Denmark’s easy-to-navigate capital city of Copenhagen is among the most beautiful cities in all of Europe and has some of the friendliest populace. It’s easy to explore the city’s striking mix of old-world architecture and contemporary design on foot or bike.
From beach time and biking tours to cultural outings and forays into Copenhagen’s celebrated New Nordic cuisine scene (the city’s restaurants have a total of 20 Michelin stars!), follow our lead to make the most of your time in port at these centrally located highlights.
Do as the city’s stylish and active residents do and take to two wheels to see the best of Copenhagen. Small-group or private bicycling tours with Copenhagen Fairy Tales tour you through the city’s hip neighborhoods, secret gardens and tucked-away churches while also stopping at mainstream sights like the National Gallery of Denmark and the famous Little Mermaid statue. There are never more than six people in the tour groups, which last about three hours and depart from Copenhagen’s centrally located City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen). And did we mention that the city is as flat as it gets? You never have to worry about pedaling uphill.
Denmark is full of pretty dune-fringed beaches along the North Sea. But there’s no need to leave Copenhagen when you can take a short metro ride from the city center and have a beach day at the beautiful (but man-made) Amager Strandpark. Locals bring their grills to this seaside strand in the city to grill up sausages and sip cold beers in the sun. There are even special shallow pools for toddlers to swim in on one side of the beach.
From the long white-sand beach, admire the view of the bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden, or enjoy an ice cream with views of nearby windmills. Concerts and festivals are often held here during the summer months.
One of Europe’s most celebrated foodie cities and Scandinavia’s cultural capital, Copenhagen is home to René Redzepi’s legendary Noma restaurant – and many more affordable places, too. Whet your appetite for New Nordic food on Copenhagen Food Tours, available in two- or four-hour tours. Here are two of their tours we’re most excited about:
- The Nordic Essentials tour includes about five tastings of things like craft beer, candies and special ham from the city’s celebrated purveyors over the course of a mile-long walking tour.
- For something more in-depth, the Culinary Experience tour visits the city’s covered market halls and includes around nine tastings of everything from gourmet hot dogs from a street-food stall to smørrebrød, the national open-faced sandwich.
The National Museum of Denmark is impressive but a bit overwhelming for a short port visit. Instead, put everything you’ve learned about Scandinavian design from IKEA aside to experience the real Danish deal at Copenhagen’s compact Designmuseum Danmark.
Among the permanent collection are textiles from the 20th century and mid-20th-century works based on cartoons by Henri Matisse. And the Danish furnishings on display — some part of motifs that take over entire rooms — are especially easy on the eyes, with classic egg chairs by Arne Jacobsen and contributions from other big names in the Danish Modern movement. The small museum can easily be appreciated within an hour or two.
A century-old wooden roller coaster is among the entertaining attractions for families at Tivoli Gardens, which is the world’s second-oldest amusement park and said to have been Walt Disney’s original inspiration for Disneyland.
Located in the city center, the park opened in 1843; its old-school look and style are key to its appeal. There are bumpers cars, dragon boats, a classic carousel and a Ferris wheel from which you can enjoy wonderful city views. And the gardens themselves include Japanese gardens, an aquarium and a concert hall where big-name performers often take the stage.
Shop for minimalist jewelry, beautiful leather accessories and stylish clothing on the pedestrian-friendly Strøget. One of Europe’s longest shopping streets, it stretches over a kilometer and is delightfully car-free, making it a nice place for window-shoppers to embark on an urban stroll. High-end couture shops à la Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as spots like Mango and H&M, line the street. But be sure to duck down side streets to browse unassuming outposts by Danish designers, also abundant in this area.
On a peak summer day, tourists can outnumber the roughly 800 residents in the car-free neighborhood of Christiania. But the area also known as Freetown Christiania — settled in 1971 by hippies who squatted in abandoned military barracks here and created their own independent society — is well worth seeing. The area’s collection of handmade homes, quirky art galleries and cheap-eats organic restaurants make for a one-of-a-kind community that strives to live life by its own rules. Ask for directions to Christiania Blacksmith, the area’s oldest business that once produced furnaces for residents.
Kastellet, known as “The Citadel” in English, is a beloved Copenhagen park for relaxing on a nice day; it is also one of the city’s important historical sites. Walk off some of your cruise calories with a stroll or jog along the ramparts. The site was founded by the Danish king back in 1626, and in addition to the well-preserved church and mill here, you should also visit the commander’s house, former solider barracks and prison complex where legendary English pirate John Norcross was said to held for over 30 years.
On a pleasant Copenhagen day, there’s no better perch for admiring the city’s beautiful populace and scenery than at one of the café terraces lining Nyhavn, the centrally located city quai fronting the old port. Typical Danish houses skirt the water (the oldest house dates to 1681), and the restaurants offer everything from casual sandwiches and salads to lavish seafood spreads. It’s totally acceptable just to sit for a coffee or beer, too.
When the weather is pleasant, Copenhagen’s sun-worshipping citizens hardly need to be coaxed outside. The young and stylish don their swimsuits and flock to the city’s most popular “beach bar” called Halvandet accessible by the harbor busses or Canal Tours’ green line. And while you can’t actually swim here (the surrounding waters are busy with boat traffic), you can enjoy a tropical cocktail and play a game of petanque, beach volleyball or mini golf with new friends.