in Danish history and culture.
Some impressive runic stones are on display here, and the Danish history collection includes a sun chariot (cult object in the form of a cart) that is more than 2,000 years old, Romanesque and Gothic church fittings, Danish porcelain and silver, and collections of antiquities and coins.
The colorful Nyhavn Quayside is a famous landmark from 1661. It’s a must to visit, be it at morning, noon, or night. It’s also a favorit place for the locals, slowing down to enjoy the sun and do some people watching along the boardwalk. Nyhavn is a part of the historical central district of Copenhagen.
Not been there yet? You can’t visit the Danish capital without seeing the Little Mermaid, so head along the waterfront from Nyhavn to Kastellet (less than two kilometers) and take in the iconic statue and surroundings. Many boat tours also pass by the mermaid, but seeing it on land offers a much better vantage point.
Kastellet is the former Citadel of Frederikshavn, the oldest parts of which date from 1625. The Citadel buildings are well maintained and well worth exploring. The Little Mermaid (Den lille Havfrue), which you’ll see from the shore, is the official emblem of Copenhagen.
The bronze sculpture, created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, is based on a theme from one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, which tells the tale of a mermaid who once came up out of the depths of the sea because she’d fallen in love with a prince. Sadly, as the prince didn’t reciprocate, she was forced to leave the human world and return once more to the sea.
You won’t be able to get right up to the mermaid herself, perched on rocks just offshore, but there are plenty of perfect spots to pose in front of this famous statue.
Also known as Indre By, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Denmark’s capital. This charming area is filled with cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and historic landmarks that showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. From grand royal palaces to cozy cafes, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant neighborhood.
One of the top sites of Copenhagen to visit is Strøget street. Copenhagen’s largest outdoor shopping street in the central district is called Strøget, a popular shopping venue with pedestrian only promenades filled with popular stores. The main square around Strøget is called the Amagertorv with an ornate stork fountain done in Dutch renaissance style. Located in the center of the square, the fountain was built to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of King Frederik VIII to Queen Louise – the fountain was given to them by the city council and commemorated in 1894. Strøget has many of the world’s international fashion and product brands including H&M, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and many well-known designers. One of the fun things to do in Copenhagen is explore the main promenade which feature many local design shops and specialty Danish stores including: Mads Nørgaard design, Birger Christensen, the Hay house, Trollbeads and Sand which features Danish designs for men’s and women’s wear.
On Købmagergade is the Round Tower (Rundetårn), a 36-meter-high structure built as an observatory in 1642. It now also houses a small collection connected with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe.
A particular treat is the platform, reached by a wide spiral ramp. From the top are magnificent panoramic views over the city. A new attraction is the glass floor hovering 25 meters above the ground where you can peer down into the castle’s core.
Fans of Hans Christian Andersen will be interested to know that the tower features in his well-known story The Tinderbox – “eyes as big as the Round Tower.”
A canal cruise is the preferred way to visit the canals and restored warehouses that have been converted to living and working buildings and enjoy the views from a water vantage point. Or you can take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood to soak in the slower pace and details of daily life around this vibrant area.
Rentals from GoBoat or FriendShips start at 549 kroner for one hour. Photo: Visit CopenhagenSailing the Copenhagen harbor
No license or previous experience is required to captain an electric boat that seats up to eight (rentals from GoBoat or FriendShips start at 549 kroner for one hour). Get an early start to beat the birthday parties and bachelorette groups (alcohol is allowed aboard) and putter through the narrow canals of Christianshavn and around Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish Parliament. When passing under the Højbro bridge, peer into the depths on the port side to spot the bronze underwater sculptures of “Agnete and the Merman,” by the Danish artist Suste Bonnén.
One of the most popular public parks in Central Copenhagen is Ørstedparken which is located along the old fortification ruins of the city. The moat is still left over with large ponds in the middle of the park with trails, flower gardens and grassy hills. Some of the hilly areas contain an old bastion and rampart with wonderful views to the surrounding areas and city center. During the summertime, the park is filled with colorful flower gardens. It’s a perfect spot for locals and visitors alike to have a nice picnic or just take a long afternoon nap. It’s a perfect respite from the crowded urban crawl around the historic center of the city.
A cool new hangout spot and hipster place to visit in Copenhagen is right next door to the Torvehallerne and Orstedparken, on the cutting edge, made with shipping containers repurposed into street food, beer stations and public entertainment venues all in one setting. The area has an edgy vibe with cool DJs spinning, live bands and performances, dances and the weekend outdoor craft fares happening all around the park like setting.
