Copenhagen city guide
By Rebecca Bradbury | 8 Nov 2019
A cutting-edge food scene, world-class museums and an alluring blend of old and new make Copenhagen a fantastic destination for a cruise-and-stay, says Rebecca Bradbury.
With its innovative design, lush green spaces, pretty fairy tale palaces and a harbour clean enough for a bracing dip, it’s no wonder Copenhagen regularly tops polls of the world’s most liveable cities, and it’s certainly come a long way since its origins as a small Viking fishing village.
The man who, more than anyone, can lay claim to be the city’s founding father is Archbishop Absalon, after he built a fortress on the harbour’s Slotsholmen Island to protect the village in 1167.
Copenhagen’s role as the capital of Denmark began in 1416 when King Erik of Pomerania took up residence here. Still it wasn’t until the reign of Christian IV, in the first half of the 17th century, that the city was endowed with much of its splendour.
After some dark times, ranging from the bubonic plague and tragic fires in the 18th century to the Nazi occupation, the city has always bounced back, and in recent decades major infrastructure projects and savvy city planning have helped transform Copenhagen into an international trendsetter.
Copenhagen is relatively compact and most of its key attractions are within walking distance of each other. Highlights include City Hall Square where the famous shopping street, Strøget, begins; Amalienborg Palace and Nyhavn – the city’s iconic heritage harbour with colourful old merchant houses, inviting cafés and an infectiously relaxed atmosphere.
Not far away is Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park founded in 1843 where visitors are still won over by fairground rides, twinkling pavilions and open-air shows.
Nyhavn, meanwhile, links to Inderhavn (Inner Harbour), where the city’s most famous occupant, The Little Mermaid, resides at Langelinie Pier. Nearby this bronze and granite statue is Inner Harbour Bridge, nicknamed the Kissing Bridge, and the Gefion Fountain, which features large-scale animal figures being driven by Norse goddess Gefjun.
This area of the harbour is where most canal tours depart from. Opt for a Hey Captain tour (heycaptain.dk) for smaller groups, comfortable surroundings and insights from a local guide; it’s a brilliant way to take in the likes of the Opera House, new public square Ofelia Plads and neighbourhoods such as Christianshavn and Frederiksholm.
The revitalised north part of the harbour (Nordhavn) is home to an early morning fish market as well as Svanemøllen Marina while Sydhaven – or South Harbour – is where visitors can join the locals for a swim in the Islands Brygge harbour bath.
Founded in 1971 when squatters broke into the military barracks in Bådmandsgade, Freetown Christiania offers a different side to Copenhagen. There’s a distinct 1970s feel with eco-restaurants, galleries, music venues and workshops.
The city is well connected via public transport and a Copenhagen Card gets you unlimited travel on trains, buses and the metro. It also provides free entry to 87 top attractions (copenhagencard.com).
From Michelin-starred restaurants and innovative Scandinavian eateries to terrific street food, the city’s culinary scene is at the top of its game.
An inviting al fresco option along Inderhavn is Il Gabbiano Langelinie (ilgabbiano.dk). The Italian restaurant has been in the family for generations and wows with homemade pizza dough and lasagne.
Combining Danish ingredients with inspiration taken from kitchens across the world, Restaurant Cofoco (cofoco.dk) is an upmarket offering where small dishes enable diners to share and sample more of the menu. The décor is Scandi chic at its best, and there’s a great vegetarian selection and wine list.
Where to stay
Located in Copenhagen’s vibrant Vesterbro district, the boutique-style Andersen Hotel fuses vibrant colours with Danish minimalism; all the 69 rooms and suites are uniquely decorated with wallpaper and curtains from the Designers Guild.
A breakfast of organic dairy products and juices, and mouth-watering breads and Danish pastries is available, and there’s a free wine hour every day from 5pm to 6pm in the lobby lounge, perfect for experiencing Danish hygge. Other facilities include the Honesty Bar and hire bikes. Rooms cost from £220 a night (andersen-hotel.dk).
To find out more about planning a trip to Copenhagen go to visitcopenhagen.com.
For more travel inspiration, take a look at all our city guides.