With its world-renowned design, incredible foodie scene, unfailingly friendly locals and a whole lot of hygge – there are few cooler places for a city break away than Copenhagen. Here we share our top 10 things to do in Denmark’s capital…
1. Discover Danish design
Known for it’s clean, simple lines and timelessness – Danish design is recognised and replicated the world over. Head to the Design Museum to get to grips with Denmark’s greats – from Arne Jacobsen to Jacob Jenson and Kaare Klint – with a vast range of pieces now housed in the 18th-century Frederiks Hospital.
You can also enjoy a full design experience closer to home, with a stay at Hotel Alexandra. General Manager Jeppe Mühlhausen’s passion for Danish design is palpable throughout with an impressive collection of mid-century furniture and some rooms inspired by specific designers including Finn Juhl, Nanna Ditzel and Hans J. Wegner. Confident in the quality and durability of the pieces, guests can enjoy using, sitting in and generally admiring the real deal with many pieces also for sale if you fancy taking some of that design home.
2. Admire the architecture
There is much to be gained from just wandering the streets of Copenhagen, whether it be by foot or on wheels, taking in the architecture. From the oldest street in town, Magstræde, to the line up of coloured houses along the waterfront at Nyhavn – there are few more photogenic cities.
Take a turn up the Rundetaarn – a 17th-century astronomical observatory in the heart of town. Rumour has it that Peter the Great went all the way to the top on a horse, pulling his wife Catherine I behind in a carriage. Recover from your dizziness up top, with 360° views out over the city.
Another architectural highlight is the majestic Grundtvig’s Church. Tucked away in residential Bispebjerg on the outskirts of town, the impressive yellow-brick building with its imposing façade is a sight to behold. Entering its cool interior, a rich peacefulness envelops you – that’s when a service isn’t running, of course (the church seats nearly 1,500).
3. Go shopping
The line up of Danish clothing brands is impressive with Samsoe & Samsoe, Munthe and Ganni all easily shoppable in the capital. For ceramics – head to Yonobi Keramik, which offers a collection of, handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces along with workshops in an elegant, light-filled space. If interiors are more your thing, Frama Studio Store is not to be missed (pictured) – the design here is mouth-wateringly crisp and cool. Top tip: It’s worth checking opening times ahead of heading to your favourite store – most places are closed on Sunday and even Monday with very limited hours on Saturday.
4. Eat out
It’s not new news that Copenhagen is a top pick for foodies – from the high-end molecular gastronomy in Michelin-starred spots to the humble yet delicious open-faced sandwich, this is a city in which you’ll struggle not to eat well. If fine dining is your thing, you’re spoilt for choice with the city now host to a grand total of nineteen Michelin stars, littered across fifteen restaurants – most notably Geranium (three), Kadeau Copenhagen (two) and, of course NOMA – though technically it is currently un-starred due to new premises.
For something a little lower key – Manfreds in Nørrebro offers a mainly vegetarian menu (save for their famous steak tartare) along with organic wines in a deliciously cosy setting. Retour delivers fantastic steaks out in Østergade and Atelier September offers a lovely brunch spot (the avocado on rye comes highly recommended).
If you like your food markets – Torvehallerne is well worth a visit with its plethora of delicious food stalls. Having not tried the famous smørrebrød yet – I opted for this but, judging from the queue, the tacos at Hija de Sanchez were quite something.
5. Have a night out in the Meatpacking district
Party amidst the slaughterhouses in this decidedly trendy spot. Deserving of a shout out in its own right, this is a great spot to explore for both its cuisine and cocktails. Book in for a fish supper at Kødbyens Fiskebar or the 8-course tasting menu at Gorilla before cruising onto the brewpub Warpigs to sample one or some of their 22 beers on tap. As well as eating and drinking, there are some great galleries to explore during the day including V1 Gallery and Gallery Poulsen.
6. Visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Well worth the 30-minute train ride out of town, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art offers delights to explore both inside and out. Set right on the coast, the verdant surroundings are dotted with sculpture from the likes of Henri Moore, Alexander Calder and Henry Heerup whilst in the gallery proper you’ll find works from Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and the very special (and much-photographed) light installation by Yayoi Kusama.
7. Potter about in Nørrebro
Often referred to as Copenhagen’s ‘coolest neighbourhood’, there is an undeniably buzzy vibe to the city’s north district – Nørrebro. Previously the working class area of the city – the neighbourhood is still decidedly rough around the edges but all the more charming for it. Packed full of independent boutiques, cosy little coffee shops and boasting a great nightlife scene – this is a spot popular with the locals. Top tip: the kanelsnurrer from Meyers Bageri are well-worth a try, just make sure you get there early – these cinnamon-infused sweet treats sell out fast.
8. Wander around the Botanical Gardens
Covering more than 10 hectares, there are plants aplenty in the city’s sprawling Botanical Gardens. Dating back to the late 19th-century the Palm House with its cast iron spiral staircase, intense heat and plethora of tropical species is a particular treat though there are 26 more glasshouses ripe for exploration.
9. Take to the water
With its maze of waterways, a trip to Copenhagen is not complete without a little time spent on the water. If visiting in the summer, Islands Brygge offers open-air swimming right in the city, along with lovely decking to bask in the sun afterwards.
Not to worry if you’re here in the cooler months, there are boat trips aplenty from hiring your own to the larger cruise-type barges. Always adverse to the more obvious tourist outings, we were thrilled to discover the smaller vessel of the lovely Hey Captain crew. With knowledgeable hosts and rosé on board, the tour round the historic canals, out to Christiania and past the Copenhagen Opera House was very jolly indeed.
10. Enjoy a whole lot of hygge
Not quite translatable into English – the cosy, charming sense of contentment of the hygge concept is one of Denmark’s hottest exports. Enjoy it in its original form in the plentiful nooks and crannies of the capital – from Restaurant Høst with its lambskin throws to the popular Grød famous for its steaming bowls of porridge, served up every which way. One of our favourite finds was Lidkoeb – an excellent bar, tucked away behind the highstreet of Vesterbrogade and boasting delicious cocktails, incredibly friendly staff and an undeniably brilliant vibe.
We stayed at the central and stylish Hotel Alexandra. Just a stone’s throw from Tivoli Gardens, this boutique spot couldn’t be better placed to explore and, as outlined above, the furnishings across the hotel offered a great introduction to the city’s design scene. The staff here are charming and go out of their way to ensure you have a good stay – what’s more, there are bikes on hand to have you feeling like a local in no time.