In a previous life, I used to travel quite regularly to the Nordic countries. I must admit I miss that a little bit, even if most of the time I had to go for work. Luckily, we also managed a few city-trips, Sonia and I, and of course Copenhagen had to be on the list.
What to see in Copenhagen
With its mix of old and new buildings, Copenhagen looks more like a provincial city than a “capital”. It feels small scale and that is meant in a very positive way. Some wide lanes and the presence of water everywhere provide a sense of open space.
The Little Mermaid
When asked about what’s to see in Copenhagen most people will refer to the Little Mermaid, famous through the ferry tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It is a must-see in Copenhagen but very much like “Manneke Pis” in Brussels the little statue is bound to disappoint a lot of people.
Incidentally, walking along Stanley Park in Vancouver last year we noticed the Mermaid has a Canadian twin sister. So when you’re in Copenhagen go and see the little lady so you have that tick-in-the-box and you can start some real site seeing.
No worries, you can just walk along the waterside and enjoy the views. You pass the “Kastellet”, a kind of fortress still in use by the ministry of Defense and several military and intelligence services. There is also a park which is nice for a short stroll or just to hang out.
As we walk on we reach Amalienborg, a former royal Palace and now a museum. For us it was also a good refuge during our visit, as all of a sudden it started pouring rain. Our souvenir from this experience is a blue umbrella with golden crowns all over it.
The Opera House
Back at the water the Opera House at the other side is what catches the eye. It is really an impressive building. In contradiction to all the history we just passed this is a very modern design. The building is almost entirely surrounded by water and if you take one of the touristic boat trips around the city (which I recommend) you get to see it from all sides.
And so we arrive soon at Nyhavn. A bit touristy, yes, but still a favorite place for a short stop, to have a drink at one of the many terraces or even some lunch.
This short stretch of waterway with the ships always in the same place (except for the tour boats) has a very special atmosphere. The colorful buildings reflect the liveliness of the neighborhood and both the people who live there and visit.
All the trading buildings and warehouses have been converted in restaurants, bars and cafes. Especially when the weather is nice, and everybody wants to sit outside, a spot on the many terraces is hard to find. The story goes that Hans Christian Andersen (yes, him again) has lived in several of these houses and has written the story of the Little Mermaid here. In former times, the neighborhood had a bad reputation of loud bars and fighting sailors, but nowadays it is the place to be.
From Nyhavn you can stroll over to Strøget, if you’d like to do some shopping. But also here, if you look around a bit in the side streets, you can find really nice places to have lunch or diner. Quickly go through the traffic-free shopping area and reach Rådhuspladsen, or the city hall square.
You can spend some people-watching time here, but the real attraction is at the opposite side of the square: Tivoli.
Even if this amusement park is over 150 years old, it is still very popular. Attractions are still being renewed and updated and there is always a crowd.
I remember visiting Tivoli during my first (professional) visit to Copenhagen, seeing people there going for their wedding party and pictures. I must admit that it has its attractiveness even today, and even for me (not a Disneyland fan at all). The place has a kind of friendly atmosphere and is a real place to relax. I think it will continue to have many visitors for years to come.
There are many more places in Copenhagen to visit, and you can easily adjust your plans to the weather: pick a museum or one of the castles when it rains, but enjoy the outside as soon as it is dry. If you have plenty of time and have seen it all, why not take a daytrip over the Öresund bridge (by train or car) to Malmö in Sweden?
Where to stay in Copenhagen, Denmark
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
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