Copenhagen has recently become one of the trendiest places to visit in Western Europe. Known by many as a twee, hipster haven, Denmark’s capital possesses equal parts sensibility and whimsy. There’s a reason the country has been statistically called “The Happiest Place on Earth” – with Copenhagen functioning as its flagship destination.
The main goal for every Dane is to attain “Hygge” – which roughly translated means coziness. It’s essentially a daily mindset to find joy in the most ordinary and mundane activities.
Here are 20 sites/things to do whilst in København, with the intent to offer you the most hygge (pronounced hue-guh) one can stomach:
1. Ride A Bike
Copenhagen is one of the most bike-friendly places in the entire world. In fact, the vast majority of people living here ride bikes as the main means of transportation. Renting a bike will enable to you get a great sense of the city and its surroundings. But be careful: There are separate bike and car traffic lights. One should get a firm grasp on how this works — though you could always follow a native careening down the street.
Image Source: Copenhagenize
2. Walk Down Strøget
Strøget is the main street nestled within the heart of the city. Here, you’ll find a smorgasbord of touristy shops and restaurants. It’s easily the area in which you’ll find the most foot-traffic. There can be nearly 100,000 people per day traversing down the street during the high season. It’s certainly a sight to behold – considering there are buildings here from the 17th century. Starting in the city centre, you can take Strøget all the way down to the iconic harbor.
Image Source: Jason Fray
Nyhavn is globally the most famous picture one associates Denmark with. The harbor is draped on either side by colorful townhouses. While its initial purpose in the 1600’s served as a fulcrum for shipping cargo and prostitution, Nyhavn is now a hub for the views… and the bars. The perfect afternoon includes people watching next to water – with that beer or ice cream you’ve bought from a local vendor. Simply put, this is one of the most iconic settings you’ll encounter in all of Scandinavia.
Image Source: Jason Fray
Christiania is one of the most bizarre places you’ll ever visit in your life. A short description won’t do it justice. Here are the basics: Hippies squatted in old army barracks – creating a self-autonomous society within the city limits. They abide by their own laws, and much of their economic wealth is driven by marijuana. And it’s not just a few joints and edibles, but rather an inventory worth millions of dollars. Photography isn’t allowed, and many of the residents conceal their appearance with black masks. With that said, this eclectic neighborhood is wildly fascinating. It’s worth walking through for an hour or so – even if you don’t participate in the herbal festivities.
Image Source: Jason Fray
5. Underwater Sculpture (Agnete and the Merman)
Here’s the first hipster stop on the Copenhagen journey. Next to the Højbro Bridge, you’ll see a striking sculpture underwater – depicting a man with seven children. Danish folklore has a tendency to be somewhat morbid. It also has a propensity to include both mermaids and mermen. As the story goes, a woman meets a merman, and they proceed to have children. Ultimately, she is whisked back to her previous life on land – leaving her new family heartbroken in the ocean. This sculpture remains a rather unknown commodity for natives and tourists alike.
Image Source: The Incredibly Long Journey
6. Little Mermaid Statue
Famed fairy tales author Hans Christian Anderson hailed from Denmark. Among his most famous works includes The Little Mermaid, or Den lille havfrue. A bronze statue of ‘the little mermaid’ was first displayed to the public in 1913. It sits in the Langelinie – a park adjacent to the Baltic Sea. While the statue is virtually in place for photo opportunities, it is still regarded as one of the most famous tourist attractions globally.
Image Source: Jason Fray
7. Paper Island
Also called Papirøen, this area is an island on the east bank of the harbor. Simply put, this will be a highlight if you’re into eating. Inside a gigantic warehouse sits the Copenhagen Street Food Market. Every sort of cuisine imaginable is here. Tables are situated inside the warehouse, and chairs are placed outside to enjoy the wonderful weather on the water. You can get to it by ferry, or by walking over a bridge. An afternoon on Paper Island will certainly leave you bursting with happiness (and food).
Image Source: Dansk Arkitekur Center
8. Free Walking Tour
In virtually every city within Europe, free walking tours are offered. These three-hour jaunts are all encompassing when it comes to learning general information about the city – as well as seeing the sites. If you go to City Hall (Radhuspladsen), tours will operate usually at 11 and 2:30 every day. Copenhagen is a walkable city, which makes taking a tour worthwhile. At the end, you tip the guide whatever you feel the experience was worth. It’s usually between $5-10. Copenhagen is an expensive city. This is an economical and efficient way to truly learn about historical facts, as opposed to paying for a more expensive option.
Image Source: FREETOUR
9. Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli holds the distinction as the world’s second-oldest amusement park. It first opened in 1843, and has featured its famed wooden rollercoaster since 1914. It also features a gigantic carousel (The Star Flyer) – which is positioned high enough for visitors to have a panoramic view of the city. In addition to rides, it also has multiple stages for musical acts, plays, interpretive dance, and other forms of art.
