10 Must-See and Do Attractions in Copenhagen

1. Nyhavn

Nyhaven, old harbour in Copenhagen

It’s impossible to visit Copenhagen without visiting Nyhavn, a 17th century waterfront, canal and entertainment district in the heart of Copenhagen (some say it is the heart!). Stretching from Kongens Nytorv to the harbour front just south of the Royal Playhouse, Nyhavn is lined with eye-popping 17th and early 18th century townhouses, the oldest dating from 1661, and is full to the brim with restaurants, bars, cafes and historical ships.

Adding to the historical allure of this place is the rather juicy fact that Hans Christian Anderson lived here, and Kierkegaard also lived nearby.

Prepare yourself for crowds though, as this area tends to be extremely busy during the summer months, especially on the bridge and towards the top as this provides the prettiest photographic opportunity.
Nyhavn, Copenhagen's colourful Old Harbour

 

2. Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park and garden situated in the very heart of Copenhagen’s city centre. Needless to say it’s one of the top attractions in Copenhagen.

Opened in 1843, it’s the second oldest amusement park in the world, and impressively, the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world, attracting over 4 million visitors a year!

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

The entire park is beautifully maintained and feels as if you stepped back in time. Alex and I visited Tivoli once during the day and rode the ‘Daemon’ rollercoaster and played on many of the vintage arcade games.

We visited again in the evening which felt particularly magical. We were greeted by a fabulous brass band on the stage, watched as lovers and friends paraded arm in arm together, people sat drinking wine by the lakeside, and the smell of fresh Danish pastries filled in the air. Then, at 11:45pm every Saturday evening, a beautiful firework display takes place, and we watched as they exploded in faultless unison with the sounds of the orchestra in the background.

 

3. Climbing the spiral staircase of the Church of Our Saviour

Church of our saviour, Copenhagen

The Church of Our Saviour is a baroque church in the centre of Copenhagen, only minutes’ walk away from the entrance of Christiania. It’s most famous for its beautiful spiral staircase that winds anti-clockwise around the outside of the church’s steeple (legend has it the architect who built the church, upon realising that the spiral was anti-clockwise instead of clockwise, threw himself from the top of the spire to his grizzly death below – this however, has been refuted!).

Climbing Copenhagen's Chuch of Our Saviour
Climbing the spiral staircase of the Church of Our Saviour, Copenhagen
Visiting the Church of Our Saviour really is an absolute ‘must do’ whilst visiting Copenhagen. The views from the top are undoubtedly some of the best in Copenhagen, allowing a fantastic 360 degree panorama of the city. Warning – many of the steps are extremely steep, and it can, for some, be a hard task reaching the top, so make sure you’ve got good footwear!

 

4. Christiania

Brightly painted houses in Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen
For something different, visit Christiania, also known as ‘Freetown Christiania’ a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 84 acres in the borough of Christianshavn. As Christiania is a Freetown, many outside laws do not apply, such as smoking in public places, and the infamous cannabis trade that thrives on Pusher Street.

Christiania has its own currency, Løn, however Danish kroner is still accepted. Cafes, bars and stalls are scattered throughout the whole of Christiania, and many of the residents focus on recycling and nature. You’ll find lots of planted trees and flowers all interspersed amongst the habitual Hemp plants – peace and love…
Freetown Christiania
Street art freetown christiania, copenhagen
Walking around the lake in Christiania, you can see many idiosyncratic constructions exemplifying modern ‘architecture without architects’ where residents either live or use as shops, as well as a variety of street art that adorns many of the buildings there.

 

5. The Danish Museum of Art & Design

If you love Scandinavian design then this place is one of the best attractions in Copenhagen for you to visit.

The Danish Museum of Art & Design is a museum in Copenhagen for Danish and international design and crafts. Housed in an old 17th century hospital, the museum features a large permanent collection of applied arts and crafts ranging from European and Asian textiles to Chinese ceramics, colonial furniture and 20th century design.  The museum features original drawings and models of many of the furniture, as well as a lovely garden, café and shop. Some of the rooms looked like they have been taken from the set of a Stanley Kubrick film , like this one below!
Art and Design Museum, Copenhagen

 

6. The Meat Packing district

In the heart of Copenhagen, between Copenhagen Central Station and Sønder Boulevard, you’ll find Kødbyen (pronounced “cool-boo-en’’) which literally translates to ‘the meat-town’!

The Meatpacking District, located in Vesterbro, has previously been an area which housed businesses relating to the meat industry for several decades.  However, since the early 2000s the area has been changed into a new creative cluster with a trendy nightlife, new galleries and lots of high quality restaurants. Today the area is one of Copenhagen’s most popular places to go out, and it doesn’t take long to realise this is where all the cool kids hang out!

