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Copenhagen Holidays

A historic Danish waterfront city

Copenhagen has come a long way from its 10th-century origins as a Viking fishing village, but its maritime heritage remains deeply woven into its identity today. From the colourful 17th-century townhouses lining the photogenic Nyhavn waterfront to the string of rectangular lakes to the west of the city centre and the canals that carve through Christianshavn, water is never far away when exploring the Danish capital.

The star-shaped Kastellet fortress – one of the best preserved citadels in Northern Europe – is surrounded on all sides by a moat, while the Little Mermaid statue occupies a rock at the entrance to the city harbour at Langelinie Pier. In fact, the whole of Copenhagen is split between two main islands, Zealand and Amager, just across the Øresund strait from Sweden. Since the year 2000, it has been connected by bridge to Malmö, so you can easily take a day trip to Copenhagen’s closest Nordic neighbour – it takes just over half an hour on the train.

Contrasting neighbourhoods aplenty

While it’s not a particularly big city, there’s an extraordinary amount of variety between Copenhagen’s various neighbourhoods. For first-time visitors, Indre By (the inner city) is a logical starting point, home to renowned attractions including Nyhavn canal, Tivoli Gardens amusement park, Strøget (the main shopping street), and Christiansborg Palace, the headquarters of the Danish Parliament. Just to the south is Vesterbro, once seen as one of the rougher parts of the city but now a bustling hub of cafes, restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops.

On the other side of the harbour, meanwhile, lies trendy Christianshavn – a collection of artificial islands criss-crossed by canals, somewhat akin to Amsterdam but with a distinctly Scandi vibe. West of the centre is Nørrebro, arguably Copenhagen’s coolest and most diverse neighbourhood, overflowing with hip coffee shops, artisan bakeries, craft beer bars and a dizzying array of restaurants. The leafy, tree-lined boulevards and parks of Frederiksberg and Østerbro are prime territory for laid-back strolls, while the gritty, former industrial district of Refshaleøen has morphed into a lively cultural hub, hosting music festivals, art exhibitions and an organic street food market.

An understated culinary delight

Denmark might not automatically spring to mind when it comes to Europe’s most enticing foodie hotspots, but since the mid-2000s Copenhagen has catapulted itself into the international culinary spotlight – in no small part thanks to the influence of Noma, widely regarded as one of the world’s best restaurants.Today, Copenhagen has 15 Michelin star restaurants, including two with three Michelin stars; Noma and Geranium, both of which are pioneers of New Nordic cuisine, an approach based around seasonal, sustainably sourced ingredients from the region.

It’s not all ultra-fancy fine dining, though. As well as plenty of ‘hyggeligt’ (cosy) restaurants serving all kinds of smørrebrød, the classic Danish open sandwich, Copenhagen has some of the best Italian, Mexican and Japanese restaurants in Scandinavia, and of course, a plethora of bakeries producing irresistible pastries. Reffen (a buzzing street food court) and Torvehallerne (a more traditional covered market) are also great places to sample Copenhagen’s thriving food scene – as is the Meatpacking District in Vesterbro, another former industrial area which has been transformed into an eclectic mix of bars, restaurants and galleries with an offbeat, bohemian vibe.

All resorts in Copenhagen

Three tips for a top trip

Whizz about on two wheels

Although the centre of Copenhagen is fairly compact and you can comfortably get to most of the main attractions on foot, by far the easiest way to explore multiple neighbourhoods is by renting a pair of wheels. It’s extremely safe, too – Copenhagen consistently ranks as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, due to its spacious, clearly-marked cycle lanes, affordable and simple-to-use rental schemes, and intersections that prioritise cyclists over other forms of traffic.

Indulge in perfect pastries

The words ‘Danish’ and ‘pastry’ are synonymous with one another, but nothing compares to eating the real thing in Denmark itself. They come in all different shapes, sizes and flavours, from the traditional spandauer (filled with marzipan and topped with jam or custard) to the classic cinnamon roll, and many more you won’t have tried before. Copenhagen is full of brilliant bakeries, so if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re in for quite the treat.

Start with a card

The Copenhagen Card (available in physical and digital form) gives you unlimited access to public transport and entrance to more than 80 attractions, including Tivoli Gardens, Rosenborg Castle and Copenhagen Zoo – plus guided canal tours. Depending on what you want to see and do while you’re there, it could help you make a healthy saving.

Best things to see and do in Copenhagen

Stroll along Nyhavn

No trip to Copenhagen is complete without stopping by Nyhavn, the iconic 17th-century canal lined with brightly painted townhouses which reflect beautifully in the water. It’s the quintessential Copenhagen photo hotspot, and an opportune place for a drink or a bite to eat while watching the world go by.

Climb the Round Tower

Originally built as an astronomical observatory in the 17th century, the 34.8 metre high Round Tower is one of the best vantage points for panoramic views overlooking central Copenhagen today. Inside, there are no stairs – you have to climb a spiral ramp to reach the top. You’ll find the entrance on Købmagergade.

Visit Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens’ appeal is by no means age restricted, but if you’re in Copenhagen with young ones, it’s a must-visit. It’s the world’s third-oldest operating amusement park, replete with more than 20 rides of all different shapes, sizes and speeds, including several roller coasters that will satisfy serial thrill-seekers. The atmosphere is particularly charming at night when the park is illuminated by colourful lights and the sound of live music fills the air.

Your Copenhagen questions, answered

It takes around one hour and 40 minutes to fly from either London, Manchester or Edinburgh to Copenhagen. The airport is just a 15-minute train ride from the city centre.

A long weekend is a good amount of time to get a feel for Copenhagen and experience its main attractions. However, there’s so much to see and do that you could easily spend longer and not get bored. Either way, you’ll almost certainly want to come back again.


The centre of Copenhagen is fairly compact and pedestrian-friendly, so it’s a very walkable place. When exploring some of the neighbourhoods a little further out, renting a bike is a great idea as it’ll allow you to see more of the city and make the most of your time. Even if you’re not an experienced cyclist, don’t worry – it’s a really safe, easy place to get around on two wheels, with excellent infrastructure designed to facilitate bike travel. There are quick and reliable metro and tram networks, too. 
Definitely. It’s extremely safe, and there are lots of attractions that will appeal to children, including Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen Zoo, Den Blå Planet (the National Aquarium of Denmark) and the Children’s Museum at the National Museum, which has lots of interactive exhibitions and activities. A family cycling tour, a canal cruise and a trip to the beach are all sure-fire winners, too. 
There really is no bad time of year to visit Copenhagen. In winter, the days are short (around seven hours of daylight, with the sun setting at around 3.40pm) and temperatures don’t get much warmer or colder than zero. However, December is a charming time of year to visit, as the Christmas markets and lights installations create a cosy, festive atmosphere. In the middle of summer, by contrast, it hardly gets dark, and it’s usually warm enough to eat and drink outside through to the early hours of the morning. It’s a great city for a spring or autumn break, too. 
Although Denmark is part of the EU, it doesn’t use the Euro. The Danish krone (DKK) is the national currency – you can easily take it out before you go or when you arrive. 
While Copenhagen isn’t one of Europe’s cheapest cities to visit, it’s still perfectly possible to have a great time without breaking the bank. If you do your research in advance, you’ll be able to find reasonably priced places to eat out. As in other Scandinavian countries, alcohol is fairly expensive here (albeit not necessarily that different to central London), but there are bargains to be had if you visit certain bars and pubs during happy hours.