Located on the doorstep of Scandinavia and often unfairly overlooked compared to its more famous European counterparts, Copenhagen has a lot to offer. Frequently ranked among the happiest cities in the world, the Danish capital boasts stunning European architecture, rich culture and a laid-back vibe punctuated by “hygge” (a Danish term roughly translating to “warm vibe”). With these elements and some unique and endearing twists, Copenhagen is a must stop on your next trip to Europe.
Like many other European cities, Copenhagen has a robust metro system that goes virtually everywhere. However, it is recommended to get around as the Danes do: by bicycle. Copenhagen is arguably the most bike-friendly city in the world, with all major thoroughfares and many side roads hosting cycle lanes. It is not uncommon to see more cyclists than cars on the streets. The ubiquity of bicycles, coupled with the city’s small size, general flatness, and varied and beautiful landscapes, make it the ideal way to get around. Although there are many options for securing a rental, the Donkey Republic app is recommended. Many other options require a Wi-Fi connection, which may not be available to international visitors on a roaming phone signal. Donkey Republic only requires Bluetooth – no internet access required. Check out these places once you have your wheels.
This trendy neighborhood, located just north of the city center, lives up to its hip reputation with streets lined with fantastic yoga studios, quirky vintage shops and a creative bohemian vibe. Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the Søerne (the lakes in English) flanked by beautiful Danish architecture, take a vinyasa class at Yoga Loft, or browse quirky vintage offerings along Nørrebrogade and Ravnsborggade. Indulge in Copenhagen’s fantastic food scene at one of Jægersborggade’s many vegan options, or listen to live music while grabbing a bite from a food truck in nearby Folkets Park, one of many stunning green spaces in Nørrebro. The large and diverse Hans Tavsens Park nearby is perfect for idyllic bike rides through the tall trees, hikes through the dense, flower-filled gardens, or just a relaxing day in the sun with a good book in hand. The fairy tale landscape may not be a coincidence, as the park is also home to Assistens Cemetery, Hans Christian Andersen Cemetery and several other Danish luminaries. Finally, don’t miss Superkilen Park, a remarkable public space divided into three unique areas. The “Green Zone” offers scenic grassy areas with park benches, and the bustle of skaters on brick patios fills the sports-centric “Red Zone.” At the heart of the park is the “black zone”, a meeting place of benches and tables intertwined with ubiquitous waves of white lines on the sidewalk marking the topography. Superkilen showcases the diversity of Copenhagen through internationally inspired pieces of artefacts and art that reinforce the character of the park. Grab a cappuccino at one of the many cute cafes nearby and check out these seemingly random foreign objects, including Russian neon signs, Moroccan fountains, Turkish benches, and exercise equipment from California.
Once considered one of the city’s seediest areas, the Vesterbro district has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, with dozens of gourmet restaurants and lively bars popping up in the former industrial district. The warehouses of the Meatpacking District hide a real paradise for foodies, with seafood, Japanese and vegan options to discover among the wealth of cuisines available. Other idyllic Copenhagen green spaces can be found along lush Sonder Boulevard or Skydebanehaven, the latter a former 19th-century shooting range whose ornate wall, originally designed to protect pedestrians from bullets, is still standing. upright. Solo travelers should consider a stay at Urban House, a funky hostel in the heart of the neighborhood, and visit nearby Absalon, a charming community hub that also serves as a centerpiece to Copenhagen’s quirkier side. Make a new friend at the inexpensive, public nightly Community Dinner, or enjoy the eclectic events ranging from hatha yoga classes and art workshops to wild dance parties. Explore wonderful photography and art exhibits at the V1 and Poulsen galleries, both located in the Meatpacking District. In the evening, catch a show at Vega, an iconic venue with a warm wooden aesthetic occupying a building known as The People’s House, once a vital meeting place for the Danish labor movement. The unique setting allows Vega to deliver a wealth of musical experiences across all genres across its venues of varying sizes, ranging from massive, blockbuster affairs to smaller, more intimate gatherings.
Centrally located, Indre By contains much of Copenhagen’s stunning architecture, including the castles of Amalienborg and Rosenberg. The latter, a majestic 17th-century structure in the Dutch Renaissance style, is surrounded by the charming and expansive Kongens Have (King’s Garden). Further north, towards the waterfront, are the charming windmills of Kastellet, a former 17th-century fortress built on a star-shaped green island, now covered with cycle paths and hosting live music concerts during the summer. ‘summer. For a memorable day of thrills, head to the iconic Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world. Take a thrilling ride on The Demon roller coaster, explore the lush and colorful Chinese Garden or enjoy the enjoyable live music on one of the many stages located throughout the park. For a good dose of Danish nightlife, head to Hotel Cecil. After midnight, the hotel transforms into Cecil AM, a rowdy dive bar featuring wild dance parties and locally produced booze in a cozy basement bar. Heading east towards the waterfront from Indre By, the colorful row of structures comprising the Nyhavn district reveal themselves to provide one of Copenhagen’s most iconic photo opportunities. Crossed by a canal and flanked by dozens of upscale restaurants, grab a table outside and enjoy the breeze with a gourmet meal and appetizer in hand.
While the many tour boats frequently spotted around the city can be a fun way to see the Danish capital, consider taking an oar and exploring the canals yourself by kayak. As well as a trendy bar, Kayak Republic offers rentals promising a memorable way to explore Copenhagen’s waterways. Christianshavn’s ubiquitous canals make a perfect choice for a water trip, and for dinner, paddle north towards the Holmen district and enjoy a farm-to-table meal at the waterside restaurant La Banchina. From there, head north to the district of Reffen, which offers the largest selection of street food in Scandinavia, as well as live music, trivia and craft workshops. Art lovers will delight in Copenhagen Contemporary, a former welding workshop that now houses a maze of dazzling avant-garde artwork. If a day on the water doesn’t sound appealing, there’s still plenty to do in the area on foot. Enjoy the charming craft cafes and vintage shops of Christianshavn, or gaze out over the Øresund Strait from the top of the Culture Tower, offering incredible views of downtown Copenhagen.
No trip to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit to Freetown Christiania, one of the most unique areas of any city in the world. The origins of Christiania began in 1971 when a group of hippies started squatting in an abandoned military base just outside Christianshavn. Christiania has blossomed into its own vibrant community over time, evolving into an iconic meeting place for Danish counterculture. People-watching is unmatched in the Green Light District, where the cries of colorful vendors selling marijuana can be heard from podiums usually painted with a whimsical depiction of the strain for sale. The quirky nature of Christiania is absolutely ripe for exploration on foot, with a visual overload of bizarre art seemingly around every corner waiting to be discovered. Many homes and buildings are covered in quirky art installations and murals, and the ALIS Wonderland skatepark hosts arguably the best street art and graffiti display in town. Grab a coffee at Cafe Nemoland, catch comedy and live music at Christianias Jazzklub and Børneteater, or check out the many open-air markets around the area showcasing the neighborhood’s creativity. Christiania’s proximity to the waterways provides plenty of pleasant hiking trails in the neighborhood park, overlooking a beautiful city lake and an incredible spot to watch the sunset. Stick around the huge food court for a fun place to spend a summer evening, with a plethora of food trucks to choose from and a large outdoor stage offering live music in the unparalleled spirit of Christiania.
John Sizemore is a travel writer, photographer, yoga teacher, and visual entertainment developer based in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Instagram at @sizemoves. In his spare time, John enjoys learning foreign languages and immersing himself in other worlds, especially those of music, movies, games and books, in addition to exploring the world.