What to do in Copenhagen, Denmark
Tuesday, 14 September 2021
Copenhagen is certainly one of the cool kids when it comes to capital cities, with a laid-back style, welcoming atmosphere and diverse cultural scene. Home to parks, beaches, award-winning food, safe cycling routes, amazing cultural attractions and more, it’s unsurprising that Copenhagen often tops the list as the happiest place in the world.
If you are visiting on a Copehagen cruise, we are sure you’ll want to learn more about this city and be prepared for your time here, so read on to discover more.
Where is Copenhagen?
Many might be surprised to know that, although the capital and one of the largest cities of Denmark, Copenhagen doesn’t sit on the mainland but rather on the eastern islands of Zealand and Amager. In fact, the closest city to Copenhagen isn’t in Denmark at all, but in Sweden, as Malmö is linked to Copenhagen by the Öresund Bridge.
Thanks to the city’s location straddling two islands, you’ll find plenty of rivers and canals as you explore, giving it a real port-city feeling. Thanks to its position, it also benefits from the best seasonal weather, with warm sun in the summer months and snow during the winter.
What to do in Copenhagen?
Nyhavn is the picture-perfect restaurant-lined street depicted in most postcard images of Copenhagen, it’s even the location we choose to feature in the main image of this article. This historic sailor’s quarter has an amazing atmosphere, with restaurants and cafes lining the street and boats bobbing in the canal.
Our tip: don’t just walk down the most popular side of Nyhavn but cross the canal. Not only does this give you the best view of the coloured houses, but you can walk past house number 20, the place where beloved Danish author Hans Christian Anderson lived in 1835 when he published his first set of fairy tales.
See The Little Mermaid
Talking of Hans Christian Anderson, remember you are in the home of many modern fairy tales including The Little Mermaid. And, to commemorate that a statue depicting a mermaid looking out to sea was gifted to the city by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913. Although a small and unimposing statue (you may even miss it if it weren’t for the onlookers), there is something really special about this piece of artwork and what it means to this city.
Wander the Botanical Gardens
In the heart of the city, you can find the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens, part of the Natural History Museum. This 10-hectare garden is well-known for its complex of historical glasshouses dating back to 1874.
The garden is free to visit (apart from the Palm House) and those that come here will not be left disappointed as it is home to the largest collection of living plants. It has over 13,000 species of plants, which include 600 species of Danish plants, 1,100 species of perennial plants, 1,100 species of annual plants as well as plants from mountainous areas in Central and Southern Europe.
There are 27 glasshouses at the Botanical Garden, but the main glasshouse is the old Palm House. The cast-iron spiral stairs leading to a walkway at the top are a classic feature.
Explore royal residences
For lovers of royalty and history alike, exploring the Rosenborg Castle in the centre of the city is a must. Built during the renaissance as a country summerhouse, this royal residence is situated in Kongens Have, The King’s Garden, and feels like something lifted straight out of a fairy-tale. You can see the Crown Jewels here alongside the Danish Crown Regalia, a Coronation Carpet and the Throne Chair of Denmark.
And that’s not the only place you should try and see. Another wonderful suggestion is the Amalienborg Palace, the residence of the Royal family. Situated in a spacious cobbled square, the Palace consists of four identical classical facades with an equestrian statue of its founder in the centre. If your call times allow, the Changing of the Guard takes place daily in the Square at around noon and is well worth a watch.
READ MORE: Must-visit Tsarist palaces in St. Petersburg
Take in some art
You can’t talk about Copenhagen and not talk about art and Danish design. The city is rife with amazing artistic features, and you’ll find many world-class art museums here to peruse.
The best place to start is the National Gallery of Denmark, the country’s largest art museum. With a wide collection of Danish artwork and that by artists from around the world dating from the middle-ages to the Renaissance, you can easily get lost here for a day.
Prefer something more modern? The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is a leading international art museum and combines art, nature and architecture in a unique and visually beautiful way. With more than 4,000 pieces of contemporary artwork and everchanging exhibitions, it’s a wonderful experience and one of the city’s top attractions.
For something really unique, why not check out The David Collection? The museum boasts the largest collection of Islamic art in Scandinavia, as well as an outstanding collection of European 18th-century fine and applied art and early Danish modern art.
Enjoy some Michelin-starred dining
Whilst in the past the Danish and new Nordic cuisine was not on many people’s lips, this has changed dramatically with Copenhagen now one of the leading gastronomic destinations in the world. There are 13 restaurants in the Danish capital that own a Michelin star, so, if you are looking to eat at one of the best restaurants in the city, then these three should be on the top of your list.
Noma is famed for serving up the best Scandinavian cuisine and sources ingredients from Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark. This gourmet restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in 2008 which it still holds and has been ranked as the world’s best restaurant four times since opening, appearing in the top ten six more times.
Many people believe that Noma’s head chef, Rene Redzepi, was a driving force behind the revival of Nordic food and the way dining rooms operate. At Noma, diners are brought their dishes by the chefs themselves!
Stars are aplenty in Copenhagen, as our next suggestion, Restaurant Geranium, has three, the first and only Danish restaurant to achieve this culinary feat. Run by Rasmus Kofoed, who himself picked up the world’s best chef award in the past, Geranium is a lucid, light and dynamic restaurant.
Situated on the 8th floor in Fælledparken, Common Gardens, in the centre of Copenhagen, diners are treated to stunning views over the city, but whilst the views are incredible, the restaurant’s 20-plus course Universe Menu takes all the plaudits as it changes with the seasons.
Our final recommendation for fine dining in Copenhagen is two Michelin star-holder, Restaurant AOC. Based on Nordic produce from the sea and earth, the restaurant’s cuisine is the brainchild of Chef Søren Selin and it offers handcrafted set menus showing off the finest of his creations.
The restaurant has a renowned selection of wine from the old and new world regions that guests can choose from. Restaurant AOC aims for its food and wine to accompany each other in perfect harmony, and this is one of the reasons why its wine list is so extensive.
READ MORE: Foodies' guide to Copenhagen, Denmark
Hire a bike
The final suggestion we have for those who visit Copenhagen is to hire a bike. One of the first things you’ll notice when arriving here is the number of people cycling and the brilliant cycle lanes around the city, it’s one of the most bike safe capital cities in the world. As everything is close together in the city centre, cycling is a great way to get around like the locals and see even more than you would on public transport. If you want to see a few things during your time in the city, this is the way to travel. There are even guided tours that take place on bikes, which is great if you want to see a lot on day trips here.
Things to do in Copenhagen
- Visit Nyhavn
- See The Little Mermaid
- Wander the Botanical Gardens
- Explore royal residences
- Take in some art
- Enjoy some Michelin-starred dining
- Hire a bike
With so much to do and see, we know that anyone visiting on a cruise to Denmark will have a wonderful time whatever it is they are interested in. So, from picture-perfect streets to an abundance of artwork, whether visiting in 2023 or on a 2024 cruise, make sure you plan your time here to get the most out of this amazing city.
For more tips, guides, and advice, make sure to visit our blog page.