Denmark’s hipster capital has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years driven by its innovative food, fashion and design scenes. While TV smash hits such as The Killing have also helped raise its profile, Copenhagen is a far more cheerful place than seen on screen – and is awash with historic gems and top class museums to boot.
A city designed for cyclists, rush hour in Copenhagen sometimes feels a little like being in the middle of the Tour de France. Although bikes are available everywhere, the excellent metro and bus system is cheap, cozy and easy to navigate. Cars can be rented at Kastrup Airport but tend to be expensive.
Copenhagen might pack an enormous cultural punch but, for all that, it is a small city with most of the main sights within a mile or two of each other. Most start with Nyhavn; a colourful huddle of homes clustered around the historic ‘north harbour’. Once home to author Hans Christian Andersen, the monument to his famous Little Mermaid sits a short walk away, overlooking the chilly Baltic Sea at the end of the Langelinje Pier.
Stroget, once the city’s main thoroughfare and now its premier shopping street, comes next and is a picturesque combination of cobbles, mismatched buildings and cafes that overflow onto the street. At one end is the Amalienborg Slot [Palace], the imposing home of Denmark’s much-loved Queen Margrethe II, which, like Britain’s Buckingham Palace, boasts a regular guard changing ceremony. The other end of the mile-long stretch is occupied by Copenhagen City Hall – a building immortalized in The Killing, as well as Borgen.
Elsewhere, Vesterbro is home to the lovely Tivoli Gardens – one of the world’s oldest amusement parks – and the wonderful National Museum, which tells the history of Denmark from Ice Age to modern day. Highlights include the remains of the Huldremose Woman and a 3,000-year-old chariot.
Beyond the centre, Copenhagen has a wealth of interesting suburbs – each with their own distinct character. Norrebro, the city’s multicultural hub, is a treasure trove of interesting shops and hipster cafes, as well as the fascinating Assistens Kirkegård cemetery. Frederiksberg, although technically not part of Copenhagen, is one of the city’s most des res neighborhoods – and boasts its own royal palace, Copenhagen Zoo as well as an abundance of trendy places to eat.
In the summer, take a dip in one of the Fisketorvet swimming baths dotted throughout the ultra-clean harbor. Some of the hardier locals do it all year round.
Thanks largely to Rene Redzepi, Copenhagen is now at the forefront of the New Scandinavian culinary scene – and eating at Noma means booking months in advance. Happily, if you can’t get a table chez Rene, there are plenty of excellent alternatives, among them the brasserie at NIMB which offers the same seasonal style at relatively affordable prices. Frederiksberg favourite Geranium does similar fare and serves it up with stunning views over the Faelledparken. More affordable are the hipster hangouts of the Meatpacking District, among them the industrial chic Kødbyens Fiskebar and the buzzing WarPigs brewpub.