I’ve been wanting to share my favorite Copenhagen tips for years now and I don’t know how it’s taken 9 years to do so. Wait, yes, I do! Consider it one of those “never a tourist in your own city” moments, meaning, I experienced it all, just never wrote it all down in one concise list. Well, thanks for your patience! I’ve received numerous emails over the years asking for my recommendations and I’ve given them out, but I always thought that I needed an extra “oomph” to get it out into the world. That extra oomph was our recent trip to Denmark visiting family and revisiting some of my favorite haunts. Guess what? They still hold up! And they’re amazing.
If you’re planning a trip to Denmark, here’s what you MUST do:
To recap, I lived in Copenhagen with my husband, Paul, when we first got married in 2010. I couldn’t work for the first year or so and so I spent a good amount of time exploring my new town. Last week I got to retrace my steps and visit all the places I love and it was soul-satisfying. I LOVE Copenhagen for its culture, shopping, beauty, walkability. Let’s get going!
Things to do in Copenhagen
Please note–there are MANY more things to do and see around the city. This list is for a tourist who is limited on time. These are the MUST-SEEs. Please leave a comment with your additions and we can continue compiling an exhaustive list.
I’m not much of a shopper, but shopping in Copenhagen is major eye-candy and seriously makes me giddy. You’ll soak in so much inspiration just by looking at all the beautiful stores.
- Magasin is the famous department store at the beginning of Stroget, the major walking shopping street. It contains the best of Danish design in one store including baby shops.
- Illum. The best Danish design in fashion.
- Norr Concept Shop. Women’s shop with all the best Scandinavian brands.
- Mr Larkin (not in the main shopping area. They’re located in Norrebro, which is where a lot of up and coming shops start before they land in downtown). This is one of my favorite shops on Instagram
- FN92 is the best vintage dress shop. Perfectly curated. The area around this shop is the vintage district so explore for more!
- Pilestraede (the street) has a variety of independent fashion shops. It’s great for exploring! Just thinking about it makes me so jealous that someone go gets to do this.
- Illums Bolighus is a mecca for Scandinavian design. It’s like a museum but everything is for sale. It’s incredible.
- Hay. You’ve probably seen some of the products here and there. Their store is gorgeous and overlooks a main square
- Rice for bright and colorful homewares.
- Notre Dame. Fun homewares
- Tage Andersen. Is a living legend. I’ve talked about him before here. In a nutshell he’s a floral artist/installation artist who has created a magical world. His downtown shop is pure magic. Think, oversized bird cages with birds inside. If nothing else, you MUST experience this.
- Paustian is a modern Danish shop. Everything you know about streamlined Danish design contained in one amazing store. The building itself is gorgeous.
- Stilleben has beautiful prints, ceramics, and other home goods.
- Retro Villa has fun vintage wallpaper.
- Sostrene Grene. Paul originally described this store as a “dollar store”. Though few things are a dollar, everything is very cheap and designed so well. It carries house goods, decor, clothing, you name it, all in an Ikea-style maze. I’m gonna call it more of a labyrinth because it’s quite dark because the walls are painted black and they play classical music. I LOVE THIS STORE SO MUCH.
- The flip side to Sostrene Grene is Flying Tiger, which has made its way to the States. It’s a similar concept to Sostrene Grene but with a brighter palette and oldies music.
- Royal Copenhagen flagship. It’s a tourist must but also homework for every history buff.
Since having a child, I love seeing cities through the lens of BABY STUFF! It’s such a fun way to do it. Here are my favorite shops in Copenhagen, though admittedly, I didn’t get a chance to do them all.
- Magasin and Illum and Illums Bolighus have GREAT kid’s sections (see above). It’s all contained in one place!
- Mar Mar
- Mini Pop Style
Museums and castles
- Louisiana is my favorite museum in the world. It’s situated right on the coast in an old house with an added on modern wing. I love it for the art in addition to the grounds and buildings. I will never not visit this place. And be sure to see if they have any concerts there while you’re visiting. They sometimes show concerts in their nearby boat house. It’s so wonderful!
