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BlogDestinationsThe Go Ahead Travel Guide to Copenhagen
Destinations

The Go Ahead Travel Guide to Copenhagen

Jun 11, 2020 by Emily Houston

Scandinavian design. World-class cuisine. Public parks you’ll wish were your backyard. Our Copenhagen travel guide gives you the insider’s scoop on how to experience everything the Danish capital has to offer. Seriously, our staff couldn’t wait to share their suggestions with you! Read through the Go Ahead Travel Guide to Copenhagen for tips on where to eat smørrebrød, why biking is the best way to get around, and where to go to see the best architecture.

FAST TRAVEL FACTS

Currency: Danish krone

Languages: Danish is the official language, but almost 90% of Danish people also speak English!

Best way to get around: By bike! But two feet work just as well as two wheels.

Word to know: Hygge, pronounced hoo-gah. It’s how the locals express that feeling of warmth, comfort, and coziness.

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WHEN TO GO TO COPENHAGEN

We had to start our Copenhagen travel guide by helping you answer this essential travel question. To make the decision of when to travel to Copenhagen a little easier, think about the type of experience you want to have. Are you looking for a summer getaway? Want to take part in local holiday events? Dreaming of an off-season experience? The good news is there’s a trip for every type of traveler, and truthfully, the city shines all year long (making any time a good time to visit Copenhagen).

  • July for the endless sunshine. Fun fact: Copenhagen sees around 17 hours of sunlight a day in July. “I really enjoyed going during late July as the sun was warm, but the air was refreshing,” said staffer Gustavo. Plus, with days that long, you’ll be able to fit in everything you wanted to do—and then some!

  • December for the Christmas markets. The holiday cheer is at an all-time high during this annual Yuletide event, which takes places in squares across the city. “You can step into a cafe on almost every corner for hot coffee and pastries, meals are hearty, and across the city, windows are lit by dozens of candles every night,” said staffer Alaina. “The city may come alive in the summer, but it truly sparkles in the winter.”

  • May to welcome patio season. It may not be the most northern reaches of the Nordics, but winters in Copenhagen are chilly. But starting in May, locals begin embracing the springtime weather. “The city really comes alive once the outdoor cafes and pubs open up,” said staffer Matts.

  • October to take advantage of off-season perks. We love traveling in the off-season because it means comfortable weather, fewer crowds, and seasonal cuisine. By October, locals have gone back to work after enjoying their holidays and the summer crowds have returned home. That makes it an ideal time for travelers to get to the heart of the local culture. Plus, popular spots in the city like Tivoli Gardens get festive in the fall. “We were there during October so it was decorated for Halloween, which we loved,” shared staffer Jessica.

WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO COPENHAGEN

You’ll want to pack well so you’re prepared to spend all day exploring the city since there are so many things to do in Copenhagen. Even though when you visit will likely determine what to do in Copenhagen, there are a few staples that will come in handy almost all year round. Think: your rain jacket and sneakers that match all your outfits.

  • Your favorite walking shoes. “Get comfortable shoes on and be ready to walk,” said staffer Gustavo. “Copenhagen is a beautiful, pedestrian-friendly city with friendly people that are willing to help you!”

  • Layers. The days may be warmer since you’ll be walking or biking around, but temperatures tend to dip at night. Make sure you bring a jacket, scarf, and other easily packable items to be comfortable no matter what time of day it is.

  • A raincoat and packable umbrella. “The weather can change quickly so make sure you have something waterproof and windproof with you at all times,” recommends staffer Matts. The good news is that the Danes aren’t bothered by some wet weather. “The rain, sleet, or snow does not get in the way of day-to-day life,” said staffer Emily. “We were amazed at how many people were biking around in full rain suits at all hours of the day.”

  • Sunglasses. If you’re traveling to Copenhagen between June and August be sure to bring your favorite pair of shades. You’ll want to make the most of those long summer days.

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WHAT TO SEE IN COPENHAGEN

No Copenhagen city guide would be complete without diving into what you need to see. Start by strolling past the colorful wharfside homes in Nyhavn. Then, make your way to the grand palaces. The exterior architecture is stunning on its own, but you can always pay to enter to learn more about the country’s royal history.

