Copenhagen: Top 10 to see and do
Updated: Mar 15
Danes are said to be the world's happiest nation, and if this also has to do with their country's capital city, we can definitely see why. Copenhagen is classy and colourful, full of beautifully designed shops and cafes, super walkable and bike friendly. All in all, it's a great city to call home, if we leave the weather factor aside. We visited Copenhagen in August 2018 for a few days, during our northern Europe and Scandinavia tour, and came up with this list of top 10 not to miss things, while in the danish capital.
1. Visit Nyhavn
Once Copenhagen’s infamous port, where sailors were looking for temporary company, Nyhavn is today the city’s most popular and Instagrammable place. Head there for a drink while watching the sky getting on fire during sunset; grab some churros for your strolls or simply do some people watching.
2. The Little Mermaid
This is probably Copenhagen’s most recognizable site, located a bit afar from the city center. The statue has been sitting on the rock since 1913 and has been Copenhagen’s iconic symbol since then. It is, of course, free to visit but keep in mind that the place can get pretty crowded.
3. Amalienborg Palace
Amalienborg is where Denmark’s royal family still resides. Visit the palace square at 12 noon to witness the impressive change of the guards or step inside the Palace itself. However, even if you don’t have time for that, just pay a visit to the square and make a 360 spin around yourself to admire all four identical buildings that the palace consists of.
4. Christiansborg Palace
This is where Denmark’s Supreme Court, Parliament and Ministry of State are housed and the building is basically built on an island. Make sure to take a guided tour of the Royal Reception Rooms and see the Queen’s tapestries, where Denmark’s 1000 years of history are depicted, as well as the areas where official dinners and royal events are held.
5. Visit Freetown Christiania
This is one of Copenhagen’s most controversial neighborhoods, where cannabis trade takes place openly. Christiania is a self-governing society, with its own set of rules, independent of the Danish government. Hard drugs, guns and violence are not allowed and members of the community are supposed to behave responsibly, care for the micro-society’s wellbeing and freely develop their own personality while respecting each other. Even if the idea behind this commune is a bit extreme for you, Christiania is still worth visiting if you want to witness first hand, a different system of social organization, peacefully co-existing with the rest of the country, where freedom and mutual respect are beyond important. Visiting Christiania is totally safe and legal, just keep in mind that taking pictures is not allowed.
6. Ride a Christiania bike
Christiania bikes are a big part of Denmark’s cycling culture and they were first invented by members of the Christiania commune, as an eco- friendly alternative to cars. This type of bike has three wheels and is equipped with an open wooden box, where bikers can put anything from groceries and luggage to children, friends and pets. In two words: super convenient.
7. Tivoli Gardens
Copenhagen’s iconic amusement park, first opened in 1843 (!!!). You can either buy a rides or a simple entrance ticket, depending on your budget and the time you wish to spend in the park. Either way, be prepared to spend more time than estimated, in Tivoli! The park also has a huge food hall to feed your appetite, preferably after you’re done with those crazy roller coaster rides.
Stroget is the ideal place to take a break from sightseeing and go for a stroll in Copenhagen’s main shopping, car-free area. Although the area gets pretty crowded during rush hour, visiting Stroget early in the morning increases the chances to enjoy it a bit more privately. Visiting Nordic Café for a light lunch or coffee break is highly recommended too.
Extra tip: Try to sit on a table on the second floor, right by the window, for an excellent view of Stroget.
9. Eat Smorrebrod!
Not a specific dish but a typical dish type in Denmark is Smorrebrod, an open sandwich usually consisting of thin slices of full grain bread, on top of which Danes spread butter and add all kind of ingredients, like salmon, herring, red onion, pickles and remoulade. Highly recommended restaurant for excellent Smorrebrod, service and atmosphere: Kronborg.
10. Experience hygge
If this word sounds unkown, a quick Google research will answer all of your questions. Long story short, hygge is all about creating coziness and being comfortable and is believed to be one of the main reasons why Danes are the happiest people in the entire world. Hygge can be found in restaurants, cafes, parks and of course in Danes’ homes and its main ingredients include lit candles, warm beverages, soft music, blankets and lots of cuddling and cocooning.