City Guide: Copenhagen, Denmark

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Jack Krier

We are a travel website sharing city guides, travel inspiration and lots of other articles from all around the world. Our aim is to promote cultured travelling, experiencing a location in its entirety and in an intelligent and respectful manner while adding an adventurous element to it.

Copenhagen is the most visited city in Scandinavia and combines quintessentially European charm with the typical Danish hygge (cosy) lifestyle. An extensive and varied cultural offer, lovely waterfront promenades and a wide array of food and nightlife options make Copenhagen an excellent destination for a city-trip. Here are some suggestions on how to spend a few days in the Danish capital.

A street in Copenhagen

History and overview:

Copenhagen was founded as a Viking fishing village in the 10th century before becoming the capital of Denmark in the 15th century. The Kingdom of Denmark was one of the strongest nations in Europe at the time and encompassed modern-day Denmark, today’s Norway, parts of today’s Sweden, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Copenhagen’s political institutions thereby exercised power over a much larger area than today.

From the 17th century onwards, Copenhagen’s political, cultural and economic strength transformed it into the most important city in Scandinavia. Denmark constantly attempted to assert its power in the region and in its colonies. The major opponent is this regard was the Kingdom of Sweden. Denmark and Sweden in fact waged war against each other on no less than 11 occasions between 1521 and 1841.

The 19th century is widely perceived as the Danish Golden Age, when Copenhagen’s cultural, artistic and architectural scenes flourished. Remnants of these times are still omnipresent in the Danish capital and the numerous neoclassical buildings make Copenhagen’s city centre one of the most appealing old towns in Northern Europe

Copenhagen is today Scandinavia’s second largest city behind Stockholm, Sweden and the economic and academic powerhouse of the region. The city has earned acclaim from all over the world for its innovative model in terms of planning, public spaces and public transport. Copenhagen’s 24h public transport system, consisting of metros, trains and buses is one of the most efficient systems in Europe and the density of bicycle paths is second to none on the old continent. Copenhagen’s vision for sustainability and the Danish social model in general have made the city one of the most liveable urban areas in the world and its popularity therefore continues to surge.


Copenhagen having one of the best public transit networks in Europe, staying a little bit further from the bustling city centre won’t greatly impair the quality of your visit. In this context, we recommend three areas to stay in Copenhagen.

On the one hand, Central Copenhagen around Kogens Nytorv is the obvious choice as it will enable you to stay in walking distance to most of the sights and also close to many food and nightlife options.

Another great area is Nørrebro around Copenhagen University. This hip and eclectic district is home to a wide variety of trendy bars and restaurants and will enchant you with its young and hygge vibe.

The third area worth considering is Vesterbro, around Copenhagen Central Station. This area will mostly please budget travellers thanks to its relatively low prices and proximity to the centre. Be aware that this is also the red-light district and that some streets can get a bit sketchy at night, without it being a particularly dangerous place. Here are some suggestions:

Map by Hazhk, Wikimedia Commons

Central Copenhagen:

Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade: A no-nonsense option for reasonable prices right in the city centre. This chain will delight you with its next to perfect location, its excellent Scandinavian service and most of all its great quality-price relation.

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Hotel Danmark: A more high-end option close to the canals in the city centre. Crisp and stylish rooms, great service and a great location.

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Vestergade 19 Apartments: One of the best choices if you are looking for an apartment in the city centre. The apartments are nicely furnished and have everything you need for a short stay. Their very central location is another upside favouring a stay in this small apartment complex.

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Hotel Nora: Another no-nonsense option with a favourable price-quality relation. Located in the up-and-coming Nørrebro district, this small hotel will delight travellers who seek Scandinavian service and quality but who do not want to spend big on a high-end hotel in the centre.

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Globalhagen Hostel: One of the budget options in Nørrebro. This hostel is very well-located and will enable you to meet fellow travellers in the Danish capital. Their common areas and friendly staff are other advantages.

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Comfort Hotel Vesterbro:  A lovely hotel in the heart of Vesterbro, close to the Central Train Station and to Tivoli amusement fair. Excellent service and nice rooms for relatively low prices. Our top pick in this area.

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Cabinn City:  The Cabinn hotels are a chain which specializes in very small but very comfortable and well-equipped rooms and have several hotels in the Danish capital. The one in Vesterbro is the most recommendable, thanks to its next to unbeatable price-quality relation.

Check it out here

Cultural offer and activities:

Danish National Museum: (Prince’s Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10) By far our favourite museum in Copenhagen. The Danish National Museum offers 4 floors all containing different types of exhibitions ranging from Denmark’s flora and fauna to the Vikings, Danish colonialism, Denmark’s 600-year-long conflict with Sweden and the recent history of this small yet very unique nation. The National Museum is thereby the perfect place to learn a bit more about Denmark’s complicated and intriguing history.

