Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

Have you heard the song Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen written by Frank Loesser for the 1952 film about Hans Christian Andersen (played by Danny Kaye)? ‘Friendly old girl of a town’, he sings. Copenhagen is as friendly today as it was back in 1952 – or in the lifetime of the fairytale king. Here’s just a few of the things you should experience.

The Capital of Denmark is packed with historic landmarks, stunning Scandinavian architecture, family-friendly attractions, tons of public parks and exceptional restaurants. ‘On this merry night, let us clink and drink one down to wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen’.

It’s not uncommon to see a pram with a baby dozing in it outside a restaurant while mother and father lunch inside. In this modern capital, there are far more bikes than cars – so, if you’re not a Dane, watch your steps as a pedestrian.

From local-led canal tours to lush urban gardens, and even floating hot tubs that sail the city’s famed canals, there’s no shortage of entertainment in Copenhagen. Whether you want to spend all day outside, or cozy up indoors, read on for our picks for what to do the next time you’re in Copenhagen – the ‘salty old queen of the sea’.

“But I’m home today / Singing Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful / Copenhagen for me”

Be a biker
Do as the locals and get around by bike. It’s impossible to miss the dominance of the bicycle in Denmark’s capital. All over the city, you’ll experience bikers in hundreds, and everywhere there is an endless ocean of parked bicycles used by commuters. Bike Copenhagen offers 2-hour guided tours or full-day rental for those who want to explore on their own.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Do as the locals and get around by bike. Photo: Kai Pilger/Unsplash

Copenhagen has the heart of a small town but the culture of a large city. ‘Once I sailed away, but I’m home today, singing Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful’.

Museums and attractions

Design Museum
Design Museum Copenhagen was founded in 1890, when Denmark’s industrial enterprises were celebrating the eminence of their Sponsored content products. In the course of the 20th century, Danish design – especially furniture design – achieved worldwide renown. After two years of renovation, Design Museum Copenhagen reopened in June 2022.

The National Museum

Denmark’s National Museum is a good place to spend the afternoon, diving into an overarching review of Danish history. There is a strong focus on the Viking Age. Highlights include the legendary Viking ship Roskilde 6, the treasure collection Fæstedskatten and a cinematic story of life in the Viking Age.

Elsewhere in the museum, the vast collection of Middle Ages and Renaissance artwork together with an honest review of the history of Danish colonialism are among the other highlights.

Botanical Gardens and Rosenborg Castle
The Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen is a part of the Natural History Museum of Denmark. Visit the rosarium, the perennials and a huge conservatory with tropical and subtropical plants. And just across from the Botanical Gardens is one of Copenhagen’s most attractive sights, Rosenborg Castle. This castle dates to 1606 when it was built as a royal summer house by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Fredriksberg palace is today home to the Royal Danish Military Academy. Photo: Angelo Casto/Unsplash

Frederiksberg Palace
This Baroque residence and formal gardens served as the royal family’s summer residence until the mid-19th century. Recently restored, the palace is today home to the Royal Danish Military Academy. Copenhagen’s Frederiksberg Palace is surrounded by formal parkland popular with locals and tourists.

Guided tours of the impressive palace rooms are infrequent but the beautifully-kept lakes, canals and shrubbery of the English-style gardens are always open during daylight hours. Don’t miss the Chinese Pavilion and the Temple of Apis.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Instead of stairs, the Inside Rudetårn has a dramatic cobblestone ramp, with bright-white walls on either side, Photo: Daniel Rasmussen/Visit Denmark

Blazes in 1728 and 1795 licked and leaped along the straw-roofed houses and turned most of the half-timbered medieval town to ashes. Only a few solidly built structures survived – among them Round Tower (Rundetaarn). Instead of stairs, the inside is a dramatic cobblestone ramp, with bright-white walls on either side—wide enough to allow a horse and carriage to fit through. Along the way, there’s an art gallery and bell tower. At the top, you’re rewarded with a 360° view of Copenhagen’s rooftops, including other equally old steeples.

