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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 13 January, 2023
Expert travel writer: Sarah Marshall

A compact, sexy, urban retreat, Copenhagen is arguably the most stylish, progressive and tastiest of all the Nordic capitals.

Copenhagen stands out on the cultural front. Spend afternoons gazing at Gothic churches, browsing ultra-modern design shops, or taking in a clutch of cutting-edge modern art and design museums, before spending long evenings in quiet cafés and laidback jazz clubs.

It’s also become a foodie capital – the wildly experimental Noma, voted the world’s best restaurant – has spawned an exciting culinary scene of worldwide acclaimed restaurants, alongside farmers’ markets and a strong local produce movement.

A network of canals begs to be explored by boat or kayak, while castles, royal gardens and Viking exhibitions, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich and varied past, enthral every visitor. Indeed, whatever your interests, sophisticated, culture- and character-filled, foodie Copenhagen never disappoints.

Orientation

Spread across a series of canals and lakes, this extremely walkable city is laid out in a series of easily navigable neighbourhoods.

Architecturally, the city runs the gamut from Gothic to ultra-modern, from leafy Frederiksberg and the palatial royal quarter of Frederiksstaden to the 17th-century rainbow waterfront of Nyhavn.

At the heart of it all sits Indre By, a maze of lively, pedestrianised medieval streets and squares.

Culture & Customs

One more reason this cosmopolitan capital is so appealing is its people. Danish culture is about family time, quiet nights with friends and enjoying the Scandinavian great outdoors.

Copenhageners have a typically Danish tradition of hygge (cosiness) that makes them very welcoming to outsiders – so don’t think twice about accepting an invitation to a Copenhagener’s home.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Boat tours of Copenhagen’s canals

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Unmissable boat tours through the city’s historic centre, ideal for seeing all of the main sights and getting an insight into the city’s culture and history along the way.

Best for ages: 4+ | £10 | 1+ hours

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Tivoli Gardens

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

It may be short on scary rollercoasters, but this historic, fairytale theme park captures Copenhagen’s soul.

Best for ages: 4+ | £15

Frederiksborg Castle

Hillerod, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

One of Europe’s most magnificent Renaissance castle-palaces, built in the 17th century by King Christian IV. It now houses the Museum of National History, which traces Denmark’s history through portraits, paintings, furniture and decorative arts.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10

National Aquarium Denmark

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Northern Europe’s largest aquarium, housed in a striking piece of modern architecture, is home to over 20,000 animals, including 4m long hammerhead sharks.

Best for ages: 4+ | £18

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Beautiful aerial view of Copenhagen Botanical Garden
Experience

Botanical Gardens of Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

These 10-hectare gardens in the city centre is both a haven for more than 13,000 plant species, and a pleasant respite from the city bustle. Highlights include a butterfly house, a Nordic beer garden showcasing plants used by Nordic beer brewers, and the magnificent Victorian 27-glasshouse complex, dating back to 1874. Open Tuesday-Sunday.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Christiansborg Palace
Experience

Christiansborg Palace

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Once used by the Royal Family, Christiansborg is now the seat of the Danish government, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court. The palace features royal reception rooms, a great hall bedecked in tapestries, royal stables, a kitchen and a royal chapel – all of which can be explored independently or on guided tours.

Best for ages: 13+ | £19

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View of the landmark Round Tower (Rundetaarn), a 17th-century tower built as an astronomical observatory in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark
Experience

Climb the Round Tower

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

For showstopping views across Copenhagen, climb the 17th-century Round Tower (Rundetaarn), which houses Europe’s oldest working observatory at the top.

Best for ages: 6+ | £5

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exterior of the very popular brewery Mikkeller with a restaurant inside
Experience

Craft beer at Mikkeller

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Started in 2007 by two friends, this pioneering craft beer success story has since spread to multiple cities, including Stockholm and San Francisco. A Copenhagen institution now recognised worldwide, it’s the place to go for consistently great tasting beer and some enticingly experimental brews.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Steel House Copenhagen

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Contemporary, upmarket hostel with excellent facilities attracting trendy travellers of all ages. Close to the Central Station and the cool restaurants of the Meatpacking District.