There’s a place called Kødbyen’s Deli that served great food – its Brazilian steak with mashed potatoes and mustard seed, thyme, red onions and carrot puree needs a special mention.

 

7. Black Diamond Library

The Black Diamond Library, Copenhagen
How can something be so functional yet so beautiful?! This library is my Garden of Eden! My Shangri La! It was designed by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen and was completed in 1999. It was given the name Black Diamond due to how the black marble and glass exterior glistens as it reflects the sun and waterfront. As well as housing an extensive collection of books it also hosts concerts, performances and exhibitions.
Inside the Black Diamond Library, Copenhagen

 

8. Rosenborg Castle

Interior of Rosenborg Castle
If you’re into castles and palaces then you’ll be in your element at Rosenborg, located north of the city and also home to the Danish Crown Jewels. The interior of this Renaissance castle is more lavish than its exterior but if you want to see inside then you do have to pay (approx £10), what’s more, if you want to take photos then you have to pay another fee (approx. £5!). To show that you’ve paid they give you a little sticker with a camera symbol to wear. If you do this then remember to give your sticker to another visitor when you’re leaving because charging visitors seems unnecessary.

 

9. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

Winter Garden in Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, art gallery

Louise Bourgeois, Nature Study sculpture
This art museum is a gem no matter how far your stretch into the art scene goes. Its collection is vast and the spacious style of curation makes it a really pleasurable museum to explore. You only need to step inside the entrance of the Winter Garden to realise how special this museum is. Interestingly, it was founded in 1888 by Carl Jacobsen, the son and founder of Carlsberg Breweries – now have to pint to that!

 

10. Canal Tour

Walking is my favoured way to explore a city but I make an exception for a canal cruise along the pretty and colourful canals of Copenhagen. Gazing up from water level offers a very different perspective of the city, one you just can’t get from walking, unless you’re moses of course.
Canal tour of Copenhagen
Departing from Nyhavn, the boat slowly winds its way around the city whilst the tour guide highlights attractions in Copenhagen and brings them to life through little anecdotes or slices of information pertaining to their history. The tour lasts for 60 minutes and gives you a decent and memorable overview of the city.


What attractions in Copenhagen do you want to see or do?



A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.


'10 Must-See and Do Attractions in Copenhagen' have 24 comments

  1. November 18, 2013 @ 4:42 pm Mike

    I have never been to Copehagen and your pictures are absolutely beautiful and amazing, Shing! The one that caught my first interest would be the Black Diamond Library. Are those drawers for index cards like the old days? Oh my gawd how on earth did you time framing that boat in the background on the river? Awesome post :)

    Reply

    • November 20, 2013 @ 4:33 pm admin

      Hi Mike! Isn’t the library stunning? It’s a visual treat from the outside as well as the inside (especially the inside). Yes, I think the drawers are for index cards but I’m not sure if they’re just for display or can actually be used – tuttut a pro travel blogger would have realised to check!

      Reply

  2. November 18, 2013 @ 6:56 pm Mike | Earthdrifter

    I could live there. I’d have a bicycle as it may be one of the best bike friendly cities on the planet.

    Reply

    • November 20, 2013 @ 6:59 pm admin

      I think it is THE most bike friendly city in the world! If not, it must be a close second behind somewhere in the Netherlands.

      I could live there too Mike. Ahem :)

      Reply

  3. November 19, 2013 @ 12:57 am jenny@atasteoftravel

    Great list Shing. We also loved our visit to Louisiana, the stunning sculpture park about 30 minutes out of Copenhagen.

    Reply

    • November 20, 2013 @ 7:06 pm admin

      I was dying to go to Louisiana Sculpture Park, but I didn’t anticipate how much there would be to do and see in Copenhagen. Had I gone, I’m sure it would have made it into my Top 10 list! At least I’ve got more excuses to go back, eh Jenny? :)

      Reply

  4. November 19, 2013 @ 10:19 am Lizzie

    Great selection and great photos! There’s a few things here I missed, like Tivoli gardens (unfortunately shut whilst I was there), and the Danish Museum of Art and Design. I didn’t go inside the Rosenborg, either, but kind of wish I did now after seeing how grand it is in there!

    Reply

    • November 20, 2013 @ 10:09 pm admin

      Thanks Lizzie! The interior of Rosenborg was really exquisite but it would probably be the first to go on the list if I had to boot one of them out! However, I think my experience was tainted because I went with my boyfriend who hates anything to do with monarchies so it was like trying to drag a sulking baby to school! 😀

      I saw that you went to the Carlsberg museum which I missed out on… he sounds like a really, really interesting guy. I love how he funded so much into the Arts!

