So I decided that this was an intro I needed to write while I was still here, before dinner on a seriously glorious day. My first trip to Copenhagen was in 2012 – I came solo. I’m not sure what ignited my initial interest but I fell in love with the city. Since then, I’ve come 3 other times, exploring the city and culture little by little. First I came with my friend Megan. We had a lovely few days including my first time in Tivoli. Then there was the time I came with my friend Liz. At the end of the Euro-trip I had enjoyed so much in 2014, Copenhagen held up, at least for me. The last time I came I was dropping off my former student, Lauren, for her study abroad. It was sort of a bitter-sweet trip for me because I knew she would come back knowing more about my favorite city than me.
When I decided to come to Copenhagen about 6 months ago for my Easter Break, there was a tiny part of me that was a little bit nervous. I wasn’t sure what I was going to think when I arrived. Would my love affair be the same after all these years?
Well, 7 days and almost 67 miles later, I feel pretty strongly that I’m still deeply in love. I know that I want to live here. This is my forever city. I just adore this city. While I will say I feel pretty confident that I know a lot of Copenhagen – I still could learn so much more. While I’m calling this my ultimate guide, it’s not comprehensive. I’m not a local. A lot of what I’m going to add in here is on recommendation of my former student, Lauren, who studied abroad in Copenhagen. I hope that one day I’ll be reporting from here again as a resident.
The basics – in the heart of Copenhagen, you’ll find Nyhavn. Famous from every single post card, it is definitely worth the picture. While I wouldn’t eat there due to sky high prices and less than amazing foods, the colors are gorgeous especially for summer sunsets. Not far from Nyhavn, you’ll find Amelienborg Castle which is where the Danish Royal Family lives. They four structures house the Queen, the Crown Prince and his family, and various other royals. From Amelienborg, you can see the ultra modern Copenhagen opera house in one direction and the Marble Church in the other direction. Not far from Nyhavn is the beginning of Strøget, the main shopping street of Copenhagen which connects the square of Konegshavn to the town hall. Along this corridor you can find a couple of more churches. Slightly to the West, the central campus of Copenhagen University has a number of beautiful, monumental buildings. Finally, about a block away from the university, you can climb Round Tower and get a panoramic overview of the city.
This is the area that I consider the center of the city. Copenhagen in general is relatively compact but especially this area. To get the most information out of all of these places, I recommend this walking tour – the people with the green umbrellas. You meet at the Town Hall and walk for about 2 hours covering much of the center of the city. The same company hosts a bar crawl which I enjoyed in my youth on Thursday through Saturday. Once you’ve covered these “must sees” I would say to explore some of the places that make Copenhagen so unique. Here are a few of my favorites:
Tivoli – The first place I wanted to mention is one of my favorite places in the entire world. Tivoli is a combination of a beautiful park, gardens and amusement park. It’s pretty conspicuous – you’ll run into it if you arrive by train. I’ve been to Tivoli three times now and I always have a delightful time. I think it’s worth the splurge to get the multi-ride pass. My favorite rides are the Star Flyer, the Dragon Boats and the Classic Roller Coaster which has an operator manually pulling the break sitting in the middle of the ride. Prices for tickets as of 2019 are 130 DKK for entrance and 240 DKK for an unlimited ride ticket.
Christiania – Christiania is a really interesting place. basically, some years ago, a group of Danes decided they wanted their own haven where they were free from the establishment. There, people live in “freedom” from Denmark. As far as I can figure, it’s just overall dirtier and weed is legal. This time when I visited, I had a really nice walk through the whole area. There is plenty of public art. There’s a nice lake to lounge by. There’s some pretty interesting little houses. Overall, whether you want to buy the weed in the Green Light District or not – I think this is an interesting corner of not only Copenhagen but also Europe to visit. Just keep in mind that on pusher street – they are not joking about not taking pictures.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – As someone who spent years studying the Classics, I have to say that the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is a really lovely museum to visit. There’s some great Greek and Roman sculpture there. As you walk in, you will be immediately charmed by the spacious winter garden. In the upper levels, there are both Danish and French paintings. Personally, I recommend peeking at the Danish Golden Age art while you are there. More on that in the next place. Prices for adults are 115 DKK except for on Tuesday – when you can enjoy for free!
