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Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen (Danish: København) is the capital city of Denmark and forms the moderate conurbation that one million Danes call home. This "friendly old girl of a town" is big enough to form a small Danish metropolis, with shopping, culture, and nightlife par excellence, yet small enough still to feel intimate and be safe. Although mixed in its urban scene, the city is easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund Strait, with neighboring Sweden just minutes away, Copenhagen serves as a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Copenhagen is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with crisp electronica from Copenhagen's basements. You could feel you've seen all of Copenhagen in one day, but further exploration will have you discovering more for months.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

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Copenhagen (Danish: København) is the capital city of Denmark and forms the moderate conurbation that one million Danes call home. This "friendly old girl of a town" is big enough to form a small Danish metropolis, with shopping, culture, and nightlife par excellence, yet small enough still to feel intimate and be safe. Although mixed in its urban scene, the city is easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund Strait, with neighboring Sweden just minutes away, Copenhagen serves as a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. Copenhagen is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with crisp electronica from Copenhagen's basements. You could feel you've seen all of Copenhagen in one day, but further exploration will have you discovering more for months.

History

Beginnings as a merchant harbor

If you had dropped by Copenhagen in the 11th century CE / AD you would have found yourself looking over a quite small fishing hamlet, with some lazy cattle gazing back at you while chewing fresh green grass from the meadows around the village. Looking east you would see a host of small islets protecting the small fishing harbor from harsh weather — really not the worst place to found a city. If you would rather trust the written word than the archeologists, the earliest accounts date from the 12th century, when a bearded clerk (or a renowned historian if you will) called Saxo Grammaticus scribbled down a few lines about the place; Portus Mercatorum, he called it, which was really just a fancy Latin version of Købmannahavn. This has since been mangled into København in modern Danish, and even further mangled into Copenhagen in English, but all it really means is "merchant harbor."

Archbishop Absalon

Around 1160 CE, King Valdemar handed over control of the city to the archbishop of Roskilde, Absalon, one of the most colorful characters of the Middle Ages — a curious mix of great churchman, statesman, and warrior. As the country's only city not under the king's control, Absalon saw it thrive and erected a castle on what is today

Slotsholmen

(the remains are still visible in the catacombs under the present day parliament). As a man of religion, Absalon also built a great church, and with those necessities taken care of, Copenhagen quickly gained importance as a natural stop between the two most important Danish cities, the old royal capital Roskilde and Lund in present-day Sweden. Endowed with an enviable location on the banks of the important Øresund Strait, it slowly but steadily surpassed the old urban centers. Copenhagen's rise was greatly aided by entrepreneurial trading with friends and foes alike and by prosperous fishing which provided much of Roman Catholic Europe with salted herring for Lent. But with prosperity comes envy and in the years to follow Copenhagen was laid waste and pillaged time and time again, mainly by the members of the German Hanseatic League, which at one point completely destroyed the city.

Becoming the capital of Denmark

Like the Phoenix, however, Copenhagen repeatedly rose from its ashes. When the Danes kicked out the Pope during the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Roskilde lost its importance as a Roman bishopric and, having taken control of the city twenty years earlier, the Danish king moved his residence to Copenhagen. Not terribly keen on seeing their new capital laid waste once more, successive Danish monarchs built massive fortifications around the city. None more so than King Christian IV, who embarked on a building rampage which not only included the ramparts still visible throughout much of the city but also many present-day landmarks like the Round Tower and the Stock Exchange. Since then Copenhagen was besieged by the Swedes, and then famously bombarded, set ablaze, and nearly destroyed by the British Vice Admiral Lord Nelson, who in one of two battles for Copenhagen, famously responded to the order to withdraw by saying "You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes," and then raised the telescope to his blind eye and touted "I really do not see the signal." This was actually the first ever civilian bombardment performed as part of the war.

Outgrowing the city walls

Again, the city shook off its struggles and the population mushroomed during industrialization. When a cholera epidemic did a fine job of killing nearly everyone there wasn't room for, the King finally conceded that long range cannons would render its constraining walls irrelevant, and thus allowed the city to grow outside the now antiquated ramparts. But it was not long before a new modern fortification was built (known as Vestvolden today), which made Copenhagen Europe's most fortified city of the late nineteenth century.
After being subjected to yet another, German invasion during WWII, the whole idea of a fortified city was thrown out the window and replaced with one of the finest examples of urban planning anywhere — the Finger Plan. Copenhagen is one of few cities in the world to devise a long term plan for growth and then actually stick to it; try placing your hand over a map of Copenhagen with the palm as the city center, and it's quite obvious why it's called the finger plan. Despite being the laughing stock of the country through the 70s and 80s, when wealthy residents all moved out into the fingers leaving behind an impoverished bankrupt inner city, a visit these days will prove that the Phoenix has risen once more.

Climate

Copenhagen, like the rest of Denmark, has four distinct seasons. The best time to visit is definitely the warm period from early May to late August. Current weather forecasts can be checked at the Danish Meteorological Institute website.
Spring, while a bit risky, as no one knows quite when it sets in, can be the best time to visit the city. On the first warm day, usually in early May, Copenhageners come out of hibernation and flock to the city streets, parks, and outdoor cafes in a veritable explosion of life relieved that the country's dreary and dark winters are finally over. Many locals consider this the high-point of the year.
Summers in Copenhagen are usually warm with an average temperature of some twenty degrees, and the days are long — reaching a peak of eighteen hours on the 21st of June. If the weather becomes too hot, you can jump in one of the free pools in the cool harbor waters near the center. Copenhagen's harbor is often considered the world's cleanest urban waterfront. Most of Copenhagen's annual events are held during June and July, and when the sun is out there is always life in the streets.
Autumn and winter have a profound effect on the city. The vibrant summer life withers and the streets go quiet, as most Copenhageners go directly home from work. This is where the Danish concept of hygge sets in, roughly translating into coziness. It is the local way of dealing with the short dark days. Friends and families visit each other for home cooking and conversations by candlelight with quiet music on the stereo. In week 42 the Danes have an autumn holiday, with many events taking place, such as the night of culture. The height of winter is December, where Christmas brings some relief to the short days, with lights and decorations everywhere, in the streets, shops and in peoples' windows. Tivoli opens its doors for the Christmas markets, and most Danes go on a drinking rampage, with the very Danish and traditional Christmas lunches, with work and family.
Do note that the weather in Copenhagen can be unstable and highly unpredictable. Make sure you pack clothes in case of sudden rain or spell of cold (or, in the summer, of warmth) even despite long-term forecasts telling you otherwise. An umbrella, raincoat, and shoes that will withstand torrential downpour may come in handy. Copenhageners dress very well, but at the same time very practical and with the realization that rain can assault their carefully chosen styling any minute.

