The UN world happiness report in 2016 classified Denmark as the happiest country in the world. After a visit to its capital, Copenhagen, we do understand why it is so!
Copenhagen is a delightful city on the southern side of the Northern Sea. Famous for its towers, its relaxing parks and its combination of 17th century and modern architecture. This is a fantastic place where to spend a weekend in relax. Well, almost! There are several activities to do here, but the relative absence of cars, the small size of the city center, and the laid-back attitude of its inhabitants make this town a special place where to recharge our batteries before getting back to our frenzy London!
Moving around the city
The city is not that big, and it’s easily explorable by feet. A bike is a valid alternative to walking. There is almost 400 km of cycling roads, with separate lanes and privileged crossings. The bike is the favorite way of transportation for Danish people, and there are several places where you can rent one, for as little as 75 DKK per day. Alternatively, buses are frequent and cover every area.
Delicious tip: Danish people are relaxed, easy-going people, but beware of Danish people on bikes! As a local friend told us, in the second they start riding, their Viking blood begins to boil, and they see only enemies on the road! Be careful when crossing a bike lane, and do not even think about walking on one!
Where to sleep
Finding a place where to sleep in Copenhagen can be pretty hard. Hotels tend to bit on the expensive side. Airbnb, on the other hand, have a weird issue. It looks like most of the small apartments in the city do not have a shower! After much looking, we found this accommodation on Airbnb, which we suggest. It’s in a safe neighborhood (right next to the best cappuccino and bakery in town!), near several bars and restaurants, 20 minutes walking from the city center.
Highlights of the city
We spent a good long weekend here, where we had time to do a bit of everything, visiting the main attractions, eating local food, and strolling around the city. Take a suggestion from our list of top attraction spots, and enjoy this beautiful northern capital!
Nyhavn, the best canal in the city
Our first spot can’t be anything else but the Nyhavn, the most famous photo location in the city. This canal was built in the 17th century, together with most of the colorful buildings. Andersen, the fairy tale writer, lived here for many years. Until recent years, however, it was a notorious hub for illegal activities. Over the 70s, the area has been revitalized and cleaned up, making it one of the most popular areas for both tourists and locals.
A stroll from the square to the end of the canal is a mandatory activity for every tourist. The water mirrors the buildings on both sides, creating a beautiful effect, especially when the sky is clear. The old wooden ships add a touch of magic, making it one of our delicious spots in the city.
Getting lost in the charming colorful alleys of Copenhagen
A great way to enjoy a new city is to allow yourself to wander around some of its neighborhoods. We enjoy simply walking the streets, ducking into a store or two, and sitting down at a café. Our favorite street in Copenhagen is Jægersborggade, a picture-perfect street with several restaurants, vintage stores, and coffee shops. We love to explore the vintage stores here and find some unique pieces for our home.
Moreover, you can choose a Free Walking Tour to explore the city, reachable here. Our guide, Daniel, was a guy born and raised in the city, who lead us to discover several aspects of Copenhagen we would have missed otherwise. We recommend taking one of these tours if you have time. Plus, they are free, so if you don’t like it you can just leave it halfway!
Kastellet park is one of the best parks in the city. While you are there, take a look at The little mermaid!
The little mermaid is one of the most famous Andersen’s works. It’s also one of the weirdest ones, as it has a happy ending (well, happier than any other tale at least). That’s why Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg, Copenhagen’s famous beer, commissioned and gifted this statue to the city.
The center of power, Christiansborg Palace
The story of Christiansborg Palace is long and complex. The first palace in the area was built by Bishop Absalon himself, the “founder” of the city. Since then, the castle has been rebuilt at least three times, with several other modifications over the centuries. That gives the castle a quirk and “bohemian” aspect with several styles mixed together as a colossal patchwork.
It’s an enjoyable visit, divided among five different areas. The current palace is the main attraction, with its dining halls and the fabulous library. Next to it, the tower, an attractive observation point to get the best view of the city. Underneath the main building, there are the ruins of the old palace. Finally, the two wings of the castle host the stables and the royal kitchen, providing some interesting insights into the daily life of the royal family.
Delicious tip: there is another viewpoint in Copenhagen: the Vor Frelsers Kirke next to Christiania. We recommend Christiansborg tower, it’s higher and with a better view. And it’s also free!
The Crown Jewels at Rosenborg Castle
The Dutch Renaissance style of the summer country house of the Danish royal family is an absolute gem in the city. Rosenborg Castle is one of the cutest royal residencies you will ever find in the world. It feels like exploring an ordinary house, a place where people actually lived, rather than a building made to impress foreign diplomats. On top of that, this is the location of the Crown jewels.
Amalienborg, the current royal residency
After Rosenborg and a brief staying at Christiansborg, the royal family moved to Amalienborg, where it currently resides. The complex is composed by four identical facades around an octagonal square, with the equestrian statue of the founder of the castle, Frederik V, in its center. There is only one building open to visitors, consisting in a museum about the royal family.
The main attraction, however, is the courtyard itself. Furthermore, the western arm of the square ends in front of Frederiks Kirke, the largest dome in Scandinavia. Heads up here at noon to enjoy the changing of the guard!
Delicious tip: Confused about names of the royal family? Well, that’s pretty reasonable! Danish royal family traditionally names the first male child after their grandfather, creating an endless succession of Frederik, Christian, Frederik, Christian, Frederik… Margrethe, as the last king had three daughters!
Christiania, the most complex free town in the world
The Free Town of Christiania is on the island of Christianshavn, on the other side of the Nyhavn. This is one of the most complex, interesting and debated places in the world. Declared “social experiment” by the Danish Government during its creation in the ‘70s, this hippie community declared unilaterally its independence from Denmark. About 1000 people live in this area, without being formally subjected to national laws. The place is famous for its cafes and shops, like the famous “Christiania Bikes” and the vegetarian restaurant Morgenstedet. It’s also famous for its open drug selling, confined to a street called Pusher Street.
Whatever your opinion on this place may be, we suggest you visit it with your mind as free as possible. Enjoy the amazing works of street art and explore the area. Whether you will like it or not, you will be enriched by a new experience!
Delicious tip: If you decide to cross Pusher Street, remember that it’s absolutely forbidden to take photos and to run. The inhabitants are really strict about it, don’t even think about violating these rules. You can take pictures everywhere else, there are many interesting spots to capture!
And finally… Enjoy Tivoli, at night
There is something special about Tivoli amusement park, the second oldest theme park in the world (by the way, the oldest one is 10 km far away from there, Danish people really love them!). It’s not the rides, there are much better ones everywhere in the world. It’s not the bar & restaurants, serving overpriced mediocre food. It’s the air of joy and full of lightheartedness that we could breathe here during a Friday night.
Get here before sunset to avoid the crowds and take a walk around the lake, while the park slowly starts to get to life, among lights and sounds. When Walt Disney visited Tivoli in 1951, he was impressed by this magic atmosphere, and he tried to replicate the same feeling in his newly built theme park, Disney World. After visiting this oasis of magic, we can understand his feelings, and we hope you will get the same!
We loved Copenhagen. It has the right combination of artworks, gardens, and monuments. Plus, the city is lovely to explore by foot or by bike, without much traffic or crowds of tourists. But that’s not all! Copenhagen is also a fantastic place for foodies.