An über cool, contemporary, and eco-conscious capital
Minimalist, modern design with an undeniable edge. Slick, sharp street style straight from the pages of Vogue Scandinavia. The scent of cinnamon in the clean, crisp air wafting from traditional bakeries brimming with pastries. The Danish capital deserves a place on every fashion and food lover’s map, thanks to a stylish slew of homegrown designers, artists, and restauranteurs turning Nordic traditions on their head. Locals cycle over pretty bridges, go for wild swims in natural baths, and socialise in floating saunas or over sustainably sourced coffee in artisan cafés – Copenhagen is laid-back yet forward-thinking, and is well on its way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city. This trendsetter is a must-visit whatever the season.
A short round-up of Copenhagen’s must-see sights…
Nyhavn: One word. Instagrammable. This photogenic waterfront lined with colourful 17th century buildings is a wonderful place to sit and watch the world go by with a warming glass of gløgg in the winter, or some craft beer on a hot day.
Rosenborg Castle: Home to Denmark’s crown jewels, this chocolate-coloured castle sits within The King’s Garden.
Amalienborg Palace: The seat of one of the world’s oldest monarchies, four classical palaces face a spectacular courtyard which centres around a monumental equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V. Time your visit for noon to watch the changing of the Royal Guards.
The Round Tower: A Russian Tsar is rumoured to have ridden up the spiral walkway of this 17th century tower. Today, some of the best views over the city can be enjoyed from its observatory. The best part? You don’t have to climb any stairs to get to the top.
Tivoli Gardens: So much more than a theme park, these iconic gardens bring the magic of Danish fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen to life for adults and little ones alike. Peacocks roam the grounds in the summer, while snow-dusted stalls and Nordic cabins create a winter wonderland during the annual Christmas displays.
Glyptoteket: An oasis of ancient and modern art with an indoor palm garden, this museum transports visitors on a tranquil journey through time – from Egyptian treasures to the marble sculptures of Rodin.
The Little Mermaid: This iconic statue sits watch over the water at Langelinie Pier, welcoming travellers to Copenhagen’s harbour.
The Opera House: Nicknamed brødristeren – the toaster – this futuristic building was designed by Henning Larsen, a titan of Danish architecture, and plays host to some of the city’s most sought-after performances.
Freetown Christiania: This former military base turned hippie commune has a free-spirited, fun loving feel, with a buzzing scene of eco-restaurants, art galleries, and music venues.
…and a longer look at Copenhagen’s lesser-known spots
Once a renowned red-light district, Vesterbro is still a little bit rough around the edges – but that adds to the charm of this up-and-coming neighbourhood, which has a generous helping of old school grit. Look beyond the sex shops and strip bars along Istedgade and you’ll stumble across some of Copenhagen’s best independent eateries, vintage shops, and hip boutiques. Grab a table at Sliders for their moreish mini burgers, browse an impossibly cool collection of furniture at DANSK, and pick up some Scandi-chic homewares from slow-living shop A Door – think beeswax candles, wool slippers, and artisan soaps. The industrial Meatpacking District is close by if you’d like to extend your night, club-hopping and bar-swapping from one party hotspot to the next.
Tucked away in the vibrant Nørrebro district, a melting pot of Michelin-starred restaurants and street food favourites, Ravnsborggade is a hidden haven of antique and vintage shops. Nowhere else will you find a more varied selection of curios and trinkets, from Royal Copenhagen porcelain to one-of-a-kind paintings. The open-air fleamarket takes over the streets of Ravnsborggade and Sankt Hans Gade, giving antique lovers the perfect excuse for a good old rummage.
Easily reached by bike or harbour bus, Refshaleøen is an industrial-meets-indie area which has started to draw a more creative crowd to its waterside distilleries, bakeries, and galleries. Copenhagen Contemporary (or ‘CC’ as it’s known locally) hosts an array of art talks and art walks, immersive workshops and installations in the former B&W welding hall, while CopenHill crests a sustainable waste management centre where you can ski and hike the artificial slope whatever the weather. Make time for a stroll along the Holmen banks between Refshaleøen and Christianshavn, where you’ll spot quirky cabins built into the trees and over the water.
What – and where – to eat in Copenhagen
For sweet treats…
Follow the trail of cinnamon buns (Kanelsnegle) and buttery Danish pastries from one traditional bakery to the next – our favourites are BUKA, Andersen & Maillard, Lille Bakery and Mirabelle (which also owns and bakes cloud-like dough at BÆST, the best pizza place in town). Let your sweet tooth run wild at Cakenhagen, a whimsical pastry shop inside Tivoli Gardens which serves everything from French macarons to Danish whipped cream cakes.
Start your day the Danish way with a warming bowl of øllebrød, a traditional porridge made using left over rye bread soaked in chocolate, orange juice, and beer overnight. The organic porridge bowls at Grød are as delicious as they look, where gluten-free oats are sprinkled with homemade granola, roasted coconut flakes, chia seeds, and fresh fruit.
A staple of Danish cuisine, the open-faced sandwich is a must-try in Copenhagen. Traditional toppings include pickled herring, boiled eggs with shrimp, or roast beef with fried onions and horseradish, which sit on top of earthy Danish rugbrød, or rye bread, smeared with mayonnaise. Fru Nimb dishes up classic smørrebrød with a twist, gaining a local following for its famous chicken salad with mushrooms and dry-cured bacon.
Freshly-caught squid at Kødbyens Fiskebar photographed by Chris Tonnesen.
As a city built on water and owing its wealth to the abundance of fish from the nearby Øresund, Copenhagen has a superb seafood scene – long before the arrival of sushi, that is. Kødbyens Fiskebar serves up simple, yet oh-so-good seafood paired with rustic wines in the Meatpacking District – the sourdough bread soaked in seaweed butter makes the perfect mop-up for the mussels’ cider sauce.
Blending into its Tivoli Gardens surrounds, Gemyse is a greenhouse-style restaurant elevating vegetables to new culinary heights. Working closely with local farmers, dishes put fresh greens front and centre in a beautiful, botanical setting. The current ‘Around the Garden’ dinner takes diners on an eight-course tasting journey from carrot tartare to salt-baked celeriac with truffle.
For the most talked about tasting menus…
@nomacph recently reclaimed its title as the best in the world at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards 2021.
The three Michelin-starred restaurant which needs no introduction, Noma is a dining experience like no other. It might be off-the-beaten track on the far side of the harbour, but its trailblazing New Nordic dishes are well worth the step count (if you manage to secure a reservation, or even a spot on their waiting list, that is). The menu changes seasonally, but you can expect the very best of nature’s bounty all year round.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
Nimb Hotel…A masterclass in Moorish romance and hygge-luxe, this striking palace faces Copenhagen’s famous Tivoli Gardens which means every suite comes with spellbinding views (not to mention four-poster beds, original artworks, handpicked antiques, log fires, and Cakenhagen treats). Luxuriate in your giant freestanding bathtub with soothing Scandi-brand Meraki bath bombs after a day spent exploring the city – then turn up your tunes of choice from the in-room Bang & Olufsen speakers before watching the sunset from the heated rooftop pool.