Tourist information

Copenhagen's official tourist agency is Wonderful Copenhagen

  • Copenhagen Right Now, Vesterbrogade 4A (Across from Tivoli's main entrance, near the central station), ☎ +45 70 22 24 42, fax: 45 70 22 24 52NOCC, e-mail: touristinfo@woco.dk. Jan–Apr M–F 9:00–16:00, Sa 9:00–14:00; May–June M–Sa 9:00–18:00; July–Aug M–Sa 9:00–20:00, Su 10:00–18:00; Sep M–Sa 9:00–18:00; Oct–Dec M–F 9:00–16:00, Sa 9:00–14:00.

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Copenhagen, Denmark: Port Information


There are three cruise terminals:
  • The main cruise terminal is Ocean Quay. Take a public bus to get to the station. Besides, you can take a taxi or a tour bus. Usually, shuttle service is provided. It's about 8.1 miles from the airport.
  • Langelinie. Langelinie's promenade is wonderful with lots of dining and shopping options. It is a 10-minute pleasant walk to the city center. Taxis are available. Often, cruise companies offer shuttle service to downtown Copenhagen. It's about 6.7 miles from the airport.
  • Nordre Toldbod is used by smaller vessels. It is close to the famous Little Mermaid statue. It's about 6.2 miles from the airport.

Get around Copenhagen, Denmark


Copenhagen has an extensive, yet notoriously complicated and hard to crack, public transportation system. Once you get your bearings, however, you will find it a very comfortable way to explore the city and get around.
The two big hubs are Central Station (da: Hovedbanegården/København H) with S-trains, intercity trains and buses, and Nørreport Station with S-trains, metro, regional trains, and buses.

The zone system

One of the most perplexing features of the public transportation system in Copenhagen is the zone system. The whole city, as well as the surrounding region, is divided into fare zones. The range of a single zone can be roughly translated to around seven minutes in the Metro or fifteen minutes in a bus, but always check the zone maps in the stations, some stations are closer to zone borders than others. Ask locals if help is needed, as the zone system can be complex for visitors.

Tickets and fares

The number of available ticket types may be bewildering - below is a quick overview:

  • Single-ride tickets — price depending on the number of zones you travel through, the cheapest is the two-zone ticket. It allows you to travel around Copenhagen in two zones (the zone where you stamped or purchased the ticket plus one adjacent zone) for one hour starting from the time you stamp it. You can switch freely between all trains, Metro, and buses within this hour, as long as your last trip starts before the time is up (your ticket will be timestamped in fifteen-minute intervals).
  • 10-journey discount travelcard — gives you a discount of around forty percent and can be bought in kiosks and ticket offices. This replaces the previous klippekort.
  • 24-hour ticket — enables you unlimited rides throughout the entire system and all zones. You don't need this, though, if you do not intend to leave Copenhagen itself over those 24 hours — then you can do with the cheaper City Pass.
  • City Pass — gives you unlimited ride in zones 1-4 (including Copenhagen Airport) for 24 hours or 72 hours. Perhaps the most reasonable choice if you intend to stay in the city itself (and not the remote parts of the Copenhagen region) and use the public transit to get around.
  • CPH Card — gives free transport throughout the region and free admission to 60 museums and sights. Note that on Sundays and Mondays many museums are either free or closed, thus possibly making the card of less value on those days.
  • 7-day FlexCard

Tickets for children aged 15 or younger generally cost half the price of adult tickets. Night buses incur the same fares as day buses, there is no supplement.
There is yet another unified and electronic (relatively new) alternative if one does not want to strive with the zone system. It is called Rejsekort (Travel-card).
For regional trains, S-tog and Metro a ticket must be bought and timestamped before boarding the trains. For buses, tickets can be bought from the driver.

By S-Tog

The S-train service is the backbone of the city's public transit system and is very similar to the German S-Bahn networks and the Parisian RER system. The distinct red trains are clean, modern, and equipped with free WiFi. The system runs from early morning to late night, each line in ten-minute intervals during the day (M-F 6:00–18:00) and at twenty-minute intervals in the early morning and late at night. In the weekends, the trains run twice an hour at night and some of the lines are extended. Since most lines join on a single railway line through the city center, there are only a couple of minutes of waiting between each train in the inner districts. The F and C-lines are exceptions, the F line does a half loop outside the central area, with trains every five minutes throughout most of the day. The C-line is extended to Frederikssund during day time but scaled back to Ballerup at other times. Loudspeaker announcements regarding S-trains are mostly given in Danish only, so remember to ask your fellow travelers for help. For the most part, though they are just cursory announcements. Bikes can be taken for free on the S-train and special bicycle compartments exist on the train.

By metro

The Copenhagen Metro runs from Vanløse through the city center and branches to either the new-town of Ørestad or to the airport. The Metro has no timetable and between Vanløse and Christianshavn trains run with a four-minute interval (two minutes during peak hours). It runs nonstop at night with fifteen-minute intervals. The trains run automatically and are without drivers, so the doors will close at a given time, even if all waiting passengers have not entered the train. Wait for the next train instead of trying to squeeze through in the last second.
One interesting feature resulting from the lack of drivers on trains is the fact that both ends of the trains have large windows with unobscured views, and the trains are accordingly fitted with rows of seats facing them. This can be an extra treat to the visitors traveling on the Metro — enter the train with the exit next to the front end and try to get a seat in one of the three front rows. Some sections of the tracks are less interesting than the others, e.g. the one in the center runs underground (that said, tunnels are lit up and can be quite amazing to witness the first time you see them), or the section towards the airport. On the other hand, the overground section of the M1 line on Amager is rather picturesque.