Rosenborg Castle: (Øster Voldgade 4A) This 17th century Renaissance style castle was built by Christian IV., King of Denmark and Norway and nowadays holds the Danish Crown Jewels and the Royal Regalia. The castle moreover holds several royal collections and the Danish Throne Chair.

The Little Mermaid & Kastellet Park: (Langelinie) The Little Mermaid is Denmark’s most iconic symbol and therefore worth a visit although a bit underwhelming. The small bronze statue was sculpted by Edvard Eriksen and inspired by the famous novel of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen, Denmark’s most renowned author. The sculpture itself is nothing to shout about but the park around it offers enjoyable walks, a small Protestant church, some typical Danish houses and a windmill.

Nyhavn & Kogens Nytorv: Copenhagen’s Old Town is a marvelous example of Scandinavian architecture, featuring some of Denmark’s most impressive buildings and many political institutions. In addition to the enticing architecture, mostly around Kogens Nytorv square, the Old Town is home to the famous Nyhavn port, arguably Copenhagen’s most picture-perfect waterfront location. The Old Town moreover offers a wide variety of bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cultural institutions. It is probably Copenhagen’s most appealing area but also quite teeming, especially in summer.

Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park: (Vesterbrogade 3) The second oldest operating funfair in the world (after Europa Park in Rust, Germany) is a popular spot for local families, couples and tourists alike. With its several roller coasters, its Ferris wheel and its manifold other attractions, Tivoli will enchant old and young and it will enable you to have some juvenile fun in the middle of Copenhagen.

Christiania Freetown: A very hyped-up location close to Christianshavn metro station. The enclave which calls itself an autonomous anarchist district, thereby not abiding by the laws of Denmark, is famous for the fact that its visitors can openly consume drugs (mostly weed) and do pretty much whatever they like.

In addition to that, it is also an art hotspot and generally a place for anyone whose political tendencies lean towards the extreme-left. The area’s green spaces moreover become an enjoyable place to have some wine outside during the summer months. If you are fond of radical-leftist ideologies, weed or street art, or if you are just curious, Christiania is well worth a visit (be aware that no cameras are allowed inside). In our humble opinion, the area is extremely overrated and skippable unless you are truly a fan of the aforementioned elements.

Arken Museum of Modern Art: (Skovvej 100) The top address for modern art enthusiasts in the Danish capital. Full of local and international art, this museum epitomizes Denmark in the way that its main emphasis lies on innovation.

Botanical Garden: (Øster Farimagsgade 2C) If you like green spaces, exotic plants and romantic walks, you should under no circumstances miss Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden. Close to Rosenborg Castle, the gardens are well-maintained and offer numerous walks along lovely greenery and a large greenhouse.

Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-Tale House: (57 Rådhuspladsen) The must-visit museum for literature lovers or anyone interested in the works of the most famous Danish author. Andersen was born in the smaller Danish city of Odense but moved to Copenhagen at the age of 14. The museum briefly explains the author’s biography, but it is mostly dedicated to his globally influential fairy tales and to some of the journeys which have inspired his many stories.

Danish National Museum
Kastellet Park
The Little Mermaid
Rosenborg Castle

Wine & Dine:

Copenhagen’s food scene is multicultural and offers something for every taste and budget. Typical Danish food includes Smørrebrod (dark brown rye bread with different ingredients), a lot of pork and soups. In addition to the typical Danish gourmet palaces, you can find food from every corner of the world but mostly Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Here are some suggestions.

Mikkeller & Friends: (Stefansgade 35) A trendy microbrewery with many dishes to choose from, all with a concept of innovative ingredient combinations. A great spot for lunch or dinner with reasonable prices.

Manfreds: (Jægersborggade 40) A restaurant serving relatively simple but delicious meals for every taste. Their various pork and beaf options will please meat lovers in addition to their high quality vegetarian dishes for not so avid carnivores.

Relae: (Jægersborggade 41) Opened by famous Danish-italian chef Christian Puglisi, this food sanctuary has transformed the shady street in which it’s located into a trendy Copenhagen gourmet hotspot. The food is excellent, and the service is world-class. Puglisi’s innovative dishes won him a Michelin star and this high-end restaurant continues to be one of Copenhagen’s top addresses.

Baest: (Guldbergsgade 29) A nearly unanimous consensus exists that his is the best Italian restaurant in Copenhagen. The pizza is made in a Naples-style oven, the ingredients are fresh and very high-quality, and the vine is excellent as well. This is in fact Puglisi’s second restaurant in Copenhagen and before its opening, the Danish capital hadn’t witnessed Italian quality like this. A must for fans of mouthwatering food with a higher budget.

