“Why did you come to Copenhagen?” asks a character in Michael Frayn’s play, Copenhagen. Well, why wouldn’t you? It’s a glorious, sophisticated city, an excellent introduction to Scandinavia, and a destination that is well worth your time. The wealth of culture and entertainment options in the city is overwhelming, from the natural beauty to the backdrop of the classic Scandinavian architecture.
Copenhagen is a small city with plenty of things to do, but here are five Copenhagen attractions that should be first on the agenda.
5.) Freetown Christiania
Freetown Christiania might be described as an experiment in collaborative living, a hippie commune, a colony of artists and free thinkers, or an outlier in the middle of Copenhagen. None of these descriptions articulate what this community — an “independent” entity in the heart of the city — is like.
When you pass under the wooden painted gate that marks the entrance to Christiania, you feel as if you’ve left Copenhagen.
You can count on seeing brilliant murals on walls, brightly painted and curiously decorated houses, and restaurants serving organic, vegan-friendly food. Little shops and vendors selling truly unique clothing and crafts line the streets.
And yes, if you’ve ever wanted to see a marketplace where marijuana is out in bins like produce, you can visit Pusher Street. This is the result of the open marijuana trade that was in Christiana for around 50 years. But don’t be dismayed, this isn’t all that Christiania is about. It’s only one small facet of Christiania — and one that is technically illegal, and an ongoing point of contention with the Copenhagen police.
Either way, Freetown Christiania is a special place. If you can help it, we recommend it being one of the first Copenhagen attractions you carve time out for.
4.) Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
This stunning 1880s museum was built for the personal art collection of Carl Jacobsen, the namesake of Carlsberg Brewery.
While the collection focuses on sculpture, it does not do so exclusively. The museum has impressive holdings of Danish, French, ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek art. There are also large collections of bronzes by Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas.
If gorgeous art isn’t enough to lure you or you’re traveling with museum-haters, it’s still well worth a visit. You might want to visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek to relax in the winter garden or grab some coffee and cakes at the Cafe Glyptotek. Wandering through the lush indoor space, replete with fountains and greenery, is a special treat in the middle of a snowy, gray Copenhagen winter.
Lastly, if you’ll be in Copenhagen on a Tuesday, schedule your visit then. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is free on Tuesdays.
Amalienborg is one of the Danish royal family’s official residences. There are four separate palaces and one cobblestone square, making the Amalienborg four palaces in one.
If you enjoy royal history and architecture, you will appreciate visiting these grounds. You can explore the quarters of old kings and queens and take a little peek into the royal history of the Danish.
The Danish Royal Guards are always on patrol. Their uniforms might remind you of those of the Buckingham Palace Guards in London with a slightly different color scheme. If you’ve ever wanted to see a changing of the guard ceremony, Amalienborg is the place to do it. Patrols switch out several times a day.
Did we mention that it is also extremely gorgeous, as it’s nestled right in front of a beautiful fountain and overlooks the waterfront? Visit Copenhagen in the summer to see how the beautiful colors that the water and gardens frame the Amalienborg.
2.) Tivoli Gardens
This beloved amusement park has been open since the 19th century, and there’s a reason why: it’s fabulous.
It’s the perfect stop for kids and adults, and there are over two dozen rides for all ages. From the ornate entrance arches to the 1914 vintage roller coaster, history abounds at Tivoli. But the park also offers some fierce newer rides. Tivoli also has several performance venues, a special Halloween season, and a charming Christmas market.
The main Tivoli season runs from mid-April to mid-September, so if you’re traveling during the summer, this is a must-see. Because of the beautiful gardens and natural beauty of Copenhagen, this is unlike any other amusement park you will see.
On top of the rides, there are performances and over 30 places to dine with your family as well.
1.) Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) Statue
The title character of Hans Christen Andersen’s fairy tale just can’t win. In the original story, she dies. In the Disney version, she’s surrounded by singing fish.
Her sculpture in Copenhagen, which sits on a rock off the shore in Langelinie, easily qualifies as the most consistently mutilated statue in Europe. The poor girl has been splashed with paint, her head has been cut off several times, she’s been blasted off her rock perch, and she’s been dressed in various outfits by pranksters and protesters alike.
Every day, she has to contend with tourists who navigate rocks and shallow water to stand with her for photo ops. What’s sad is that beyond all the levity, this is a haunting, poignant, well-rendered depiction of a tragic heroine. You’ll want to take a photo with her, but you’ll also want to grab some images of her alone as she stares sadly out to sea.
If you follow this simple guide, we’re pretty sure you’ll fall in love with the beautiful Danish city. You’ll get a variety of things to do. You get history, art, and unique areas. Visit all these places on your trip to Copenhagen to truly get the Danish experience.