29 Best Things Locals Recommend You to Do in Copenhagen

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Erin McMillen Gustafson

Whether you plan to taste Copenhagen’s famous New Nordic cuisine, ride a bicycle along its pretty roads or take to the sea, there’s plenty to explore in the Danish capital. Culture Trip has spoken to people who know the city well for their take on the best things to do in Copenhagen.

The Danish capital of Copenhagen perfectly combines modern and progressive city planning with historic architecture and charming cobblestoned streets. Not too big, not too small, this right-sized and sustainable Scandinavian city continues to churn out creative designers, architects, artists and cutting-edge chefs. Come for the historic city centre sites, but venture beyond into colourful and charismatic neighbourhoods to find a more authentic side to the city. Here, our Copenhagen insiders guide you to the top activities in Copenhagen.

1. Explore Copenhagen on two wheels to experience the city like a resident


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In a city where roads and bridges are built for and dedicated to bikes alone, Copenhagen is well set-up to support its citizens with green and healthy options for commuting to work and school. Helene Hjortlund is the founder of managing director of Green Bike Tours and Green Learning Programs in Copenhagen and is passionate about showing visitors the benefits of sustainable city planning. She has been living close to Copenhagen most of her life and appreciates how compact and comfortable it feels for a big city.

“[Copenhagen] has a lot to offer when it comes to history, food, architecture, water, hipster areas and of course sustainability,” Hjortlund says. “It has a lot of hidden green places such as Bibliotekshaven, which I find absolutely amazing – a small, very silent, almost private garden in the middle of the city.”

Hjortland recommends that visitors to Copenhagen jump on two wheels and explore outside the old city, suggesting cycling down streets such as Jaegersborggade and Stefansgade in the Nørrebro neighbourhood for local café culture. And to learn more about this clean, green capital, take one of Hjortland’s Green Bike Tours to see the city’s alternative energy solutions, climate-adaptable neighbourhoods and even a waste incinerator plant that is so clean you can ski down the side.

2. Captain a boat and sail through the clean Copenhagen canals or go for a dip

Architectural Landmark

Boats docked in the harbor at sunset, Copenhagen, Denmark
Line Kjær / Unsplash

A Copenhagener for the past 10 years and head of communications at the city’s Friendships boat rental, Anita Sørensen tells Culture Trip that with water all around the city, one of the best ways to get know the Danish capital is to see it from a boat. Keeping the canals clean enough to swim in is a priority in the city, and you are welcome to jump in any time of year at one of the many harbour baths along the Copenhagen waterfront.

“I love that we are surrounded by so much water. Water has some sort of calming effect, and people seem to be more relaxed when they are close to it,” Sørensen says. She suggests taking a boat out onto the water yourself to really make the most of the city. “In your own private boat, you get a sense of freedom, as you [get to] decide where to go.”

No bathing suit or swimming costume? No worries: Danish waters are clothing-optional. Or maybe you prefer to just putter through the canals with a picnic in a sustainable electric vessel. With a few instructions and suggested routes, you are free to manoeuvre the clear canals on your own. Rent your own at Friendships or GoBoat, or take a tour with Hey Captain if you’re less confident about your seamanship.

3. Explore the creative gallery scene and eclectic vibe of Vesterbro’s Kødbyen district

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Christian Werther / Unsplash

Local artist Tilde Grynnerup says: “I love Copenhagen because it is small and safe, open-minded and clean. It is my childhood streets and the green parks that I love.” And for artists like Grynnerup, creative spaces can be found in many spots all over the city, though she particularly recommends that you head to the west side of town. Once there, don’t miss the Meatpacking district in Vesterbro called Kødbyen. Here, you’ll find a concentrated neighbourhood full of cafés, restaurants, art galleries and nightclubs. There is always something interesting happening over here, from exhibitions to art openings to open-air markets. Check out V1 Gallery or Eighteen for cutting-edge art. And for sustenance in the area, try the fresh, creative seafood served at Kødbyens Fiskebar, dine on dim sum at Magasasa or sample some Italian fare at Tilde’s current favourite Mangia on Bagerstraede, also in Vesterbro.

4. Step away from the Tuborg and sample Copenhagen’s craft beer scene

Restaurant, Bar, Danish, European, Vegetarian

Craft beer pint
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While the wind (industry) may have pushed Bo Gustafson to his job at Vestas Wind Systems in Copenhagen, the sustainably oriented city that offers such a creative culinary culture, as well as a thriving craft beer scene, has helped make it easy to stay. Beer giants Carlsberg and Tuborg may have control of many of the taps in town, but for craft beer aficionados, there are plenty of places to find creative suds.