If you are looking for a trendy and fun area to hang out with the locals, then go to Little Copenhagen from Thursday to Sunday evenings and enjoy all the entertainment and delicious street food. You’ll enjoy visiting this very local Copenhagen attraction on the weekends to see and live the vibe of this fun neighborhood in town.
Danes tradition is that smørrebrød should be eaten only at lunch. Not so at Selma, where you can enjoy these tasty sandwiches all day long. It has even earned the restaurant a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide in 2021. Opened by the Swedish chef Magnus Pettersson, this restaurant serves exquisite seasonal creations (and a non-smørrebrød tasting menu for sticklers).
Reserve a table in the cozy dining room, with warm pendant lighting, wooden tables and floral Josef Frank wallpaper, where recent highlights included green-anise-flavored herring on Danish rye topped with petal-like pieces of pearl onion, wild-garlic cream and tiny dollops of herring caviar.
To drink, try the house-made aquavit — a bracing local spirit that here is infused with flavors like herbaceous lovage and brown butter — and a draft beer (the restaurant partners with the Copenhagen craft beer pioneer Mikkeller and local microbreweries are well represented).
One of the cool and new Copenhagen’s sights to hang out in is the Meat packing district at Vesterbro which is located next to the main train station. The area is now considered Copenhagen’s ‘Red light district’ but with more yuppie appeal and bustling with hip cafes, clubs and the occasional strip show venue. The new hipster zone is a fun spot to visit the many design galleries and stores, interesting old architecture or just walking through and enjoying the street life.
Of course, if your main interest is mostly the club scene and red-light appeal, then nighttime at Vesterbro is definitely the best time to explore the area.
Why not stay at the Comfort Hotel Vesterbro?
On a side street in the lively Nørrebro neighborhood, Pompette is a local favorite for its well-priced natural wines — 60 kroner a glass — and laid-back vibe. After dinner, join Danes for a drink. Or head northwest to Autopoul, a pop-up bar that opened last year in a former car-repair shop in the Nordvest area, where crowds gather around tables in the old garage and parking lot to sip Danish ciders, vermouth, natural wines and craft beers from the neighborhood’s Flying Couch Brewing.
Less than 10-minutes’ walk from the Round Tower and now home to some of Denmark’s greatest cultural treasures, this castle was originally built by Christian IV as a pleasure palace.
Inhabited by the royal family until 1720 and after that used as a summer retreat, the castle and contents became a museum in 1838. In the basement are the Danish crown jewels and royal regalia.
Of particular interest are the Marble Room, a Baroque reception room, and the Knights’ Hall with the Coronation Throne (used between 1871 to 1940), as well as the famous Rosenborg Tapestries, which have adorned the walls since 1693. Exquisite porcelain is also on exhibit, including the famous Flora Danica service.
A fun cultural Copenhagen tourist attraction is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek which is Copenhagen’s signature art museum. Named for the iconic Carlsberg benefactor, the museum is mostly a personal collection of Carl Jacobson who created the museum and donated it to the city. Even for non- museum goers, this is a must see place because of the stunning exterior and interior details, including the spectacular views from the rooftop deck.
The Glyptotek museum exhibits rotating shows along with their permanent collections of mostly ancient antiquities of mostly Egypt, Rome and Greece. There is also a collection of modern art with French Impressionist and Post Impressionist masterpieces, works by Rodin and a collection of paintings of the Danish Golden age. A popular place to visit during bad weather. The museum is one of the top places to visit at winter time in Copenhagen. The museum is a beautiful refuge to enjoy art and collections in a beautiful space away from the elements and changing conditions in the city.
Folkehuset Absalon, a welcoming community house in a former church, hosts many events, including weekend dance parties. Think of Absalon as an extension of your own living room, filled with friends, table tennis, music, backgammon, film, bingo, food, dance, coffee, chess, yoga, markets, parties, talks and everything in between.
The main palace at Christiansborg is open for the public to view many of the public and administrative halls in the palace. The seat of imperial Denmark, the palace retains many of its splendid royal halls which the queen still uses for many state dinners and events. With the price of admission, you can also visit the royal stables, the underground ruins of earlier medieval castles, the palace chapel and the court theater. Inside the palace are beautiful collections of porcelain, tapestries, artwork and statues, chandeliers, and other richly decorated ornaments.
The palace is also a working government building housing all three branches of the Danish government including: the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the country. Since the early 15th century the palace has been the base of central administration and now the current day parliament of Denmark. It is the only government building in the world that houses all of its government branches within one impressive building.
