COPENHAGEN, THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
Copenhagen is a really old city with lots of history. Just walking around is like an art exhibition. It also helps that the city is sooo small, you can walk around everywhere and if you don’t like walking you can do like any other Dane, bike around. This is actually something you have to do, it belongs to the Danish culture to go by bike. But be careful! Since everyone bikes exactly everywhere, they are doing it with speed. You are more likely to get hit by a bike than a car (do they even exist?). Dos and Don’ts in Copenhagen.
- Rent a bike
- Experience “hygge” (ask a Dane and they will explain, or google it!)
- Use the app Rejseplanen or Rejseplanen.dk to plan your trips (bus, boat, train)
- Tip (no one does, it’s expensive as it is. Unless you’re going to a fancy dinner, then 10% is enough)
- Pay by cash in a bar/nightclub (will not be appreciated, if even accepted). Card is king!
- Rent a car
Currency: Danish Kroner. 100 DKK is about 14 USD, 13 Euros, 11 Pounds, 19 AUD (as of April 2017).
I am the kind of tourist who doesn’t like to go to museum or pay high fees to see a statue. I like seeing a city like a local and walk around the area. Therefore, I would recommend mainly just to walk around in the city center. You will see soo many beautiful buildings, sculptures and the seaside attractions. I would also recommend that you rent a bike by one of the 100s companies in the city, e.g. THIS.
The little mermaid. This is one of the main attractions in the city. My recommendation: scratch that plan. It is not worth it. The mermaid in the airport is a replica and even bigger than the actual one. Also, the actual mermaid is quite a walk from the city center. But if you still really want to see it, be prepared to fight with lots of Asian tourist groups. It’s also quite far from shore.
A better way to see it, is to take one of the canal tour boats. This is a must during the warmer months! But also doable in winter as they have enclosed boats for this purpose. Just go to Nyhavn and look for the tourist boats. The ones on the less crowded side (to the right in the picture below) are much cheaper (40 kr compared to 100 kr) than the obvious ones.
Nyhavn is the main “postcard spot” in Copenhagen
Some of the things you do need to see (walking, biking or going by boat)
D’Anglaterre Hotel This hotel is owned by an old woman and was left to her by her deceased husband. It has an affectionate value to her so she never sold it. It’s beautiful and in winter it’s decorated with a spectacular Christmas theme. Make sure to also take a tour inside. Everything is very luxurious and the prices are the same.. I’ve heard that their brunch is outstanding, but I’ve never tried it myself.
Tivoli It’s the oldest amusement park in Europe and worth a visit even though you don’t want to go on any of the rides. They have beautiful markets in Christmas and for Halloween, unfortunately it’s not open in winter except around those holidays.
Instead you can go to Hotel Tivoli to enjoy the stunning view of the city. There’s a restaurant on the top floor called Sticks and Sushi which is amazing! It’s quite pricy (like the rest of Copenhagen), but you can go there just for a drink to enjoy the view.
It’s not in Copenhagen. But pretty close and still worth mentioning. There’s a museum of contemporary art close to the city of Elsinor (Helsingør in Danish) called Louisiana. It’s located in beautiful surroundings and definitely worth a visit. It’s only about 40 minutes by train from Copenhagen and very easy accessible.
Christiana. It’s a special place which most tourists have heard about, but not fully understood. This is a Freetown, which means they are a society outside of our society, so to speak. Many people think that this is where drugs are legal. This is not the case. Yes, you will find “stores” selling drugs, but it is not legal. The Police has raids once in a while, but the shops are up and running a week later again. That’s why it’s not happening very often anymore.
Christiana with it’s artsy houses
But Christiana is so much more than just Pusher Street. This is where all the artists have their galleries and you can find lots of art even on the buildings. There are also lots of great restaurant with local musicians.
I would highly recommend just a walk through Christiana to see the culture flourishing here!
Day trip to Sweden
If you have some extra time (even only a day), you could go to the other side of the Öresund bridge (you probably saw it flying into Copenhagen) to Sweden. The closest city is Malmö, which is Sweden’s 3rd biggest city. Shopping, eating out and most other things are a lot cheaper in Sweden. It’s a nice city with lots of parks, but compared to Copenhagen it’s pretty small. If you want to go, the easiest way is to go by train. You can buy a ticket at all the main train stations or on either the Danish website or the Swedish website for public transport. The return trip is about 150 DKK.
When you’re ready to hit town!
Copenhagen is great for going out! Many of the worlds best cocktails bars are situated in Copenhagen. If you want to go out to a nightclub Chateau Motel, Arch or At Dolores (27+) is your best option! If you like a more underground scene, head to the Meat Packing district Kødbyen (they also have amazing and affordable food!). If you want a more chilled out bar I would recommend The Jane, Rudy’s, Bar 1105 or Curfew. They are all 1950s kind of bars with fancy cocktails, but that’s the charm!
My all time favorite place is PS bar. It’s both a restaurant and a bar, and the kind of place where you can spend a really long time moving on from dinner to drinks and mingling!
Summer nights never end, since the sun stays up so late
Eating your way through town
Copenhagen has some of the best restaurants in the world. Noma is no 1 with two Michelin stars. But if you are planning on going there, plan well ahead. The waiting list is about 7 months long. And the prices are outrageous. Copenhagen Street Food/ Paper Island (papirøen), has an amazing “food court” with international cuisine. It’s amazing in summer as you can sit outside by the water, sipping cocktails to your food. But also good in winter, as they have a huge indoor area. One of my favorite cafés/ lunch places is 42Raw, offering rawfood, vegan and healthy options.
If you want a proper restaurant go to Sticks and Sushi Tivoli hotel (view all over Copenhagen), PS bar (for food and amazing cocktails), Llama (Argentinian food), Pluto (authentic Danish food), Fars Dreng (café with local Danish specialties) and Hoppe’s for the best brunch! Read more about the amazing restaurant scene in Copenhagen in my other travel guide!
Copenhagen is a great city for shopping! Not only is everything within walking distance, you also get a great variety of shops and boutiques. The most famous shopping street is called Strøget and starts close to the central station and ends close to Nyhavn. Here you will find all the high end stores such as Gucci, Prada etc. But also well known chains such as Zara, H&M and Urban Outfitters. The two mail shopping centers in the city center are called Illum and Magasin. Both of them have all kinds of stores, but Illum is the more luxury one.
If you walk passed Strøget and onto the smaller cobblestone streets, you will find a great variety of small vintage shops. There are usually great finds there and it’s worth spending some time looking through it all!
Best time to go
Copenhagen is a completely different city in summer compared to winter. People tend to stay in a lot more in winter (which makes perfect sense considering the weather). In summer, on the other hand, people are trying to get the most out of the summer rays and stay outside as long as the weather allows. Since the sun doesn’t set until close to midnight, the days are loong and enjoyable in summer and for me this would be the perfect time to go. All seasons are a bit unpredictable, especially spring and fall and you should always be prepared for a bit of chilly weather (bring a light jacket even in summer).
Where to stay
The best thing about Copenhagen is that there are barely any bad areas. So where ever you end up staying, it’s safe! I always use Airbnb when traveling, but booking.com is also a good alternative. The main central areas are called Vesterbro (Copenhagen V, west), Østerbro (Copenhagen Ø, east), Nørrebro (Copenhagen N, north), Frederiksberg and Indre Byen (Copenhagen K, central). All of the above are good if you want a fairly central place in Copenhagen and there are trains and a metro connecting them all. Be aware that the street Istedgade in Nørrebro (right behind the central station) is the red light district. It’s not dangerous, but can feel a bit odd at night.
Read my other guides about Copenhagen!