  • Canals in the Nyhavn district. If you’ve seen a picture of Copenhagen, you’ve probably seen the colorful row homes along the wharf in this part of the city. “It’s the best place to go to hang out in cafes and pubs and mingle with both locals and tourists,” said staffer Matts. “Its festive atmosphere is something you won’t miss as you sit among old fishing boats, drinking some of the best beer in the world.”

  • Changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace. If it’s around noon and you’re wondering what to do in Copenhagen as you make your way to lunch, stop by Amalienborg Palace. Every day at noon there is a changing of the guard at the Danish royal residence. You can also pay to visit the Amalienborg Museum to learn about the royal family and their rococo palace.

  • The area around Rosenborg Castle. “Walking around the castle and royal area is a must,” said staffer Matts. “It’s usually more quiet than you’d expect and great for roaming.” You can also pay to enter the Rosenborg Castle and gardens. The building is over 400 years old and was built by the longest-standing Danish monarch, King Christian IV. You’ll learn all about his reign and larger-than-life personality during a visit here.

  • Jægersborggade street. This trendy street is located a little west of the city, but is worth the visit. It’s home to wonderful places to eat (like the world’s only certified organic Michelin-starred restaurant) as well as locally owned jewelry, clothing, and home decor stores.

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HOW TO SPEND FREE TIME IN COPENHAGEN

Next up on the Copenhagen travel guide is all the ways you can spend your free time. The attractions in Copenhagen range from food markets to an amusement park for travelers of all ages (seriously, don’t overlook Tivoli Gardens). Of the endless things to do in Copenhagen, here are five ways to spend your free time—team tested and approved!

  • Have some fun at Tivoli Gardens. This spot topped our team’s list of things to do in Copenhagen. “I love amusement parks, so I spent a day at the famous Tivoli Gardens,” said staffer Chloe. “The park is located right in the city and is over 175 years old, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world! Walt Disney even visited to draw inspiration for his parks. This is a great activity for everyone, because it’s more than just a place for thrill-seekers. It’s an extremely picturesque experience, from the beautiful gardens to the really unique architecture.” Pro tip: Buy an all-day pass so you can come and go as you please.

  • Bike around the city. We know, there are a whole lot of things to see in Copenhagen. That’s why we recommend renting bikes for a day so you can zip around and see more than you could on foot. The city is filled with bike bridges and paths, so you’ll feel safe even if it has been a while since you took to two wheels. Talk to your Tour Director about where to rent bikes near your hotel and head out in the early afternoon. That way you’ll miss the early morning work rush—half of all Copenhageners commute to work by bike!

  • Climb to the top of the Church of Our Saviour. “Travelers should be prepared to walk up lots of skinny, winding stairs, but the panoramic views make it worth the work,” said staffer Andrea. From the top of the church you’ll see the canals and waterways that wind around the city, the terra-cotta-colored rooftops, and the spires that peak out of the skyline.

  • Shop and snack at Reffen street food market. This comes highly recommend as one of the top things to do in Copenhagen from many of our team members! It’s the largest street food market in Scandinavia and there are also some small boutiques set up so you can pick up a souvenir or two. “Think endless stalls of the most delicious foods you will ever taste (I’m not even exaggerating),” said staffer Chloe. “Be sure to go on an empty stomach! The best part? Every stall is a different start-up business that cares deeply about using organic local ingredients and reducing food waste. There’s so much creativity to be seen and the vibes are incredible. Seating is located right on the harbor, so you can enjoy your food relaxing by the water.”

  • Stop and smell the flowers at the Botanical Gardens. City center and truly stunning, you could spend all day strolling through the almost 25 acres of land at the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens. The garden has been around for almost 150 years, and continues to grow. You’ll find areas home to native Danish flowers, glass houses on the grounds (be sure to walk through the Palm House), and so much more. The newest edition? A butterfly house travelers can visit in the summertime! This is one of our favorite places to visit in Copenhagen because travelers of all ages and mobility levels can enjoy their time here. You can spend all day walking, relaxing on a park bench, or accessing many of the areas via wheelchair-friendly paths.