Cisternerne is a subterranean exhibition space with a kaleidoscopic art installation in a former water reservoir.
A popular green belt and lake area in central Copenhagen is Peblinge lake, in fact a series of three rectangular lakes that formed originally from a stream and converted into dammed lakes as fortification for the historic central district in the early 1700s. Now the lakes and green belts are used for recreational purposes and offer beautiful skyline views on the city center.
Juno the Bakery, There is a good reason locals get up extra early during weekends to buy their bread at Juno in residential Østerbro. On both Saturday and Sunday mornings, there is a line all around the block. It has actually become kind of a tourist attraction just to watch people queue that long for a bun! The owner has worked at the best restaurant in the world, Noma, and you can tell from the pastries he has that kind of mindset. Everything they serve is perfect.
The National Gallery of Denmark displays the largest collection of Danish art from the 1700s to the present day, as well as impressive works from around the world.
Highlights include the Danish and Nordic art exhibition, which spans 150 years, as well as paintings by the Dutch Masters, Edvard Munch, and Picasso among others.
Natural light floods the upper floors giving the gallery a wonderful, airy ambience. Be sure to pick up a map before exploring all the collections, so you don’t miss any of the impressive works.
Once you’ve finished appreciating the art, take a break at the on-site café. It is particularly pleasant and a great place to unwind and soak up the surroundings.
It’s worth visiting this charming lane in Copenhagen, called Little Paris. Its charming cafes and shops offers a well-deserved break from museums and other attractions. Stop for a panino at Italo Caffé. Then pop around the corner to Thiemers Magasin, an independent bookstore with an English-language section well-stocked with Danish authors. Down the block, CAN Family is the place to unearth rare vinyl from the collector Martin Aalykke Kristiansen as well as paintings and ceramics made by his wife, Stine Maria Aalykke. Next door, Shrig Shop stocks limited-edition prints, posters and postcards with whimsical illustrations from the British artist David Shrigley. For mint-condition designer vintage, cross the street to Tootsie, or visit IBlameLULU, a nearby shop that often has recent-season voluminous dresses from the Danish rising-star designer Cecilie Bahnsen.
In recent years, the former industrial district has become one of Copenhagen’s hippest areas and a hub for creativity, alternative urban development, festivals and great foods of very different kinds. Easily reached by bike, bus or even harbor bus, the island is an integral part of the city but with its very own identity.
Although you won’t likely notice this from the ground, Den Bla Planet (a.k.a. the National Aquarium Denmark) was built to resemble a whirlpool. Think that’s cool? Head inside where the aquarium’s wow factor is even more impressive!
The largest aquarium in Northern Europe, Den Blå Planet is one of the best attractions in Copenhagen. The building’s aluminum-covered walls evoke rolling ocean waves while the aquarium’s inner pathways flow like tributaries from the central core through eight sections.
These paths are lined by close to 50 aquariums and installations that house everything from eagle rays to turtles to hammerhead sharks to seahorses to moray eels to alligators. There is no shortage of creatures to see here.
Whether you’re hoping to spot ocean animals up close or are interested in the marine life that call tropical rivers and lakes home, you’re sure to find something inspiring in this venue. Watch the otters play, touch a creature in the tropical touch pool, or visit the café for a treat.
Nordhavn (North Harbor) is an industrial area being transformed into a series of waterfront neighborhoods packed with glass-and-steel architecture, climate-neutral housing and clever green spaces. Take the Nordhavn metro, which opened in 2020. Familiar yourself with astonishing architecture, like Konditaget Lüders (see below), the Portland Towers, the Silo, FN Byen and CopenHill, a sloping power plant with a rooftop ski hill and vertiginous climbing wall. Order a cortado (38 kroner) at the artisan bakery Andersen & Maillard, then continue to the Sandkaj harbor bath, a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing with a wide wooden boardwalk along the water.
According to JAJA Architects, car parks of the future should contribute to life in the city. In Nordhavn – a relatively new Copenhagen neighborhood – there is not much room for recreational activities on street level. In this densely built-up area, the 2,400 m2 rooftop provides an alternative urban space and playground that’s open to everyone. JAJA Architects designed a building that rises 24 meters from the ground, offering a beautiful view of the Sound and harbor from the roof.