By bus

Copenhagen has a fairly extensive and efficient bus network. It can be troublesome, though, for visitors to figure out what line to take to their destination as there is little in the way of network maps available at bus stops and schedules rarely include the entire route. That said, many stops do have a small electronic display showing how many minutes are left until the next bus arrives.
There are several types of bus available:

  • regular buses are simply denoted by their number,
  • A buses are the backbone of the city's bus network which consists of seven different lines with frequent departures and stops. During the day time, there are no schedules as buses usually depart at least every ten minutes. They are also operating at night.
  • S buses are long express services with few stops and extend far into the suburbs, usually across the radial suburban train network or along corridors with no rail service. They can also be useful between points in the center as they are faster than other lines.
  • E buses are express rush-hour services of little use to travelers as they mainly service commuters.
  • N buses are a network of ten bus lines operating at night between 1:00–5:00 daily, when normal traffic is halted, and they are much more frequent at weekends.

You are expected to board the bus using the front exit and immediately show your ticket to the bus driver (be it a paper ticket or a one you received as an SMS to your phone), or validate it if you have not done so before (e.g. when you intend to ride on a single-ride ticket or you're traveling with a rejsekort). You can also purchase the ticket from the driver. The front exits are for boarding only — alight using other doors only.
CitySightseeing runs three hop-on/hop-off tours around the city (map) in open-top double-decker buses. The main line leaves every 30 minutes, while the two other lines depart every hour in high season (Jun-Aug). Outside the peak season, services are halved. A two-day ticket which also includes the DFDS canal tour boats.

By boat

Going on a canal tour of the inner harbor and canals is an excellent and easy way to see many of the city's attractions, and fortunately, there are many options depending on your taste and preferences. DFDS Canal Tours operates both an unguided hop-on/hop-off service, branded as the water bus, arranged into three circular trips at the northern, central and southern part of the inner harbor and canals. They also have three guided tours, either by a pre-recorded tape available in many languages or live English & Danish commentary by a guide. Be forewarned though, after 75 minutes this can get a bit loud if you are not normally attracted to this sort of tourism. Netto-bådene offers a single fixed tour, but at a much lower price. Please note that services are scaled back considerably between October and mid-March. If you are visiting during winter, you might want to opt for DFDS' red guided tour, as it offers a heated, glass-roofed boat at this time of the year. Both companies offer starting points in either

Nyhavn

or

Gammel Strand

(opposite the parliament). A different option is the public harbor bus, which, while it doesn't enter the canals, is much faster and is an integrated part of the public transportation system using the same tickets as buses and trains.
  • DFDS Canal Tours, Nyhavn 3, ☎ +45 32 96 30 00, e-mail: canaltours@canaltours.dk. 9.30–20:00.
  • Netto-bådene, Heibergsgade (Nyhavn), ☎ +45 32 54 41 02. 10:00–17:00 (19:00 in July & August).
  • Movia, Customer center at Rådhuspladen, ☎ +45 36 13 14 15. 7:00–19:00. Uses public ticketing system.

An option you may want to consider is a Freedom ticket which gives unlimited transportation for two days on both all the DFDS Canal Tour boats, as well as the double-decker sightseeing buses of Copenhagen City Sightseeing.

By bicycle

The fastest and most flexible way of seeing Copenhagen is on a bike. Forty percent of Copenhageners use their bike every day and the city has been designed to cater for cyclists with separate bicycle lanes on most larger roads. Cyclists are often allowed to ride both ways in one-way streets. Be careful if you are not used to biking in a busy city as this is a common means of daily transportation and the locals drive fast and without room for much leeway. Don't expect to get a warning when someone wants to overtake you. Always keep to the right and look behind you before you overtake someone — otherwise, you could cause some nasty accidents.

Bycyklen

Bycyklen is Copenhagen's new bike-sharing scheme, launched in 2014. The idea is pretty simple — you can rent a bike from a stand, ride around and return at the same or any other stand at the city, paying for the time you used the bicycle. The bicycles are all-new and equipped with an electric motor to help you go uphill, as well as a tablet with GPS so that you can browse the map and find your route while not getting lost. A mobile phone is required.

Bike rental

As an alternative to the city bikes, you can rent a bike and these are far more comfortable. You can find a little bike rental shop called CPH bike rental on a side-street to Nansensgade on Turesensgade, five minutes from Norreport station. They rent bikes on a daily basis and use the proceeds to finance the shipment of used bikes to Africa. They also arrange city tours and sell picnic baskets. Another bicycle shop is at the Central Railroad Station. At Højbro Plads (next to McDonald's at Strøget) you can find rickshaws for hire with a driver, who will often be trained in providing tourist information as you stroll along. A variety of bike tours are offered by Bike Copenhagen with Mike including a city tour at 10:00 daily departing from Copenhagen Bikes at the main train station.

  • Rentyourbikehere.dk, ☎ +45 33936200, e-mail: info@rentyourbikehere.dk.

By taxi

Generally, you can trust taxis with both prices and the route taken. Because of the high flag-fall charge, it can be better financially for taxi drivers to have many trips rather than long trips, so it is therefore often in their own interest to take the shortest route.

What to see in Copenhagen, Denmark


Entrance to most museums is free once a week, mainly on Wednesdays. You can always count on the principal attractions to be well signed in English (often German also) and for these places to be generally geared towards tourists. A good tip to see whether a smaller museum caters to non-Danish speakers is to check whether the website has an English section. If it does, this usually means the museum has at least some English information throughout its exhibitions. Of course, if you have some interest in a particular subject, such museums can be interesting even if you don't understand the sign-postings. As Danes are usually fairly fluent in English, you can always try to ask staff if they could give you a brief tour.