“My favourite beer places have rotating taps, so you’ll never know exactly what you might find, but with so much choice, there is bound to be one you’ll love. Try local beers by brewers Mikkeller, To Øl and Gamma,” Gustafson says.

For the best selection, head to BRUS in Nørrebro, a big modern beer hall with a tasty restaurant attached, or cosy and candle-lit Søernes Beer Bar located in the Østerbro neighbourhood, with tables along the Lakes in warmer weather. Looking for a unique takeaway bottle or can? Step downstairs at Kihoskh on Søndergade near Kødbyen or the Mikkeller & Friends Bottle Shop in the Torvehallerne food market in the middle of town.

5. Go off the beaten track to experience a more alternative side of Copenhagen

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Stefanos Pizzabar, Norrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark
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François Debains, an urban planner and founder of Urban Explorer CPH, moved to Copenhagen in 2013 from the south of France and loves how Copenhagen strikes the perfect balance between offering big-city opportunities without all the inconveniences of living in a sprawling urban centre.

“I especially [appreciate] the profusion of cultural events and the possibility to reach all of them in 30 minutes maximum by bike,” he says.

Ask Debains what visitors should see when they come to the city, and he will always encourage people to get to know what he calls the “real Copenhagen.” As Debains suggests, move past the iconic sights such as Nyhavn canal, Tivoli and The Little Mermaid and make your way into the neighbourhoods where people live to find the city’s hidden treasures. Debains especially loves the colourful and vibrant Nørrebro area, which is full of cafés, restaurants and some seriously good shawarma shops. Or take one of Urban Explorer’s tours, hosted by François himself, to experience an alternative perspective of the Danish capital off the beaten path, from street art to industrial architecture.

6. Sit in a signal tower above the canal to soak up Copenhagen culture

Architectural Landmark

Malthe Merrild is the founder of Kulturtårnet (the Culture Tower) and can often be found alongside his co-founders atop the Culture Tower, a historic signal tower that sits over the Knippels Bridge on the main Copenhagen canal. Head up the tower and enjoy the small intimate setting for coffee or a drink while you take in the latest art exhibition, cultural talk or live music. As Merrild says: “The best thing about Copenhagen is the size – both physically and mentally. It’s so small that you feel like [you have] an idea of what’s going on in every quarter of the city. But Copenhagen is still so big that it holds a lot of small city centres worth visiting… and it is so big that you will always meet new, inspiring, weird and creative people.” No matter what’s happening at the Culture Tower, you’ll always have amazing views over the harbour. A short walk from the bridge, you’ll find Freetown Christiana, a colourful hippy commune that Malthe also recommends a wander through just to experience the creative atmosphere.

7. Kayak to a café on the water for lunch and a sauna


Kayakers on the Copenhagen canal, Denmark
Febiyan / Unsplash
Helene Philipsen, a life coach and therapist who has been based in Copenhagen since 1992, loves the lifestyle here. “I love that the city is pretty stress-free, it’s a capital yet a small ‘big’ city in comparison to other capitals. Love that you can walk, bike and public transit everywhere.” Philipsen recommends that you rent a kayak and cruise the clean city canals before pulling in to one of the many floating cafés for lunch or even a sauna break come colder weather. Rentals are available from Kayak Bar, which is right on Holmen’s canal in the centre of town. From here, carefully paddle your way towards the Christianshavn canal or further down the canal to La Banchina. Take your kayak and tie up to the dock to soak up the sun, then head to this cosy café, nestled on the water in a little corner of the Reffen warehouse district, which offers an on-site sauna and serves up seasonal, organic food and natural wines before or after your steam.

8. Take in over-the-top views from Copenhill

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Copenhill, Copenhagen, Denmark
Jesper Giortz-Behrens / Unsplash

As the author of The Copenhagen Companion (2019), Astrid Heise-Fjeldgren offers an alternative approach to seeing this fair city. With maps and suggestions for off-the-tourist-track walks and ways to explore, her guidebook is like a travel journal to inspire and record your time here.

“This book is not going to help you find your way to the Hans Christian Andersen statue, but it is hopefully going to help Copenhagen find a way into your heart,” she says.

Heise-Fjeldgren encourages visitors to see other sides of the city. One unique way to do so is to take in the scene from the top of Amager Bakke, the city’s ski-hill that sits atop the most modern of incinerators. Part of Copenhagen’s green initiatives, the building offers a waste management system so clean that it can commingle with a recreation spot for its citizens. Come to Amager Bakker’s Copenhill for some skiing in any season or just hike to the top to take in the views for free.