Image Source: GetYourGuide
For those in search of a unique eating experience, Noma is the spot. The restaurant specializes in Nordic cuisine – utilizing ingredients found within this part of the world. Much of it is interpretive and artistic, and depicted with molecular gastronomy. One will need to make reservations months in advance in order to secure a table. Be prepared to splurge – as the average meal will set you back hundreds of dollars. However, it’s truly an event one will not encounter outside of this region. It was named as the world’s best restaurant on four separate occasions (2010, ’11, ’12, ’14).
Image Source: Nordic Nibbler
11. Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen)
The Copenhagen Opera House is amongst the most beautiful facilities you will find. Crafted with modern architecture, it sits on the island of Holmen – with tremendous 360-degree waterfront views. For the aesthetics alone, this building is worth checking out. Taking in an opera on the water is simply something few can attest to actually doing.
Image Source: ArchiTravel
12. Amalienborg Palace
Amalienborg is where the Danish royal family resides. Four palatial buildings encapsulate an incredibly impressive courtyard square. The architecture is striking – as is the amount of history present at this location. The royal family also makes it a point of emphasis to interact with the community. You can often see Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, walking around the courtyard with her dog. Right near the royal family quarters is a beautiful garden called Amaliehaven. It’s a wonderful spot to take a brief rest.
Image Source: VisitDenmark
13. Sky Bar
At the conclusion of a long day walking, the ideal thing would be to kick back and relax with a cold beverage. Throw in spectacular views, and it would be the ideal start to a night of fun. The Sky Bar at AC Bella Sky features a bar at the top of the hotel. From here, you have marvelous views of the Copenhagen skyline. When looking out one direction, you can see clear across to Sweden.
Image Source: hotels.com
14. National Museum of Denmark
If you’re into museums, the National Museum of Denmark is the place to be. It’s the largest museum in the country, and features exhibits in regards to both Danish history and cultures throughout the world. Covering 14,000 years of historical happenings, the museum has information on the Stone Age, the Viking Age, the Renaissance, and the Middle Ages.
Image Source: Fodor’s
15. Carlsberg Brewery
Founded in 1847, the namesake beer in Denmark is Carlsberg. One can take a trip to the brewery and tour the facilities. You’ll learn about the history of the company, see the in-depth process on how the beer is cultivated, and will even get to try some of the Danish delicacy. The best part? The tour is less than $15. This is a great place to grab a pint glass or some sort of memorabilia.
Image Source: OURWAY Tours
16. Thorvaldsens Museum
This museum is dedicated to the honor of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen. The work stems from 19th century neoclassicism. When it comes to sculpturing, Thorvaldsen is considered one of the best ever. The museum isn’t overly huge – and can be easily enjoyed within an hour or two. For that reason, it makes for a great option should you want to get some culture in during the trip.
Image Source: cphmuseums
17. Christiansborg Palace
This magnificent structure screams opulence and elegance. The building is the site for the Danish Parliament and Supreme Court. The architecture is truly striking – and fit for a Queen (whom resides here). Within the palace, you can take a look at various things (including the Royal Stables) for a rather reasonable price. The fully guided tour will set you back a heftier price. With that said, this building is one of the more impressive ones in all of Scandinavia.
Image Source: visitcopenhagen.com
18. Rosenborg Castle
The Rosenborg Castle is a cool thing to see. It’s situated right in the middle of Copenhagen, and is amidst a very popular park (Rosenbord Castle Garden). While it’s not an overly big castle, it’s still regal in its own right. The beauty radiating from it is truly tangible, and it gives you back story on the royal family dating back 400 years. A unique aspect includes being able to see the precious jewel section. This is a must-see attraction.
Image Source: Planet Den
19. Church of our Saviour
You’ll get the best bang-for-your-buck here at Church of our Saviour. The golden and chocolate brown spire hangs high in the sky. A spiral staircase is draped around the church – which allows people to go up and see breathtaking views of the city. In terms of a price… it’s free! You can walk into the church and take in the architectural grandeur. This is somewhat rare in Europe. Many buildings like this one require some sort of entrance fee. From a location standpoint, it’s right next to Christiania. There’s also a litany of quaint cafes to choose from for a coffee and pastry.
Image Source: The-Stenzels
20. Seek Your Inner Hygge
No trip will go without a couple of hitches. This may include a transportation snafu, a pesky cold, or even an ill-fated delicacy leading to frequent bathroom trips. Don’t worry… just roll with the proverbial punches. Denmark is one of the cleanest and kindest countries you will come across in your travels. Don’t be hesitant to ask locals for any suggestions – as of course they’re the ones with intimate knowledge of the surroundings. As the Danes say, attain hygge. Be happy! Get that coziness!
Image Source: PBS