History

A visit to the Nationalmuseet in Indre By is a must-do for the many well-arranged exhibits relating to the Danish past and modern culture. In practice, this means everything from Danish prehistory (amazing Bronze Age weapons and burials), through to the Viking Age (runestones, precious hoards, swords, and jewelry) and into the modern period (a vast section is devoted to the Story of the Danes from 1660-2000). If you want something more localized, the Museum of Copenhagen in Vesterbro has exhibitions on the city's development since the Middle Ages. Another option is Frilandsmuseet in the northern suburbs — a huge and attractive open air museum with old buildings collected from all over the country. Or for a live version of old Denmark, you can visit the old town of the tiny fishing hamlet of Dragør on the southern tip of Amager with its fantastic old yellow buildings and cobblestone streets. For something more off the beaten path, paddle up the small Mølleå river in the northern suburbs through charming old eighteenth and nineteenth-century mills.

Art

If you are into the arts, Copenhagen has a lot to offer. A natural starting point is a visit to the Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst, free entry) where you can feast your eyes on blockbusters from the likes of Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse. There are also a number of paintings by Danish artists from the "Golden Age". Across the Royal Gardens lies Scandinavia's biggest collection of Islamic art, the David Collection (Davids Samling) which has free entrance. It also has a smaller collection of Danish paintings including some by Hammershøi and Willumsen. It's a ten-minute walk through the Royal Gardens but you might have to know the address beforehand since the museum is a bit of a hidden treasure. For a hard-to-beat appreciation of Classical (Greece / Rome) and Near Eastern art (Egypt / Mesopotamia / Anatolia / Iran), visit the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, which also has an extensive section devoted to 19th century French and Danish art, with works by masters like Picasso, Leger, and Matisse. The Winter Garden inside the Glytotek is a beautiful (and very warm!) place to rest your legs on a rainy day. Both of these museums are conveniently located in the center, or Indre By area.
If you are hungry for more classic art exhibitions, an excursion north of Copenhagen to the beautiful Ordrupgaard offers you a chance to enjoy Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Gauguin. There are several other options for classical paintings but if you are ready for a change, head south to the Arken Museum of Modern Art for a world class exhibition of contemporary art, mostly Scandinavian, as well as hugely popular temporary exhibitions. However, arguably the best and most visited museum in Denmark is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, located in northern Zealand with a panoramic view across the Øresund. The museum frames the sculpture park facing the sea and the interaction between art, nature and the museum architecture is quite unique. Louisiana is an international museum with a considerable collection of modern art and hugely popular temporary exhibitions.
If you want to enjoy some local color on an art tour, The Hirschsprung Collection in Østerbro features the top-of-the-pops of Danish artists, with a particular focus on the Skagen painters. For something quintessentially Danish, breeze through the wonderfully quirky sketches of the much-loved local personality Storm P at the aptly named Storm P museum on Frederiksberg.

Science and Natural History

If you want your vacation to be educational, or if you want to sneak some knowledge into the kids during the vacation, there are several options to consider. The best choice for kids is perhaps the hugely entertaining, and well renowned hands-on science museum, the Experimentarium north of Copenhagen. Another popular and well-renowned institution, is the Copenhagen Zoo on Frederiksberg, counting both among both the best and oldest zoos in Europe. If you are more into stationary animals, the Zoology Museum on Østerbro offers a different perspective on the subject. Elsewhere on Østerbro, a little known attraction is a display of famous physicist Niels Bohr's Study Room, along with a setup of his experiments (but as this is not a museum, you should have more than passing interest in the subject to bother with them). City Centre, the University of Copenhagen runs two adjacent science museums. The Geological Museum where dinosaur fossils, moon rock, and glow in the dark minerals should spark some interest in the subject for even the most school-weary kid. The Botanical Gardens on the opposite side of the street is an excellent place for a stroll in the beautiful park, even if you are not botanically inclined, and the classical palm house is a nice place to relax if it is cold outside. In poor weather, the Tycho Brahe Planetarium on Vesterbro is another option and is part planetarium with an interesting astronomy exhibition and part omnimax theatre where they usually screen science films.

Architecture

An excellent start to any visit to Copenhagen is to climb the unique 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the observation platform of Rundetårn (the Round Tower), one of Copenhagen's most iconic buildings. The top of the Round Tower offers excellent views and is smack in the middle of the city. If that is not high enough for you head to Christianshavn for a climb up the circular stairs on the outside of the church spire of the Church of Our Saviour. It is regarded as something of a test of manhood to climb up and touch the globe on the summit, nearly 100 meters up in the air. And now that you're in the area, head over to the opposite side of the street to Christiania, a self-governing community that has been squatting on an old naval area since the seventies. Their inventive, brightly colored, home built houses are spectacular, as is the relaxed atmosphere — this is truly one of Copenhagen's most unique and best attractions. Due south of Christiania the old, crooked, brightly colored buildings and soothing canals lined with masted ships make this an excellent place to continue a stroll. Other fine examples of classical architecture include the impressive City Hall and the massive dome of the Frederikskirken colloquially known as the Marble Church. This dome, with a span of 31 meters, is one of the largest in northern Europe. Both are in the Indre By area.
For real architecture buffs, the city's main claim to fame is the modernist architecture and its native masters. Jørn Utzon (of Sydney Opera House fame) and Son is behind a trio of buildings on Østerbro's northern harbor, known as the Paustian complex. There is a fine but expensive restaurant in one of the buildings. You can enjoy Arne Jacobsen's work by either sleeping at or taking in the atmosphere (and great views) of the top floor lounge bar at the Royal Hotel which is one of the very few tall buildings in the inner city. Alternatively, head north to Bellavista, a residential complex and theatre near the beach, where there is even a restaurant featuring his famous furniture and his name. Lastly, Henning Larsen, famous for his iconic buildings in Riyadh, is behind Copenhagen's new Opera house overlooking the harbor in Christianshavn. From here you can also catch a view of Copenhagen's latest iconic contraption, the Royal library known to locals as the black diamond, after its shiny polished black granite walls.

