guide to copenhagen



V I S I T

Botanical Gardens. Only if you're there during the blooming season!


Trinity Church. If you have two minutes to spare, it’s definitely worth it. The tall, white ceilings feature delicate golden ornaments, giving Trinity Church an airy, delicate and unpretentious vibe.

Rundetaarn. Without question, one of my favorite visits in Copenhagen. For only 25 DKK, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. The tower is unique in that it has no stairs (unless you count the tiny staircase at the very top – but that takes away from the magic!). For all I know, I could keep climbing Rundetaarn to the sky: my eyes just never tire from the purity of its architecture. The view from the top isn’t breathtaking, but it’s still nice. (Fun fact: there is an annual bike race to the top of Rundetaarn. The record is an unbelievable 1 minute and 48 seconds!)



Free Sandeman Walking Tour (two hours). A knowledgeable guide will take you through a good part of Copenhagen, telling you about the city and Denmark’s history and culture along the way.

Magstraede. Stroll through this quaint and colorful street, historically known as ‘shit street’. Because it was spared from Copenhagen’s two great fires, it contains some of the oldest buildings in the city, most of which are protected.


The Merman with Seven Sons. Located in the Slotsholm Canal, this underwater statue illustrates a classic Danish folktale that actually inspired Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. According to the story, a young woman named Agnete is seduced by a merman, takes his hand in marriage and goes to live with him under the sea. One day, she hears church bells ringing and decides to return to land for a day, promising to return to her husband and sons. However, she comes to realize how much she misses home, and never returns to sea.

Nyhavn. Nyhavn looks a lot like a canal street in Amsterdam, with its quaint buildings and outdoor cafés. The canal is flanked by two distinct sides, which are determined by the way they are hit by the sun. Andersen’s House, for instance, was located on the shadow side – less desirable and thus much cheaper than its sunny counterpart. Today, however, though all the restaurants are concentrated on the sunny side, both are very expensive places! After turning onto the waterfront, you will get a good view of the contemporary masterpiece that is the Copenhagen Opera House.


Amalienborg Palace. The winter home of the Danish Royal Family. The palace consists in four identical buildings, centered around an octogonal courtyard. Unlike Buckingham Palace, Amalienborg is completely open to the public (except for its interiors, of course). As such, there are no gates keeping the people separate from their rulers, which reinforces the notion that the royals are close to their subjects. The Royal Guards, however, are just as stoic (apparently they freak out if you touch the walls – so don’t do that).

Frederiks kirke. Also known as the Marble Church, for its exterior is made of 100% marble. It’s free to go inside and marvel at the dome ceiling – and very much worth it.

Designmuseum. The Copenhagen Designmuseum has a fantastic collection of mid-century modern furniture, especially chairs.

Nyboder. A cool grouping of barracks built by Christian IV to accommodate the families of the growing Royal Danish Navy.


Kastellet. Constructed in the shape of a pentagram, it is one of the best-preserved fortifications in Europe. One can actually wander between (though not penetrate) the military buildings, and there is also a war memorial monument to see.

The Little Mermaid. Highly overrated, but if you’re in Copenhagen, just go see the Little Mermaid. Then you can say you did it.

Børsen. Built by Christian IV in 1619-1640, Børsen is Denmark’s oldest stock exchange.


Black Diamond Library. It was designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen and completed in 1999 as an extension of the Copenhagen Library.

Slotsholmen. First take a look at the imposing Christiansborg Palace, which is the seat of the Danish parliament and house of Denmark’s three supreme powers: executive, legislative and judicial. Just next door you will find Bibliotekshaven, a peaceful garden between the Palace and the Jewish Museum. Great place to sit on a bench and enjoy a sandwich when the weather is nice.

Rosenborg Castle (60 DKK for students). The Dutch Renaissance-style palace was originally built as a country summerhouse in 1606, but ended up being used only as a backup residence twice: the first time after Christiansborg Palace burned down in 1794, and the second during the British attack on Copenhagen in 1801. I find the upper rooms much more appealing than those on the ground floor, which are predominantly dark and stuffy. A two-word tip for the throne room: look up. The ceiling is beautifully crafted. After visiting the living quarters, head downstairs to view the famous Crown Jewels and Danish Crown Regalia. In addition to the golden crowns, there are some serious jewelry pieces down there.

Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish National Gallery. Along with the Rundetaarn and Designmuseum, it’s in my top favorite visits. In addition to classical Danish art, the museum also has a great collection of French paintings, and has dedicated an entire exhibit to ‘Fransk Kunst’ – French art from 1900 to 1930. What I enjoy the most at Statens, though, is its extensive collection of modern art. In fact, the latter is given just as much space as classic art, which I think really speaks to the appreciation Danes have for modern aesthetics, as well as to their generally progressive mindset.


National Museum. Learn about the history of Denmark, from its formation in the prehistoric times to the way it is today.


Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Museum is built around the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen (1842-1914), the son of the founder of Carlsberg brewery. There’s a lovely winter garden inside, as well as many ancient and more recent sculptures. There’s also a rather impressive collection of Rodin statues.




Thorvaldsen Museum (free on Wednesdays). You can’t miss the museum, since its peculiar exterior is a standout yellow. Thorvaldsen features many imposing statues - really, some of them are unusually massive - but what really captivates me are its beautifully painted blue ceilings.





Hirschsprung Museum (free on Wednesdays). The museum is not very big, but the fantastic (and free) audio tour can keep you in there for over an hour. So even if you’re not a fan of the paintings aesthetic-wise, there’s plenty to learn about both their artists and their backstories.



Post & Tele Museum. The museum curators have somehow managed to make rather uninteresting (to me, at least) subjects interactive and relevant. I wouldn’t put this on your “must do” list (especially if you’re not traveling with children), but if you, like me, have a few minutes to spare and happen to be in the area, then definitely take a look.


S H O P

Go store-hopping around the Stroget area, avoid the international brands and favor local chains, boutiques and concept stores instead:

Storm. Very hipster shop with a great selection of coffeetable books, kicks, headphones and clothes for both men and women.

Casashop. One of the best home decorating stores I’ve visited. Make sure you check out the section downstairs for even more eye candy!

Vipp. Need a high-end trash can? Vipp has got you covered.

Beau Marché. Another highlight. This shop/restaurant/café/wine bar has an excellent assortment of modern and vintage home décor pieces tied together by their French-Danish theme.

Rue Verte. Luxurious, dark furniture and home accessories. There’s also a high-class Joe and the Juice in there.

Munthe. I was too intimidated to step inside, but this clothing shop looks very nice.

Kok. Adjacent to Konditori Antoinette, this cooking store will be a heavenly place for cooks and foodies. It has a great assortment of tools, cookware and cookbooks.

Noa Noa. This is actually a chain that runs throughout Scandinavia (I’ll see a few in Oslo as well). It has nice clothes, and a particularly adorable children’s wear collection.

Bang & Olufsen. If you’re a sound/tech aficionado, this one’s for you.

samsoe & samsoe. Extremely well-curated clothing chain. Great pieces by Envi, and beautiful leather pouches by Royal Republic.

Norr. Basically the local Urban Outfitters. There’s also a cool coffee shop called Frankly Market inside.

Isle Jacobsen. You probably know this brand for its lustworthy laced rainboots. I’m a Tretorn owner myself, but Isle Jacobsen boots are always on my mind… In this store, there are also cool, colored rain jackets and parkas, as well as slightly less cool clothing (Jacobsen should stick to outwear, methinks). I don’t have a benchmark to tell you if it’s actually worth it to buy her products in Copenhagen rather than in America, but I’m guessing it may be, at least a little.

Moss Copenhagen.  Lovely clothes.

Hay. Hands down, my favorite store in Copenhagen. The prices are rather high, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t buy in there. Especially those brass scissors.

Plint. Fabulous home accessories! Nearly everything is arranged by color palette, which only makes me like it even more. The prices are pretty fair, too.

Prag. This vintage boutique has fur coats, cowboy boots, and a good selection of dresses organized by decade (the 1960’s section is just delightful), all at reasonable prices.


Shops in Vesterbro:

Dansk. Minimalist, high end design.

Kyoto. Japanese-inspired fashion.

Girlie Hurley. Sweet and feminine home decor! Bonus points for the washi tape art on counter.

Blomsterskuret. Lovely flower shop right next to Granola.

Dora. Just across from Granola - wonderful concept store.

Kluns. Nice clothing shop.