9. Tour the opera house or buy tickets to a local performance

Opera House, Church

Opera House in Copenhagen, Denmark
Pauline Bernard / Unsplash
Chock full of culture, there are plenty of options in Copenhagen for visitors seeking tickets to live performances. See a magical Royal Danish ballet in the gorgeous Old Stage (Gamle Scene) theatre on the classic Kongens Nytorv. Or listen to world-class singers with a live symphony in the architecturally striking Opera House right on the canal. Take a guided tour in English most Sundays to go behind the scenes in the building’s stunning interior. Those looking for an intimate theatre experience can find performances in English at the House of International Theater. One actress says, “I love the freedom of being able to cycle everywhere, the proximity to water, the exciting architectural developments, the growing gastronomic scene, the fact that CPH is a city but such a manageable one – easy to get around and with several quite distinct areas.”

More Must-Visit Attractions in Copenhagen

10. Copenhagen Zoo


Copenhagen Zoo, Copenhagen, Denmark
Daniel Eledut / Unsplash

Polar Bears roaming, lions roaring and chimpanzees swinging – that’s just some of the sights that await you at the Copenhagen Zoo. Home to over 4000 animals and 264 species, the zoo is also recognised for having the world’s best elephant facilities. Experience Denmark’s largest wildlife sanctuary where you’ll also find an artificial rainforest, African plains, and an icy Arctic enclosure. Great for travellers, you can also roam around the zoo without losing much time by using fast track tickets that allows you to skip the cue.

11. Tivoli Gardens


Just a scene from Christmas-time in the Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen.
Jonas Smith / Unsplash

The Tivoli Gardens, located next to the Vesterbro district, is a famous amusement park in Copenhagen. The second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843 and has been thrilling amusement-hunters ever since. Take a ride on Rutschebanen, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world, or see the stunning view of Copenhagen from the 80-metre-tall (260-foot-tall) carousel Star Flyer. Tivoli also offers a relaxing spot among their beautiful Japanese gardens. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

12. The Black Diamond


Situated in central Copenhagen, the Black Diamond is the extension of the Royal Danish Library. With its imposing exterior that reflects its surrounding landscape, it’s hard to miss this cultural gem designed by the Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The Black Diamond has its finger on the pulse as the cultural platform for local and international leaders in their creative fields. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

13. Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Historical Landmark

Kunsthal Charlottenborg is one of the largest spaces for contemporary art in Northern Europe, presenting an ambitious program featuring up and coming talents as well as established stars from both Denmark and abroad. With intermedia spaces for films, talks, performances, concerts and film screenings, this is a contemporary haven for art lovers – located just off Nyhavn’s waterfront strip. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

14. Nyhavn

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Nyhavn, Copenhagen Municipality, Denmark
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Created between 1670 and 1675 as a gateway from the sea to the inner city, Nyhavn was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution, gaining a reputation as the city’s entertainment district. Now a popular tourist area, it has transformed into a lively space full of restaurants and shops. If you are looking for somewhere to sit back and people-watch during the summer, this is the place. Stop by Bo-Bi Bar just around the corner for a classic bodega vibe, where sailors, politicians and journalists would all rub shoulders in this smoky (and infamous) joint. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

15. The Little Mermaid

Historical Landmark

The Little Mermaid, Langelinie, København Ø, Denmark
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One of Denmark’s greatest tales by the city’s most famous wordsmith, Hans Christian Andersen, the statue represents the moment the mermaid gives up everything to be united with the prince she has fallen in love with on land. Created by Edvard Eriksen, the statue was donated to the city by the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen and remains one of the most visited spots in Copenhagen. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

16. National Museum of Denmark

Museum, School

Want an all-encompassing view of the rich history of one of the leading Nordic countries? Make a beeline for the National Museum of Denmark and learn about everything from the 2,000-year-old bog woman to Viking lore. Perfect for those travelling with kids, the museum is equipped with interactive activities giving an insightful view into Denmark’s past. Through informative exhibitions, you’ll discover the city’s past while learning about the events that shaped the country. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

17. Børsen

Historical Landmark

The 17th-century stock exchange building, Børsen, is located in Christiansborg Palace on the island of Slotsholmen. With its majestic Dutch Renaissance architecture, it’s a recommended stop for architecture and history buffs looking to soak up Danish design. Now the home of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the building is a prime example of the celebration of Danish design within the commercial and economical Danish landscape. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