One of the cool and satisfying Copenhagen attractions is a visit to Carlsberg. For beer lovers, a visit to the Carlsberg breweries is a must at the town of Valby, which is close to the city center. Valby is the location of the first Carlsberg brewery in Denmark. Outside of the main brewery, there are many warehouses and beautiful brick buildings that are being repurposed into mixed used places for locals and eventually tourists to visit. The old brewery is open to visitors to tour the historical facility and buildings, art collections and stable grounds. With the entry price, there are free guided tours with an overview of the history, brew making story and architecture at Carlsberg.
The brewery is famous for its beautiful brick buildings constructed in the early 19th and 20th centuries with gorgeous facades and ornamentation and details. The brewery also has two gardens, stables, villas and an art museum worth visiting.
Less than one and a half kilometers from Rosenborg in the Frederiksstaden quarter, you’ll find Rosenborg’s sister palace, Amalienborg, along with its serene waterfront gardens.
The four palaces facing onto the square were originally built as homes for the nobility, but were taken over by the Royal Family after a fire at Christiansborg in 1794. The palace takes its name from Queen Sophie Amalie who had a sumptuous summer retreat on the site, which also burned down in 1689.
The area was designed to be a model society with the King as focal point and the aristocracy (the four palaces) surrounding him. Today, Queen Margrethe II and her family occupy the upper story of Christian IX Palace, and the Moltke Palace is used for official purposes. The soldiers of the Royal Guard with their bearskins and blue (on festive occasions red, white, and blue) uniforms are a unique symbol of the city.
The central core island in Copenhagen’s main harbor was formed into the city’s ruling power and eventually expanded to Christian Town and other outlying areas which eventually formed the city center. Recognized as the center of Denmark’s government, Slotsholmen has been the active ruling seat since the middleages and into modern times. The historic island is filled with historical monuments and important architectural buildings including: Christiansborg Slot, Denmark’s parliament (Folketing), the royal residence (Christiansborg Palace), the Supreme Court, national archives and the prime minister’s office all one confined area.
You can easily spend days just visiting the many museums on the island. This includes magnificent buildings that house the following: the Danish Jewish Museum, the royal stables at Christianborg Palace, the Theater Museum, ruins at Christianborg Palace, the Royal Arsenal Museum, Thorvaldsen Museum.
Starting out as a hippy settlement more than 40 years ago, this unique and controversial area was firstly designated as a social experiment and is now owned by the residents.
Christiania is one of Denmark’s most loved tourist attractions, and each year, this “freetown” lures up to a million visitors. Admittedly, it may not be to everyone’s taste, however, it is a functioning alternative society, a place where many accepted norms simply don’t apply, and people live by their own rules.
Cars are banned, bicycles are the main mode of transport, and horses roam free. Highlights are the handmade houses and buildings and the large lake where children splash around with each other on hot summer days. The small shops and cafés use a special Christiania currency.
To the west of Copenhagen, a little more than three kilometers from the city center, lies the Zoological Garden (Zoologisk Have), founded in 1859 and one of the oldest and largest zoos in Europe.
The enclosures imitate the animals’ natural surroundings as closely as possible. Here, you can watch polar bears, seals, lions, and other animals being fed. At the entrance, there’s an observation tower.
Favorite exhibits are the bird lake with storks and pelicans, reptile house, monkey house, and lion’s den among others. Of particular interest is the Norman-Foster-designed elephant enclosure.
About a 20-minute drive north of Copenhagen, Bakken amusement park is a folksy version of the Tivoli, with numerous restaurants, cafés, and fun things to do — especially for younger children.
Believe it or not, this has been a leisure facility since 1583. There are no less than six roller coasters and more than 30 different rides, including a ghost train. Entrance into the park itself is free, allowing those who just want to stroll about and take in the atmosphere to do so without paying a fee.
The surrounding wood and parkland is particularly pleasant, and there are excellent train and bus links from the city-center for those who aren’t driving. Nearby, you’ll find Klampenborg with prestigious villas and excellent bathing.
The Louisiana Museum of Art, in Humlebæk 55 km (22 mil) north of Copenhagen opened its doors in 1958 with its brilliant Alberto Giacometti collection and seaside sculpture garden just up the coast. At that time, its founder, Knud W. Jensen, intended it to establish a home for modern Danish art. However, a few years later he changed course and Louisiana became an international museum of modern art. But why is there a Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark? Click the link to learn more.
With its incredible history, breathtaking architecture, lively culture, and mouth-watering cuisine, Copenhagen is a city that caters to every traveler’s desires. It’s no wonder why Copenhagen consistently ranks among the most livable cities in the world. So why not start planning your trip today and experience the magic of this captivating city for yourself?
The Best of the Best in Copenhagen 2023, compiled by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Nyhavn © Visit Denmark