As an extension of Copenhagen’s Frederiksberg Museums, the Cisternerne operates as a venue for exhibitions and events – but it’s the space itself that is the permanent exhibit and primary attraction. Once a subterranean reservoir filled with 16 million liters of water, the cistern has been filled by an unconventional museum. The cryptic underground cave — the only dripstone cave in Denmark – is a gloomy labyrinth filled with stalactites and stalagmites.

Assistens Cemetery
The famous Assistens Cemetery is smack in the middle of Copenhagen’s hip Nørrebro district and doubles as a public park that people actually hang out at — and even sunbathe in. Pathways meander through gardens, meadows, and woods punctuated with tombstones of famous Danes. It’s very Nordic noir. Wander the grounds looking for familiar names on headstones, or simply appreciate the park for its lush natural beauty, peaceful gardens, and art sculptures.


Tivoli gardens
Tivoli Garden’s 20 leafy acres feature carnival games, marching bands, and amusement rides (the creaky 1914 roller coaster is the same vintage as the merry-go-round of tiny Viking ships).

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Dance halls, beer gardens, and a full schedule of mostly free open-air stage performances keep young and old entertained and coming back to Tivoli Gardens. Photo: Copenhagen City Pass

Dance halls, beer gardens, and a full schedule of mostly free open-air stage performances keep young and old entertained and coming back. There are dozens of restaurants and food pavilions – some of them very elegant but pricey. Traditional Tivoli fare of pølser (hot dogs with fried onions) is usually heaven enough for most.

Copenhagen’s first ski destination
Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, CopenHill is an artificial ski slope and recreational hiking area opened in the spring 2019, built on top of the new waste management center.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Each boat has one guide and 12 guests, max, keeping the experience intimate and personal. PR photo

Hey Captain
A canal boat might sound like a generic tourist activity, but Hey Captain offers a fun, intimate look at the city and a window into daily Danish life. That’s especially the case in summer, when locals laze on the docks and dive into the refreshing harbor water. Each boat has one guide and 12 guests, max, keeping the experience intimate and personal. The guides have extensive knowledge on the city, its history, and its architecture. They’re also hired for their personalities – the mood is light and enjoyable.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Walk down Pilestrædet and you’ll see a hundred stores worth browsing. Photo: Martin Heiberg/Visit Copenhagen

While Stroget, a walking street in the center of the city, is impressive, it’s also full of tourists and large chain stores you can find in most big cities. Go to Illums Bolighus and HAY Design Store, both in the center of Stroget, then duck into the side streets around it for some fantastic, unique shopping. We recommend DAY Birger et Mikkelsen on Pilestræde, and Munthe and Ganni both on Store Regnegade (just walk down that street and you’ll see a hundred stores worth browsing).

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Kødbyen Fiskebar. Photo: Martin Heiberg/Visit Copenhagen

Torvehallerne in Copenhagen, which opened 2 September 2011, situated right by Nørreport Metro Station is a foodie lover’s dream. Also known as the “glass market”.  This market is housed in a modern greenhouse-like building and is filled with smørrebrod and cheese shops, as well as restaurants. Grab a beer at the Mikkeller Bottle Shop (there are no open container laws in Denmark, so you can walk down the street with an open beer in hand). We also highly recommend Hija de Sanchez for tacos. If you’re interested in interior, the design store *Stilleben is worth a visit.

‘Neath her tavern light / On this merry night’

Jaegersborggade, a cobbled street fringed with colorful buildings, has a slew of great restaurants, bars, and shops. Even though the stretch isn’t terribly long, it’s the type of place where you easily could spend an entire day. Have a pastry at Meyers Bageri, a coffee at Coffee Collective, lunch at Manfreds, a beer at Mikkeller & Friends, and dinner at Relae. Or, just enjoy the browsing, strolling, and people-watching.