Rude. Some hip fashion finds!

es. Beautiful selection of expensive clothes.

Heidi & Bjarne and Tout Petit. Adorable toys and clothes for kids!


More shops:

Maduro. Nice home décor shop.

Red Cross. I don’t know if it has to do with the fact that people just generally dress so well here, but the Red Cross thrift shops have exceptionally good finds. They’re worth checking out while you’re here!

Accord Music. Fantastic record and CD store.

Hoj. Pretty clothing store on Jaegersborggade.



E A T

Torvehallerne Food Market. Order a barley-otto (barley risotto) from the Grød stall (Grød also has a restaurant on Jaegersborggade). Perfectly cheesy and lemony, this cheesy porridge is a great option if you’re looking for a quick, hearty and warming meal. Another option is the Vegetar sandwich from Smag (48 DKK). From the rye bread to the vegetarian meatballs, hummus and arugula, it’s both filling and refined. 


Naturbageriet. Delicious bakery close to Torvehallerne.

L’Appétit - a little eatery close to Nørreport selling delicious empanadas.

Granola. Well-known and loved by locals for its breakfast and brunch menu. For a snack, try the  Ostemad, which is an open-face rye bread topped with strong cheese, thin apple slices and jam. It’s simple, yet very tasty and delicate. Plus, the atmosphere is fantastic. (Make sure you check out the bathroom - the soap is crazy retro.) Other food places I would definitely recommend you try in the area include Kafe Sonja (great looking brunch deal), Juice, Coffee and the Gang, Bagelman, Shakes and Cakes, and Rist Kaffebar.


Jaegersborggade. This street has a dozen independent shops and food places that are clearly cherished by locals. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check it out for dinner!



E S C A P E

Frilandsmuseet. Take the train and bus to Frilandsmuseet, Copenhagen’s outdoor folk museum. When you arrive, take a map showing the nearly 100 homes that have been brought to construct this ambitious project. The vast majority of cottages are open for visit, and you will never grow tired of checking out the insides of each and every home. Some have been furnished as they would have in the 16th century, while others as they would have in the mid-20th century. In front of each cottage, there is a sign that explains what size and kind of family would have lived there, and also gives one an idea of their daily life in these lodgings. At the center of Frilandsmuseet, employees dressed in historical garments are busy preparing traditional dishes for visitors to try. There’s some delicious fresh bread and cookies, as well as some homemade salted butter. Frilandsmuseet is one of my favorite places I visited. You’ll definitely want to spend half a day there, and even bring a picnic if you want. Kids or no kids, everyone will love it. There are even some adorable pigmy goats and sheep nursing their newborn lambs!






Louisiana. Buy a combo pass to Louisiana, which includes both a ticket for the train and to enter the museum. The Humlebæk train stop is less than thirty minutes from Copenhagen’s central station, and a fifteen minute walk from Louisiana itself. Louisiana is located right by the sea, and it’s a delight to step outside its building to walk through its grounds. There, one can see a number of sculptures, including one by Richard Serra and another by Miro.






C H R I S T I A N S H A V N

I recommend taking a free walking tour of Christianshavn, a borough on a manmade island founded in the early 17th century by Christian IV. What makes Christianshavn so special is its juxtaposition of architectural styles and inhabitants. On one side, there’s the pristine financial district, and on the other, the very grassroots Christiania. Add two majestic churches, the Church of Our Savior and the Christian Church (also known as the Lottery Church, German Church and Theater Church) to the mix, and you’ve got a pretty interesting neighborhood.


The tour “officially” ends on Christianshavn’s fortifications, but you will be warmly invited to “unofficially” follow your guide through the unique area of Christiania. Also known as ‘Freetown Christiania’, this autonomous neighborhood contains only 850 inhabitants but has become internationally famous for both its seemingly utopian vision and its tolerance of soft drugs. All of the houses are built by the inhabitants themselves, and some are super cool (I’m thinking of the window house, or the one that much resembles a hobbit hole). Along your stroll, you will pass a number of meditation and yoga huts, which are apparently very popular practices in Christiania. You will finally reach the Green Light District, where cameras and cell phones are strictly forbidden. Head to a charming café by the name of Grønsagen for dessert. I highly recommend you try the rum chocolate truffle with coconut shavings, which seems to be a common delicacy in the Scandinavian countries.





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