18. Kastellet

Archaeological site, Museum

Kastellet, København Ø, Danmark
Nils Bacher / Unsplash

With its famous formation in the shape of a Pentagon with bastions at its corners, Kastellet is an example of a fortress at its finest. One of the most celebrated examples in all of Northern Europe, it was once part of the ramparts built to protect the city. These days its a public park that’s popular with families on the weekends. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

19. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


The Glyptotek is home to an incredible selection of art and artefacts dating back 6,000 years. Funded by Carlsberg founder J. C. Jacobsen, he also donated his personal art collection to the museum. A prime institution in Denmark, Glyptoteket is an independent institution that has become an important landmark in Copenhagen. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

20. Christiansborg Palace

Historical Landmark

Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
Joshua Kettle / Unsplash
Home to the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court of Denmark, Christiansborg is the only building in the world that holds all three of a country’s branches of government. The first castle was built on the site in 1167, and was the official residence of the Danish kings until 1794 when a fire gutted the building. It became the seat of parliament in 1849 once it was restored. With parts of the palace open for tours, visitors can admire the grand halls and see one of Europe’s largest collections of copperware in the Royal Kitchen. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

21. Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Museum, Park

If there is one must-visit place in Copenhagen, it’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the home of modern Danish and international artworks. Located 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Copenhagen, the institution is home to over 3,500 pieces of art, including a permanent collection by the likes of Calder and Giacometti. The museum is also home to a sculpture park that features 60 different sculptures. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

22. Tycho Brahe Planetarium, Copenhagen

Historical Landmark

Travel to outer space or into the depths of the world’s biggest oceans thanks to Tycho Brahe Planetarium’s huge 3D screens. 3D movies and IMAX films presenting our planet’s mysteries to young and old are screened every day. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

23. Blue Planet


With over 400 species living within 7 million litres of water, the Blue Planet offers an exciting underwater experience in Northern Europe’s largest aquarium. Home to the brown-banded bamboo shark, the Atlantic goliath grouper and the redbelly yellowtail fusilier, the aquarium is a great place to visit if you’re looking to encounter unique sea creatures. While there, you’ll get to meet the big five: sea otters, hammerhead sharks, arapaima, giant Pacific octopuses and stingrays; watch the animals get fed and learn about the ocean. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

24. The Round Tower

Historical Landmark

Designed to continue the pioneering research of the astronomer Tycho Brahe, the Round Tower offers stunning views of Copenhagen. If your knees are in good shape, walk up its notable 200 metres spiral ramp that takes you to the top. The 17th-century observation tower was completed in 1642 and has become one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

25. Amalienborg Palace

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This is Amalienborg Palace. The home of the Danish royal family located in Copenhagen
Photographer Frederik Trovatten / Unsplash

A visit to Amalienborg Palace will captivate visitors’ interest not only because it is the royal family’s winter residence but also because 150 years of Danish history unfold through the diverse rooms and exhibitions. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

26. Botanical Garden


Located off the busy streets of central Copenhagen, the Botanical Gardens oozes with serenity. Twenty-seven glasshouses can be found here, one being the 16-metre-tall (50-foot-tall) Palm House, which houses more than 13,000 species, with 600 of them being of Danish origin. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

27. Rosenborg Castle

Architectural Landmark

Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen from its gardens
Javier Rincón / Unsplash

This 400-year-old Renaissance Castle was a favourite of King Christian IV, whose reign saw the construction of the Round Tower, Børsen and Rosenborg, where he died. Take a tour of the castle and its grounds, and seep up some of the history between Rosenborg’s stone walls. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

28. Copenhagen City Hall

Historical Landmark

If you have 30 minutes to spare, look no further than the City Hall tour that gives you insight into Danish history, including the story behind the Lord Mayor and council’s headquarters. If history isn’t your bag, at least enjoy the incredible views of Tivoli Gardens and see Jens Olsen’s World Clock – an advanced astronomical design. Recommended by Isabella Rose Celeste.

29. Freetown Christiania

Architectural Landmark

Wonderland art at Christiania, Copenhagen
Annie Spratt / Unsplash

Even people who aren’t planning to visit Copenhagen are familiar with the name of Freetown Christiania. That’s mostly due to the fact that in the autonomous hippie district, cannabis trade is allowed. However, those who finally visit Christiania realize that the open cannabis trade is the least of the reasons that make this neighborhood special. Cozy restaurants, music venues, smoky bars, one of the city’s best skate parks, and a great lake are the things that make the autonomous neighborhood a must-visit place in Copenhagen. Even Prince Henrik enjoyed taking a walk with his friends around Christiania. Recommended by Aliki Seferou.

This article is an updated version of a story originally created by Jasmina Kanuric.

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