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WHAT (& WHERE) TO EAT IN COPENHAGEN

Of all the tips for visiting Copenhagen that our team has passed along, there was one that came up time and time again: Expect the culinary experience of a lifetime when you travel to Copenhagen. Staffer Matts said it best. “Be adventurous! Copenhagen is one of the premier foodie cities in the world, with a particular focus on new Scandinavian cuisine. This means ultra-local food, lots of seasonal variation, and plenty of new, interesting tastes to satisfy your tastebuds. Prepare to be amazed!”

  • Hot dogs. Yes really, hot dogs. Scandinavia’s take on hot dogs puts anything you’d eat at a backyard BBQ to shame. It’s best to get one from a street vendor like the iconic John’s Hotdog Deli.

  • Smørrebrød: “It’s a must,” said staffer Matts. “This is a traditional open-faced rye bread sandwich with a variety of different toppings. It can be eaten as a snack or as lunch. You should really try the different fish toppings, which is the most Danish way to eat them!” One place we recommend stopping by (though there are SO many) is Aamann’s, which offers both sit down and takeaway options.

  • Cinnamon buns. Don’t think we forgot about the travelers with a sweet tooth. Staffer Andrea highly recommends trying a cinnamon bun from Torvehallerne Market—we hear Laura’s Bakery makes the best ones.

  • Seafood. You’d be remiss if you came to this coastal city and didn’t sample some fresh seafood. Staffer Mara raves about the local restaurant called Oysters & Grill. “It looks like a hole in the wall, but inside it’s super cute and cozy. They have amazing drinks and their menu was fantastic.”

  • Farm-to-table Danish staples. Locally sourced ingredients are a big part of the restaurant culture here. Head to Restaurant Puk for a reasonably priced meal and a menu that keeps the local-first philosophy at the heart of the dishes.

WHAT TO DRINK IN COPENHAGEN

Denmark may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of top tier wine regions and craft beer meccas. But, it’s certainly up-and-coming. So why not start sipping now?

  • A glass of sparking, white, or rosé wine. Denmark’s cool climate has made it a wine region to watch. The lower temperatures give the wines a crisp, fresh taste. We suggest trying a bottle from Dyrehøj Vingaard or Skaersogaard Winery, and staffer Andrea recommends packing a corkscrew so you can enjoy it outside. “There are lots of greenspaces throughout the city and one night we had the perfect dinnertime picnic of meats, cheese, and bread with a bottle of wine. Restaurants can be especially pricey so getting creative is half the fun!”

  • Craft beer (with a side of the city’s best slice). Brus is the place to go if sampling the best local beer is up your alley. Once you finish your pint, pop next door to Baest for some pizza that will surely have you saying whatever the Danish equivalent of “Mamma Mia!” is. Most of the ingredients are all locally grown, which is a staple of the city’s food scene. Staffer Jeff “love, love, loved these spots”—as if you needed another reason to enjoy some five-star pizza and beer.

SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN COPENHAGEN

One of the best things to do in Copenhagen is see the traditional architecture and design. The simple, minimalist, functional approach of Scandinavian architecture and design is truly second-to-none. It’s no surprise that a piece of home decor or artwork make for the best souvenir.

  • An artsy decor piece. One of the main attractions in Copenhagen is the stunning Scandinavian design. “Visit shops in the city center, like Hay House, to bring that Danish aesthetic home with you,” said staffer Jeff. Team member Matts also recommends popping into one of the stores along the pedestrian-only Strøget street.

  • A travel print. What better way to remember your trip than with a piece of artwork you can frame and hang up on your wall. A few of our favorite art shops are located near Rosenborg Castle. Stop by Poster & Frame to pick up a unique piece created by independent artists. Staffer Cayleigh also loved the prints she bought from Posterland. “They have tons of print-like postcards and posters. I still have mine and framed some!”

  • A pint glass. “You need to bring back a pint glass of the famous Carlsberg beer after taking a tour of their brewery,” said staffer Gustavo. Fill your free time and find the prefect souvenir? That’s a win-win.

Have you visited the Danish capital? Share your favorite things to do in Copenhagen, Denmark, with our community of travelers on our Facebook page!


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About the author | Emily Houston
Emily loves the simple travel moments—like watching hours pass by in minutes while sharing a meal and a laugh (or many) with her friends and family. Outside the office, you'll find Emily listening to anything and everything John Mayer, attempting to cook a New York Times recipe, or dreaming up her next trip.

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