- Karen Blixen Musem. Karen Blixen is the author of Out of Africa and her house is near the Louisiana at the top of Sjaelland. Once again, gorgeous grounds–if nothing else, you’ll want to see the gardens, but it’s really all so good.
- Frilandsmuseet is the open air museum. I love open air museums (I never know when I’m nerdy though–feel free to call me out). I love seeing historic homes and this is a treat! Not open all year round. Make sure you look at their website.
- National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst)
- National Museum of Denmark is great for learning about Denmark and would be great for kids–especially the Viking part!
- Frederiksborg Castle is outside of Denmark, accessible by train or car. It’s a phenomenal castle with a great museum component.
- Rosenborg Castle is right in the middle of town and inside the loveliest gardens. It’s home to the crown jewels. If you’re short on time and need something handy, this is the ticket!
If all I did was look at houses while I travel, I’d be good. These are some fun neighborhoods to drive by.
- Potato Rows. 480 row houses that are Instagram gold. I lived in Copenhagen before Instagram so #missedopportunity
- Strandvej (highway 152) starting at around Niva. If you’re heading up to the Louisiana or heading back, tack this route back! And if you have the flexibility to wander around, do so! The houses are gorgeous
- Hellerup, is the town right before you get into Copenhagen and it’s got beautiful houses and streets that lead to the coast.
- I love walking down Bredgade and Store Kongensade for imagining where I’d want by apartment to be if I ever moved back. Store Kongensgade has great restaurant options.
- Nyhavn. This it the image you probably know Copenhagen best by. It’s worth it! And once again, nerd alert, I love a boat tour. You will get a fantastic view of the city especially the playhouse, Amelienborg Castle, and opera house. (And eat an ice cream)
- Tivoli. The second oldest amusement park in the world and inspiration for Walt Disney. It’s smack dab in the middle of town and really the most delightful place. So worth it!
- Little Mermaid sculpture. Because it should probably be on your itinerary the first time, but that’s it.
Copenhagen has great restaurants, but it’s not really a “going out” culture. Like, you mostly don’t go out to eat if you live there unless it’s a special occasion, so we didn’t really experience too many. The ones we liked seem to have moved on so I’ll mention a few but feel free to go to more restaurant-friendly sites for better recommendations. Note: Denmark doesn’t fo too many quick-bite options but I mention a couple.
- Give me all the baked goods. And Lagkagehuset is my favorite, especially if you need a quick bite.
- Grod–have’t been but it came highly recommended from a NUMBER of people
- Quick bite: Danish hot dogs are the best in the world and you should probably try one. There are a number of hot dog stands all over. My favorite is the “Fransk hot dog” with “dressing”. I literally ate one every day we visited.
- Quick bite: kabab. You can find them everywhere!
- We loved the restaurants from this collective
- Ice cream! Best dairy!
- Torvehallerne is an outdoor market with, of course, the chicest stands of foods and other delights.
- The basement of Magasin is a great place to buy the best of the best in Danish delights.
With a Mormon interest (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
I’m including this here, because yes, I am one, and I often get people writing in what they should do in Denmark. You see, a lot of our ancestors came from Denmark so a lot of people feel like they are returning to their homeland. Here are a few places of note:
- Frederiksborg Castle as mentioned above. The chapel has a room above it where all the original Carl Bloch paintings that we use in our Sunday School classes come from. The lighting is low but it’s really a beautiful setting.
- LDS Temple. The Copenhagen temple is an outfitted chapel that was built in the dimensions of Solomon’s temple.
- Cristina statue by Dennis Smith is a statue somewhat near the Little Mermaid that pays homage to the Danish people who left for American. You can read more about it here.
- Vor Frue Kirke is a church near all the great shopping that contains the original Christus statue and 12 apostles in marble. It’s right in the middle of town so it’s very central. They host a lot of events (including chill out nights where you can come relax on bean bags. ha!) It’s a wonderful experience.
- Thorvaldsen museum. If you’re interested in learning more about the artist of the Christus statue, you can visit his museum.