Insider's Travel Guide to Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is famous for the Tivoli Gardens, the Little Mermaid statue, Nyhaven waterfront and the Botanical Gardens. Explore a bit deeper with some top tips of things to do and see in the Danish capital, from our Copenhagen local:
A BIT ABOUT OUR INSIDER:
Name: Sarah Jackson
Place of birth: England
Occupation: Director of Global Comms for the Danish audio company Libratone
Hobbies & Interests: Travelling, reading, spending time with friends and family, eating - I love to discover great new restaurants, being outdoors and doing 'outdoorsy things' when I get the chance.
How long have you lived in Copenhagen? I’ve only lived in Copenhagen for six months so I’m fresh to the city; still very much in the exploring and discovering stage, which is great fun!
A BIT ABOUT COPENHAGEN, DENMARK:
How do you best navigate your city?
Copenhagen is a small city so is easy to navigate. The majority of locals cycle, but if you are not an experienced city cyclist then it can get a little intense – especially in rush hour. If the weather is good then walking is a great way to get a feel for the city. On chillier and/or wetter days there is an easy to navigate public transport system. Taxis are expensive, so best only to opt for one when necessary.
What do you think Copenhagen does better than other cities?
Danish design is obviously the first thing that springs mind when thinking of Copenhagen. But the food scene here is also incredible too. The city itself, is compact, clean, well-designed and just very pretty! It’s a great spot for a weekend visit.
Where is your favourite view of the city?
Copenhagen isn’t much of a high rise city, but there are a few towers that you can climb up for an excellent vantage point. Visit Vor Fresers Kirke in Christania (check when it is open to avoid disappointment) for a stunning view - on a clear day you can see the coast of Sweden. Afterwards, head to nearby Parterre Christianshavn for a delicious hot chocolate and pastries. A boat tour is a must in good weather, you can’t beat cruising the canals; taking in the sites of Copenhagen from the water is a lovely way to spend a few hours. For the more nautical, you can hire a kayak or small boat that comes with a table for a picnic and wine as you cruise.
Where is your favourite respite from city life?
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an art museum home to the private collection of the heir to the Carlsberg brewery. It features a stunning winter garden, which on the more gloomy winter days offers a lush distraction from the cold weather.
On warmer days, Copenhagen is home to expansive parks and the Botanical Gardens are another great place to visit.
What is your favourite building in Copenhagen?
From the outside, I love St. Alban’s Church which is located in a really pretty part of the town, with the Gifion Statue depicting a fierce Norse goddess, just outside.
My favourite building interior is Gamle Scene, the stunning old theatre where the Royal Danish Ballet perform. A real treat is if you can catch it is their Brunch og ballet, which is a free open rehearsal in the theatre at breakfast time, so you can enjoy your coffee and wienerbrød (what Denmark calls Danish pasties) whilst watching the dancers rehearse their latest show.
Where do you consider to be Copenhagen's most underrated location that more people should visit?
Perhaps controversially, The Little Mermaid. Many people think it’s an overrated statue but I will defend her! That part of town, the waterside at the Langelinie promenade, is just lovely, especially on a sunny day. Head there early to miss the crowds then stop for a coffee or brunch at Toldboden a converted ferry terminal that today hosts a large dining room and bar. It is always buzzy and although not necessarily the cheapest the generous portion sizes, particularly the buffet style weekend brunches, make it good value.
Just across from Tolboden is Refshaleøen, which is part of a real growing area of bars, cafes, microbrweries and even a hot tub hangout – Copenhot, a unique spa with both stationary and sailing spa experiences. Here is also La Banchina, a popular summer spot for sunbathing and swimming. The café & restaurant, also serves great food (the restaurant is closed Mon- Weds in winter). It is an an area that all the locals frequently travel to but it isn’t quite as touristy as some other parts of the city.
Where would you stay if you were visiting, and why?
Vesterbro or Norrebro – two of the more lively parts of town, and plump for an Airbnb, it is much cheaper than most hotels and there are lots of good options. You also don’t need to be overly concerned about safety - Denmark is a safe city and the Danish are a relaxed, friendly bunch by nature.
TELL US ABOUT THE FOOD SCENE:
A note on restaurants, they get busy so book early to avoid being disappointed. Even in the more popular bars, if you plan to stay a while then it is worth calling ahead to reserve a table.
Which dish is a must-try?
As well as the cakes, you cant go to Denmark without trying Smørrebrød – which are the famous open sandwiches. Toppings vary, but herring, prawns, salmon and pork are popular toppings. Aamans is a popular destination and there are a few dotted around the city. If you miss that, then you can always head to the one at airport departures!
Is there a local delicacy we should try?
Copenhagen is world famous for having the world’s best restaurant; Noma (although it lost its title when it closed to move location, now re-opened most critics expect it will get it back in the next round of awards). Also, because of the great access to seasonal product here, a real variety of great restaurants have sprung up in the city. Danish food is traditionally simple and flavor focused and very seasonal. If I were to pick one thing – then you can’t come to Copenhagen without trying Danish cakes – obviously the pastries known as Danishes the world over are the top of the list (I think have mentioned them a few times already!). Flødeboller, and in winter months æebleskever (a true sign Christmas has arrived), are must-eats too.
Which restaurant has the best atmosphere?
Torvehallerne is a buzzing food hive right by one of the main stations Norrepørt. Popular with locals and tourists, there are so many food stalls serving a wide variety of delicious Danish and international dishes. There are also numerous places to stop and rest weary legs with a glass of something delicious. Le Petit Vin is a small, always popular wine bar, with lovely staff that also serves some great dishes. I usually take visitors there for a drink (or two!).
Where serves the best value for money dining options?
Copenhagen is expensive, so my advice is to book one blow out restaurant, and compensate by grabbing good food on the go for other parts of your trip. For lunch, Copenhagen does some great burgers – with Gasoline Grill and Halifax Burgers amongst two of the best. Hot dogs are also a must try at Døp – in the city centre, a great choice for meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Where is the best place to splurge on a delicious meal?
Noma is obviously the one to get into, but unless you have booked a year in advance you might not manage...
Frank is a new cosy (or hygge as the Danes say) Nordic restaurant that is getting a lot of attention, but has an affordable menu by ‘splurge standards’.
For something a bit wilder – Punk Royale is worth booking in advance. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is definitely like nowhere you have dined before. The food is great, but not recommended for fussy eaters – as it is a 20 course tasting menu with no previews.
Which restaurant is the cities best kept secret?
Café Baryl on a residential street in Osterbro has one of the best, and prettiest brunch offerings!
NOW, ONTO THE NIGHTLIFE:
Where might we find Copenhagen's best cocktail?
Barking Dog in Norrebro, is a great venue that has a unique and varied cocktail list. While the bar staff are perfectly capable of making any classic cocktail you fancy, the menu style with just a few ingredients listed means it is more fun to experiment.
Who has the city's best winelist?
I adore Ven Stranden 10 in the city centre. Great wines, which they will recommend depending on your mood and price point – rather than show you a wine list. It is THE perfect place to loose an afternoon with a bottle of wine and your favourite company / good book.
And the bar with the best atmosphere?
Le Petit Vin in Torvehallerne is a favourite – I love to go there and people watch.
Which bar is the best value for money?
Copenhagen isn’t always the cheapest place to drink, but Bevars in Norrebro is a great place to relax with a drink (and it also does good, reasonably priced food). It is also one of the city’s more casual jazz venues and often has live music on the weekends.
And the best splurge?
Ruby’s is one of Copenhagen’s more established and most well-known bars. It’s situated in an old apartment building, so has the joint fortune of making you feel very hip and very hygge at the same time. For a town that takes its cocktails seriously, Ruby’s is most people’s go-to for a special night out or a premium cocktail to start/end the evening.
And finally, where is the best place to carry the night on, post-midnight?
The Meatpacking District in Vesterbro is home to some of the town’s coolest bars and restaurants – with enough variety to suit most people looking for a good night out. A lot of the venues stay open very late – some until whenever the last person leaves!
FOR CULTURE VULTURES:
Who is your favourite local artist?
Ask a Dane about art and they will likely name Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner or PH (Poul Henningse) as their favourites! Danish design is considered an art in itself!
Where is your favourite local gallery?
Based on the above point then the answer to this has to of course be the Danish Design Museum. Even for those of us not lusting after our own Arne Jacobsen chair, it is definitely still worth a visit.
And your favourite international gallery?
The National Gallery - Statens Museum for Kunst or SMK as most people refer to it, is a gorgeous building with a huge collection of permenant Danish and European art, as well as exhibitions. They also host half a dozen of so ‘SMK Fridays’ throughout the year, with drinks, food and talks later into the night.
Can you sum up why you love living in this city?
I think the fact I’ve only lived in Copenhagen a few months yet still had so much to write about this city sums it up! I also love it has so much going on but in a small space, with a very relaxed, unpretentious vibe. It is a perfect weekend get-away, year around.
Discover more cities like a local, with our global Insider’s Guides.
Considering a trip to Copenhagen? Share using the social icons below to persuade your next travel buddy . . .