Although there was a time when I could call myself a local in Copenhagen, I would not dare to claim that I know all areas of the Danish capital very well. This post, therefore, does not aim to be your ‘top places to see in Copenhagen’ guide as much as it is meant to provide you with some hints on interesting areas to explore and awe-inspiring places to visit from the perspective of someone who has spent more than a couple of short days in the city.
Let’s begin in one of my favourite areas of Copenhagen which features everything from elegant residential buildings through a splendid royal palace, exclusive shopping and dining experiences to extensive green areas and a famous zoo. Frederiksberg is the kind of place where you want to spend as much time as possible without having any particular goal in mind. You can simply stroll the streets and wander around parks for as long as your feet can take and then find your way into one of the many trendy venues to recharge with a delicious cup of coffee or a tasty meal.
Do yourself a favour and make sure to explore Frederiksberg Have, a beautiful park in the neighbourhood of the Frederiksberg Palace (Frederiksberg Slot). From some parts of the park, you can even get a sneak peek of the animals at the zoo located in its south-western corner.
Very high on my list is perhaps the most renowned modern art venue in the Danish capital. While the name of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is rather unusual and not so easy to remember, a visit to the museum can be unforgettable. When I one day spontaneously decided to explore the modern art museum for the first time, I did not have any well-defined expectations going in.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek proved to be a remarkable place, though. Not only were the exhibitions that I got to see of exceptional artistic value, but the venue itself also gives its visitors a sense of occasion. Its elegance and sophistication are visible in every detail from the floor tiles to the mind-blowing winter garden which is unlike anything I have seen.
When the weather is nice in Copenhagen, the area surrounding the Copenhagen Lakes is the place to be. Calm lakes reflecting the sunshine lined with elegant historical architecture and long promenades as popular with the joggers as with families and couples. Here you get to enjoy your time on the border between the historic city centre of the Danish capital and the more modern parts of the city.
I warmly recommend the Copenhagen Lakes to everyone who does not want to rush their visit but take their time to take in the local atmosphere.
4. Østerbro District
One of Copenhagen’s fancier residential districts, Østerbro begins right on the edge of the Copenhagen Lakes. Østerbro is a place where elegance is above all else. Particularly when it comes to architecture, this district has tonnes of beautiful sights to look at. Apart from the facades of all the apartment buildings, I especially enjoy the variety of welcoming entrance portals lining the streets of the eastern district.
Among many other places in the area, I would recommend visiting Gunnar Nu Hansens Plads with the nearby Østerfælled Torv where you can find a selection of venues and boutiques in case you feel like popping in. Generally, though, I believe that the best thing you can do is to simply enjoy the neighbourhood street by street trying to put your finger on what it is that makes it so special.
If I were to only recommend a single place to see in Copenhagen to you, Kartoffelrækkerne would be the one. Not only is the neighbourhood charming as if from a fairy tale, but I also find its existence in this location fascinating. However strange it may sound, I would not expect to discover a set of perfectly aligned streets filled with English-style terraced houses, which appear strangely similar while at the same time very distinct from one another, in the centre of Copenhagen.
For me, Kartoffelrækkerne was love at first sight and ever since I got the chance to stroll the streets of the neighbourhood, I have been spreading the love far and wide.
6. Kongens Have
Every historic capital worth its salt needs a splendid royal garden. Luckily, Copenhagen has one which to this day surrounds one of the former royal palaces. Kongens Have, which literally translates to “The King’s Garden,” is simply beloved by the locals. Although finding a spot on the lawns of the garden might be a challenge on a nice summer day, that should under no circumstances keep you from visiting this romantic place.
Especially the Rose garden (Rosenhaven) on the side of the Rosenborg Palace is a place that should not go unnoticed by any lovebirds or romantic souls. Sit on a bench, lie down on the lawns, walk around and explore… Do yourself a favour and spend some quality time at this amazing green place in the heart of Copenhagen.
Complementing the charm of the royal gardens is their dominant, the Rosenborg Palace, which would fit into more than a few fairy tales involving castles, princesses and princes on white horses. Dating back to the early 17th century, the castle presents numerous invaluable artefacts including Denmark’s crown jewels, which is something you would not want to miss if you are even remotely as fascinated by the history of the royalty as I am.
While it is usually difficult to choose which museums and historic sites to visit and which to skip, I would argue that Rosenborg Castle is well-worth your time even if your visit to Copenhagen is not particularly long.
Built in the late 19th century, St Alban’s Church is one of my favourite sights on the coast of the old town which is the home to many famous landmarks. The church’s limestone façade accompanied by the thin tall tower and contrasted by white décor form the foundation of its appeal. It is only when you look at St Alban’s Church and the surrounding Churchillparken from where the impressive Gefion Fountain stands that you can truly appreciate the beauty of this place, though. Do not be stressed about remembering from which angle to look at the English Church. I am confident the view will attract your attention naturally.
