The Best Things To See And Do In Copenhagen, Denmark

Article contributee Amanda Flanaghan

Copenhagen, trendy city of Nordic ‘cool’ and capital of Denmark is in a charming coastal location set across the islands of Zealand and Amager. From sassy bars to impressive parliamentary buildings and royal residences, extensive green spaces to Michelin starred restaurants, if you’re looking for a stylish city break, Copenhagen is the place to go. Get a taste of living the Danish way and embrace the vibe of what is believed to be one of the happiest, friendliest nations in the world.

 

Rundetårn

Head to Rundetårn (Round Tower), a 17th century tower in the city center which is ascended on foot via a continuous spiral ramp. The lack of stairs creates the unusual feeling that the surroundings are slightly skewed against the backdrop and the angles of the building. At the top, the observation deck provides some brilliant views high above Copenhagen. Don’t forget to visit the Library Hall near to the top too as it often features some great art exhibitions.

Slotsholmen and Christiansborg

After visiting Rundetårn, head to Slotsholmen, the island which sits at the heart of Indre By and the central part of the city where you can see impressive Christiansborg, the seat of Folketinget (Danish Parliament). Christiansborg today is the fifth building left standing on the island of Slotsholmen after the others were destroyed in a succession of wars and fires. 

You’ll find guided tours in English at Christiansborg that allow entrance inside Folketinget. These tours are highly informative as you are taken on a journey to the inside workings of parliament. The kartwork inside is interesting, from the portraits of various prime ministers throughout Danish history through to the border art running along each wall which on occasion takes a somewhat humorous stance. 

An example is the section where the planner hangs for subjects to be debated, the artwork being a snail to represent that this process is ‘never quite completed quick enough’. A separate tour of the intriguing border art is available, however this is only in Danish. Guided tours in English take place every few Sundays and it is essential to book via the website in advance.

Tårnet

After walking around the grounds of Christiansborg, pay a visit to Tårnet – the parliament tower – a space which was abandoned and used as a storage space for a period of time, despite its impressive architectural structure. Standing 106 meters high, it is the tallest tower in Copenhagen and allows for some fantastic views across the city. Also known as Borgen, the upper chambers were used as storage until 2014 when the tower and all of its history was opened up to the public. It is now possible to take in the views at the viewing platform for free, or for a culinary experience, book a table in the Tårnet restaurant.


  Royal Library Garden

After Christiansborg, take a stroll into the Royal Library Garden, connected to the great existential philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard – where a statue stands in dedication in front of a small pond, within a peaceful and somewhat fittingly reflective space.

 

The Black Diamond

Whilst still on Slotsholmen, further south from parliament stands The Black Diamond (Den Sorte Diamant), completed in 1999 as an extension to the Royal Library. The adjacent buildings are where modern and classic come together. Its ultra-modern design allows the sea and sky to be reflected on its sparkling, shiny black surface. Inside this inspiring building you can find the National Museum of Photography, see a show in the Dronningesalen concert and theater hall or take a break in the restaurant and cafe. The Royal Library is home to Soren Kierkegaard’s manuscripts to which no-one outside the library and very few inside have access.

 

Christiania

Just across a bridge from Slotsholmen and sitting directly across from parliament is the island of Christianshavn, home to the arty, hippy area of Copenhagen, free-town Christiania. The inhabitants view themselves as being outside of the EU and frequently along Pusher Street many are seen smoking and selling weed, even if in a somewhat disguised way. Photos should not be taken anywhere inside Pusher Street. Be sure to also discover the wider area of Christiania, home to a vibrant creative and arts scene and further out onto the edge, stroll alongside the lake with views of the summerhouses, nature and tranquility. In the evenings, live music can be listened to at many venues inside free-town Christiania; notably Loppen, an alternative, vibrant yet cozy space which hosts many bands from Denmark and farther afield, some being very well known.


The Little Mermaid

Across the water and back in the central part of Copenhagen’s Indre By area is one of the most talked about spots in Copenhagen — Nyhavn, a main canal area with colorful buildings including restaurants and bars. Even if highly regarded as a tourist trap, there can be some beautiful photo opportunities for sunsets. Continue walking alongside the waterfront and the small statue of The Little Mermaid will come into view.


The University District

For some trendy yet laid back bars head to the area near the University of Copenhagen. ‘Hygge’, a Danish word which cannot be translated as such, its meaning is ‘to be warm, cozy and relaxed’, all at once. This is something which can definitely be experienced in Paludan Bog & Café. Enjoy a coffee and cake in the warm candlelit ambiance of somewhere which seems more like a classic, traditional library, fitting in well in its location opposite the library of the University of Copenhagen, its interior almost a mirrored reflection. Books fill the rooms, piled high from floor to ceiling. All are available to read and enjoy, and some you can purchase. A far cry from chain coffee shops, Paludan Bog & Café could not be more of a contrast.


The Latin Quarter

Studiestraede, set in the old Latin quarter, is home to a vibrant mix of restaurants and bars inspired by many different ideas and nationalities. Head to The Log Lady for a cocktail and a trendy vibe inside an intriguing bar inspired by the popular American TV series, Twin Peaks. Its decor is quirky and unusual, consisting of tree trunk tables, photo frames covering all walls and taxidermy displays.

 

Nørrebro

Allow some time to venture over to the trendy district of Nørrebro with its small boutique shops and cozy, welcoming bars, not to mention great cuisine. Eat at Aroii and experience Thai cuisine set among Nordic design elements. You’ll find cozy seating and a cuisine full of flavor, served by candlelight. Nørrebro is also home to many other experimental bars. Try The Laundromat Café, a cafe, aimed at those with a backpack full of laundry. Put a wash on and instead of watching it, jump on the free WiFi and have a quick read of one of the many books available or even play one of the board games.


Cisternerne

Cisternerne is the Museum of Modern Glass Art located in Søndermarken Park. A forgotten subterranean reservoir which used to supply the drinking water for Copenhagen has now been transformed into an exhibition space. Come and see the stalactites whilst taking in art in this fascinating space. See Eva Koch’s That Dream of Peace; a mysterious, experimental video installation where the wall displays vibrant poppies slowly opening and closing interrupted by hazy footage of children and buildings.

Amager Strand

If there is any spare time, take a trip to Amager Strand, a man-made waterfront located next to the wind turbines. On a misty day, the space is well worth a visit for photo opportunities. A somewhat eerie setting can form, where the mist can make the sky and sea fade into one, and the large white wind turbines seemingly hover somewhere in the middle.

 

  Malmö

If you’re in Copenhagen for slightly longer, head out for a day to Malmö across the Øresund Bridge, made slightly more famous by Nordic Noir TV shows such as The Killing and The Bridge. It’s possible to go by bus however the train is much more frequent and takes just 20 minutes. Buy a duo ticket for two people, a day return ticket with a discount on the fare. Malmö has so much to offer, the man made beach of Ribersborgsstrand, Carl Fredrik Reutersberg’s Non Violence knotted gun sculpture, the Turning Torso and the Moderna Museet, to name a few attractions. The Moderna Museet building is fluorescent orange and usually home to some cutting edge, intriguing modern art.