Official star rating:

71 Nyhavn Hotel

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

A stylish hotel in a grand 19th-century warehouse conversion, overlooking Copenhagen’s handsome harbour.

Official star rating:

Hotel Skt Petri

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

This standout Scandinavian trendsetter mixes chic rooms and classy dining, is located on an attractive street in the heart of the quaint Latin Quarter.

Official star rating:

Axel Guldsmeden

Copenhagen, Capital Region of Denmark, Denmark

Balinese-inspired eco-hotel that stands out as one of the Danish capital’s top boutique choices. Located in hip Vesterbro, five minutes from Tivoli World.

Official star rating:

When to go

Copenhagen is at its best in the summer, when locals and visitors stay out until the early hours and cultural events bring live music, dance and art to the streets. Spring and autumn are also great – even for cycling – since the days are still warm but the bulk of the tourists have departed.

But don’t discount winter; it’s a charming time to drink cups of glog in cosy bars and enjoy the Danish tradition of hygge (cosiness). The festive Christmas markets at Tivoli, and the city’s Christmas Parade, make this an excellent destination for a festive break.

Getting there and away

Copenhagen Kastrup Airport is just 8km southeast of downtown; the train will whisk you directly to the city’s Central Station in just 15 minutes, while the Metro is also accessible from Terminal 3.

Taxis are readily available in the city and at the airport, though they tend to be expensive: a ride to the airport from the centre of town will take roughly 20 minutes. Buses are cheaper and take about 35 minutes to reach Central Station.

Getting around

Copenhagen has an excellent municipal transport system, with metro and buses covering all central locations and most of those further afield. Driving your own car isn’t really recommended unless you’re planning to tour the rest of the country.

By far the most popular method of transport for Copenhageners is the bicycle. Everyone rides a bike in the city and its wide roads, with separate bike lanes, are perfectly suited to life on two wheels. Avoid the free City Bike scheme if possible; the bikes are often in bad condition. Instead, pick up a snazzy cycle at Københavns Cyklebors in Indre By.

The Copenhagen Card gives free entry to 80-plus museums and attractions, plus free airport transfers and bus, train and metro travel within the city. Buy it from the airport, station, tourist office and hotels.

Where to stay

Central Copenhagen hotels range from affordable, homely guesthouses to sparkling boutique boltholes and opulent, fin-de-siècle properties.

The area around the town hall in buzzing Radhuspladsen is home to a number of sleek, ultra-modern hotels, while regal old Frederiksstaden, rising from the harbourfront, is good for smaller, more affordable places. The streets around Nyhavn have a handful of unique, restored gems.

The hip neighbourhood of Vesterbro, meanwhile, is home to many of the city’s artiest cafés and bars – and some of the funkiest places to stay.

Where to shop

The cobbled streets of Stroget, Købmagergade and Kompagnistræde are good for sleek Scandinavian homewares, modern design objets and home furnishings – both at smaller design shops and flagship department stores.

The Norrebro neighbourhood, meanwhile, is a good bet for clothing; Jaegersborggade in Nørrebro, one of the city’s hippest and most atmospheric streets, has art galleries, the best shops, great for up-and-coming jewellery designers, and a fleamarket in spring.

Another great bet is chic Vaernedamsvej, near Vesterbro. Sometimes dubbed ‘Little Paris’ it’s filled with cafés and delicatessens intermingled outlets for local designers.

Health & Safety

The city is generally very safe to walk around, even late at night, although pickpockets do exist. Compared to other parts of Europe, Scandinavia is one of the safest regions due to the benefits of a strong welfare state. Everyone – from the homeless to the unemployed to the very wealthy – is well taken care of by the state, meaning that few city denizens choose to resort to life on the fringes of society.