With roughly 35% of Denmark’s population living in Copenhagen, it is easy to see why this city is not only the country’s capital but also the heart of its nation. Sitting in the strait of Øresund (Which connects to both the Baltic and North Seas) and across from the Swedish city of Malmö, this former Viking fishing village has grown to become one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world and the home of the Happiness Research Institute. If you’re thinking of visiting this southern Scandinavian capital, here are seven awesome things to do while you’re there.
1. Go on a canal tour
While many people will take a walking or bus tour of a capital city, Copenhagen offers a slightly different experience for those who do not suffer from terrible seasickness. Situated on a series of islands and artificial islets, the city has a number of canals running through its centre which provide a unique way of viewing the capital. Throughout the year you can find guided tours being given from the water, usually in either Danish or English (although some operators do provide a third language), and while these guides do provide you with additional information, not understanding them will not take away from the sights you will sail by.
Picking up either from Nyhavn or opposite Christiansborg Palace, these hour-long tours will usually take you past a number of historical and modern structures and landmarks which make up this unique city. From the Opera House (Which is not only one of the most modern opera houses in the world, but also one of the most expensive to build) to Christianshavn and the Church of Our Saviour (Which can be recognised by its helix spire), you’ll get to see this city from a completely new angle.
2. Walk the castle gardens
Once a country summerhouse for King Christian IV, Rosenborg Castle in the heart of Copenhagen is now home to the Danish Crown Jewels and the Throne Chair of Denmark. While the castle is worth a visit, it is the grounds which surround this renaissance structure which draws city dwellers and visitors alike.
The King’s Garden is the oldest and most visited park in Copenhagen. This 30 acres urban park is open all year round, allowing visitors to enjoy a moment of peace whether the sun is shining or snow has recently covered the ground. While being home to some historical buildings, such as the Rosenborg Barracks (Home of the Royal Guards), in the summer the park becomes home to temporary art exhibitions and concerts. Flock to this delightful green space to relax and forget you’re in the middle of the largest city in Denmark.
3. Visit the National Museum of Denmark
If you visit only one museum while you’re in Copenhagen, then make it the National Museum of Denmark, located between Tivoli Gardens and Christiansborg Palace. In Denmark’s largest museum of cultural history, you’ll be transported back in time to visit Vikings, meet the Danish monarchy and learn how Denmark has changed as a nation over the years.
In particular, the museum is home to some unique historical objects which bring the country’s stories to life. This includes the one-of-a-kind Bronze Age artifact, the Sun Chariot, a unique piece of history which was discovered in 1902 in a peat bog on the Trundholm moor in Denmark. Said to depict the idea of the sun being drawn on an eternal journey across the sky by a divine horse, this Nordic object is a must see for anyone interested in Brown Age history and Vikings.
4. Dine on Nyhavn
Nyhavn is arguably the postcard image for Copenhagen, with its picturesque multi-coloured buildings lining the waterfront and historical boats moored just in front. While these buildings may have started life as public houses, where sailors could get beer and company, many have now been converted into bars and restaurants for people to enjoy.
Whether you’re looking for a quick bite to eat or a sit-down meal, there is enough on offer to satisfy everyone. Many eateries have outdoor seating along the waterfront, which in the summertime allow you to enjoy the beautiful view while tucking into some tasty Nordic food. In the colder months, blankets, candles, and heating are provided, meaning you can still enjoy same the experience, all while being snuggled up warm and possibly feeling a little bit hygge.
5. Climb the Rundetaarn
Built in the 17th-century at the request of King Christian IV, the Rundetaarn (Round Tower in English) began life as and continues to serve as an astronomical observatory. More recently, it has become a historical monument and observation tower, which provides fantastic views across the city.
While there are other towers from which you can get an expansive view of Copenhagen (For example the tower of Christiansborg Palace which sits above the Danish parliament), the Rundetaarn is unique in that it features an equestrian staircase or stepless equestrian ramp. Designed to allow a horse and carriage to climb the tower, this unusual spiral ramp will take you 34.8m above street level to give you a bird’s eye view of the city below. On a clear day you may be lucky enough to see the Øresund Bridge and Sweden in the distance, but either way, you’ll be able to say you’ve climbed the same tower that horses once went up.
6. Find the Little Mermaid
No trip to Copenhagen would be complete without finding the iconic Little Mermaid statue. Perched on a rock at the side of the harbor, this fairy-tale character has had her fair share of incidents over the years. She has had her head removed twice, lost an arm, been covered in paint and blown off of her rocky base. Yet despite all of this, the Little Mermaid continues to attract sightseers from all over the world, who arrive by boat or bus to catch a glimpse of this Danish icon. But the best way to see this mermaid is by finding her on foot.
Following the waterfront on your hunt for this water nymph, you will see the Royal Danish Playhouse, the Opera House, Amalienborg (Home of the Danish royal family), and Kastellet (One of the best-preserved star fortresses in Northern Europe). You can even take a short detour to visit Frederik’s Church or The Marble Church as it’s more popularly known. The Church has the largest church dome found in Scandinavia and at one point stood in ruin for almost 150 years. While it may be quicker to get there by bus, nothing will beat the fresh sea air and the sights you’ll see on your hunt for the Little Mermaid.
7. Try Smørrebrød
The best way to round off any trip to the Danish capital is to try some traditional cuisine. Smørrebrød, or open sandwich in English, consists of a piece of buttered rye bread onto which toppings are placed. Classic Smørrebrød options include pickled herring with onions & dill or roast beef, pickles, onions & horseradish. However, the city is filled with a variety of different options to suit every taste bud, and you’ll be sure to find one you’ll want to recreate at home.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen, Denmark
Best Budget Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark – Wakeup
This central hotel is just 250 m from Kongens Nytorv. Strøget and Nyhavn are both within 5 minutes’ walk.
A flat-screen TV, desk, and bathroom with a shower are provided in all Wakeup Copenhagen – Borgergade rooms. Guests can enjoy free internet access on the guest computers in Wakeup Copenhagen’s reception.
Best Mid-Range Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark – Hotel Astoria
Situated next to Copenhagen Central Station, this hotel is centrally located in the city’s vibrant Vesterbro district. Tivoli Gardens is just a 3-minute walk away. Copenhagen International Airport is a 12-minute train ride away. The popular Strøget shopping street is a 7-minute walk away.
The simply furnished, yet brightly decorated rooms at Hotel Astoria feature large windows and a work desk. Cable channels and a private bathroom are also included. Allergy-free linen is available on request. Guests can relax in the comfortable lobby area, as well as in the breakfast room.
Best Luxury Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark – Hotel D’Angleterre
Inspired by its rich heritage the hotel has recently undergone a complete refurbishment and has reopened as a revitalized grand palace. Balancing legacy and style with intuitive and tailored services, the d’Angleterre will complement the desires of today’s refined travelers.
Established in 1755, the d’Angleterre is an icon and a historic landmark in Copenhagen celebrated for its elegance, luxury, and style.
About the Writer
Sarah is one-half of The Doorstep Mile’s traveling duo. Born in England, Sarah spent many childhood holidays sheltering from the rain in small caravans and visiting seaside towns wondering what lay just across the ocean waves. Now she spends her free time exploring new cities, planning her and her partner’s next adventure and writing about it for their blog.
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