The First Timer’s Guide to Copenhagen
Maggie Danielli Pecorino
Arts & Culture
Food & Wine
Let’s cut to the chase: Copenhagen is indeed as cool as its reputation. Simultaneously laidback and stylish. Relaxed and refined. Totally modern with a love for tradition. I think it is exactly this layered dynamic that I, and many other visitors, find so compelling. The things that make this city unique are not to be missed, but as with any international hub, the possibilities for discovery are endless. Let this guide serve as a Copenhagen 101 with tips on how to live like a local.
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Where to stay in Copenhagen, Denmark
Central boutique set apart by its flawless design, top notch food and drink, and national treasure owner, ballet dancer Alexander Kolpin.
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Andersen Boutique Hotel
Hip, colorful boutique hotel in the lively Vesterbro neighborhood, with a generous breakfast and daily happy hour.
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Newest grande dame, next to Tivoli Gardens, with trailblazing eco credentials and a rare gem rooftop pool and bar.
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Things to do in Copenhagen, Denmark
What To Do:
Copenhagen Free Walking Tour: The grand tour begins every day at 10:30. My guide was lovely and full of funny, educational anecdotes. Always my favorite way to spend the first few hours in a new city.
Contemplate life in Assistens Cemetery: Home to the gravesites of fairytale master Hans Christian Andersen and existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Wander around this green space and let your mind wander. Very peaceful.
Connect to your inner child at Tivoli: The world's third-oldest operating amusement park is famous for a reason—it is beautiful! Music and dance performances on summer nights. Opulent Halloween and Christmas decorations. True fun for all ages.
Explore Christiana: A 70s anarchist commune known for its long-standing open hash trade. A fascinating juxtaposition to the more polished city center. (Check out Stromma's electric boat tour for a more intimate look at the Christianshavn neighborhood—new in 2023!)
Bike: The Danes love their bicycles (almost) as much as the Dutch. Don't get in their way, but do use your set of wheels to explore a bit outside the city. Sprawling Frederiksberg Park is a nice place to start.
Picnic in Ørstedsparken: Grab some bites at nearby TorvehallerneKBH, the city's famous international food hall, and enjoy this beautiful hilly, shady park. Perfect for those long Copenhagen summer afternoons.
Get your hygge on at an art cafe: Escape the grayness of Copenhagen winter at places like
Sweden: Take an easy 45-minute train across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö, a laidback and diverse metropolis. This trip is worth it for the Swedish meatballs at Spoonery alone. You can also check out the nearby university town of Lund for some quaint vibes.
Helsingør (Elsinore): A quick train north brings you to this charming old port town. Visit UNESCO-protected Kronborg Castle: home to Hamlet and the setting of Shakespeare's most famous play. Free tours are offered throughout the day. (Note: you can also get to Sweden from here via Forsea ferry.)
Places to eat & drink in Copenhagen, Denmark
Where & What To Eat:
Pastries: Remember how the name for a flaky pastry is sometimes called... a Danish? So it is for a good reason. Don't miss a cinnamon or cardamom roll, but also try something you've never seen before. (Recommendations: La Glacé, Juno the Bakery, Lille Bakery.)
Hot dogs: Why am I suggesting this in a culinary capital of the world? Because street food is the lifeblood of a city! There's a famous stand on Strøget walking street serving organic and veggie options.
Smørrebrød: The quintessential and endlessly customizable Scandinavian open-face sandwich. Arguably perfected by the Danes and their use of robust rye bread. Recommendation: Schønneman's is a longstanding lunch-only spot popular with locals and tourists alike. A wholly great experience. (Reservations required.)
Herring: Some people love it (my mother), some people not so much (me). Either way, it is a national staple, and you must try it once.
Reffen: Food truck heaven on the harbor! Everything from fried chicken to tacos to gyros to ice cream. Lovely waterfront view with loads of seating to chill out and chow down. Concerts and free events during the summer.
Naan Point: Off the beaten path Indian/Pakistani breakfast spot. Suggested to me by my taxi driver. Weekends only.
Alchemist: If you're planning far in advance, look into snagging a reservation at this immersive restaurant for a fine dining experience like no other.
Where & What To Drink:
Carlsberg: Copenhagen is home to the legendary brewing family, the Carlsbergs. A new brewery museum/tour is set to open Fall 2023. (Recommendation: for a cheap bottle, enjoy the dive vibes at Bo-Bi Bar, allegedly the oldest in town. Skip if you can't stand cigarette smoke.)
Craft beer: Brewing culture in this city is something to behold. Check out:
Taphouse: Huge international tap list, happy hour until 6.
Mikkeller Baghaven: Heaven for sour beer enthusiasts (located beside Reffen for a convenient midday fuel-up).
Brus: Airy taproom hosting a variety of Danish brews (tap & to-go).
Snaps: Ubiquitous in Scandinavia thanks to its body (and soul) warming properties, the distilled spirit is beloved during long winters. Try aquavit with your herring. Let your server decide the pairing,
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Lissa Caltrider's guide, The Foodie's Guide to Copenhagen, Denmark.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Copenhagen.