      Reply

  5. November 21, 2013 @ 8:03 am Richard

    Wot no Oresund Bridge? That would be my number one if I ever go back. I went in 2003 but only made it to numbers 1 and 10 on your list (Tivoli was closed). I’d have loved to have climbed the spiral staircase at Our Saviour, but didn’t know about it at the time.

    Reply

    • November 21, 2013 @ 7:00 pm admin

      I wanted to cross the Oresund Bridge, unfortunately, however much I wanted to cross over to Malmo I just didn’t have time during this trip! It does look spectacular though, and definitely warrants another trip back. Did you watch Michael Portillo crossing over the Oresund on his series,’ Great Continental Railway Journeys’ which aired last Sunday?

      Reply

  6. November 25, 2013 @ 7:07 am Mary {The World Is A Book}

    Love this list since you know Copenhagen is one of our favorite cities. This brought back many memories. We did 8 out of 10 here missing the museum and library.What happened to the Little Mermaid? :) We also enjoyed the changing f the guards at Amalienborg Castle.

    Reply

    • November 26, 2013 @ 4:00 pm admin

      Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities too! You’ve reminded me, I should include a photo of the Little Mermaid in no.10 because the Canal Tour takes you up to it, although it’s better to go back on foot for better photos!

      I enjoyed reading your posts about Copenhagen before going – I would have missed climbing the spiral staircase if I had not read your blog, and that would have been a shame because it was definitely a highlight of my trip!

      Reply

  7. November 27, 2013 @ 2:12 am Colleen Brynn

    I have spent a fair amount of time in Copenhagen and seen/done many of the things on this list – some great items, for sure! I had a funny experience while climbing the spiral staircase of the Church of Our Saviour this summer. I almost completely freaked out due to my (mostly) irrational fear of heights. Thankfully my boyfriend was there to coach me through the rest of that climb…

    Reply

    • November 27, 2013 @ 9:56 pm admin

      Haha, the same thing happened to me Colleen! Only I was coaching my boyfriend’s irrational fear of heights!

      The view is totally worth battling the fear though, eh?

      Reply

  8. December 17, 2013 @ 9:48 pm HG

    beautiful shots.
    especially of christiana!
    you took these all??

    Reply

    • December 17, 2013 @ 11:59 pm admin

      Thanks! All the colourful buildings, canals and modern Scandi architecture make Copenhagen very photogenic! Yes, I took all them, of course, apart from those which are of me! :)

      Reply

      • December 18, 2013 @ 12:11 am HG

        ha.. yes, i figured that part.
        what are you shooting with?
        tell me it’s not just an iphone…

        Reply

        • January 4, 2014 @ 4:46 pm admin

          Sorry about the late reply! I use a Canon 550D (known as the Rebel T2i in the US) but I’m very lazy when it comes to learning about its functionality. For example I often just shoot in auto when I should really be taking the time to adjust to manual – hey that can be my New Year’s resolution 😀

          I don’t have an iPhone, but I’m tempted to get one because its camera is very handy, and every travel blogger seems to be on Instagram so I’m probably missing out. I just have a fondness toward my prehistoric phone :)

          Reply

  9. July 19, 2014 @ 8:12 am Monika

    Im plainning to visit Copenhagen (thats how I found your blog) and I found your web very useful. Im impressed with your trip to Spiltsbergen, too! And Im jealous! Keep it going! Well done!

    Reply

    • July 20, 2014 @ 1:53 pm admin

      Hi Monika, glad you found my blog! I hope you love Copenhagen as much I did, there’s plenty to do and still so much more than what I’ve detailed here. I would have loved the time to visit Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, I’ve heard a lot of people raving about how amazing it is, so you should try and get there! Ooou yes, Spitsbergen is incredible, there’s nowhere like it!

      Reply

      • July 21, 2014 @ 8:57 am Monika

        We are actually flying into Malmo, because I really wanna cross the Oresund Bridge on my way to Copenhagen. I will check the Museum too! We may not have time as its 40km from Coepnhagen and my husband already reserved time for Carlsberg tour (hmm) but let’s see!

        Reply

  10. May 15, 2015 @ 6:08 pm Colton

    Thanks for the great article!! I was thinking of going to Copenhagen for my next trip because Norwegian flies there from my local airport for less than $600 & it seems like a great, unique destination!!

    Reply

    • May 20, 2015 @ 6:50 pm admin

      Norwegian are great, although I’ve never flown long-haul with them! Copenhagen is a fabulous city, you’ll really enjoy yourself there. If you have enough time, you should also consider venturing over tosSouth Sweden across the Oresund Bridge too!

      Reply

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