Royal Copenhagen

The four identical classicist palaces of Amalienborg, make up the main residence of the Danish royal family. The octagonal courtyard in the center is open to the public and guarded by the ceremonial Royal Guard. The relief takes place every day at noon and is a highlight for any royalist visiting the city. There is also a small royal museum on the premises. Rosenborg Palace is a small but pretty renaissance palace, surrounded by the lovely King's Garden which is one of the most lively parks of the city. The palace both serves as a museum of Royal history and as a home for the crown jewels which are on display in the catacombs beneath the castle. A closed-off wing of Rosenborg serves as barracks for the Royal Guard, and every day a detachment marches through the Copenhagen city center between Rosenborg and Amalienborg for the changing of the guard. Unusual for a well-founded democracy, the palace that houses the parliament, Christiansborg, is also a royal palace. It is usually possible to visit the Royal reception rooms, stables and the old court theatre here. And for the entertainment of royal stature, you can try to arrange tickets to watch a play in the beautiful Royal Theatre facing Kings New Square. All of these sights are in the inner city. If you are hungry for more, head north, where the park around Sorgenfri palace is open to the public, or have a picnic on the huge open plains in front of the Eremitage Palace in the Dyrehaven park which formerly served as the king's hunting castle.

Design

Denmark is world-famous for its design tradition and, while the term Danish design has been devalued over the years due to much misuse, it is still a world-recognized style. A natural starting point is a visit to the Danish Design Center in Indre By, with temporary and permanent exhibitions, showrooms, and workshops relating to the world of Danish design, in a building designed by famous architect Henning Larsen. Not too far away, Kunstindustrimuseet is home of a nice collection relating to the study of design and its history in Denmark. Also in the same district, Royal Copenhagen runs a museum display of its famous porcelain from the early beginnings at its flagship store. Meanwhile, Cisterne on Frederiksberg is an enticing museum showing modern glass art, in the intriguing catacomb-like cisterns under a large park. Meldahls Smedie on Christianshavn is run by the Royal Danish school of architecture, which organizes exhibitions including final projects from students of the school here.

What to do in Copenhagen, Denmark


Beach life

In the inner harbor, water quality has improved so much in recent years that it is possible to go for a swim from early June to late August in one of the two harbor baths: Copencabana on Vesterbro or Havnebadet at Island Brygge on Amager. When it is sunny these are packed with people from all walks of life enjoying the sunshine and taking a dip. The municipal administration has put a lot of money and effort into the facilities and this is an excellent opportunity for blending with the locals at their best.
If you fancy a proper beach, the closest are located at Charlottenlund Fort in Charlottenlund and the newly erected Amager Strandpark (The Lagoon), on Amager near the Lergravsparken metro station. If the weather is not going your way, you can opt for DGI Byen which is a leisure center and excellent swimming pool near the central railway station or the Østerbro swimming pool, modeled after a Roman bath (on Østerbro).

Amusement parks

Amazingly, the two oldest functioning amusement parks in the world, with the two oldest roller coasters, are both located in Copenhagen and they are distinctively different. Bakken or Dyrehavsbakken is the older of the two, set in a beautiful beech forest near Klampenborg north of Copenhagen. This gives it a special atmosphere and it is a lot less touristy than its counterpart — Tivoli — which is located smack in the city center in a beautiful park surrounding a lake.

Annual events

  • Crafts Fair (10-12 August 2017). Held every year in August — Thursday-Saturday — outdoors at Frue Plads in central Copenhagen. The Crafts Fair has more than 130 exhibitors, all members of the Danish Arts and Crafts Association, exhibiting unique and small series of handmade Arts and Crafts in all categories: ceramic, glass, jewelry, textile, mixed media. 
  • Copenhagen Fashion Week (8-12 August 2017). Held in February and August. Copenhagen is fast emerging as a global fashion center, with a host of both up-and-coming and already well-established names. For two weeks each year more than 1,000 exhibitors and 50,000 guests come together and celebrate their accomplishments with lavish parties, catwalks at city landmarks, and three trade fairs.
  • CPH:PIX (Copenhagen International Film Festival). (28 September – 11 October 2017) Denmark's largest film festival, first held in 2009 as the result of a merger between Copenhagen's two popular long running festivals — the Night Film Festival and the Copenhagen International Film Festival. It will feature more than 150 screenings, with a prize of €10,000 awarded to the most promising new filmmaker.
  • International Workers Day. 1 May. A major event in Copenhagen. The main festivities are held in Fælledparken on Østerbro and they attract over 100,000 visitors in what has lately become a 50/50 mix of a gigantic party and a political rally with speeches, happenings, and concerts. Two traveling amusement parks also set up their gear for the day, one by the main entrance at Trianglen and one in the eastern part of the park.
  • CPH Distortion. Held in the first week of June. The longest and wildest party you could ever go to. Over 60 parties in five days in each of the city districts, outdoors on the city streets and squares, in the clubs and three seriously huge parties. Over 32,000 people usually partying away between Wednesday and Sunday.
  • Zulu Sommerbio. Held in July and August. Danish television station 'TV2 Zulu' plays open air films in various parks and squares of Copenhagen. There are movies in Danish and English and they are free to watch. You can buy beer and popcorn.
  • Copenhagen Jazzfestival. Held in early July. Features ten days of jazz everywhere in Copenhagen — parks, cafes, clubs, and theatres. Usually, a few headline acts are on the program but there are more than 800 concerts to choose from and the real attraction is often the obscure concerts you bump into randomly in a park or square somewhere in the city.
  • Grøn Koncert. Held in late July. A one-day music festival in Valby Parken near Åparken station. It is a major event in Copenhagen with over 40,000 attending. There is usually an international headline act, along with several major Danish bands and the atmosphere is quite unique with people having picnics and beers on a huge field of grass in the park. Tickets are sold through Billetnet, both online and at post offices.
  • Stella Polaris. Held the first weekend in August. A big, free, chill-out event in one of the city parks. Top international DJs spin chill-out tunes on the decks, while people are relaxing in the sun and drinking beer. And the afterparty in one of the major clubs usually attracts some international headline acts.
  • RAW. Held in early August. Scandinavia's largest clubbing event. The organizers rightly pride themselves in carefully selecting high-quality acts and more importantly the broad range of genres represented to make this an event with broad appeal to everyone in the Copenhagen nightlife scene.
  • Strøm. Held in August. An annual electronic music festival. It is a gathering of the best promoters and vibrant venues Copenhagen has to offer, mixed up with events at squares, concert halls, or unusual locations throughout the city.
  • Copenhagen Pride (14–21 August 2011). A lavish LGBT parade. The week leading up to the parade is usually full of community events and parties. Count on the City Hall Square (Rådhuspladen) changing its name to Pride Square during the week and hosting live acts, concerts, and debates.
  • Night of Culture (Kulturnatten). Held in mid-October, on the last Friday before the school holiday in week 42. You buy a badge for and get access to major museums, exhibitions, churches, libraries, schools, organizations, the parliament and other cultural attractions including some places that are not open to the public during the rest of the year. Open from 18:00 to midnight. Attracts about 100,000 people.
  • MIX Copenhagen — LGBT Film Festival (TBA October 2011). Held in Week 43. Ten days of gay and queer cinema at its very best with more than 130 screenings of the world's best feature films, short films, and documentaries with gay or queer relevance, culminating in a champagne party on the final day, when the best film of the year receives its award.

What to eat and drink in Copenhagen, Denmark


Eat

On a budget

If your budget doesn't allow for regular dining at expensive Michelin restaurants, don't despair — there are plenty of other options. The cheapest are the many shawarma and pizza joints that you find on almost every street in the city. You can opt for a takeaway or sit at the one or two tables that are usually available. The cheapest places can be found around Istedgade on Vesterbro and Nørrebrogade on Nørrebro. For affordable and delicious pita kebab, try Ahaaa on Blågårds Plads, or Boys Shawarma & Is for dürüm kebab on Nørrebrogade 216. For the best kebab in the city go to Shawarma Grill House Frederiksberggade 36.
If shawarma gets a little tiring, there are several Mediterranean-style all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants dotted around the inner city. Riz Raz is popular, with three locations and a huge vegetarian buffet. The branch on St. Kannikestræde has an infallible ability to seat and feed groups of all sizes. Nearby, Ankara on Krystalgade offers a Turkish-inspired buffet that includes meat as well as salads. Nyhavns Faergekro at Nyhavn has an original herring buffet where you can eat as much herring as you like prepared in ten different ways (grilled and many different marinades).
For breakfast and lunch try one of Copenhagen's bakeries (Bager — look for a pretzel-like contraption out front). They are numerous and the quality is excellent. Many offer ready-made sandwiches such as Denmark's famous open-faced rye bread sandwiches called smørrebrød. These sandwiches are small enough to take away and eat either with your hands or with a fork and knife and a wide range of ingredients are available including some elaborate combinations for the more adventurous. Most bakeries also offer coffee, bread rolls, and cakes and many bakeries offer at least some form of counter seating.
For something quintessentially Danish, no visit to Copenhagen is complete without trying out a pølsevogn, literally "sausage wagon", where you can get your hands on several different forms of tasty hot dogs with a free selection of various toppings for next-to-nothing by local standards. It is also one of the few places where you are expected to socialize with the other guests. To blend in, remember to order a bottle of Cocio cocoa drink to wash down your hot dog. At night, when the wagons are put into storage, 7-Eleven stores (which are open 24/7) take over the business of satisfying your hot dog craving. They offer other eat-and-walk items like pizza slices or spring rolls.
Also, remember to look out for the term dagens ret on signs and menus — this means "meal of the day" and often translates to a filling plate of hot food for a reasonable price.
And finally, if your budget gets really small, buy some of your food in the supermarket. But watch out, prices can vary a lot depending on which supermarket you are going to. "Netto" (e.g. close to Nørrebro metro station) is the one you should look for. Irma, with a lot of fresh and delicious food, is (even for Danes) a little expensive.