Another one of my favourite attractions that you can meet while walking along the long promenade passing by the current official residence of the Danish monarchs, Amalienborg, is the historic military fortress Kastellet (‘The Citadel’). Kastellet is one of the most well-preserved fortresses of its kind in Northern Europe. It is also fascinating to observe how this little place was built to be self-sufficient in the event of war with all necessary facilities from barracks through a windmill to a church.
Keep in mind that Kastellet is still an active military area, which means rules are strictly followed there. Seriously, do not sit on the grass!
Hands down the most beautiful modern library I have seen. While that may sound like a courageous statement, I am ready to defend it. The Black Diamond’s facade fits into the modern development on the coast of the old town perfectly but also succeeds in going further than that. It takes advantage of its location and thanks to clever light reflection it appears distinct from each side. However, things do not end there either.
Once you step inside, you find yourself surrounded by what could be described as the best possible version of modern public architecture with simplicity in the driving seat. The connection of the new building with its historical counterpart is a perfect cherry on top of this architectural cake. In my opinion, a combination of the old and the new can elevate attractiveness of buildings to new heights when done right. And things certainly were done right at the Black Diamond library.
You do not need to go fat from the library at all to explore “The Library’s Garden” (Bibliotekshaven) stretching between the edifice housing the historical parts of the library, as well as the Danish Jewish Museum, and the Christiansborg Palace (Christiansborg slot). Hidden from the eyes of most and away from the busy roads of the city centre, Bibliotekshaven is a real gem of a garden right in the heart of Copenhagen. Enjoy the views for a while or grab a cup of coffee at the local outdoor café if the weather is nice and you need a short break.
If you ever walk past this building it is very likely you will notice it. What is not so obvious is that the structure featuring a unique, more than 50 metres tall spire is the historical Copenhagen Stock Exchange. The spire is formed by tails of two pairs of dragons harmonically twined together, which is not something you see on many historic sites. Built during the reign of Christian IV, just like the Rosenborg Palace, it is at least as beautiful and elegant from the inside as it is on the outside.
Unfortunately, the interior of the Stock Exchange is not accessible to the public, but you can trust me when I say it is stunning as I once got a chance to spend an afternoon in its Grand Hall representing Trevl in front of investors and fellow startup founders.
As a residential area stretching just across the bridge from the Christiansborg Palace, Christianshavn is a place with a rich history. Modern development has not left the neighbourhood unaffected though and together with the water canal dominating Christianshavn, these elements living in an almost perfect symbiosis create a pleasant and inspiring environment. It is also one of those areas of Copenhagen where you can admire typical colourful houses, which became synonymous with the city, without the crowds.
You can choose to either enjoy some peace and quiet in the part near the Circle Bridge and Christian’s Church or join the lively vibe at one of the numerous venues lining the Overgaden Oven Vandet street. No matter which option you go for, I believe you will have a memorable experience.
Before I tell you more about Nyhavn, let me pause here for a second. As you may know, the New Harbour is one of the most well-known landmarks in Copenhagen which attracts large numbers of visitors from all over the world. While I would not recommend wining and dining in this very touristy part of the town, I do think Nyhavn is a place worthy of your visit.
The scenery with plentiful houses with facades featuring all colours of the rainbow and probably more is every bit as beautiful as in the pictures you can see in the travel guides. If you at all can, try to visit outside of the most popular times, especially early in the morning and I can almost guarantee that you too will love this place.
15. Islands Brygge
Copenhagen is not only a place with a rich history but also a buzzing modern metropolis which clearly shows in areas where the development is not restricted by the protected historic sites and complex medieval street layouts. The area around Islands Brygge is a great example that I would love to bring to your attention. Dominated by campuses of several well-regarded Danish universities, Islands Brygge gives you an opportunity to experience modern architecture that Denmark is so well known for these days.
Do not miss the original Tietgen Residence Hall (Tietgenkollegiet) just across the canal from the campus of the IT University of Copenhagen and think back to your student days and how your accommodation looked back then. Keep in mind that only a tiny fraction of students being educated in Denmark get to stay at these world-famous structures before you get too envious, though.
Another modern area south of the city centre that you should consider exploring is Sydhavnen. Also the home to an impressive university campus, it is interesting to note that this district is still undergoing a major transformation as only decades ago it was one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Copenhagen. Largely, thanks to the arrival of successful businesses to the area, Sydhavnen is quickly changing its face and instead of being known for social issues, it is increasingly being recognised as a top-modern business and residential area.
Whether you decide to visit all of them or only a few, the sixteen places presented above should serve you as a great introduction to Copenhagen and some of its famous, as well as lesser-known areas. I have not seen every corner of the Danish capital and I did not get to experience every venue the city has to offer, though, so make sure to explore on your own, too and discover more places to your liking.
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