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The most bike-friendly city in the world? Welcome to Copenhagen
Photograph: Nick N A / Shutterstock.com

The 17 best things to do in Copenhagen

The best things to do in Copenhagen showcase the very best of a rather magnificent place, from sandwiches to the sea

Written by
Anya Nøddebo Jensen
&
James Clasper
Contributor
Ella Doyle
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Ready to get Hygge? This is the place. Copenhagen is one of those cities you could spend weeks in, but even two or three days is enough to hit the best spots. Many of its best cafes, restaurants and attractions are within walking distance of each other, but you’re best off hiring a bike and cycling around the city, to truly immerse yourself in the culture.

Culture lovers treasure the city for its galleries and museums, and young people flock there for its ever-expanding nightlife spots. Plus, if you’re looking to travel more mindfully in 2023, we crowned Copenhagen the greenest city in Europe for its environmental innovation, from urban farms to sustainable fashion. If you’re just there for a weekend, there are some things you absolutely shouldn’t miss. Don’t worry, we’ve made it easy for you. Read on for the best things to do in Copenhagen. 

RECOMMENDED:

🍽️ The 12 best restaurants in Copenhagen
🏛️ The 11 best museums in Copenhagen
💃 The 13 best nightlife spots in Copenhagen

Great things to do in Copenhagen

What is it? A world-renowned art and sculpture museum in central Copenhagen Carl Jacobsen’s private works from 1842-1914. 

Why go? Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is one of Copenhagen’s most treasured museums, found right at the heart of the city. It’s been open to the public since 1897, and is renowned for its extensive collections of Mediterranean antiques and 19th century art (among the biggest collections in the world). Exhibitions range from Ancient Egypt to the works of Manet and van Gogh, as well as sculpture from Greece, Denmark and France. But come for the art, and stay for the ambience – outside is a glass-domed Winter Garden, adorned with palm trees, statues and a trickling fountain. 

Jægersborggade
Photograph: Wikimedia Commons / Fred Romero

2. Jægersborggade

What is it? Cobbled streets lined with trendy bars, boutiques and cafés. Perfect for wandering (and photographing). 

Why go? When you fancy a slow day wandering around and sampling delicious coffee, cakes and independent shops, this is the place – and it won’t look bad on your Instagram either. Favourites include Inge Vincent’s ceramics workshop, craft store Vanishing Point and jewellery designers Ladyfingers. And when you’re just about ready for a snack, stop at the Coffee Collective. Assistens Kirkegård, a leafy cemetery at the street’s southern end, is exceptionally picturesque and where famous Danes such as Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard are buried.

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What is it? Denmark’s national art museum, SMK, is home to an immense collection of Danish and European works dating from the 1300s to the present day.

Why go? Copenhagen’s most sizeable cultural attraction is an excellent way to acquaint yourself with some of Denmark’s best-known works of art, including the masterpieces of the Danish Golden Age and Vilhelm Hammershøi’s highly influential interiors of 19th-century Copenhagen. The 20th and 21st-century collection, housed in a striking modern extension, is excellent too. With its simple but scrumptious menu, SMK’s beautiful café provides the perfect pit stop.

What is it? With its pastel-hued, 18th-century merchants’ houses, this is Copenhagen at its picture-postcard finest.

Why go? Yes, it’s a tourist trap — but it’s a gorgeous one and well worth visiting if only to get the obligatory shot of its brightly coloured houses (three of which were once home to fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen). Nyhavn is also a great place to join a canal tour. To escape the crowds, pop into Kunsthal Charlottenborg, a Baroque building on Nyhavn’s south side, home to a contemporary art gallery and a beautiful café, Apollo.

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What is it? Located in the city centre since 1870 and home to more than 13,000 plant species, this is the greenest place in town.

Why go? It’s ideal for a leisurely stroll when you want to escape the crowds. Highlights include a rhododendron garden, rock gardens featuring plants native to Europe’s mountainous regions, and the Palm House. One of the garden’s 27 historic glasshouses, it features cast-iron spiral staircases leading to a walkway above the treetops. During summer, visitors can also explore the garden’s butterfly house, and there’s a small shop selling plants and seeds, allowing you to take home some botanical magic as a souvenir.

What is it? A fairytale castle in one of Copenhagen’s oldest royal parks.

Why go? Built as a summer residence for Christian IV, the spectacular Renaissance castle Rosenborg Slot is home to the Danish crown jewels, several lavish rooms and a priceless wine collection. The castle’s leafy surrounds are also delightful: the King’s Gardens (Kongens Have) are a much-loved green oasis where you’ll find a decent café, two pétanque pistes, a charming puppet theatre, and plenty of space for picnicking.

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What is it? An impeccably designed, impeccably located museum with a world-beating modern art collection.

Why go? First, for the art: Louisiana’s permanent collection comprises more than 4,000 works produced since 1945, including pieces by Picasso and Giacometti, while its Sculpture Park houses works by Alexander Calder and Henry Moore. The building itself is considered a significant work of Danish modernist architecture. There’s also Louisiana’s idyllic location on the coast north of Copenhagen. Finally, there’s its gift shop. Louisiana is packed with classic and contemporary Danish design, plus a wide selection of books and exhibition posters, and it is pretty much a destination in itself.

Superkilen
Photograph: Oliver Foerstner / Shutterstock.com

8. Superkilen

What is it? A 55,000-square-foot urban park designed with the help of the surrounding community.