Eat & Drink
Kødbyens Fiskebar is one of Noma’s first offshoots in the middle of Copenhagen. The fish and shellfish are excellent, and there’s a relaxed atmosphere. This extremely hip seafood restaurant, set in an old meatpacking factory, came up in nearly every guide, and it’s delicious – but it’s also expensive. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, consider Schanchez Restaurant right down the street.  Chef and owner, Hilja de Schanchez grew up in the southside of Chicago and is a first generation Mexican-American. Her dream of making well prepared Mexican food in Europe lead to the opening of her taqueria in Copenhagen. The restaurant in Istedgade has room for 46 guests and the interior design company La Metropolitana from Mexico City has decorated the premises, just as they did, when Noma popped up in Mexico.

The entire meatpacking district in Vesterbro, where Fiskebar is located, is still very much a functioning industrial area (not quite like its New York equivalent), but is, as of recently, also home to loads of interesting bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. Enjoy Texas barbecue along with one of 22 craft beers at the WarPigs brewpub, tasting dishes at the trendy butcher-restaurant Fleisch, or cheap, homemade burgers at Tommi’s Burger Joint.

Original Mikkeller
At the Danish brewery Original Mikkeller,  you can sit for hours, sipping glasses of Spontan Cherry and Vesterbro Spontanale (named for their spontaneous fermentation by wild yeast) and fitting right in with the other loud Americans and Danes paying their respects to the bar that started it all.

Sankt Peders Bageri is known for its delicious cinnamon rolls. Lagkagehuset is a bakery chain that’s everywhere.

Smørrebrod is Denmark’s version of a sandwich – hearty rye bread piled high with vegetables, fish, or meat. Palægade is known for some of the best smørrebrod in the city, recommended for lunch. Try the shrimp with remoulade smørrebrod.

The Alchemist
Rasmus Munk is the name of the brave young man behind this restaurant, and if you can secure a seat at the 13-person counter where he serves dinner four nights a week, he will bombard you with a menu of culinary and liquid delights that totals over 47 courses. You will either be challenged or pleasantly surprised. The Alchemist isn’t the kind of place for a casual meal with the kids. On the contrary, it’s where you come when you’ve saved up for months so you can celebrate a truly special occasion.

Refshaleøen has some of the best restaurants in the city, like the Alchemist (see above), Noma and Amass as well as some lesser-known favorites like Lille Bakery and La Banchina. Copenhill (see activities above) is also at Refshaleøen.

With 15 Michelin star restaurants, Copenhagen is the undisputed culinary capital of the Nordic region. Booking in advance is essential to get into any of them, with waiting lists many months long for the three-star restaurants Geranium and Noma.

“I sailed up the Skagerrak / And sailed down the Kattegat
Through the harbor and up to the quay / And there she stands waiting for me”.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen
Th 17th-century harbor Nyhavn is one of the most iconic landmarks in Copenhagen. Photo: Simon Takatomi/Unsplash

SP 34 is located right in the center of Copenhagen in the capital’s Latin Quarter. In this area there is room for diversity. You find the hotel in Sankt Peders Stræde, a small, local street with a world known bicycle shop, pastry shop, good restaurants and design stores.
On the other side of the hotel is the garden H.C Ørsteds Parken, a green oasis where you will run in to locals on their run or in the middle of a picnic. The reception is super cool, the design is right and we loved the organic breakfast.

For a room with a view, it’s hard to beat 71 Nyhavn, a historic, elegant hotel on the corner of Copenhagen’s most famous waterway, Nyhavn.

Th 17th-century harbor Nyhavn is one of the most iconic landmarks in Copenhagen. Lined with wooden ships, modern boats, multicolored townhouses, and seafood restaurants, this port is a must-see, and its storied quay is perpetually bustling with locals and visitors. This landmark is also a public space, so it’s easy to come and go as you please. Nyhavn attracts a crowd as diverse as its history. Over the bridge in the neighboring hood of Christianshavn, you’ll also find some of the oldest houses in Copenhagen. Stop for a coffee and pastry at 108 before exploring one of the oldest parts of the city.

Budget seekers should consider the various modern hotels under the Wakeup Copenhagen umbrella. Rooms are tight but so is the price, coming in at $100 per night with advance booking.

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen, compiled by Tor Kjolberg

Feature image (on top): Poster by Viggo Vagnby