The capital and most populated city in Denmark, Copenhagen is the cultural, economic and governmental hub of Denmark. The name Copenhagen means ‘merchant’s harbor’ and relates to the cities early beginnings as a fishing village that became a place for trade. It lies on the Western side of the country, close to the Swedish border, and because of its northern latitude, summer days are quite long and winter days are considerably shorter than usual. The city is comprised of several districts, with bridges connecting each, as well as parks, promenades, waterfronts and harbor baths dispersed throughout. Home to Noma, the restaurant named the best in the world (three times!), Carlsberg Brewery, and several universities, including The University of Copenhagen- the oldest university in the country. It’s one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, as well as one of the most environmentally friendly. Read on for a Copenhagen Travel Guide by local, Ryan.
THE LOCAL: Ryan
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST HIM: Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Ryan was transferred to Copenhagen in 2013 for a job in oil and gas. He’s been living and working in Copenhagen ever since, and has made friends with both born-and-bred Danes and expats who know the city well. He resides in Frederiksberg and cycles to his work daily, which is north of Nyhavn. Along the way, he’s found, as Ryan says, “all sorts of things my American mind loves to love… and loves to bash.”
1. Favorite Street to Wander/Stroll in Copenhagen?
Halmtorvet, in Vesterbro. Here, you’ll find lots of hipsters lounging around, grazing on snacks or drinking. Istedgade is another hipster street in Vesterbro- go to brunch at Granola! Also, West Market is a trendy indoor food court with bar and lots of food options. You could spend an entire evening here, especially if the weather isn’t great.
Other than Vesterbro, it’s totally fine to stay in Old Town and central Copenhagen for the rest of your stay. Copenhagen is a classic old city where you can just walk around. There are tons of cafes and wine bars that you can stop in throughout your wanders. Also, most places have an English menu and almost everyone speaks English too!
Finally, if it is nice out, go walk and lounge upon Kalvebod Bølge, a rolling bridge in the harborside. If it is warm enough, you can even take a dip!
You shouldn’t have a hard time finding a good coffee shop or bakery in Copenhagen. There’s sure to be one close one to where your staying, so ask a local or a concierge for a recommendation. All coffee shops have Danishes and other types of cakes (they are crazy about cakes here!), so be sure to grab one, and enjoy. An interesting coffee shop I found is called The Coffee Collective. They roast and brew their own high-end coffee and incorporate several elements of chemistry, including using specific water temperatures for each type of roast and bean. Note, however, that at your standard cafe, it will be tough to get a “black coffee”. Ask before to understand what’s on their menu!
3. Best Area to Shop Local?
4. Favorite Sunny Day Agenda?
Go to the nearest park with some food from a local market and bring some beer or wine, which is perfectly acceptable to drink in public areas. If you’re not up for a picnic, head to Piperøen (Paper Island) which has tons of street food and other delicious bites. Other good spots: Kalvebod Bølge, a waterfront and harbor with lots of water activities; Harbour bath Islands Brygge (or Københavns Havnebad Islands Brygge), which is a public swimming pool in the harbor that you can visit, if by chance there is a heat wave; and Christianshavns Vold, where you can walk around and see the ramparts of Copenhagen’s old fortification. I highly recommend Christianshavns Vold if you are interested in Christiania, a green and car-free hippie neighborhood in Copenhagen. Finally, if you’re looking for great views of the city, head to the Rundetaarn (a.k.a the Round Tower), a 17th century tower that is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.
5. Essential Copenhagen Tip?
Get on a Bike!!!
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE COPENHAGEN ATTRACTIONS
1. Nyhavn – Thumbs up! Check it out, but if you have been there for more than 30 minutes, in my opinion, you have been there too long. Grab some ice cream at Vaffelbageren before you leave- all of their waffle cones are handmade.
2. Church of Our Saviour – Thumbs Up. This takes you into a cool part of the city and from there, you can hike to the top. Very memorable.
3. Walking Tours – If you want to take a tour, I would suggest a canal boat tour- especially if it’s sunny out. Then, you can soak up the sights from the perspective of the canal and learn about the city (or you can just tune the tour guide out and enjoy the sights from a comfortable seat!)
4. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – Thumbs Up. This is a really cool museum in the center of Copenhagen. It holds a bunch of ancient art that has no business being in Copenhagen, but the wealthy brewery mogul that started Carlsberg bought it while on a vacation. There is also a cool atrium with a garden in the center, and I believe there’s free admission on Tuesdays.
5. The David Collection – I’ve never heard of it! If you like art, a good bet is The Hirschsprung Collection, which features Danish contemporary art from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Another cool (and quick) museum to check out is the Danish Design Museum, which is in a cool historic building in the city center. Also near the Design Museum is Amalienborg Palace, where the Queen lives. It’s worth the visit to see the changing of the guards. It’s free and happens every hour.
Tight – In the heart of Copenhagen, Tight has a great vibe, is not super expensive and has a great seasonal menu.
Ruby – Ruby has fantastic cocktails. It’s a bit pricey, but definitely worth imbibing in the intimate setting for a drink or two. The servers ask you what you like and then will make a cocktail accordingly.
The Standard – This place has a few restaurants in it, and is right on the water. It’s a bit expensive but I’d recommend at least stopping for drinks here!
Copenhagen Street Food – Another food hall but on the other side of the island from the City Center. They have a big outside area to drink- great for a warm day. It’s next to the CopenhagenContemporary which is not worth it unless you go on the free day (Tuesday mornings).
Mikkeller Bar – Famous microbrewery with lots of locations around the world- but this one is the “home base” and has lots of locally brewed beers on draft.
Photos by C. Gilbert and T. O’Hara
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