Why go? The award-winning Superkilen celebrates the multicultural melting pot that is Norrebrø and exemplifies the power of inclusive design. Constructed in 2012, it stretches for a kilometre through one of Denmark’s most ethnically and economically diverse neighbourhoods and contains more than 60 objects that reflect each of the cultures that inhabit the area. Look out for swing benches from Iraq, a boxing ring from Thailand, and rubbish bins from Blackpool.

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What is it? A charming amusement park and pleasure garden that draws families year-round.

Why go? There’s fun for all the family at Copenhagen’s world-famous amusement park, which has stood on this site for more than 175 years and even inspired a certain Walt Disney. Adrenaline junkies will love the rides — including one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters, constructed in 1914 — while others will find thrills in Tivoli’s seasonal decorations, floral displays, fountains, carousels, lanterns and old-fashioned carnival games.

Smørrebrød restaurants
Photograph: Ekaterina SU / Shutterstock.com

10. Smørrebrød restaurants

What is it? Difficult to pronounce (try ‘smurr-brull’), Denmark’s classic open-faced sandwiches are a traditional lunchtime dish every visitor should try.

Why go? Practically synonymous with Danish cuisine, smørrebrød comprises thin slices of rye bread topped with ingredients like pickled herring, fried plaice and chicken salad. Though you’ll find dozens of smørrebrød joints across the capital, it’s worth splurging and picking a place that uses fresh seasonal ingredients. Our favourites include old-school specialist Kronborg, trendy Selma and Aamanns 1921, set in a historic building in the centre and happy to pair your dish with a glass of homemade snaps.

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What is it? One of the most enjoyable ways to see Copenhagen is by spending a couple of hours skippering a solar-powered GoBoat around the harbour.

Why go? No experience is required to operate a GoBoat. They putter around at a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to take in the sights, including Christiansborg (aka the Danish parliament), the striking modern architecture of the Black Diamond Library and the Royal Danish Opera House, plus the canals and multi-coloured houses of Christianshavn. Remember to bring a picnic; GoBoats seat up to eight around a small table.

What is it? Five kilometres of clean, sandy beaches south of the city centre – with spectacular views of the Øresund Bridge.

Why go? Copenhagen may not exactly scream ‘beach holiday’, yet the Danish capital boasts several superb spots for swimming, sunbathing and seaside fun. The biggest and best is Amager Strandpark, which is easily reached by bike or metro. While its soft, sandy beaches are the main attraction, the lagoon is popular with kayakers and kite surfers, and the path winding through the dunes draws joggers and rollerbladers all year long.

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Refshaleøen
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Stig Nygaard

13. Refshaleøen

What is it? Copenhagen’s buzziest neighbourhood. On the northern outskirts of the harbour, post-industrial Refshaleøen is a creative quarter with a growing food scene.

Why go? Culture vultures shouldn’t miss the large-scale installations at the Copenhagen Contemporary art gallery, while design devotees will enjoy rummaging amid the mid-century furniture at the B&W flea market. Bring an appetite, though. Foodies are spoilt for choice here. Thronging street food market Reffen (summertime only) offers budget-friendly options, while La Banchina is Copenhagen’s trendiest spot for sundowners (tip: bring a swimsuit).

Torvehallerne
Photograph: Julie Mayfeng / Shutterstock.com

14. Torvehallerne

What is it? A gourmet food market that is a must-stop on the Copenhagen culinary trail.

Why go? Torvehallerne is a foodie’s paradise, its twin glass halls housing a cornucopia of seasonal fruit and veg, baked goods, fresh meat and seafood. There are also plenty of tempting food stalls where you can pick up a scrumptious dish or two to enjoy on the go or at one of the tables outside. Our favourites include gourmet porridge at Grød and confit duck sandwiches at Ma Poule.

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Værnedamsvej
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Roman Holder

15. Værnedamsvej

What is it? Connecting upmarket Frederiksberg with trendy Vesterbro, this shopping street oozes charm and has even been dubbed Copenhagen’s ‘Little Paris’.

Why go? From independent bookshops to exotic florists, you’ll find lots of lovely shops in this instantly likeable neighbourhood. Værnedamsvej gets its charming Parisian vibe from the presence of the city’s only French lycée and the array of bars, cafés and delicatessens that wouldn’t be out of place on the Left Bank. We recommend Café Viggo, which serves a mean galette, and Falernum, one of the city’s fanciest wine bars.

What is it? An urban sports area and ski slope on top of the city’s newest waste management centre.

Why go? Possibly Copenhagen’s quirkiest attraction is this ski slope atop a tall waste-recycling plant. Designed by starchitect Bjarke Ingels, the artificial ski slope plus inner-city hiking area is the ultimate offbeat way to experience the city. If you don’t fancy adventure sports, you can walk up and stop for views of the Øresund strait as you go.

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What is it? To feel like a local, jump on a bicycle. Thanks to Copenhagen’s world-class cycling infrastructure, including miles of segregated bike lanes, peddling around the Danish capital is easy-peasy — and almost always the fastest way from A to B. The Harbour Ring (Havneringen) is a 13km marked route that takes in an array of big-hitting sights.

Why go? You’ll discover how well-connected Copenhagen is. Whizz past eye-catching waterfront architecture such as the Black Diamond library extension, cross the city’s much-loved harbour bridges — such as artist Olafur Eliasson’s spectacular Circle Bridge and the elevated Cycle Snake — and catch some fresh air at the Amager Fælled nature reserve.

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