Denmark often tops the polls of the world’s happiest countries and its capital tends to put a smile on the faces of all who visit. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in character, its compact centre a maze of cobbled streets easily navigated by foot or on the Danes’ favourite mode of transport, the bicycle.
Originally a Viking fishing village, Copenhagen has evolved into one of Europe’s most sophisticated cities. Spread across the two islands of Zealand and Amager and separated from Sweden by the Øresund Bridge, it is a city of contrasts, seamlessly blending classic architecture with cutting edge modern design. Home to the world’s oldest monarchy, the Danish capital has its fair share of palaces and castles with towering spires that punctuate the skyline. Sharing the limelight are modern masterpieces including the silver space age aquarium and the geometric opera house.
In the heart of the city is Tivoli, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks filled with a charming collection of wooden roller coasters, dragon boats and merry go rounds. Though on Danish soil, the self-governing province of Christiania declared itself a free state in 1971, its inhabitants living an alternative lifestyle and considering themselves very separate from the rest of Denmark.
Exploring Copenhagen’s waterways is one of the best ways to see the city. The quaint harbour of Nyhavn is one of the capital’s most picture perfect sights, flanked by colourful 18th century houses that look out over the boats bobbing on the water. Following the water will bring you to the statue of the Little Mermaid in homage to Hans Christian Anderson, one of the city’s most famous residents.
The capital packs a lot into a small space and there’s a lot to see, so it’s refreshing to know that the Danes take their food and drink very seriously. Coffee and pastries are eaten religiously every day and the streets are packed with cafes and restaurants. Scattered in between are trendy design stores that reflect the Danes’ enviable style and love for all things simple but sleek.
Copenhagen really deserves all the compliments it gets. An extremely livable city, it is the perfect entry point to Denmark or wider Scandinavia. There are some top-notch cultural venues in Copenhagen but it’s also the place to come and savour the best of New Nordic Cuisine.
What to do
- Hop on a bicycle and explore the city like a local
- Visit the Little Mermaid, a homage to Hans Christian Anderson
- Get the perfect photo of the colourful houses that line Nyhavn harbour
- Take a boat trip and see the city from the water
- Visit the free state of Christiania
- Channel your inner child at the magical Tivoli theme park
- Visit the beautiful Amalienborg royal palace
When to go
Most people visit Copenhagen in July and August, so if you're keen to avoid some of the crowds, aim for May, June or September to make the most of the warmer weather. Considering its other Scandinavian neighbours, Denmark's weather is often less extreme, so Copenhagen is generally a pleasant place to visit year round.