Explore Copenhagen, Denmark

Explore Copenhagen, Denmark

Explore Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and what a million Danes call home. This “friendly old girl of a town” is big enough to be a metropolis with shopping, culture and nightlife par excellence, yet still small enough to be intimate, safe and easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund strait with Sweden just minutes away, it is a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. This is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with cold electronica from Copenhagen’s basements. You’ll feel you’ve seen it all in a day, but could keep on discovering more for months.

Districts in Copenhagen   

Copenhagen, as the rest of Denmark, has four distinct seasons. The best time to visit is the warm period from early May to late August.

Get around

By bicycle

The fastest and most flexible way of seeing Copenhagen is on a bike. Forty percent of locals use their bike every day and the city has been designed to cater for cyclists with separate bicycle lanes on most larger roads. Cyclists are often allowed to ride both ways in one-way streets. Be careful if you are not used to biking in a busy city as this is a common means of daily transportation and the locals drive fast and without room for much leeway. Don’t expect to get a warning when someone wants to overtake you. Always keep to the right and look behind you before you overtake someone — otherwise you could cause some nasty accidents. While biking, do not be surprised if they naturally say hi to you; that’s just how nice Danes are.

As the city bikes can be a bit expensive, renting a bike is a good alternative and many hotels or bike shops rent out bikes.

What to buy

The 1.1 kilometre Strøget, along with its pedestrianized side streets, is one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe and Copenhagen’s premier shopping area

Strøget is one of the largest pedestrian malls in the world which links City Hall, Kongens Nytorv, and Nørreport station. Impeccably dressed locals breeze through high-end fashion and design stores when not zig-zagging through the hordes of tourists during the summer and Christmas seasons. Your fellow visitors can make it all feel rather touristy at times but if nothing else, it is great for people watching. If all this strange outdoor shopping takes you too far from your usual habitat, head for Magasin du Nord (on Kongens Nytorv) or Illum (on Amagertorv) for more familiar surroundings. There is even a real American style mall complete with a gargantuan parking lot out on Amager. Appropriately, it is called Fields.

If you would rather sample smaller and more personal stores, the quarter of narrow streets surrounding Strøget in the old city (colloquially known as Pisserenden and the The Latin Quarter), has a fantastic, eclectic mix of shopping. This ranges from quirky century-old businesses to the ultra-hip in a wide range of fields. It is also much less crowded than Strøget, though unfortunately no less expensive.

You can also try Vesterbrogade and Istedgade on Vesterbro, due west of the central station, although you’ll need to go a few blocks before hotels/sex shops/Thai restaurants turn into more interesting territory. Right at the border of this area, Værnedamsvej and Tullinsgade are also good bets.

In Nørrebro, there has been a rapidly growing establishment of small independent craft shops and fashion boutiques the past few years. Especially Jægersborggade at the northern side of the churchyard “Assistens Kirkegården” is worth to pay a visit, if you are looking for the open studio craftsman peek, a shop that swaps dresses or the latest work from danish illustrator rising stars. If you are looking for second-hand artifacts and antiques Ravnsborggade is well known for its huge number of antique stores that are excellent for bargain hunting. Close by Elmegade has a good mix of fashion boutiques.

Laws limit opening hours for most shops, officially to the benefit of the staff. The closing law (“Lukkeloven”) has been liberalised in recent years. Most shops will close around 6PM on weekdays, some around 7-8 PM (mostly those at Strøget), and 2-4 PM on Saturdays. On Sundays, only some supermarkets tend to be open. For out-of-hours shopping also (apart from the ubiquitous 7-11 and small kiosks), shops at Central Station (offering books and CDs, camping gear, photographic equipment, cosmetics, gifts) are open until 8PM daily. Large shopping centres and department stores are open on Sundays about once a month (usually the first Sunday, right after everyone gets paid) and more often during peak sale periods. The immigrant-owned grocery stores on for example Nørrebrogade on Nørrebro also tend to be open until very late in the evening every day.

Flea markets

A flea market is usually called a Loppemarked in Danish.

Halmtorvet in the Vesterbro area, near the central station. Open on Saturdays in the summer season. One of the places with a better-quality selection.

Frederiksberg Loppemarked on the square behind the Frederiksberg Rådhus town hall. Biggest in town, on Saturdays in the summer season, with a wide selection of varying quality.

Thorvaldsens Museum square and Kongens Nytorv square opposite the D´Angleterre Hotel also tend to have flea markets (at least on Saturdays) during the summer season, with better-quality items.

‘Nørrebro Flea Market is Denmark’s longest and narrowest. It stretches for 333 metres on one half of the sidewalk by the wall of the Assistens Cemetery on Nørrebrogade. Open from 4 April until 31 October on Saturdays 9:00 – 15:00. However most of the stands have become low-quality these days, like the flea market further outwards at Nørrebrogade, at the Nørrebro Station (Saturdays). Close to the Assistens Cemetery, Guldbergsgade also has a few flea market stands on Saturdays during the summer season.

The oldest flea market in Copenhagen is on Israels Plads, close to the Nørreport S-Train Station. However it is currently (2014) closed, due to renovation of the square, probably ending in 2015.

