Copenhagen, one of the most beloved cities in Scandinavia, has been attracting visitors since before it became a culinary capital of Europe, before LEGO was invented and before you could read about hygge in every bookstore in the world. Its history dates back to 11th century, and possibly even to Viking Age. Since then the city has been growing, evolving and becoming an incredible place for history, culture, cuisine and architecture. There are so many things to see and experience that a weekend break just isn’t enough. This is why we will try and narrow it down to ONLY 5 iconic, must-see places to visit in Copenhagen. Places that survived over time and still attract people for one reason or another. Places that every Dane and every visitor knows about.
So, which 5 classic, iconic places to visit in Copenhagen?
This is probably one of the visitors’ favorite spots in the city. Nyhavn, translated from Danish as “New Harbor”, was constructed in 17th century. It used to be a place for merchants and sailors to arrive to the town, unload their boats, find beer and prostitutes. Today it’s something different. While you will still find plenty of boats and beer, Nyhavn is full of restaurants, souvenir shops and boat tours. If you’re not into spending your money on food and alcohol, you can always grab an ice cream or nothing – after all, you’re not required to eat and drink when you sit or stroll along the channel. In winter time you will also find there one of the charming Danish Christmas markets.
Downsides: it’s often super-crowded and prices are inflated in comparison to many other spots in the city.
Upsides: it’s incredibly cozy to sit by the river with a drink, listen to the bustling around you and enjoy sunny (or mostly not-so-sunny) Danish weather while possibly being photographed for another postcard.
DID YOU KNOW? The oldest house in Nyhavn was built in 1681, and Hans Christian Andersen lived in two different houses there – can you find them?
Have you ever heard that roller coasters and amusement parks are for kids? Nonsense. Tivoli is a great example of that.
One of the all-times favourite places to visit in Copenhagen, Tivoli offers not only fun, but also food, culture and relaxation. This park has multiple rides and games, like ferris wheel, carousels, bumper cars, boats, swings and more. In different restaurants and cafes you will find a variety of food and drinks. You can walk around parks and gardens, enjoy fountains and oriental corners. Tivoli is also home for several venues, which constantly entertain public with music concerts, ballet, theater performances and shows.
Tivoli has different seasons, exhibitions and themes change accordingly. Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and summer – each experience is special. During winter don’t forget to try and book your ticket for Crazy Christmas Cabaret. You might find this satiric performance somewhat less “tolerant” than we perceive Denmark to be, but it shows how much Danes love to laugh, including laughing at themselves.
Downsides: the ticket might seem expensive, but you’ll spend plenty of time there!
Upsides: well.. it is fun! And cozy, and delicious, and it’s definitely a place where many locals love going too.
DID YOU KNOW? In Tivoli you can find Europe’s oldest rollercoaster, which is also 3rd oldest in the world still in operation. Rutschebanen, or Bjergbanen, was built in 1912 and is built to resemble a mountain.
3. The Little Mermaid Statue
To be honest, I would normally not put it on the must-see list. But I do think that it’s one of the iconic places to visit in Copenhagen. The Little Mermaid is based on a fairy-tale by Denmark’s most beloved writer, Hans Christian Andersen. We all know the story, a mermaid falls in love, turns into a human.. however, the ending in the original fairy-tale is slightly different from the one in Disney movie – no spoilers!
The statue is made of bronze and it’s not very big. It did, however, travel more than some other statues do – in 2010 The Little Mermaid was a part of Expo in Shanghai.
Downsides: most people say that it’s really small. I wouldn’t agree with that, because it’s supposed to be full-size.. how big do they think mermaids are?
Upsides: it’s located quite close to Amalienborg palace, Langelinie park and fortress Kastellet. So, if you’re up for a good walk, it’s a lovely way to explore the area after you have visited Nyhavn.
DID YOU KNOW? The Little Mermaid has experiences several acts of vandalism. The statue has been decapitated several times, mermaid’s arm was sawed off, it was painted into different colors through the history. Yet, it’s still standing, a century-old symbol of one of the Europe’s oldest kingdoms.
4. Rosenborg Castle
Rosenborg Castle is a beautiful castle surrounded by a large garden and park in the middle of Copenhagen. The castle itself is 4 centuries old and during that time it was rarely used as a royal residence. Today Rosenborg Castle is open for public. Visitors can enjoy the architecture of this place, but also see Crown Jewels of Denmark.
For me, honestly, the favorite place is not the castle itself, but the garden around it, Kongens Have. It’s a perfect place to take time and relax or enjoy a variety of events. Park takes up a territory of 12 hectares and is home for several buildings, some art pieces and, of course, a rose garden.
Downsides: Denmark’s weather isn’t ideal for enjoying Kongens Have year-round, but you can still visit a castle. Park gets busy in a summertime.
Upsides: It’s a perfect spot for picnic, reading or hanging out with your friends.
DID YOU KNOW? Today Danish monarchs don’t get a coronation ceremony. But when they did, they used a Throne Chair of Denmark during it, which today is also on display in Rosenborg castle.
Strøget, often thought to be merely a shopping street, is so much more than that. It’s a pedestrian street that takes you from the City Hall square to Kongens Nytorv square. Along Strøget you will find other squares, multiple works of art like sculptures and fountains, restaurants and beautiful buildings. You will pass Church of the Holy Ghost, the court house and of course, beautiful Kongens Nytorv that leads to Nyhavn. Strøget is not just one street, it’s a collection of several streets, and it’s hard to avoid when in Copenhagen. Therefore you might move it from “places to visit in Copenhagen” list to “places I’ll see in Copenhagen anyway” list.
Downsides: as most things on this list, it can get busy.
Upsides: it doesn’t matter if you are looking for cheaper chains or luxurious brands, you might find it on Strøget.
DID YOU KNOW? Oldest building on Strøget dates back to 1616!
Few tips for visitors:
- Consider Copenhagen Card – this is one of the cities where it could turn out to be a good deal, especially if you’re planning to use public transport.
- Wear layers – no matter when you visit Copenhagen, like many cities in the Northern part of Europe it can have quite an unpredictable weather.
- If you can, rent a bike. This is the absolutely best way to experience Copenhagen, of course unless you can’t ride a bike. Biking is not merely a transportation, but the way of life. Be careful though and abide by the rules!
- Copenhagen is not a day-destination. 24 hours in the city is simply not enough, though it’s better than nothing.
Copenhagen will always have a very special place in my heart, and later on I’ll be bringing more information and tips about it. But for now – hope you’ll enjoy Denmark!
For more city tips, check out: