What are the best things to see and do in Copenhagen?

Liz Humphreys
  • Liz Humphreys

  • Correspondent

  • Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Though one of the best things to do in Copenhagen is to simply stroll through its pretty center, you’ll also want to experience some quintessential Danish culture by checking out these Forbes Travel Guide picks for the five can’t-miss Copenhagen sites:
 
1. Tivoli. An historic amusement park/garden/cultural center, Tivoli offers 28 rides, live music and, in the summer, more than 400,000 flowers in bloom. We suggest visiting at night when the gardens are illuminated with more than 120,000 lights and evening light shows are held on the Tivoli Lake. Note that Tivoli is closed between September and April (though it reopens briefly for the December holiday season).
 
2. Rosenborg Castle. This palace was built in 1606 as Christian IV’s summer residence. Today we recommend touring this grand castle to see objects from 400 years of the Danish monarchy as well as the treasury containing the royal jewels.
 
3. National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst). Don’t miss this unique chance to see Danish and Nordic art from 1750 to 1900, as well as European art from 1300 to 1800 (including Rubens and Rembrandt) along with more contemporary pieces.
 
4. Nyhavn. Copenhagen’s 17th-century waterfront district, Nyhavn is best known for its picturesque row of brightly colored houses along the water. It’s also worth a stroll to check out some of the restaurants, bars and shops facing the harbor.
 
5. The Round Tower (Rundetårn). Climb up the spiral ramp of this nearly 400-year-old tower for great views of Copenhagen’s old city on a clear day. The tower also includes the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What are the best things to do with kids in Copenhagen?

    Looking for things to do with the kids while in Copenhagen? You’ll see plenty of families and parents pushing strollers as you stroll around — and here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best kid-friendly places in Copenhagen:
     
    1. Tivoli. Adventurous kids will like riding one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world as well as the world’s tallest carousel at this famous Copenhagen amusement park surrounded by gardens. Kids under 3 get into the park for free.
     
    2. Changing of the Royal Guard at Amalienborg Slot (Castle in Danish). Head to the official residence of Queen Margrethe II to watch the daily ceremony at noon, where the royal guards walk from Amalienborg Slot to Rosenborg Slot.
     
    3. Copenhagen Zoo. Kids who like animals will enjoy the zoo, one of the oldest in Europe (it opened in 1859). While the zoo is not large, it does house more than 3,000 animals from around the world and includes a Children’s Zoo where your kids can see rabbits, snakes and more up-close.
     
    4. The Children’s Museum of Art. Housed within the Statens Museum for Kunst (Danish National Gallery), the museum offers special tours for kids and their families on Sundays as well as weekend workshops where your little ones can create their own works of art.
     
    5. Experimentarium. Exhibits on science and technology are sure to delight budding scientists, and this Copenhagen museum offers 300 interactive exhibits. Though the Experimentarium in general will offer most appeal to school-age kids, the Kids’ Pavilion is geared especially toward 3 to 6 year olds.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    Where is the best shopping in Copenhagen?

    Copenhagen is  known for its classic Danish homeware designs and avant-garde clothing designers and you’ll likely want to shop for those during your trip. But to find them Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you leave the popular Strøget, Europe’s longest car-free shopping street, and head to the city’s two venerable department stores to find items that are uniquely Scandinavian.
     
    Start your day of shopping at Copenhagen’s two department stores: Magasin du Nord and Illum. Magasin du Nord is the more upscale of the two and stocks many Scandinavian labels you may not find at home, like By Malene Birger and Filippa K, as well as Danish design items; Ilum tends toward an edgier selection of brands, including Acne, known especially for its jeans and stylish basics.  
     
    For shopping in a more intimate atmosphere, you’ll find unique Scandinavian boutiques by wandering the streets that branch off of Strøget in the Indre By neighborhood. A couple of boutiques to keep your eye out for are Wood Wood and Marimekko.
     
    Looking to bring home some examples of Danish design? Check out Illums Bolighus for four floors of furniture, lighting, housewares, gifts and more from leading Scandinavian brands. Or head away from the city center to Paustian, a design store reminiscent of an upscale IKEA where you’ll find everything from lamps to knickknacks to decorate your home in Danish style.
     