Design Museum – Our of the three Museums that I am going to recommend, this is my least hearty choice. While it’s a perfectly lovely museum, I feel like it would be a lot more dynamic with a guide. That being said, I really liked the areas talking about the Danish chair. I never had thought about how much the design of a chair says about its user until this museum. I also didn’t expect this museum to cover such a large time frame. Obviously design has been around as long as humans have. I just didn’t think this museum would have much before the 20th Century. Joke was apparently on me. In any event, as a student with an ID, I went in for free and it was worth the hour and a half that I spent there. I especially enjoyed the current exhibition on the Bauhaus movement. I don’t think it’s permanent but if you can get there to enjoy it – I would recommend it. The interactive area was cool for children and adults alike. The price for adults is 115 DKK but under 26 and students are free!
SMK (The National Gallery) – So this was my latest realization. I hadn’t yet been to this museum. Generally speaking, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of art museums. They just don’t always keep my attention. However, this one was different. I was obsessed with the Nordic and Danish art area. As I mentioned in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, on this trip I fell in love with the warm, Tolkien like aesthetics of the Danish Golden Age of Art. There were rooms and rooms to enjoy of this time period. I didn’t expect to enjoy the newer Nordic and Danish art wing as well but I really did. With the exception of Munch – too dark for me. Something I’ve noticed about Danish art in particular is is’t a lot more agrarian and peaceful than many of its European contemporary periods. In addition to the amazing Danish art, this museum is packed with other lovely pieces – almost all European. This may be my top art museum recommendation in the world. It was peaceful and empty, even on this holiday when many other places were full. I didn’t feel rushed. I just loved it. For adults you can visit for 120 DKK but under 26 is only 95DKK
Harbor Tour – Copenhagen is made up of a number of small islands. I think it’s worth shelling out the 15 Euro to take the hour long harbor tour. You can see many of the famous landmarks in a different way than walking and cycling. While generally speaking I don’t recommend this in every city, I have taken this tour and appreciated it. You can even see the comically tiny Little Mermaid Statue without walking to the disappointment. If you fancy a bit more independence with the same basic idea – go with my next suggestion. Prices vary depending on what you are interested in.
Go Boats – this is something I haven’t done but I definitely will do in the future when I’m visiting with friends. Go Boats are solar powered boats with a small motor and table in the middle. You can take whatever food and drink you like (actually – don’t quote me on alcohol) and go on a nice self-guided tour of the harbor. They also have ones with hot tubs which I think is pretty ridiculous in a good way. While I don’t know if these would have been as magical on a solo adventure, I will definitely consider them in the future.
Christiansborg Slot – I’ve been to many castles, palaces and residences in my day. This is the only one I’ve been to in Denmark. I noticed right away that many of the rooms in this beautiful castle were decidedly more airy and light than other castles. The design favors white to wood and while there is plenty to look at, I found it to be a really lovely place to visit. This is one of the pricer things to do in Copenhagen so keep that in mind when budgeting. Price 160 DKK adults, 140 Students, free under 18
Mad og Kaffe -This well known spot is popular for a reason. The food is as beautifully presented as it is delicious. You can choose between 3, 5 and seven small plates which you customize to what you fancy. I was a fan of a lot of the savory options – in particular making little sourdough sandwiches with the amazing bacon and perfectly cooked eggs. Personally, I’m not a sweets person but they looked incredible if that’s the sort of thing that you enjoy. The one thing I want to mention is that this place is popular and you can expect a wait on most days of the week unless you get there a bit early.
Union Kitchen – Union Kitchen is a gorgeous little spot only a few steps from Nyhavn. I really loved the breakfast I had there. They have lots of toasts, plates and treats as well as fancy sweets. They magically write little messages in your coffee and overall I would have happily gone back a second time.
Joe and the Juice – if you are looking for a fast, casual cup of coffee and quick breakfast, the ubiquitous Joe and the Juice chain is everywhere. I had a pretty reasonably priced avocado toast and latte there and was not disappointed.
Coffee Industry – my favorite coffee in Copenhagen comes from the Swedish chain Coffee Industry. The lattes there were so satisfying and whatever milk they used was sweet enough that I didn’t need to add sugar. Definitely recommended both in Copenhagen and if you jump over to Malmo.
