Denmark’s capital Copenhagen is a great place to spend a few days exploring culture and history.
One of the things I love about Copenhagen is that its a very relaxed, chilled out city. It’s very welcoming to tourists and has a good vibe. Believed to have been founded in the Viking Age the city became an important one for Scandinavia as a whole during the Medieval era. Its geographical location made it a strategically important centre of trade in the Baltic sea. Today its a very modern city with reputation for being clean and environmentally friendly.
Here’s 8 things to do in Copenhagen!
1. Take a walk along Nyhavn harbour
This picturesque waterfront dates from the 17th century and is full of old colourful buildings. It’s the most recognisable place in Copenhagen and a good place to walk around. There’s a lot of bars and restaurants here too should you fancy a break from exploring.
2. Check out Rosenborg Castle
This scenic renaissance era castle is full of royal treasures. It was originally built at a royal residence by King Christian IV but hasn’t been used as one for a long time. Effectively its now used as a storage facility by the Danish Monarchy for various items of art and furniture. There are some interesting tapestry’s on display here, I’ve used a picture of one as the featured image for this post. The Coronation Chair is a big draw to. It was used in the coronations of past monarchs. You can view Denmark’s crown jewels in the vaults.
Check their website for ticket prices and opening hours: http://www.kongernessamling.dk/en/rosenborg/visit-rosenborg/
3. See The Little Mermaid
This sculpture is by Edvard Eriksen and based on the tale by famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was commissioned s a ‘gift’ for Copenhagen by Carl Jacobsen who founded the Carlsberg brewery. It’s been on display since 1913 and is now a major tourist attraction. Though I’m told by Danish friends this is often to their own bemusement.
I’d recommend walking here from Nyhavn before heading over to Kastellet (see entry 7 below).
4. Party in the meat packer district
Copenhagen nightlife is legendary, and the oddly named meat packer district is a hub of nighttime spots! The name is of course a reference to its prime purpose in the past. But now its a hip nightlife and restaurant hotspot. Hosting an assortment packed bars and clubs playing to different tastes, you’ll have a night to remember!
5. Visit the National Museum and see Viking Runestones
Covering 14,000 years of the nation’s history this museum looks at Danish life and development through the ages. The Viking runestones are a big attraction here. Danish history is obviously associated with the Viking age and runestones are a great link to that time. A range of exhibits covers the middles ages and renaissance well. There is also some interesting stuff on Danish political movements and culture in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Take note that the museum is closed on Mondays. You can take a look at their website here: http://en.natmus.dk/museums/the-national-museum-of-denmark/
6. Explore Christiania
In 1971 an old military site was turned into a hippy commune and developed as an alternative society to that of the rest of Denmark. This community numbers around 850 people and are self-declared as autonomous. They have some legal recognition though it’s always a source of contention in Danish politics. In the past it’s ‘Pusher Street’ has been infamous for cannabis stalls but these have been removed now. There is a lake area here you can wander around, find it past the ‘main area’ of cafes etc. I found it really interesting to see how the old military buildings have been converted into homes and so forth.
Note: much of the inside of Christiana has a no photography rule. The above photo was taken outside, of the entrance.
7. Have a stroll around Kastellet star fortress
Near to the Little Mermaid you can find this military site. It makes for a nice walk around and has some interesting sights. This star fort dates from the 1600’s and is one of most well-preserved in Northern Europe. It has seen battle against the Swedish and English. As well as walking around the pathways you can take a look at the Barrack buildings. I found it unusual that an area with military presence makes for such a pleasant walking area!
8. Admire art at the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark)
This art gallery has a great collection ranging from the 14th century onwards. Whilst there is of course plenty of Danish art, there are also many works from the rest of Europe. If your ‘into art’ then it’s definitely worth a visit. Even if you just have a casual interest it’s good to check out, I really enjoyed my own visit here.
Other things to do Copenhagen
If you have the time there are plenty of other things to do in Copenhagen. If you enjoy amusement parks you can visit Tivoli Gardens which is a famous one in the centre of the city. Close to Nyhavn is the Royal Palace of Amalienborg. You can watch the changing of the guards there at Noon. The Danish Parliament is located at Christiansborg Palace and an interesting place to check out if you like architecture.
You can fly into Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport and easily take a train to reach the city. Once there you can get around using the S-train and metro. Once in the city centre you can walk or cycle around the main tourist sites without too much hassle. The city also has rail links to Sweden (see below) and Germany.
It takes under half an hour to get to the Swedish city of Malmö from Copenhagen. Linked by the Øresund Bridge there are regular trains between the 2 cities so its perfect for a day trip. There is a fortress, a small beach and historic town plaza to keep you busy.
Just a quick note here that booze is expensive in Denmark! Though oddly enough as it’s even more expensive in Sweden there are a fair amount of visitors from there on a drinking mission. An average pint will cost you over £6 / $6.25. You may wish to avoid the booze and focus on the other things to do in Copenhagen!
My recommended hostel here is Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It has an excellent location and is a big hub for backpackers. With a large social area complete with bar it’s easy to meet people here. Though there can be a bit of a party atmosphere so you may want somewhere a bit quieter if you’re not feeling social. Private rooms can be pretty expensive in Copenhagen. Dorms though are generally in line with other Western Europe countries.