Michelin dining

Copenhagen has 16 Michelin starred restaurants, which is a huge number for a city of its size. This includes both Italian, French, Thai and of course the new Nordic cuisine. The new Nordic cuisine is headed by world-renowned Noma, that has two Michelin stars and have been number one in San Pellegrinos "The Worlds 50 best restaurants in 2013" in both 2010, 2011 and 2012. But tables can be extremely difficult to get. But if you still want to try the new Nordic cuisine is Relæ and Kadeau great options, both with one Michelin star. All three of them use traditionally Nordic ingredients and give new takes of classic Nordic dishes. Marv&Ben can be recommended for cheaper non-Michelin starred experience in the Nordic cuisine. Manfred og Vin is another possibility, Relæ's little sister, located just opposite to Relæ offer a relaxed atmosphere but still playful and delicious organic food, wine and beer with strong Nordic roots. It is also fine just to go for a glass.
Geranium and noma are the big international stars in Danish cuisine. Geranium's head chef, Rasmus Koefod, won the Bocuse d'Or (World Championship for chefs) in 2011, and Geranium currently has two Michelin stars. The restaurant is located on the 8th floor of the national soccer stadium in Østerbro. But don't get frightened by that; there is a beautiful view over the nearby park and most of Copenhagen. The focus is more classic French than Noma, but there are still strong new Nordic vibes.
The new Nordic movement has been so strong that it is almost impossible to find a Michelin starred restaurant in Copenhagen without at least some strong Nordic directions. One of the only exceptions is Era Ora, a classic Italian one Michelin starred restaurant. That is famous for a fantastic (though expensive) wine menu and delicious Italian treats. If the wallet is not that heavy, Formel B a strong choice. Besides from most other top restaurants is there no expensive tasting menu or the traditional starter, main and dessert. Here cost all of the 20 dishes the same and you can choose one, two or all twenty.
A fun story is that the only Thai restaurant in the guide is located in Copenhagen, and with a Danish owner. The restaurant Kiin Kiin is located in the hip and a bit trashy neighborhood Nørrebro. An affiliate was actually opened in Bangkok a few years ago. Aroii is one of Kiin Kiin's sister restaurants in Copenhagen, it is located in the same building and offers highly delicious Thai food, for much cheaper prices. Also possible for a takeaway.
Other Michelin starred restaurants include: Kong Hans Kælder, which opened in 1976 and has had only have three head chefs in that time. In these almost 40 years Kong Hans Kælder has been a front runner for the top gourmet in Copenhagen, it is still the place to go. The focus is changing from the classic French cuisine to a new healthy paleo-inspired cuisine, probably the only Michelin starred restaurant in the world to go in that direction.
Other one Michelin stars: Kokkeriet, Restaurant AOC, I Søllerød Kro, Grønbech&Churchill and Den Røde Cottage Other top picks include: 1. Th. The restaurant is decorated as a normal living room, giving the experience as being to dinner at a friends house. You pay a fixed amount before, and everyone is included. So you don't get a check afterward. A fantastic place. Mielcke & Hurtigkarl (which has been "cheated" out of a Michelin star for many years, at least according to Danish food critics) Marchal at luxury hotel D'Angleterre. A newly opened restaurant by rising star head chef Ronny Emborg. Alberto K, a rising star in the Copenhagen culinary environment. Restaurationen, a former Michelin star. But the owner lowered the tempo and still serves delicious food and gives top service. Bror, Rebel, Pony, Pluto, Clou, and Congo are all newly opened but show huge potential.

Brunch

Brunch is a Copenhagen institution, especially during the summer, and it is not unusual to hear a serious invitation for a morning brunch together with the ritual goodbye hug when a long night out in town draws to a close. In this way, brunch is intrinsically linked to the second local obsession of drinking. Food and fresh air is a great cure for hangovers as Copenhagernes have long since discovered.
Most cafés offer brunch, at least on weekends, often with a theme: American and French are especially widespread. One of the most popular options is O's American Breakfast at two locations in central Copenhagen.

Drink

Unless you come from elsewhere in Scandinavia don't frighten yourself by trying to work out what this costs in your home currency. At most places, the beer on tap is either Carlsberg or Tuborg. In either case, there will be a choice of the normal pilsner and then a slightly redder special or classic. Some might also offer wheat or dark beer.
If you are on a budget you could follow the example of local teenagers and get primed with bottled beer from a supermarket or kiosk. It is legal and very popular to drink beer in public (not on public transport, although it will be accepted if you are not showing drunk behavior), so buy a beer, sit on a park bench or at Nyhavn and enjoy Danish life.
As for where to drink, most tourists head straight for Nyhavn but while indeed pretty, the high prices here make it a bit of a tourist trap. In good weather imitate the locals by buying beer from a kiosk and dangling your legs over the water or head elsewhere to get your drinking on. The many side streets north and south of the strøget pedestrian street are a good starting point. Other good areas are Vesterbro west of the central station, along Vesterbrogade and Istedgade and in the meatpacking district. On Nørrebro, the cluster of bars and clubs around Sankt Hans Torv and Blågårds Plads, just after the lakes, is another hotspot. For a coastal city, Copenhagen has surprisingly few places where you can enjoy a water view with your beer or coffee.

Shopping in Copenhagen, Denmark


Strøget is one of the largest pedestrian malls in the world which links City Hall, Kongens Nytorv, and Nørreport station. Impeccably dressed Copenhageners breeze through high-end fashion and design stores when not zig-zagging through the hordes of tourists during the summer and Christmas seasons. Your fellow visitors can make it all feel rather touristy at times but if nothing else, it is great for people watching. If all this strange outdoor shopping takes you too far from your usual habitat, head for Magasin du Nord (on Kongens Nytorv) or Illums (on Amagertorv) for more familiar surroundings. There is even a real American style mall complete with a gargantuan parking lot out on Amager. Appropriately, it is called Fields.

If you would rather sample smaller and more personal stores, the quarter of narrow streets surrounding Strøget in the old city (colloquially known as Pisserenden and The Latin Quarter), has a fantastic, eclectic mix of shopping. This ranges from quirky century-old businesses to the ultra hip in a wide range of fields. It is also much less crowded than Strøget, though unfortunately no less expensive.
You can also try Vesterbrogade and Istedgade on Vesterbro, due west of the central station, although you'll need to go a few blocks before hotels/sex shops/Thai restaurants turn into more interesting territory. Right at the border of this area, Værnedamsvej and Tullinsgade are also good bets.

In Nørrebro, Ravnsborggade is well known for its huge number of antique stores that are excellent for bargain hunting and the next street to the north, while more modest Elmegade has some small independent fashion boutiques.

Laws limit opening hours for most shops, officially to the benefit of the staff, although the "closing law" (Lukkeloven) is facing increasing unpopularity among locals. But until the opposition grows loud enough, most shops will close around M-F 5–18:00 on weekdays, around 16:00 on Saturdays, and rarely will anything be open on Sundays, including supermarkets! For out-of-hours shopping (apart from the ubiquitous 7-Eleven and small kiosks), the shops at Central Station (offering books and CDs, camping gear, photographic equipment, cosmetics, gifts) are open until 20:00 daily. Large shopping centers and department stores are open on Sundays about once a month (usually the first Sunday, right after everyone gets paid) and more often during peak sale periods. The immigrant-owned grocery stores on Nørrebrogade on Nørrebro also tend to be open until very late in the evening.