Going out:

Copenhagen has a vibrant and diverse nightlife scene on the weekend. While most Danes do not spend their weeknights out, Thursday is when it starts going and Friday and Saturday are the most buzzing nights. Be aware that when Danes party, they party hard.

The city may seem quiet and relaxing during the week but trust us, on the weekend it is a completely different beast. You should also know that Danes have a very high tolerance for all sorts of unruly behavior, Copenhagen is an island of freedom and enjoyment (at least that’s what the locals say).

On this basis, consider yourself warned that Copenhagen nightlife is usually not based around romantic cocktails in peaceful serenity, although these places do exist, they are not the primary nightlife locations in Copenhagen.

The type of partying that Danes prefer is a bit more … extreme. The three areas with the most options are Central Copenhagen, the hip Nørrebro student district and Vesterbro.

Central Copenhagen: The Old Town offers a myriad of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. A great British-style pub is the Globe Irish Pub (Nørregade 43-45) and its famous pub quiz on Thursdays. Another pub popular with locals and tourists alike is the Moose Pub (Sværtegade 5), open until 8AM. You can find bars and pubs everywhere in the centre and most of them close very late on the weekend.

Zefside Bar: (Frederiksholms Kanal 4) One of the trendiest bars in the city centre, delighting patrons with its alternative style, its vast cocktail list and its diverse musical offer, ranging from deep house to electro and techno. The owner of the bar is moreover an avid rum enthusiast, Zefside therefore offers the largest choice in international rums in all of Copenhagen.

Blume Club: (Studiestræde 14) Another high-end option in Central Copenhagen. Blume is a hybrid between bar and club and boasts several rooms and dancefloors and a vast drinks selection in addition to its great musical setting. Be aware that the selection at the door is strict and that it is best to go early (between 11 and 11.30PM) as queues can become unbearably long after midnight.

Gothersgade: The street right next to the main square, Kogens Nytorv is Copenhagen’s answer to uncomplicated, cheap (for Danish standards) and never-ending nightlife. There are various options in this street and all of them have one thing in common: complete and utter madness after midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you don’t like drunken, out-of-control, untamed celebrations and younger crowds, this street is best avoided but if you are into partying like there is no tomorrow, you will adore this place. MiniBar (nothing special but good prices and a great atmosphere), Stereo (electronic music, great drinks and a small dance floor), Aloha (sort of Latin club with the typical Danish madness after midnight) and Andy’s Bar (probably the trashiest bar in Copenhagen, but still extremely funny if you are into juvenile partying) are some of the best options in Gothersgade street.

Nørrebro area: The district of Nørrebro is said to be one of the most hipster areas in all of Europe and this sense of alternative dressing and hipsterish behaviour is omnipresent. If you are into this subculture, you will love Nørrebro, if not, it is still a very enjoyable area thanks to its many restaurants and bars that are a lot quieter than Central Copenhagen.

The Oak Room (Birkegade 10) is one of our favourite cocktail bars in this eclectic district and one of the best to have a relaxing drink in a cosy setting.

Rust Club (Guldbergsgade 8) is the area’s primary nightclub and a true Copenhagen institution. Its events range from live music to DJs and many other festivities which make it an excellent venue on any given date.

Another bar which we particularly enjoyed is Mexibar (Elmegade 27), an uncomplicated sit-down bar with lots of great beers and all the Mexican essentials like tequila, mezcal and margarita.

Final tips and verdict:

By and large, Copenhagen is a great city for a cultural expedition and also more than a passable food and nightlife destination. The city’s cultural institutions are a joy to behold and certainly deserve more than a weekend. The food and nightlife scene is varied and buzzing but the typical Danish tradition of ‘going hard or going home’ is not for everyone.

If you feel that you have spent enough time in Copenhagen, you can moreover quickly hop on to a train to Malmö, Sweden. The third largest Swedish city is connected to Copenhagen by the famous Øresund Bridge and it takes no more than 45 minutes to get there.

On par with the other Scandinavian countries, English levels are excellent in Copenhagen. A few Danish words will nonetheless be of great benefit when making friends with the locals.

The easiest way to get around is public transport, although most residents would disagree and favour bicycles over trains and buses. The choice will ultimately depend on your personal preferences.

Copenhagen is a brilliant mix between historical locations and culture, juvenile amusement and green spaces. This makes the city one of the most appealing in Europe and certainly a must-visit destination on the old continent.


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Jack Krier

We are a travel website sharing city guides, travel inspiration and lots of other articles from all around the world. Our aim is to promote cultured travelling, experiencing a location in its entirety and in an intelligent and respectful manner while adding an adventurous element to it.

City Guide: Copenhagen, D…

by Jack Krier time to read: 11 min