Ultimate Travel Guide: Copenhagen
Meet the capital of cool.
It’s highly likely if you’re up on travel news and the travel ‘hotspots’ of the last few years – you’ve heard of Copenhagen (København). The Scandi capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is a thriving hub of culture, art, food and style. When most travellers think of Copenhagen the first image that pops to mind is that of Nyhavn (recognise the above photo?), a port lined by colourful buildings and constantly bustling with cyclists and pedestrians. But what a lot of people fail to discover about Copenhagen is that Nyhavn is just the tip of the iceberg, and so much more lies below.
Think market meets food hall, meets cocktail bar plus a Finders Keepers style market of fashion, art and design. Think that and you get Reffen, formally known as PapirØen. Reffen is a space for creativity, entrepreneurs, foodies, tourists and locals alike. Celebrating cuisine from all around the globe, Reffen currently offers 40 food stalls serving up feasts from countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, Asia, Iceland, Italy, Morocco, Argentina, Japan and of course, Denmark – just to name a few. There are also mouth-watering options for vegans, coeliacs and for those who eat gluten or dairy free. During October to March (colder months in Denmark) Reffen is open from midday till the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some stalls also offer mean cocktails well worth the queues!
If you’re a food-lover with a passion for books and groovy cafes, a trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without stopping in at Cafe Paluden. A block behind Copenhagen University – ideally located for students – Cafe Paludan is a bookstore and cafe, with walls lined by a range of English and Danish novels, and a menu that leaves a foodie’s heart aflutter. The atmosphere of Paludan is also worth noting, it’s warm and cosy and you can’t help but feel like you’re coming home. This atmosphere is something the Danish called ‘hygge‘. We recommend bringing along a good book or two (or borrowing one from the walls), likeminded company and an appetite.
Described as a ‘gastronomic mecca’, noma is not only Copenhagen’s best restaurant, but the worlds. Noma is a restaurant that takes pride in defying all the normal conventions of fine and high class dining. There is no intimidation, no snooty staff and no prejudice. Instead the staff are warm and friendly, and the only thing you’ll encounter on mass is brilliant food. The restaurant menu is built solely on ingredients from the Scandinavian region, which means omitting the use of things such as olive oil. If you’re intending to visit noma (which you definitely should), be prepared: getting a reservation at noma is like getting tickets to Wimbledon – pretty damn hard. Three times over the course of the year, noma releases reservation times; once you manage to secure a table you’ll need to pay for your food upfront. All you pay for on the day are your drinks!
A food must…
It’s common knowledge that no trip to Copenhagen, no trip to Denmark in fact, is complete without a hotdog, or a trip to the pølsevogn (hotdog stand). Once you’ve invested in a Danish hotdog, you’ll find yourself craving these little buns of joy more often than not. Be sure to include all the toppings and don’t be deterred by the fact it’s ‘street food’ – the ingredients are impeccable. We’re yet to come across a hotdog we don’t like, so you’re safe with pretty much every hotdog stand in Copenhagen.
Mikkeller is one of Denmark’s most prominent and well known drops. From its humble beginnings of two home brewers brewing in their kitchen to the now internationally recognised brand, Mikkeller is a microbrewery specialising in craft beers. Since the summer of 2007, world famous brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø has run Mikkeller on his own. Mikkel brews out of different breweries in Denmark, around Europe and in the US and currently has bars throughout Denmark, the US (including San Francisco & New York), Iceland, Faroe Islands, Taiwan and Thailand, Spain, Poland, London and Japan – just to name a few. The Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen lies in the heart of ever pumping Vesterbro, and offers 20 taps from Mikkellers’ own brew and other international breweries, plus a food menu to make any foodie’s heart sing. Be sure to check out their events calendar if you’re planning a visit, there’s always something on.
A take on a modern (somewhat London-esque) pub with a cocktail twist, The Barking Dog may be referred to as a ‘cocktail pub’. Located a block back from Søerne, one of three rectangular lakes making up what is widely known as The Lakes, The Barking Dog is a cosy, ‘hygge’ filled pub/bar that prides itself on its warm and welcoming atmosphere. The music is always low so you can actually hear your conversations, the lighting is dim and the sometimes innovative but always fantastic drinks are reasonably priced. Some drinks are pre-mixed in barrels, cutting down dramatically on the wait time – meaning more cocktails for you! Be sure to try their specialty cocktail ‘The Diablo’, no one’s certain what’s in it, but boy is it good.
You really hit the jackpot with a visit to Neighbourhood Organic Pizza & Cocktails. Apart from offering fantastic food and cocktails, Neighbourhood also appears twice in the bustle of Copenhagen. 100m down the road from Mikkeller Bar in Vesterbro, you’ll find an old butchery turned loungebar and restaurant, offering cosy corners, and outdoor seating (ideal for people watching). The second Neighbourhood bar is in Frederiksborggade, a short walk from Nørreport Station and the Botanical Gardens. Both Neighbourhood restaurants offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus organic home-infused cocktails, beers from award-winning Danish microbrewery Nørrebro Bryghus and an all-organic Italian wine list.
