The Danish capital has it all: great food, culture and bucket loads of Scandi style. No wonder then that Copenhagen is one of the happiest cities in the world. What are you waiting for? Fall in love with Europe’s capital of cool with our guide to the perfect day.
Start your exploration at the vibrant harbour of Nyhavn – one of the city’s most photographed sights, and it’s not hard to see why. When the sun illuminates the canal, framed by the historic buildings – now converted into buzzing bars and restaurants – it’s arguably one of Europe’s best harbour views.
Next up, walk the short distance to Copenhagen’s main shopping streets around Kongens Nytorv; or do as the Danish do and hop on a bike (absolutely everyone cycles here). Set yourself up for the rest of the day with a good brunch at the art deco Café Norden– near the main shopping street Strøget – where you can order the full brunch of freshly-baked breads, butter, jam, cheese, smoked salmon, ham salad, fruits and cake of the day and served with tea or coffee (or add a glass of bubbly). You won’t go hungry!
Once fuelled, browse the area’s designer and high street shops, including Scandi labels Cheap Monday, & Other Stories and Monki, before making your way to the 17th century Round Tower – the oldest functioning conservatory in Europe. The views at the top are worth a trip alone, reached by an unusual spiralling walkway that winds itself over seven times round the hollow core of the tower; completely unique in European architecture.
A 10-15 minute walk away you’ll find yourself at one of Copenhagen’s main green spaces, a beautiful leafy park surrounding the ornate Rosenborg Castle – built by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV, in the early 17th century. Among the main attractions is the Knights’ Hall with the coronation thrones and three life-size silver lions standing guard – just one of the impressively lavish treasures in the palace.
An Afternoon In The City
One of the prettiest parts of Copenhagen is also a short stroll away – Amalienborg Palace and the Marble Church. If you’re lucky you’ll tie in your visit with the famous Changing of the Royal Guard, which happens every day when they march from their barracks in Gothersgade 100 by Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen, ending up at Amalienborg.
If you need an afternoon caffeine kick, stop for a hot cup of coffee and a slice of cake at one of Copenhagen’s most famous cafés, Conditori La Glace. Founded in 1870, it’s one of the oldest in all of Denmark and is little changed. Don’t expect a flat white here, they have kept very close to their traditions and only serve teas and pots of coffee – just like they used to. Opt for a traditional layer cake; they are to die for.
Hop across the river to explore the Dutch-style Christianshavn, one of the city’s most charming neighbourhoods with canals, houseboats and cobbled streets galore. Near here is also where you’ll find the eye-catching twisted steeple of The Church of Our Saviour (there are 400 steps to the top if you’ve got the energy!), as well as Freetown Christiania – a hippie commune that runs by its own laws. Packed with colourful street art, it’s worth a walk around for curiosity’s sake, but you will be stopped from taking photos once you enter the heart of the commune (you can probably guess as to why).
Before the sun sets, tick off one of Denmark’s most photographed sights – the famous Little Mermaid statue, built by Edvard Eriksen in 1913. The statue, however small in real life, is arguably Copenhagen’s icon, and reportedly receives more than a million visitors a year. It’s five minutes on a bike from Nyhavn, or can be reached via the 26 bus.
You are spoilt for choice for evening restaurants in Copenhagen and despite its reputation for being seriously expensive, you can eat out at gourmet restaurants for reasonable amounts by opting for the set menu; something you’ll see a lot of. Depending on where you’re staying, head over to trendy Vesterbro for pizza at Mother, Nørrebro to dine on organic Italian produce at Baest – whose head chef came from Noma – or stay central and choose Kjobenhavn for Instagrammable plates of local produce and a cosy, supper club vibe.
For a cool cocktail or two, Ruby should be top of your list. A speakeasy-style cocktail bar that’s tucked away near the Houses of Parliament, you could easily spend hours here trying the entire drinks menu and soaking up the atmosphere. Choose from the cocktail menu or ask the barman to suggest something you might like – we ended up with incredible sloeberry gin margaritas.