Copenhagen’s visitor appeal has exploded over the past few years, with people from all around the world flocking to Scandinavia’s most avant-garde city to enjoy its innovative restaurants, design focus, much-envied bike culture, royal palaces and strong performing arts scene. The city’s compact size also means that a good handful of the many fun and inspiring things to do in Copenhagen can easily be fitted into a weekend trip.
Composed of a historic centre – bordered on one side by the man-made Lakes, and on the other by the Øresund sea – and the residential neighbourhoods of Østerbro, Nørrebro, Frederiksberg and Vesterbro (the ‘Bridge Quarters’), Copenhagen is an eminently walkable, or cyclable, city. It also manages to appeal to a wide cross-section of people, exuding both fairytale charm through its royal palaces, Tivoli theme park and colourful historic buildings, and being coolly in possession of an unrivalled modern design ethos. Those in search of the latter should be sure to include the world-class Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a 40-minute train ride away, on their itinerary, as well as Designmuseum Danmark.
Copenhagen’s much-hyped New Nordic restaurants, meanwhile, continue to draw the foodies, with a whole host of internationally acclaimed chefs following in the footsteps of Noma’s René Redzepi in their quest to reinterpret traditional Scandinavian cooking.
Sights and attractions in Copenhagen
Copenhagen has been re-embracing its watery location over the past decade. Several ambitious new buildings housing key cultural institutions have sprung up along the waterfront, and a walk from the Black Diamond concert hall, on the edge of historic Slotsholmen, to the statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid, at the northern boundary of Frederiksstaden, makes for an eye-wateringly good sightseeing tour. The route offers clear views of the Marble Church and Henning Larsen’s 2005 Opera House, and passes by Copenhagen landmarks old and new, including the colourful architecture at Nyhavn quayside and the cutting-edge new stage of the Royal Danish Theatre, Skuespilhuset.
Another good way to get a sense of the city is to head up high, and Copenhagen offers two historical ways to do this. The first is to follow the cobbled spiral walkway up to the top of the 17th-century Rundetårn (Round Tower), in the centre; the panoramic views from here take in the nearby Rosenborg Castle, the newly remodelled Botanical Gardens, and Strøget, the city’s longest shopping street. The second option is to head to Vor Frelsers Kirke in the boho neighbourhood of Christianshavn. This narrow church spire overlooks the ‘alternative state’ of Christiania. The counter-culture commune, established in the 1970s, is still an essential stop for understanding the city beyond its palaces, design stores and hip restaurants.
Fans of storyteller Hans Christian Andersen or philosopher Søren Kirkegård, meanwhile, should make their way to Nørrebro for the Assistens Kirkegård cemetery, the final resting place of both great Danes, and something of a public park for locals.
Sights and attractions details
Tivoli Vesterbrogade 3, Copenhagen, +45 33 15 10 01.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Gammel Strandvej 13, Humlebaek, +45 49 19 07 19.
Designmuseum Danmark Bredgade 68, Copenhagen, +45 18 56 56.
Noma Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, +45 32 96 32 97.
Black Diamond Søren Kirkegaards Plads 1, Copenhagen, +45 33 47 47 47.
Marble Church Frederiksgade 4, Copenhagen, +45 33 15 01 44.
Operaen Ekvipagemestervej 10, Holmen, Copenhagen, +45 33 69 69 69.
Skuespilhuset Sankt Annoe Plads 36, Copenhagen, +45 33 69 69 69.
Rundetårn Købmagergade 52A, Copenhagen, +45 33 73 03 73.
Rosenborg Castle Øster Voldgade 4A, Copenhagen, +45 33 15 32 86.
Vor Frelsers Kirke Sankt Annoegade 29, Copenhagen, +45 32 57 27 98.