Torvenhallen (The Glass Market) – This place is no ordinary market in my opinion. It not only has your wide selection of ingredient vendors but also it has an incredible group of restaurants to sample. There’s literally something for every taste and this might be the best place to go if you are in a group. From traditional smørrebrod (Danish open faced sandwiches) to pizza to porridge to gelato to pretty much any asian flavor you can dream of – there will be something for everyone you know.
The American Pie Company– so there are at least two little shops of this restaurant. Owned by some American ex-pats, the pot pies were delightful. I had a traditional chicken and thyme and was happy to see that the pie was packed with fillings. They also had a great selection of sweet pies (of which of course I did not indulge). Definitely a unique offering not only in Copenhagen but in much of the continent.
Warpigs – this place has seriously amazing barbecue. There’s no doubt. Personally, I’ve tried the brisket, pork shoulder, the beans, the coleslaw and the dill pickles and they are all absolutely fantastic. I love that they offer a selection of soft drinks from NAME OF COMPANY in Austin – the ginger ale was my favorite. As far as I’m concerned, this is a must visit.
Hallifax – This is another local Danish chain to enjoy. Hallifax is a really delicious burger place with excellent, salty French fries. They also have Schwepp’s ginger ale which absolutely made my day (it’s hard to get in Spain).
Papa Ramen – Out of all of these restaurants, I ended up going to Papa Ramen more than once. As Ramen isn’t particularly easy to get in my small town, I wanted to try it out in many different iterations. My favorite was NAME which had a great beef broth, with pork. I don’t know if I would say this was life changing but definitely delicious and satisfying on a rainy day.
Mother – A pretty decent pizza place with a couple of locations. Definitely enjoyed the pizza and beer (even if they did give me the wrong one).
Copenhagen is a shoppers paradise. That doesn’t mean that anything that’s sold is reasonably priced. It isn’t. However, there are so many unique, independent little stores. Of course, you can march down the large pedestrian street (Strøget) and find just about every European fast fashion and designer store, there’s a little bit more fun off the beaten path. Especially considering the fact that Copenhagen is full of vintage and second hand stores. This is probably one section that I will keep coming back to and editing as I revisit but I think I have a pretty decent list.
Clothing and beauty:
Magazine – probably the most famous department store in Copenhagen is Magazine. While I wouldn’t call it cheap, it is a lot less expensive than Illium which caters to a higher end crowd. I really liked Magazine – especially the beauty, accessory and intimates areas on the first floor. They carry lots of good brands and it’s organized in a pretty user friendly way. Personally, I was glad to see the selection of beauty brands – many of which I needed to top up on. I was really tempted by a couple of bags by local designers but ultimately held off. Overall, I would definitely recommend a shopper to visit Magazine and mention they are a tourist. You get a 10% discount.
Norr – Norr seems to be where to go for trendy Danish mid-priced designs for clothes and home. There were plenty of trendy brands to explore. I got a pair of sunglasses and was tempted by many of the other accessories. It seemed like where you would go if you wanted to pick up every single one of the “cool”
Black (Anne Black) – the first of my Vesterbro picks, I was definitely a fan of the selection at this store. While they do have ceramics (like seemingly everywhere else) I decidedly enjoyed their clothing and accessories. They have an interesting cultivation of brands and this is one of the few places on this list that I actually bought something (namely a new wallet).
Normal – one of my favorite new shops in Copenhagen is frankly one that is super utilitarian. Normal is a discount store which sort of feels like a low brow American drug store – without the drugs. You can buy whatever you need for your hair, nails, face and you can grab some snacks on the way out. While this one seems random – they have a lot of good drug store brands that are hard to get in continental Europe for reasonable prices.
Shop – Shop is a little store in Vesterbro with lots of nice clothing and accessories options. It’s an independent shop which houses mainly Danish and Nordic designs. I sort of regret not buying anything from there – I found a few pieces of clothing that I ultimately was a fan of but they weren’t open later in my trip. Definitely will be returning soon.
Home and Stationery
Notre Dame – I stumbled on this store as I was wandering around and really loved the selection of homewares and also stationery things. They had a wonderful garden section, beautiful ceramics, home office supplies and charming botanical prints. Definitely worth a stop in for some home inspirations.
