Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates COPENHAGEN (København), one of Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals. It’s a welcoming, compact city with a centre largely given over to pedestrians (and cyclists). There’s an emphasis on café culture and top-notch museums by day, and a thumping live music, bar and club scene by night. Festivals like Distortion (June) and the Jazz Festival (July) show the city off at its coolest and most inventive.
Continue reading to find out more about...
Until the twelfth century, when Bishop Absalon built a castle on Christiansborg’s present site, there was little more than a tiny fishing settlement to be found here. Trade and prosperity flourished with the introduction of the Sound Toll on vessels in the Øresund, and the city became the Baltic’s principal harbour, earning the name København (“merchants’ harbour”). By 1443, it had become the Danish capital. A century later, Christian IV created Rosenborg Castle, Rundetårn and the districts of Nyboder and Christianshavn, and in 1669 Frederik III graced the city with its first royal palace, Amalienborg. Since then, various kings and merchants have built up the city to be the amalgam of architectural styles and landscapes that you see today.
If you plan on seeing plenty of Copenhagen's star attractions, it's worth purchasing a City Card, which allows free or discounted entrance to more than eighty museums and other places of interest.
What to do in Copenhagen
1. Visit the Little Mermaid
The symbol of the city is a life-size Little Mermaid perched on a granite rock. She's the sad protagonist from the romantic fairytale by Danish author H.C. Andersen.
2. Marvel at the artefacts in the Nationalmuseet
This museum contains a world-class collection of historical artefacts, from bog people and fifteenth-century BC sculptures to Viking weapons.
3. Take the family to Den Blå Planet
The Blue Planet is a jaw-dropping modern aquarium containing some 20,000 animals across 450 species.
4. Cruise along the canals from Nyhavn
This quaint, much-photographed harbour is located just alongside a strip of popular bars and restaurants. Join a canal cruise here.
5. Meet the animals of Zoologisk Have
Founded in 1859, Copenhagen's zoo is home to 3000 animals from 264 species. The stand-out sight is the Arctic polar bear habitat. Skip the line to maximise your time here.
6. Get an adrenaline spike at Tivoli
At this magical amusement park, the oldest in the world, you'll find hair-raising rides, fairy gardens and unforgettable live shows. A 1-Day Unlimited Rides Ticket is a good option.
7. Buy fresh produce at Torvehallerne
Beer from Mikkeller, Copenhagen's finest chocolate and porridge reimagined as dinner are just some of the edible surprises at Denmark's largest food hall.
8. Enjoy sweeping views from Rundetårn
Instead of stairs, the oldest working observation tower in Europe has a spectacular 209-metre spiral pathway.
9. View excellent art at Statens Museums for Kunst
Denmark's most enormous art museum, with exceptional collections of Danish and international art from the last seven centuries.
10. Soak up the atmosphere at Rådhuspladsen square
Buzzing Rådhuspladsen square is towered over by a grand red-brick city hall, and is the perfect place for a mustard-topped pølse. Take in the square and several other impressive Copenhagen sights on an Old Town Walking Tour.
Top image © PAUL ATKINSON/Shutterstock
This page contains affiliate links; all recommendations are editorially independent.