Things to Do in Copenhagen
With its jumble of 17th- and 18th-century townhouses, painted in a rainbow of bold colors and its cobblestoned waterfront lined with shops and restaurants, Nyhavn is one of Copenhagen’s most photogenic thoroughfares. The scenic road and canal runs from the grand Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square) to the banks of the main Inderhavnen canal and makes a strategic starting point for sightseeing cruises, with tours taking in nearby attractions like Amalienborg Castle, Copenhagen Opera House and the Little Mermaid statue.
Nyhavn also makes a popular choice for a lunch date or evening drinks, and the many bars and restaurants spill over onto the waterfront during the summer months, from where you can watch the traditional wooden fishing boats moving along the canal below. Additional sights of interest along Nyhavn include the Memorial Anchor commemorating the Danish Navy fleets of WWII and a number of houses formerly lived in by fairytale writer H. C. Andersen – no.18, 20 and 67.
The Danish castle, Rosenborg Slot, was built between 1606 and 1633 in the Dutch Renaissance style, typical of Danish buildings of the time, by architetual innovator King Christian IV. Now the castle contains a museum exhibiting the Royal Collections, heirlooms representing the span of royal Danish culture from the late 16th to 19th century. Some of these artifacts belonged to the nobility and the aristocracy in the past.
The castle became state property and was opened to the public in the1830s and to serve the dual function as a royal treasury and a museum. The particularly interesting attractions include the glittery crown jewels, the Danish Crown Regalia, coronation furnishings, and impressive family portraits. The castle is surrounded by the city’s oldest public park, Kongens Have, featuring lovely botanical gardens.
With a history dating back over 800 years, the Baroque Christiansborg Palace is one of the capital’s most iconic landmarks, set on the island of Slotsholmen in Copenhagen harbor. For a long time, Christiansborg Palace was the principal residence of the Royal Family but despite their relocation to Amalienborg Palace in 1794, the palace remains at the center of Danish rule, housing the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Danish Supreme Court, alongside a number of Royal Reception Rooms.
Today, the palace welcomes visitors by guided tour, offering guests the chance to view the ornate Throne Room, where Danish monarchs are crowned; the richly decorated Queen's Library; the grand Royal Banqueting Hall and the Great Hall, where a series of spectacular tapestries depicting 1000 years of Danish history are displayed – a gift to Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II on her 50th birthday in 1990. Visitors can also opt to tour the Royal Stables.
Since opening its doors in 2005, the Copenhagen Opera House has quickly secured its place as one of the capital’s most iconic buildings, with its futuristic roof canopy looming over the waterfront of Copenhagen harbor. The award-winning design, which spans 41,000 square meters and 14 stories, was created by local architect Henning Larsen and features equally captivating interiors, including a striking marble foyer and a gold-plated auditorium roof, shimmering with 24-carat gold leaf.
The opulent surroundings are the home stage of the Royal Danish Opera but the Opera House’s varied schedule includes everything from classical, ballet and opera performances to jazz concerts, held on the 1,500 seat main stage, alongside a roster of experimental works held on the smaller Takkelloftet stage. The principal opera season runs from mid-August until June, when guided tours of the impressive building are also available.
Denmark’s Old Stock Exchange, which was built in 1625, is one of the oldest building in Copenhagen and home to some of the city’s richest history. The original structure housed some 40 stalls for trading and was flanked by water on three of its four sides. Between 1658 and 1659 the lead roof was removed in piecemeal and used to fashion cannonballs to combat the Swedish occupation of the nation. It wasn’t until a few centuries later that roof was full restored.
Although the Old Stock Exchange is iconic in the city’s history, it’s not open to the public. Travelers can explore the land around the building, but it’s difficult to actually get inside. Only those with invites to dinners, conferences or galas are typically lucky enough to pass through the doors. Visitors should still keep their eyes out for the swirling dragons’ tail spire that sits atop the red brick building, which represents the original kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
The Rundetårn (or 'Round Tower' in English) is perhaps the best place in Copenhagen to enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline with its fairytale old town and many spires. The observation deck is located 35 meters (115 feet) above street level, offering an expansive view of inner Copenhagen.
The tower was built by King Christian IV, the famous architectural innovator of Denmark, to be an astronomical observatory. A wrought iron lattice runs along the edge of the platform, featuring Christian IV’s monogram. The Rundetårn was mentioned in two Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and is commonly used as a metric to compare heights of buildings in Denmark.
Few fortresses hold the power to amaze and impress quite like Copenhagen’s Kastellet. This stunning five-pointed structure was built in 1662 and houses one of the most incredible examples of this style of architecture in the country. Travelers who venture into the emerald grounds will find well-preserved barracks, a small chapel and even a moat. And while the grounds are lovely to explore, visitors say views of the iconic Little Mermaid, Marmorkirken and the cobalt-colored harbor add another level of beauty to this landmark that’s worthy of the journey. Travelers will likely find tourists and locals biking, walking and picnicking at this scenic destination.
More Things to Do in Copenhagen
Travelers who venture here are likely to stumble upon a performance or a protest, since this town square attracts as many artists as it does activists. In addition to the slice of local life City Hall Square offers visitors, travelers can also see some of the city’s major buildings, like Politikens Hus, Denmark’s top newspaper, and iconic sculptures like the Dragon Fountain and the Weather Girl here.
Since being taken over by squatters in 1971, Copenhagen’s Christiania neighborhood has become the city’s most infamous district, a self-proclaimed independent state, home to around 1000 permanent residents and notorious for its legal cannabis trade. The unique community was founded by a group of freethinkers, who have run the tax-free, self-governed commune for over 40 years.
Located in an abandoned military barracks, many of the free city’s houses were built by the residents and decorated with colorful murals and sculptures, making the district a vibrant cultural hub and a popular attraction for tourists. Visitors are welcome to stroll the streets of Christiania, take a guided tour led by local residents or relax at the area’s cafés, bars and live music venues, but be careful to follow the self-dictated rules of the area, which include not taking photographs or videos, refraining from using mobile phones, and strict enforcements of anti-violence and hard drug policies.
Opened in 1888 to house the extensive private collection of art enthusiast Carl Jacobsen (best known for founding the famed Carlsberg brewery), the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is one of Copenhagen’s most prominent art museums. Displaying over 10,000 works split over two departments, the museum’s works span over 3,500 years of art and history.
While the ancient art department features Greek, Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, the modern art department centers around a vast collection of 19th and 20th century Danish and French paintings and sculptures, among which are a complete series of Degas' bronzes, 35 Rodin sculptures, Van Gogh's ‘Landscape from St. Rémy’, Cézanne's iconic ‘Portrait of the Artist’ and over 40 Gauguin works. The museum itself, located behind Copenhagen’s iconic Tivoli Gardens, is equally impressive, the masterpiece of architect Vilhelm Dahlerup, featuring an exquisite winter garden and café, housed in a glass-domed conservatory, and a concert hall.
Charlottenborg is the official exhibition gallery of the Royal Danish Academy of Art and is the biggest venue for contemporary art in Copenhagen. The palatial residence was constructed in the 17th century for Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve. Queen Dowager Charlotte Amalie bought the Baroque palace in 1700, and her name has been affixed to it ever since.
Charlottenborg presents 4 - 5 exhibitions per year. It has become famous for its open submission spring exhibition, which is reviewed by a jury before the selection is shown. The fall exhibition is by invitation only. In addition to its exhibition space, Charlottenborg also has a Mezzanine available for many mediums of expression of the contemporary arts, from performances to debates.
The National Museum of Denmark is the country's largest cultural and historical museum, providing visitors with a broad variety of displays, from national treasures such as the prehistoric Sun Chariot to Egyptian mummies and an original hash stall from nearby Christiania.
Exhibits cover over 14,000 years of Danish history, showcasing Danish culture and heritage with a large collection of objects. It is possible to learn about the reindeer hunters of the Ice Age, the importance of religion in medieval Denmark and the Viking, who have a major exhibition dedicated to them thanks to Queen Margrethe. Other notable items include copies of the Golden Horns of Gallehus, the Gundestrup cauldron, the Egtved Girl coffin and the Kingittorsuaq Runestone. Visitors can also see a large collection of coinage and currencies from the Vikings, Rome and many other cultures.
Copenhagen’s once-notorious red-light district received a thorough makeover in the new millennium and today, Vesterbro is better known for its fashion-forward art scene, huge variety of restaurants and vibrant nightlife. Located just west of the main center, this is Copenhagen’s hippest quarter and the main streets of Vesterbrogade and Istedgade are now teeming with bars, restaurants, cafés and shopping boutiques. Most notable is the growing collection of brewpubs and Danish craft beer bars, perhaps inspired by the huge Carlsberg Museum located nearby. Vesterbro’s liveliest quarter is Kødbyen, the former meatpacking district, where the former factory buildings and market halls have been transformed into some of the city’s coolest and most unique nightclubs, art galleries and music venues.
This incredible attraction is full of well-manicured lawns and lush gardens that surround a picture-perfect castle built in the early 17th century. The Rosenborg Castle Gardens may have originally been created to serve as the private yard of King Christian IV, but it has quickly become not only the oldest—but also the most visited—outdoor attraction in Central Copenhagen.
Travelers can wander the colorful and fragrant Renaissance and Baroque Gardens, lined with fruit trees and statues. It’s also worth exploring some of the various buildings that dot the grounds, including the Hercules Pavilion, the Wrough-iron grill and pavilions and the Rosenborg Barracks. Travelers will find a number of sculptures, like the famed “Horse and the Lion” that date back to the early 1600s. Rosenborg Palace Gardens is the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon exploring and relaxing in an environment that’s as magical as it is beautiful.
The Carlsberg Brewery was established in 1847 by J.C. Jacobsen. The visitor's center showcases the history of Danish beer and has dioramas to illustrate various processes involved with brewing.
After a self-guided tour in the museum you walk through a garden and stables with Jutland dray horses. In the courtyard there is a smaller replica of the Little Mermaid Statue that Carl Jacobsen commissioned for Copenhagen. You can enjoy an authentic glass of beer in the brewery, as well as some traditional Danish food. There's also a giftshop for souvenirs with Carlsberg insignia for beer connoisseurs.
Copenhagen’s branch of the international Hard Rock brand is ideally located just outside the main entrance to the magical Tivoli Gardens and acts as the perfect fast-food antidote to over-excited children who have over-exerted themselves on the rides. It’s also a stone’s throw from the main, pedestrianized shopping drag of Strøget and the edgy nightlife district of Vesterbro. The glass-fronted restaurant has a psychedelically orange and matt black ground-floor bar in which to sample Danish beers or a choice of cocktails, plus two floors of restaurant selling the world-famous menu of steaks, chicken wings and burgers. Hard Rock Café Copenhagen opens daily at 10am in the morning and also serves up a legendary American Brunch, for which late-night party people wait in lines for on weekend mornings.
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