    To avoid disappointment, note that, with the exception of department stores, most Copenhagen stores are closed on Sundays and many keep earlier hours on Saturdays, closing by 2 or 3 p.m.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What is the best way to see Copenhagen in one day?

    If you want to see Copenhagen in a day, Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you start bright and early. While the city itself isn’t that large, the sights are rather spread out, so be prepared to put in a long day of walking supplemented by taking the train; alternately, renting a bike like the locals do is a perfect way to see more sights faster.
     
    Start at Nyhavn to gaze at the brightly painted houses and old wooden ships in the harbor. From there, walk to Kongens Nytorv, or King’s New Square, before heading onto the pedestrian street of Strøget for some strolling and shopping. Don’t miss the department stores Magasin du Nord and Illum if you’re after Scandinavian fashion or design.
     
    After a stop for lunch, perhaps at The Royal Café for some smushi (open-face smørrebrød sandwiches that are small, like sushi), spend a couple hours at Statens Museum for Kunst viewing Scandinavian art or to Rosenborg Slot for some castle- and garden-viewing (or see both, if you’re quick).
     
    If it’s summer and the daylight hours are long, cap off your afternoon with a tremendous view of the city by climbing the Round Tower (Rundetaarn). Then dine in one of the famous Copenhagen Nordic-cuisine restaurants, or catch the thousands of twinkling lights along with the light show on the lake at Tivoli, Copenhagen’s renowned gardens/amusement park.
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  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    Where is the best nightlife in Copenhagen?

    Where to find the best nightlife in Copenhagen depends on what you fancy — whether you’re looking for classical music, jazz or just a nice cocktail, you’re sure to find a place that meets your needs in this compact Scandinavian city.
     
    For opera in an elegant environment, Forbes Travel Guide editors say don’t miss the striking Copenhagen Opera House, which opened in January 2005 to much fanfare. Look for half-price tickets for unsold seats starting at 6 p.m. on the day of the performance.
     
    If jazz is more your taste, Copenhagen offers venues including Jazzhus Montmartre, a historic venue that brings in lots of Danish and international talent, and Copenhagen Jazzhouse, featuring everything from classic to modern jazz.
     
    Looking for a cool place to have a drink? The up-and-coming Meatpacking District has several bars including Karriere Bar, designed by local artists. Or if you like you cocktails in a speakeasy atmosphere, Ruby in the central Indre By area and Union Bar in Nyhavn are both behind unmarked doors and feature well-mixed drinks in trendy settings.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What are the five best Copenhagen food experiences?

    Though you hear lots about Copenhagen’s modern high-end restaurants, like Noma, there are other foods you can try in this compact city that are more traditional — and just as enjoyable. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five Copenhagen food experiences not to miss:
     
    1. Smørrebrød. The Danish excel at open-faced sandwiches topped with anything you can imagine ­— from traditional herring or eel to potato salad to steak tartare. Wash down a lunch of smørrebrød with a small glass of aquavit (Scandinavian schnapps). We think the best places to feast on smørrebrød are Restaurant Schonnemann or Ida Davidsen for an old-school style or Aamanns Establishment or The Royal Café for a more modern take.
     
    2. Herring. Whether fresh or preserved, herring is a quintessential Danish food. It’s usually served with sauces including tomato, mustard, curry and garlic. To sample many preparations of herring, we suggest trying the herring lunch buffet at Nyhavns Faergekro, which includes 10 styles of this tasty fish.
     
    3. Flødebolle. Though the word best translates as “cream bun,” this sweet Copenhagen treat is actually a meringue coated with chocolate on top of a biscuit; some versions also use marzipan. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend the version at the Summerbird chocolate shop for a sugary pick-me-up.
     
    4. Hot dogs. You might not have known it before visiting Copenhagen, but the Danes love their hot dogs. Here they’re called pølser and usually topped with sliced pickles and fried onions; you’ll see street-side kiosks throughout the city where you can try one for a snack or quick meal.
     
    5. Danish pastries. Feeling peckish after a day of shopping? Stop in for a pastry or cake and coffee (kager and kaffe) like the locals do. A popular après-shopping stop is The Royal Café on Strøget, Copenhagen’s main pedestrian street.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What is the best souvenir to bring home from Copenhagen?

