There’s something about Denmark’s capital. Whether it’s the supremely well-adjusted people – Danes are consistently regarded as the world’s happiest nation in world surveys – or the emphasis on minimal design, few places are as relaxing and approachable as Copenhagen. This is city life at its most relaxed, with a carefully preserved medieval core, a quaint harbour and very few high-rise buildings.
As with many Scandinavian cities, in particular Stockholm, light and water play a large part in determining the city’s moods. On winter days grey clouds can sweep across the sky, and dark evenings are perfect for sitting inside with spiced winter beer called Yulebryg from one of Copenhagen’s many microbreweries, or exploring the Christmas market in Tivoli Gardens.
Two museums near Tivoli are worth a visit: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and the Nationalmuseet. Ny Carlsberg Glypototek displays are the rather eclectic personal collection of Carl Jacobsen ranging from Egyptian relics to French impressions. The winter garden, filled with sculptures and exotic plants is a fabulous setting for tea or coffee. The nearby Nationalmuseet illustrates periods from Denmark’s history, from the Vikings to the 20th century.
In spring and summer, as daylight returns, it's time to get out and explore this charming capital. The medieval heart of the city can be covered on foot or bicycle – this will also allow you to wander down intriguing cobbled alleys and stop off at cafes. You will see families and groups of friends cycling together. You may wish to hire your own bicycle and do as the locals do - not only is it a fun way to explore but has a positive impact on health, energy and mood, least not forgetting the environment.
Much of Copenhagen is criss-crossed by canals and water buses are a quick way of getting around. The Nyhavn canal, where Hans Christian Andersen lived, boasts a large number of restuarants in attractive, colourful period properties alongside the waterfront where you can enjoy the Danish specialities of pickled and smoked fish.
Copenhagen’s dining scene has hit a high in recent years with some well-received restaurants opening – several going on to win Michelin stars - but be aware prices will compare with London and Paris so it's worth doing your research if you're on a budget. For delicious, affordable food we recommend visiting the recently revived meat-packing district. An area that is popular with creatives and offers a selection of great bars and restuarants. Also, don't miss Torvehallerne food market where you will find over 60 stands selling everything from fresh fish and meat to gourmet chocolate and exotic spices, as well as small places where you can have a quick bite to eat.
Simple, functional and stylish: Danish design is world famous and the city’s most famous son is perhaps the designer Arne Jacobsen. He created the world’s first designer hotel, the Radisson SAS Royal Hotel, and numerous design classics including the ‘Egg’ chair. Anyone with an interest in modern design must visit the Design Museum, and will want to check out Copenhagen’s best showrooms such as the Louis Poulsen showroom at 11 Nyhavn, specialising in lamps. The Royal Copenhagen department store at Amagerorv 6 showcases work by young designers. Finally, the district of Christianshavn, is also a good spot for galleries and design studios. Furthermore, Christianshavn is also home to the Church of Our Saviour and Christiania.
A Day at the Beach
Few people would consider Demark for a beach holiday. The Mediterranean? Yes. The Baltics? Nope. But summers in Scandinavia can be hot and especially sunny and the Baltic coastline of Denmark has some beautifully clean, sandy beaches.
Many of the best beaches such as Bornholm and Fyn, lie on islands but are easily accessible from Copenhagen. To reach Bornholm take the short train ride to Ystad in Sweden and a ferry from Ystad to the Danish island of Bornholm. The secluded beaches of Fyn, on the Jutland peninsula, are reached via Odense, which was the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen. There is a train service between Odense and Copenhagen which runs several times a day. If you're pushed for time, then a day trip to Ystad offers its own charm for holiday goers, complete with a beautiful coastline, picturesque summer houses and the historical site of Ales Stenar, commonly referred to as Sweden's Stonehenge.
A Day in Malmö
It might not rank alongside the Golden Gate bridge in terms of beauty, but the Oresund Bridge, which opened in 2000, is certainly an inspirational feat of engineering which allows motorists to drive from Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden. The 16-km bridge, one of the world’s longest takes 10 minutes to drive and at the end are fabulous beaches and the energetic city centre of Malmö that is most certainly worth a visit from Copenhagen.
See our 9-night sightseeing and cuisine tour, A Taste of Skane, Sweden's Sunshine County.