What to eat

20 years ago, few people would have considered Copenhagen a culinary destination. This has changed dramatically since then, and today foodies from all over the world travel to Copenhagen to experience the newest trends in modern cuisine. The New Nordic Cuisine movement has been the main driver of this culinary revolution, which emphasizes local, seasonal and minimalistic cooking. This trend has not only spread from gourmet restaurants to mid-class and budget restaurants in Copenhagen, but spread throughout the world as an environmentally conscious and healthy way to eat. The New Nordic beacon per excellence is Restaurant Noma, which originally opened in 2003 and re-opened in a new location in 2018, but several restaurants in Copenhagen has excellent takes on the New Nordic Cuisine. The high standard of Nordic restaurants in the city has also had a significant spill-over effect on other restaurants. Not only will you find high-quality cooking at many budget-friendly restaurants, you will also find some of Europe’s best Mexican, Thai and French restaurants in Copenhagen.

What to drink

Drinking dictionary

Cafés are equally ready to serve coffees or beer and wine but they usually close around midnight and music is subdued to allow for conversations. They also serve food.

Bodegas are your average local watering holes, somewhat equivalent to a pub, with prices often much lower than bars and cafés. The clientèle is often a bit shady and you may have people staring at unfamiliar customers but behave nicely and they usually warm up to you. Try to have someone teach you the local træmand, meyer, or snyd dice games for a fun night.

Pubs are just that, pubs, the familiar English, Irish, and Scottish-themed exports that often do not have much in common with the actual pubs in those countries other than exported beer and interiors.

Bars are what locals tend to call everything with loud music that do not have a cover charge. Packed at weekends but more quiet at other times.

Clubs, or discotheques as they are often still referred to here, are bars that have a cover charge and have a dance floor. Often only open Th-Sa.

Morgenværtshus. If you can get away with pronouncing this when you’ll need it, you will be asking directions to a shady establishment full of people hell bent on not ending the night just yet. They usually open around 5AM and “classics” include the 24 hour Hong Kong in Nyhavn, Café Guldregn on Vesterbro and Andy’s in the city centre.

Clubbing

The club scene is vibrant in Copenhagen, but most clubs are only open Th-Sa. Note that most locals have a party at home with friends or frequent their favorite bars, before they head out for the clubs, so they rarely get going until after midnight and close around 5AM. Most clubs maintain a minimum age of 20 or 21, although they are not required to do this by law.

Visitors who want to indulge Su-W will probably have to hunt around to find a place with some action but there are some options:

Live venues

København Operaen (from boat)

Most of the music venues in Copenhagen also double as nightclubs so watch for them under the club sections in the different districts. Tickets for almost every event in Denmark and Copenhagen are sold through Billetnet which has both online sales and a counter available in all post offices. But apart from headline events, tickets are usually also sold at the entrance.

The major music venues in Copenhagen are Parken stadium on Østerbro for the biggest stars. Copenhagen/Indre_By, Copenhagen Jazzhouse obviously hosts Jazz concerts and The Rock is the spiritual home of the local rock and heavy metal scene. Vega on Vesterbro is a major venue with concerts of almost every genre by national and international acts. Nørrebro has two venues: Rust’s stage mainly hosts mainstream rhythmic music and Global, as its name would imply, provides a stage for world music. Southwards on Christianshavn, it is no surprise that the Operahouse plays Opera and not to be missed, the different venues of Christiania are a powerhouse of Denmark’s alternative and underground culture.

Money

Although Denmark is a member of the European Union, the currency is still the Danish Krone.  In Copenhagen, Nyhavn, Tivoli, and many of the major restaurants and hotels frequented by tourists accept Swedish Kronor and Euros, although it is not yet common practice elsewhere.

Credit cards are widely accepted, although this is usually limited to Visa and/or Mastercard. Many supermarkets and small shops will normally only accept the widespread local Danish debit-card, also known as the Dankort. But acceptance of the two major international credit cards is increasing rapidly. Other credit cards like American Express, Diners, JCB, and Unionpay are accepted in some but not all shops in Copenhagen, especially in Strøget, the main shopping district. When accepted, a transaction fee (mandated by credit card companies, not shops) of 0.75 to 4.00 % of the amount will usually be charged on credit cards issued by foreign banks.

Almost all ATMs accept major international cards, including all the ones mentioned previously. Therefore it is worth noting that although some shops may not accept all credit cards, an ATM capable of doing so will in most cases be less than 200 metres away, particularly in central Copenhagen.

Nearby places to visit

Explore Copenhagen and its near by cities

Malmö, Sweden, Sweden’s third largest city, with a lovely historic city centre and cozy squares is just a short, convenient train ride away.

Elsinore (Helsingør) The old city centre with well-preserved houses is one of the biggest in Denmark, and famous Kronborg castle, home of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Hillerød — a small town dominated by its huge palace, but also offers baroque gardens and a laid back city centre.

Roskilde — Denmark’s ancient capital and a World Heritage site, with a famous cathedral full of the tombs of ancient kings, and the fantastic Viking museum. Home to one of the Big Four European music festivals, Roskilde Festival, which attracts up to 110,000 visitors each year in July.

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is the outstanding museum of modern art in Denmark. It’s located in the small town of Humlebaek which is 35km north of Copenhagen. Anyone wishing to explore Copenhagen will find something to do to make the trip worth it.

Official tourism websites of Copenhagen

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