    You won’t want for choice when shopping in Copenhagen; it’s a city known for its designed items, everything from housewares to clothes to LEGO. Here are our picks for the best things to bring home from a Copenhagen visit:
     
    1. LEGO. These colorful interlocking bricks were first designed in Denmark in 1949. Relive your childhood — or inspire the children in your life — by picking up a few pieces or an entire set at LEGO’s flagship store on Strøget, Copenhagen’s pedestrian boulevard.
     
    2. Aquavit. Aquavit means water of life, and it’s a clear spirit similar to vodka. Here it’s flavored with different herbs spices and herbs. A bottle of aquavit makes a nice before- or after-dinner sipper, even outside of Denmark.
     
    3. Royal Danish Porcelain. This iconic brand’s distinctive blue-and-white patterned dishes and cups will add an old-world charm to your dinner parties back at home.
     
    4. Jewelry from Georg Jensen. An elegant ring, earrings or bracelet from the Tiffany of Copenhagen is a gift any woman will appreciate.
     
    5. Danish design items. Bringing home a piece of Danish-designed furniture or other housewares will help you remember your trip in style. Check out Illums Bolighus, Normann or Paustian for the best selections.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What are the five best daytrips from Copenhagen?

    Though many visitors to Copenhagen never make it past the sights within the city, there are plenty of worthwhile things — including castles, museums and Viking historical sites — to explore outside the city limits if you have enough time. Here the best five daytrips from Copenhagen that Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you squeeze in:
     
    1. Louisiana Museum. This exceptional 20th-century art collection inside a gorgeous 19-century villa includes works from such renowned artists as Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and Louise Bourgeois. The museum is located about 35 minutes north of Copenhagen; your best bet to get there is by taking a train and then walking or cabbing from the station.
     
    2. Kronberg Slot. Located in Helsingor, about an hour north of Copenhagen by train, this imposing 16th-century castle was used by Shakespeare as the setting for Hamlet and is worth a visit.
     
    3. Frederiksborg Slot. First built in 1560 and then restored in the late 1800s after a fire, this impressive castle northwest of Copenhagen now houses a national history museum and warrants a peek for its beautiful Baroque gardens.
     
    4. Roskilde. Directly west of Copenhagen, Roskilde was founded in the 10th century by the Vikings and was once the capital of Denmark. Today we recommend visiting to see the Viking Ship Museum and Roskilde Domkirke, a brick cathedral begun in the 12th century.
     
    5. Ordrupgaard. Renowned architect Zaha Hadid designed the extension of this art museum about 35 minutes north of Copenhagen, worth seeing for its Danish and French art collection from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Liz Humphreys answered the question: Liz Humphreys

    What are the best things to see and do in Copenhagen?

    Though one of the best things to do in Copenhagen is to simply stroll through its pretty center, you’ll also want to experience some quintessential Danish culture by checking out these Forbes Travel Guide picks for the five can’t-miss Copenhagen sites:
     
    1. Tivoli. An historic amusement park/garden/cultural center, Tivoli offers 28 rides, live music and, in the summer, more than 400,000 flowers in bloom. We suggest visiting at night when the gardens are illuminated with more than 120,000 lights and evening light shows are held on the Tivoli Lake. Note that Tivoli is closed between September and April (though it reopens briefly for the December holiday season).
     
    2. Rosenborg Castle. This palace was built in 1606 as Christian IV’s summer residence. Today we recommend touring this grand castle to see objects from 400 years of the Danish monarchy as well as the treasury containing the royal jewels.
     
    3. National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst). Don’t miss this unique chance to see Danish and Nordic art from 1750 to 1900, as well as European art from 1300 to 1800 (including Rubens and Rembrandt) along with more contemporary pieces.
     
    4. Nyhavn. Copenhagen’s 17th-century waterfront district, Nyhavn is best known for its picturesque row of brightly colored houses along the water. It’s also worth a stroll to check out some of the restaurants, bars and shops facing the harbor.
     
    5. The Round Tower (Rundetårn). Climb up the spiral ramp of this nearly 400-year-old tower for great views of Copenhagen’s old city on a clear day. The tower also includes the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.
  • On July 3, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Copenhagen?