Flea markets

Nørrebro Flea Market is Denmark's longest and narrowest. It stretches for 333 meters on one half of the sidewalk by the wall of the Assistens Cemetery on Nørrebrogade. Here you may find a Royal Porcelain Christmas Plate, a Chesterfield chair or plain or downright rubbish. Open from 4 April until 31 October on Saturdays 06:00 - 15:00.

The oldest flea market in Copenhagen is on Israels Plads, close to the Nørreport S-Train Station. Here private individuals, as well as professional dealers, sell all kinds of old stuff, antique furniture, His Masters Voice gramophones, and objets d'art. In 2009, the flea market celebrated its 35 year anniversary. Open from 18 April until 10 October on Saturdays 08:00 — 14:00.

Safety in Copenhagen, Denmark


As elsewhere in Europe and Denmark dial 112 for emergencies, and 114 nonemergencies relating to the police.

Copenhagen used to be one of the safest cities in the world and while the situation has deteriorated in recent years, it is still quite safe compared to other cities of the same size. Like any metropolitan area, Copenhagen does experience its share of crimes and recent times have seen an increase in very violent gang-related crimes on Nørrebro. While crime against strangers is mostly of the non-violent type, such as pickpocketing and petty theft, one should take precautions, in particular around busy tourist attractions, in train stations and inside the train to the airport. Due to gang-related conflict, extra precaution is advised in the neighborhood of Nørrebro and in the western suburbs, i.e., those municipalities located to the west of Copenhagen proper. However, there is no evidence that gang members have targeted tourists.

While racism is nowhere as rampant as certain reports will have you believe, it can occasionally be a problem for people of African or Middle Eastern descent. However, the only place you are likely to encounter this as a tourist is in the city's nightlife. If you are unfortunate enough to experience racism, it is important not to get yourself involved in a heated argument, as people who have not seen the incident will usually be quick to support the offender. This is due to a surge of problems with violence related to gangs within immigrant communities, who feel alienated by a closely knit Danish society. Walk away instead, and if you feel a need to react, report the incident to authorities who are required to investigate such cases. Other ethnic groups on the other hand, are not likely to encounter any problems. Of course, prudence in behavior and politeness will in most cases avert any problems and present you as the offended party, not the offender. In fact, educated Danes in major cities will in many cases interfere and defend ethnic minorities experiencing discrimination.

Stay healthy

Emergency Rooms (ER) are called Skadestue in Danish, as with many other health related terms and phrases, the English term may not be understood by some Danes — but conveniently Hospital is the same in Danish. Hospitals with 24-hour Emergency Wards near the city center include:

  • Amager Hospital, Italiensvej 1, Amager, ☎ +45 32 34 35 00.
  • Bispebjerg Hospital, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 7C, Nordvest, ☎ +45 35 31 23 73.
  • Frederiksberg Hospital, Nordre Fasanvej 57, 3A, Frederiksberg, ☎ +45 38 16 35 22.

The public healthcare system also maintains doctors on call outside normal office hours, calls are screened by medical personnel, and doctors dispatched only when deemed necessary.

  • Lægevagten, ☎ +45 70 13 00 41. M–F 16:00–8:00, Sa-Su all day.

There is a 24-hour pharmacy in central Copenhagen, and 3 additional ones in the suburbs.

  • Steno Apotek, Vesterbrogade 6C (Just by the Radisson Royal hotel, near the Central station), ☎ +45 33 14 82 66. regular hours: M-F 8:00–20:00, Sa 8:30–17:00.

Language spoken in Copenhagen, Denmark


Denmark's national language is Danish, a member of the Germanic branch of the group of Indo-European languages, and within that family, part of the North Germanic, East Norse group. It is, in theory, very similar to Norwegian Bokmål and also to Swedish, and is to some extent intelligible to speakers of those languages, especially in written form. However, it sounds different from Norwegian and Swedish. It is also more distantly related to Icelandic and Faroese, though spoken Danish is not mutually intelligible with these languages.

English is widely spoken in Denmark (close to 90% of the population speaks it, making Denmark one of the most English proficient countries on the planet where English is not an official language), and many Danes have near native fluency. Danish school children start their English lessons in third grade (when they're 8 years old), and regular English lessons continue until students finish high school, and many Danish university courses are fully or partially taught in English. In this regard, it is worth noting that Denmark is probably one of very few countries in the world, where you get no extra points for trying to speak the language, and Danes in general have very little patience with non-fluent speakers. So except for a few words like Tak (thank you) or Undskyld (excuse me), English-speakers are much better off just speaking English than fighting their way through a phrasebook. If you do try, and the person you are talking to immediately switches to English, don't feel bad as it is not meant to condescend or belittle. Also of note, the Danish language has no equivalent to the English word "please" so at times it may seem as though Danes are rude when speaking English. This is not their intention.

Many Danes also speak German. Denmark is one of the top countries in Europe when it comes to knowledge of the German language since more than 58% of the population has a good knowledge of the language. It is widely spoken in areas that attract many tourists from Germany, i.e. mainly the Jutland West Coast, the southern part of Funen and nearby islands (e.g. Langeland and Ærø), and also especially in Southern Jutland (Sønderjylland / Northern Schleswig), where it has status of a minority language. Elsewhere in the country, many people prefer to avoid speaking it, even when they do have some command of the language, and you will have a hard time convincing anyone to (outside the tourist industry) otherwise: this has nothing to do with history but is merely a result of the high fluency in English, making the locals less inclined to struggle through a language they are not entirely comfortable with. In a pinch or emergency though, people will probably step up and do their best to help. There is a native or indigenous German speaking minority along the southern border to Germany (Sønderjylland / Northern Schleswig) and vice verse across the frontier there is a small community of Danish speakers to be found in Germany.

French is also spoken to some degree, as all Danish students have received at least three years of lessons in either German or French, but given the Danes' limited contact with the French language, fluency tends to be lagging.

Foreign television programmes and films are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Danish.

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September 20, 2019
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