If you are coming in the late spring and summer you are in for a real treat. Copenhagen blossoms all around under the warm Scandinavian sun during these seasons and there are a plethora of activities to choose from that can keep you occupied from when the sun rises at 5 in the morning until it sets at 11 at night.
First, a little about how Copenhagen’s set up. It is one of the easiest cities to navigate and the best part is that you can do it all on a bike. Cycling and cycling lanes are the bloodlines of the city and the best way to see it...plus it’s free (minus the rental fee, which is very reasonable from most bike shops, or the white city electric bikes), green, and really good for you. Copenhagen is divided into five main parts where most of your sightseeing, outings, and exploring will happen.
Indre By - The heart of Copenhagen
The oldest and most compact part of the city, you will find plenty of cobble stoned streets lined up with pastel colored townhouses. One of the longest pedestrian streets - Strøget - snakes its way through this part of the city. If you are up for taking some Scandi design back with you, whether it's clothes or furniture or ceramics - this is where you will find all the Danish staples. Add Royal Copenhagen, Illums Bolighus, Illum and Magasin du Nord to your store list.
For sightseeing, Indre By is home to the Royal Palace (Amelienborg), where the Danish Queen and her two sons and their families reside. Plus you'll catch a glimpse of the royal guards, and if you're lucky to be there around lunch time may even witness the changing of the guards. From the Royal Palace you can pop over to one of the most impressive churches in the city, The Marble Church. From there walk over to Nyhavn, one of the most famous harbors of Copenhagen. In the old days, this was the bustling, economic heart of Denmark. If you feel like taking a break from walking / cycling, you can catch one of the canal and harbor tours from here. It's a great way to see the city from the water. Plus, you will get to see the Little Mermaid statue, which by the way tends to disappoint most of her visitors. But at least you can tell your friends back home that you saw her!
From Nyhavn, walking away from the Royal Palace you will find yourself in front of the Danish Parliament, which is also called the Christiansborg Palace. You can go up the main tower for free and get an impressive, often windy, view of the entire city, the windmills of the Øresund and even get a glimpse of Sweden.
Not far from there is the Tivoli Gardens, which boasts as the oldest amusement park in the world. If you're up for feeling like a kid again, hyped up on cotton candy and wanting to go on every ride, then this is the place for you. If you feel like exploring more historic sights, check out the Copenhagen Townhall across the street from Tivoli, then walk through Ørstedsparken, a picturesque public park, then onto the Botanical Gardens and then straight down to the Rosenborg Castle. If you are here in April-May you will have the exclusive chance to snap a ton of photos of the perfectly groomed gardens that surround Rosenborg. And if you are lucky enough to be here on sunny and warm days, grab some picnic food and drinks and plop down on the greenery to catch some rays. Good luck finding a spot though...the locals tend to populate the gardens very quickly.
For the lovers of the arts, the Inner City also houses some of the most beautiful and unique museums the city has to offer: SMK - the National Gallery of Denmark, Glyptoteket, Kunsthal Charlottenborg. This is also where I will mention Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, which is located 40 km north of the city but the thought- and emotion-provoking exhibitions and the stunning location of the museum is worth the half of a day visit.
Whew! Would you believe me that the above is only the tip of the iceberg in exploring the Inner City? My best advice is to star the places you want to see the most and the just wander from one point to another while discovering beautiful streets, shops, people, parks, churches, cafes.
Christianshavn, Nørrebro, Vesterbro, Østerbro
(Good luck pronouncing those names the correct way)
The remaining four districts of Copenhagen. There is the historic yet chill Christianshavn, home to the Royal Danish Opera (quite the architectural sight!), canals a la Amsterdam, and of course the infamous commune of Christiania. And technically not part of Christianshavn but still a place worth mentioning, especially if you are here on an unusually warm and sunny day, is Islands Brygge. Buy a portable grill from one of the shops, burger patties, a six pack or chilled wine, and find yourself a cozy spot on the grass along with the locals. And when the sun warms your skin enough, take a dip in the harbor!
Nørrebro is the most multi-cultural and eclectic part of the city. Always vibrant, this is where you can catch up on some essential vintage shopping, taste one of many döner kebabs, and play around one of the coolest urban parks (Superkilen)I have ever seen. If you need to find a quiet corner, the Assistens Cemetery is the perfect green oasis for you Don't be intimidated by the tombstones, and instead go pay your visit to the writer HC Andersen & the philosopher Søren Kirkegaard.
Vesterbro was once the seediest part of the city but has transformed itself to become one of the most colorful, family-friendly parts of the city. It is also known for its nightlife, the kind you dare not tell your grandma about (so maybe the seediness isn't all that gone yet). My go-to's are the Meatpacking District (Kødbyen), Carlsberg Brewery, Kalvebod Brygge waterfront.
Last but not least is Østerbro. Posh, quiet, family-friendly, clean, residential pretty much sums up this part of Copenhagen. Enjoy the lush, expansive public park, Fælledparken, or take a walk through the Citadel (Kastellet).
All that sight-seeing, but where are the food & drinks?
I just realized that I've had you exploring Copenhagen's every corner without a bite to eat or a sip to drink. The good news is that in the past few years Copenhagen has truly embraced the foodie culture and brought forth its Nordic traditions in very pleasing ways for the pallet. There are simply too many restaurants, cafes, food halls, food festivals to list here. But the MUST tries are:
- Food halls: Torvehallerne, Copenhagen Street Food, Kødbyens Mad & Marked
- New Nordicrestaurants: Hōst, Gorilla, Nose2Tail, Kødbyens Fiskebar, BROR
- Any of the restaurants in the Cofoco or Madklubben family.
- Yumson the budget: Grød, LeLe Street Kitchen, Paludan Bogcafe, Tommi's Burger Joint, Sliders, Slurp Ramen Joint
- Bakeries (because the American-invented "Danish" is a sad excuse for a baked good): Meyers Bageri, Lagkagehuset, Emmery's, Sankt Peders Bageri
- Cocktail bars: Lidkoeb, Duck & Cover, the Bird & the Churchkey, Curfew, 1656, the Barking Dog
And after all of that you are still standing on your two feet and want to them dancing here are my favorite going-out spots: Chateau Motel, The Jane, Condesa, NOHO, Le Bambole.
And with that, you should be fully armed to make the most of your visit Wonderful Copenhagen!