Dyrehaven (Jægersborg Dyrehave)
Translating to ‘The Deer Park’ (and rightfully so), Dyrehaven in North Sealand is a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its rich history and royal connections. The park was originally used for hunting by the Danish royal family and is still home to over 2000 free range deer. The wild deer are habituated to people and for those game enough, it is possible to approach and see the deer from a very short distance. Dyrehaven is also home to The Hermitage, the once Danish King’s hunting lodge (now Queen Margrethe II’s), situated in the heart of the park overlooking the Øresund (strait which forms the Swedish-Danish border) and at night, looks on the lights of south-west Sweden. The park itself is a day trip, a beautiful escape into nature from the bustle of Copenhagen city, a trip we recommend every Copenhagen visitor takes.
No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to Tivoli Gardens. Amusement park, meets pleasure garden, clashes with food hub and market haven, Tivoli is a stunning structure in its own right that comes with a serious side of adrenaline. Tivoli was opened in August of 1843 and is currently the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world – second to Dyrehavsbakken (commonly known as Bakken), also in Copenhagen and nearby Dyrehaven. Adrenaline wise, The Daemonen roller coaster is the bees-knees and a must – definitely not after food though. If you can handle heights and love a good view, try The Golden Tower, standing at 63m tall with phenomenal 360-views of the city. If you can visit around Christmas time, do. The already beautiful park transforms into a cold, snow-covered winter wonderland.
Self-Guided Cycle Tour
Anyone interested in visiting or anyone who has been knows that transport in Copenhagen revolves around one main method: cycling. Getting around in the hustle and bustle of Copenhagen can be underestimated at times so it’s important to use hand signals, stay on the bike paths and always keep to right! When it comes to cycling to discover the sights of Copenhagen, we recommend going it alone. It’s always a good idea to head out with a bucketlist and of course, a map – but take it from us, it’s pretty difficult to get lost in Copenhagen, and if you do manage to get lost, simply flag down one of the many friendly locals.
Our top sights and routes include: The Little Mermaid in Langelinie, Amalienborg and Frederik’s Church (the Queens ‘quarter’ and the stunning Marble Church); cycling around Kongens Nytorv (The Kings New Square), through Nyhavn and across the newly built Inderhavnsbroen (when has it ever been so cool to ride across a bridge?) and through to the ever cool and arty autonomous district of Christiania. From Christiania, we’d ride back towards Nyhavn but veer off course towards Reffen, riding along with views of the Royal Danish Playhouse and Skuespilhuset (the Opera House) – both structure architectural feats.
H&B then recommends making you way back through Nyhavn to the University of Copenhagen Botanical Garden (more commonly referred to as the Copenhagen Botanical Garden). Wind your way through the stunning surrounds and be sure to take a walk through the Greenhouse – a breathtaking structure on its own and a brilliant experience from within. Continue on from the gardens to Rosenborg Slot (castle) and Kongens Have(Rosenborg Castle Gardens) – the ideal spot to stop and have a read or a nap in the warmer Copenhagen months.
You’d have undoubtedly built up an appetite by now, so consider a ride back toward Nørreport and pop into TorvehallerneKBH, the best food market in Copenhagen. Our sweet tooth recommends Laura’s Bakery for the best scrolls and Cinnabun in the world – yes, we’re calling it.
Offering 38 uniquely designed and decorated rooms and suites, Nimb is an exclusive boutique hotel unlike any other. It’s homely and intimate, somewhere you can settle for two days, a week, two weeks and comfortably call home. Located in the heart of Tivoli Gardens, Nimb offers a front and centre view to the events and happenings of the park – including the ever changing gardens, which are transformed three times a year to reflect the coming season. Guests of Nimb can enjoy live concerts from Tivoli’s open air stage every Friday during the summer months. With a wellness centre and relaxation area, fully equipped state-of-the-art gym and stunning rooftop terrace pool – Nimb is the pick of the lot.
If convenience and luxury are the keys to booking your accommodation, you can’t go past 71 Nyhavn. Located on the water front of Nyhavn in the old parts of Copenhagen harbour, the original warehouse buildings date back over 200 years. The warehouses have undergone subtle yet classically Scandinavian transformation and renovations – offering welcoming interiors which respect and honour the buildings history, while never losing that Scandinavian style. The hotel is comprised of 130 rooms, offering breathtaking views over the canal. And if you needed further convincing, the hotel also welcomes dogs (just not in their restaurant).
In the heart of Copenhagen, a short walk from the Botanical Garden and Rosenborg Slot, you’ll find Skt. Petri, a chic and modern hotel, offering a lively cocktail lounge, cafe and bar and brilliant Scandi restaurant – Restaurant Skt. Petri. Think laid-back luxury and a home, cosy vibe that would definitely fall under the ‘hygge’ umbrella. The rooms are sleek but welcoming, and designed to meet each and every one of the guests needs. The outdoor bar is a fantastic nook, clashing with the rooftops of the surrounding colourful buildings and offering pizza we highly recommend. If you can snag yourself a room with a view (even if not), order breakfast in bed and snuggle up – we’re not joking when we say cosy, we may have found home away from home.