Whether you’re planning a gap year, hoping to work abroad in Scandinavia, or just looking to expand your travel horizons, the Danish capital of Copenhagen has a lot to offer. While it may not be the cheapest of destinations, the Danish are an almost ridiculously friendly bunch, and the museums, restaurants and nightlife are top class: you’ll never run out of things to do in Copenhagen.
The Little Mermaid
This sweet statue in the mouth of the city’s harbour has become an icon in the 100+ years since it was installed. Things can get a little crowded here, so go early if you can. It’s a little way from the city centre, so a top tip is to visit Den Lille Havfrue on a Sunday morning, and reward yourself with a delicious brunch from any of the waterside cafes afterwards.
The National Museum of Denmark
This fabulous museum offers a complete crash course in Danish history and culture, with everything from the Vikings to Danish high art and present day design chic. Even better- it’s free to enter. The museum shop is also a great place to pick up classy Danish souvenirs and mementos.
If you can plan your trip around the Summer Solstice in June you’ll be in for a treat. As with other Scandi nations, the Danes celebrate the shortest night of the year in grand style, with bonfires on the water, sing-a-longs, and general merriment into the small hours. This is friendly Copenhagen nightlife at its finest.
The “freetown” of Christiania is a self-declared republic with signs at its borders proclaiming you’re leaving the EU when you enter. It’s not rebels or guerrillas who run this breakaway republic, though – it’s hippies. Come here for delicious falafel, copious amounts of cannabis smoke, and plenty of guys in hemp trousers. The atmosphere is gently anarchic, and please remember that you’re not allowed to take photos in certain areas- there will be clear signs.
It’s a tourist hotspot, but you’d be missing out if your visit to the Danish capital didn’t include a stroll along the waterfront at Nyhavn with its pretty coloured houses and old-timey feel. Even in summer, Copenhagen weather isn’t up to much, so the bars in Nyhavn – as elsewhere in the city – make the best of things with heat lamps and cosy blankets, so you can sip your Carlsberg looking out over the water – while still feeling wrapped up and warm.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
This establishment may include the name “Carlsberg”, but it’s got little to do with beer (well, tangentially – the museum was established by the son of man who founded Carlsberg Breweries). Think art and sculpture under a big glass dome- including impressive works by French Impressionists and Rodin.
Copenhagen City Bikes
Long before London and Paris, Copenhagen was home to the City Bikes, the world’s first large-scale urban cycling scheme. The new bikes (the scheme was relaunched in 2014) now even have GPS navigation – so there’s no excuse not to get pedalling. It’s no secret that the Danes love their bikes – over 50% of the city’s residents use a bike daily, and there are now more bikes than people. There’s simply no better – or cheaper way of seeing the sights.
Just outside the main train station, you’ll find Denmark’s oldest amusement park, Tivoli Gardens. It’s the perfect place for a stroll, NYE or Midsummer fireworks, and little and big kids alike will love the old-school carousels and roller coasters.
The Danish answer to Oxford Street is the beating heart of modern Copenhagen. Come here for your fix of Danish retail giant Tiger – it’s probably the cheapest place to buy a bottle of water, poncho, or tin of Danish cookies in the capital. Stroll down Strøget at any time of day or night for a spot of people-watching or shopping, and, weather permitting, grab a tasty street snack and eat it at the side of the big fountain halfway down while watching the world go by.
Eating out in Denmark is generally costly, and, as anywhere, food can be of variable quality. For a quick, cheap, filling meal on the go, one of the many Moroccan, Turkish or Lebanese places can provide, while Grams Laekkerier, sandwich specialist, is one of Copenhagen’s most highly-rated restaurants on TripAdvisor. The Danes also love, nay adore, brunch, which is usually served buffet style, and restaurants all over the city offer up delicious options for a lazy Sunday.