Why is it that Denmark consistently ranks amongst the happiest countries in the world? Perhaps it’s hyggelige evenings with friends and cozy blankets or the high standard of living or the well-funded social programs. But if you ask me, it’s more likely a hard-to-pinpoint cultural trait keeps the Danes cheery even when the winter darkness drags on. Speaking as someone who visited in the throes December, that kind of resilience in spite of wind and rain and 40° weather does NOT come naturally.
Copenhagen might summon to mind Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and Vikings and perhaps 17th-century waterfront houses. It also might have you picturing blonde babes on bicycles, and hot dogs, and minimalist design. And while I can agree that Copenhagen is all those things, it’s also so much more. The city has a thriving alternative scene with community centers and urban communes and dive bar institutions scattered throughout the city. There are running routes and inventive food festivals and incredible displays of public art that will keep you busy at any time of year. Long after you’ve seen the Little Mermaid statue and wandered Nyhavn, the list of unique things to do in Copenhagen carries on. The city is genuinely awesome.
Ready to explore one of the prettiest little cities on the Baltic Sea? Here’s a glimpse at some of the coolest things to do in Copenhagen.
Very Copenhagen Experiences
1. Head to Folkehuset Absalon, a community house in Vesterbro offering everything from yoga classes to backgammon nights2. Venture out to the manmade, beach on the Baltic Sea at Amager Strandvej
3. Have a seat on some funky French antique furniture and catch a film at the indie cinema Vester Vov Vov
4. Wander the canals and English-style gardens of Frederiksberg Park
4. Spend an evening at Bolsjefabrikken, a cultural institution with board games, live music, and art workshops
5. Explore the Red Square, Black Market, and Green Park sidewalk murals at Superkilen Park
6. Dip into the world of Danish design when you admire the highly functional collection at Designmuseum Danmark
7. Rent a bike from Bycyklen and find out why Copenhagen is regarded as the world’s best cyclist city
8. Bring a picnic to the surprisingly un-somber cemetery, Assistens Kirkegård
9. Enjoy the quieter alternative to Nyhavn canal on a stroll in Christiania
10. Pop into Cafe Nemoland where you can light a joint without being sneaky
11. Sweat it out at Badehuset, a no-frills public sauna in Christiana
12. Head to Jazzklubben on a Sunday for freestyle jazz and a beer
13. Experience the best alternative hangouts in Vesterbro on a walking tour of the neighborhood (€69)
14. Ride your bike above the harbor on Copenhagen’s iconic “Bicycle Snake” cycle bridge
15. Hop on the blue or yellow Harbor Bus for a cheaper alternative to the usual tourist cruise
16. Catch an indie rock or electronic show at the coolest concert venue, Rust
17. Explore the city’s best murals and paste-ups on a street art tour of Copenhagen
18. Wander the art galleries like V1 Gallery and Galleri Bo Bjerggaard scattered around the Meatpacking District
19. Go for an early 6km run along Copenhagen’s Inner Lakes
20. Experience one of the most essential things to do in Copenhagen when you go flower shopping on the trendy Værnedamsvej
21. Go to Royal Smushi Café for a sushi-style take on the Danish classic smørrebrød
22. Wander the more than 60+ stands selling cheese, meat, spices, and more at Torvehallerne
23. Experience the best cheeses, toffees, mustards, flødebolle and more on a Copenhagen food tour (€114)
24. Head toNørrebro’s no-frills sandwich shop, Depanneur, which doubles as a local hangout
25. Grab a cheap and tasty pork sandwich from The Husker in the Meatpacking District
26. Get your fill of fish with a fish burger from the waterfront Hooked seafood kitchen
27. Enjoy perhaps the only truly cheap food in Copenhagen when you order a hot dog at Johns Hotdog Deli or døp – Den Økologiske Pølsemand
28. Go for the Grød, a restaurant where porridge is actually exciting
29. Sit down for a basket of dumplings at Gao Dumpling Bar in Nørrebro
30. Mix your own brunch from their menu of 21 small plates at Wulff and Konstali
31. Or grab a table at Folkets Hus, a volunteer-run brunch spot that’s only open from 10:00 – 13:00 on Sundays
32. Grab a glass of wine at the trendy Pate Pate
33. Head to Huset-KBH cultural center for one of their monthly Movie Drink-Alongs where they screen a cult classic and serve… you guessed it! Drinks.
34. Get a craft beer at Mikkeller, a craft beer bar serving a mix of in-house brews and imports.
35. Attend a Science & Cocktails public lecture to learn about black holes, consciousness, and the multiverse with a similarly mindblowing cocktail in hand
36. Go for a round at the punk hangout, dive bar, and local institution, Floss
Events + Festivals in Copenhagen
37. Join some 32,000 other people at Roskilde, one of Europe’s biggest music fests
38. Get in the Christmas spirit when you visit one of the many Christmas Markets in Copenhagen
39. Eat with strangers at communal tables at the annual Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival
Copenhagen + Beyond
41. Go on a driving treasure hunt to spot The Six Forgotten Giants – the wooden art installations you’ll find hidden around the suburbs of Copenhagen
42. Venture to the rocky shores of Bornholm on a short day trip from Copenhagen
43. Head to the Rågeleje Beach where you’ll find the retro, striped beach houses
44. See where the royals used to hunt on a day trip to UNESCO-recognized Deer Park
45. Dip into Sweden for the day on a trip to the very pretty Malmö
Keeping Copenhagen Weird
45. Explore the eclectic urban commune, Freetown Christiania, and other alternative spots in Copenhagen (€21)
46. Make an appointment at The Barbie Museum to explore a collection of 4,000+ Mattel’s most iconic toy
47. Browse all the sculpted schnozzes, big and small, at the Nasothek Nose Collection at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Art Museum
48. Get a little nauseous Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second-oldest amusement park (€16.50)
49. Stay in the Central Hotel & Café, the tiny spot that might actually be the world’s smallest hotel
50. Stop by the Geological Museum to peruse their All Things Strange and Beautiful exhibition, made up of pickled specimens, taxidermy, and oddities dating back to the 17th century
51. Sit for a coffee at Kulturtårnet På Knippelsbro – the little-known café in the tower of Knippelsbro Bridge
Unique Places to Stay in Copenhagen
Looking to stay strange during your trip? Check out these quirky hotels in Copenhagen:
Central Hotel & Café | Perched above its namesake café, the Central Hotel & Café is a seriously-tiny-but-luxurious room on the edge of Vesterbro. The hotel claims to be one of the smallest in the world as it’s just the one room, but it’s more than just kitsch. The vintage decor and excellent location make it worth a splurge. Starts from 245€.
The Hotel Alexandra | The Hotel Alexandra is more like a museum of Danish design than a hotel. Almost everything in the hotel was handpicked to fit the 1950’s-1960’s retro-aesthetic, meaning you can expect plush upholstery, wallpaper, minimalist wooden furniture, and modern art in every room. Double rooms start from 170€.
Steel House Copenhagen | Leave it to Denmark to create a hostel that’s truly luxurious. The Copenhagen hostel self describes as “industrial chic with raw elements, soft textures, and rustic interiors” and I’d have to agree. It’s like the hostel for people who think they’re over hostels. Dorms from 29€.
Airbnb | Copenhagen is full of hygge-inspired places to stay. Forget the big hotels, and get a local experience in Copenhagen by searching Airbnb for unusual homes in neighborhoods where you’d like to stay. You can find everything from boathouses to tiny apartments. New to Airbnb? Get $40 off your first stay or explore other properties from €30.
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