Atrium – located right next to Tivoli, Atrium is a little bit of everything – from clothes to homeware. However, their strength is in non-traditional souvenirs that you can get. They have prints, toys, clever kitchen tools and stationery. Despite the fact that it’s a little bit expensive due to its location, ultimately I think that their curate their selection well and it’s nice to have a store full of Danish Design conveniently in the center of the city.
Dora – Dora is down in the street called by many the mini Paris of Copenhagen. To be honest, I wouldn’t go that far but this was a pretty adorable shop. It had lot of glass, ceramics and decor as well as some pretty cute little pins. While I didn’t find anything I needed, I really liked the overall vibe of this place.
Viking Paper – this was a suggestion by The Danish Sticker Shop (find her Etsy here). I had asked her where she likes to shop in Copenhagen and she suggested here. I really loved the wall of markers and the rainbow displays of journals. Definitely one of my favorite higher end stationery shops I’ve been to.
Koloni – this one was a bit off the beaten track over in NAME OF HOOD but I absolutely loved this tiny little store. The aesthetic was so peaceful and curated. The story carried homewares, ceramics, jewelry and my favorite thing ever, Cat Bingo. The owner was painting the wall when I arrived and was so kind and apologetic. I picked up a couple of Marimekko post cards to inspire some future prints. They also have an online store you can find here.
Tiger – who would I be if I didn’t recommend stopping into a Tiger while you are in Copenhagen. Tiger is a fast growing chain which my sister more or less calls a “smutz” store. Basically they sell lots of things you may not need. Kitchen tools, stationery, toys, art supplies, travel goodies and snacks are just some of the things you can get at every Tiger. Since Tiger was born in Denmark, I feel like it’s totally reasonable to recommend that you stop into one – maybe even the biggest one on Stroget. The thing about Tiger is that most everything they have is designed in house so it makes it sort of like if Ikea and the dollar store had a baby. I’m a long lover of just about everything Tiger and I can vouch that they are basically a teacher’s favorite store.
To Sleep: Hostel Choices
So a little bit of a preface. I have stayed at four of Copenhagen’s most popular hostels. The first one was almost 10 years ago now so some things may have changed. As I’m aging out of hostels, I am becoming a little bit more critical. However, since I have stayed at a number of hostels, I clearly don’t have a favorite. I do have a least favorite though! Let’s get into it.
Woodah Hostel – Woodah hostel is probably my favorite of the hostels in Copenhagen for my specific needs. It’s pretty small and quiet most of the time. I stayed in a six bed dorm which wasn’t full every night. I like the multicultural staff – all of them were really friendly. I also really liked that there was a cafe adjoining so you could get a drink when you liked. My biggest complaint was just that the bed was not at all comfortable – I think I need a chiropractor. I think they do need to invest in new mattresses. That being said, if I were to go back to a hostel, this will probably be the one I choose.
Generator – The Generator was the first hostel I stayed at in Copenhagen. It’s the closest to Nyhavn which was important to me back in the day. I don’t remember much about the rooms but I do remember there was a pretty hilarious Karaoke bar downstairs. I would say this is a decent place to stay if you are young and have some extra money. It was a bit pricey for such a large hostel.
Danhostel – This hostel honestly felt a lot like a hotel. I stayed here with my friend Megan and I just remember the light filled rooms in the high rise building. We had a great view overlooking all of Copenhagen. The rooms were spacious and had an on suite bathroom – something that I can take or leave. This place was pretty peaceful and definitely where I would book for a group of students. It’s located really close to the train station (and ergo Tivoli) and is probably the place which was the cleanest.
Copenhagen Downtown Hostel – Ugh. Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. There’s a lot of promise here. It’s a good location. There’s a lot of good common areas. However, they really wickedly screwed up one of my bookings and blamed it on me. I had to have two different end dates on the same booking and they basically tried to move Lauren to a new room. It was seriously ridiculous. They then were really rude about it and blamed me for making more than one booking. I didn’t. I used their website and only had one confirmation number. I’ve worked in hospitality before and this sort of confusion and attitude is unacceptable to me. The rooms themselves are ok. I wouldn’t say they were great. Overall, I would say skip the headache. It wasn’t worth the trouble.
So there you go: that’s my relatively comprehensive guide to my favorite places, foods and hostels in Copenhagen. If you go to Copenhagen – I would love to know your recommendations!