Exploring the Danish Capital, Copenhagen – Things to Do & Travel Guide
Originally published on Friday, June 22, 2018
Popular for its laid-back lifestyle, Copenhagen is a popular destination for youth. Though the city itself is relatively new at 1000 years old (yes, new) it became the Danish capital in the 14th century and is now home to hygge.
The History of CopenhagenCopenhagen was a small fishing village until around the 11th and 13th centuries, when it became a walled town with significant economic growth. It became the capital of Denmark in 1343 – or 1416 – or 1443 – depending on the source. But it was here that the capital was established with a new castle and university. The 16th century was when Copenhagen really started to flourish because of its great location for trade in Scandinavia.
A lot of the city was destroyed in fires during the 18th century but despite this, Copenhagen continued to thrive. Even though it’s on the newer side of European cities, Copenhagen has a lot of old charm and feels like a Renaissance or Baroque city. It’s also very modern and one of Europe’s liveliest cities.
Things to Do in Copenhagen
Be sure to get a Copenhagen Card before heading to the museums as you can save a tonne of money by doing so!
Like any other city, Copenhagen is home to several fine museums including a natural history museum and a gorgeous botanical garden. However my favourite was the National Museum of Denmark because it has a fantastic collection that shows visitors what Denmark is all about, and quite honestly, I didn’t know much about the country before visiting. I highly recommend it. You can also visit some offbeat museums such as the Workers Museum or the Danish Jewish Museum.
To be honest, Copenhagen isn’t huge on popular or “fine” art works but does have a Glyptoteket, the Hirschsprung Collection and also a Design Museum. These are all museums dedicated to more modern art. Local art can also be seen all around the city. There was even an installation done by Yoko Ono when I visited.
As the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is also home to several royal residences. Christiansborg Palace is an absolute must-see, with gorgeous interiors and fantastic views of the city. Their library is still one of my absolute favorites. A huge bonus to seeing the Palace is that the tower has an elevator to the top, so you don’t need to exhaust yourself climbing hundreds of stairs! It also has an arsenal museum on site if you’re into military history.
My favourite place in Copenhagen is Rosenborg Slot, a beautiful Renaissance castle from the 17th century. There are so many beautiful rooms with original and period furnishings, and looks like a true fairytale castle. I’d consider it a muse-see. Note that your tickets are timed to enter the castle, and you can go beneath afterwards or beforehand to see a royal collection of jewels.
Amalienborg Palace is the current residence of the Danish royal family. You can visit some rooms inside which are nice but they pale in comparison to the Palace and the Castle.
If you have only a day in Copenhagen I’d recommend putting Rosenborg Castle, Christiansborg Palace and the National Museum of Denmark on your list before anything else.
Even though Frederiksberg is technically its own city, it’s located geographically “in” Copenhagen and has its own palace which is worth a visit.
I strongly recommend taking a boat tour to see the city as many locals have a boat, live on a boat, or work on a boat. It’s a huge port city so to see it from the water is to see it as many others do.
The most famous part of Copenhagen is Nyhavn, the area with the coloured houses along boat-filled canals. It dates all the way back to the 17th century. It’s quite a small area but is still picturesque, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Copenhagen without seeing Nyhavn.
Another iconic place to visit is Christiania/Freetown Christiania because it’s a huge part of Danish modern culture. It’s like a hippie/alternative lifestyle area. Note that photography is forbidden in certain areas but even if you don’t smoke the leaf, there’s a tonne of different art you can enjoy, especially street art.
Stop in the famous food court Copenhagen Street Food for some food from around the world, or just walk around the area to find some good eats. Copenhagen has a tonne of food dives to check out, including several vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Be sure to try out their local specialty smørrebrød (don’t ask me to pronounce that) whether it’s with meat or not.
Another highlight of Copenhagen is its theatre. If taking a picture of the “black diamond” isn’t enough, go inside the Skuespilhuset (theatre) to see a show. If being outdoors is more your thing, head over to the Kastellet former military fortress, which is a actually a relaxing place to ride a bike, take a walk, have a picnic or even see a show. This fortress is another peak into Copenhagen during the 17th century. It is also in this area that you can see The Little Mermaid statue. Unfortunately she looks very sad.
For another good view, you can go to the top of Rundetaarn (round tower) or the Church of our Saviour – the Rundetaarn is a popular destination and there’s no real heavy climbing but the Church requires a bit of knee grease to reach the top. Since Christiansborg Palace has an elevator I’d definitely recommend that over these options.
Alright, now it’s time to examine the word that describes the Danish way of life – hygge. According to Hygge House, it’s “a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special.” So was Copenhagen cosy, charming and special?
Copenhagen is definitely a very laid-back city that is huge on nightlife. But for me, Copenhagen wasn’t particularly my favourite place. I’m not a nightlife person. People love Christiania and getting high, and that’s not my thing either. A lot of the city is more modern and I’m not a very modern person. This blog is about how I’m an old soul wandering the globe. I felt a little out of place in Copenhagen.
So would I say that Copenhagen gave me hygge? Not really. It just didn’t really make me feel cosy. However the people there are very friendly and nice, and this is my opinion alone. Copenhagen has a lot to offer and charms a lot of people, and I’d gladly go back if the opportunity even showed itself.
Have you ever been to Copenhagen? Did you experience hygge?
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Tags: copenhagen, denmark, europe