    Copenhagen, once best known for its herring, is now one of the top culinary destinations in the world — for good reason. Not only is it the home of what many consider the world’s top restaurant, Noma, numerous other places to dine have followed suit with local ingredients, seasonal cuisine and some gastronomic flourishes. Here are the Forbes Travel Guide editors’ five best places to eat right now in Copenhagen:
     
    1. Noma. Named the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine for the third year in a row, Noma chef René Redzepi focuses on indigenous ingredients, including many foraged by its staff, in its legendary 20+-course tasting menu. You have to be extremely lucky (or persistent) to get in, though: Reservations are taken the second week of each month for dining times three months later — and are filled within minutes.
     
    2. Relae. Started by former chefs from Noma, Relae is the second-hottest dining ticket in Copenhagen. In a casual atmosphere, Relae’s chefs turn out seasonal four-course Danish menus with a playful twist: Think a spring menu that pairs  green asparagus with sunflower seeds and mint and a dessert of elderflower and rhubarb. We suggest booking as far in advance as you’re able.
     
    3. Mielcke & Hurtigkarl. This formal restaurant brings the outdoors in to a gorgeous 18th-century space inside Frederiksberg Park with vines and flowers painted on the walls. Choose from the large, medium or small tasting menu. While not everything’s local (on the day we visited, they’d flown in bull kelp from British Columbia), the unusual combinations and high-quality ingredients make for a satisfying meal.
     
    4. Restaurant Paustian. Most of Copenhagen’s hot restaurants are all about the new; Paustian is about the classic. The chef takes old-fashioned Danish dishes like prime rib and tartare of veal and prepares them with the freshest possible ingredients. Though a little on the heavy side, we think Paustian is the best place in Copenhagen to try old-school entrées you won’t see anywhere else.
     
    5. Restaurant Schonnemann. The most classic place in Copenhagen to sample smørrebrød, Danish open-faced lunch sandwiches made with delicious toppings from Greenland shrimp to smoked halibut to Danish meatballs. Unless you have a tremendous appetite, it’s best to order just one — they’re large and very filling. Pair it with their famous schnapps-like aquavit; your server will recommend the best match from their extensive list. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend making a reservation; the dark wood-paneled restaurant fills up with businesspeople and tourists in-the-know.
  • On July 3, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Copenhagen?

    For a city centered around design, Copenhagen is short on highly luxurious places to stay. But the city does boast a handful of hotels with great service, lovely rooms and convenient locations where you’ll be more than happy to rest your head after a day on the town. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ top five picks for where to stay in Copenhagen:
     
    1. First Hotel Skt Petri. This cool boutique hotel situated in the middle of town has a convenient location for walking or biking — you can rent bikes from the hotel — anywhere in Copenhagen. Popular with fashion types, you can people-watch in the hotel’s cocktail bar or work off your indulgent Copenhagen meals in the large 24-hour gym right next door.
     
    2. Nimb Hotel. One of the most exclusive hotels in town, the 14 rooms at the Nimb are all individually designed; nine of those rooms are suites and all but one have fireplaces and overlook Tivoli Gardens. This Moorish palace is the ideal place to sleep in Copenhagen if you’re after amazing service and want to be close to fine dining at the in-house Nimb Louise restaurant.
     
    3. Front Hotel. This 131-room boutique style hotel on is relatively new bringing a touch of modern design to the picturesque harbor promenade. You’ll find the Front is long on amenities including a free mini bar stocked with water, soft drinks and beer; use of the fitness center and Wi-Fi throughout the property.
     
    4. Copenhagen Admiral Hotel. Right on the harborfront a few minutes from Nyhavn, this 366-room hotel in an 18th-century grain warehouse has loads of charm. Each room is individually decorated but still has a nautical feel, which extends to the rest of the hotel: Items from the Royal Danish Naval Museum are displayed throughout.
     
    5. Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Copenhagen. Designed by noted Danish architect Arne Jacobsen, this sleek high-rise hotel in the center of town is hard to miss: it has a reflective surface that reflects passing clouds. Rooms have stylish touches including the Swan chairs Jacobsen designed for the property, and there’s a gourmet Italian restaurant Alberto K on site.