Copenhagen's fantastic art scene has something for everyone: Heaps of modern art, creative design spaces to challenge the norms, and stunning buildings that house works by some of the biggest names in art. Unfortunately, the gorgeous Design Museum of Denmark is undergoing an 18-month total renovation and won't open again until early 2022. But even without the Design Museum of Denmark, there are more than enough spots to fill days hopping from museum to museum, if that's your thing, or follow this guide to find the best artistic hideouts in the city. And if you’re considering the Copenhagen Card, all the museums on this list are included in the pass.
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
South of the city on a beautiful harbor is a nautical-inspired building that houses modern and contemporary works by Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, and Anselm Reyle. While the permanent exhibits are lovely, it's the impressive caliber of temporary exhibitions (most recently Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso) that attract the crowds, so be sure to check out the latest lineup in advance. There's a beautiful, slightly fancy cafe with new Nordic food that's filling and beautifully presented.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Located 25 miles north of Copenhagen, the museum was once an old villa that architects Jorgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert transformed into a gorgeous creative getaway that looks at Sweden across the Oresund Sound. The grounds are also home to a dreamy terrace (great for lunch or sunset drinks) and a 60-piece outdoor sculpture garden. Inside, the modern art heavy hitters are all there: Picasso, Kandinsky, Warhol, Kahlo, and Hockney. Interactive rooms, including "Gleaning Lights of the Souls" by Japanese darling Yayoi Kusama, keep kids of all ages engaged. Consider lingering longer (or even bringing a swimsuit) to take advantage of the late-night summer hours.
Danish brewmaster Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg fame was an avid art collector and started the Glyptotek in 1897. Housed in several elegant mansions, including impeccable gardens and a rooftop terrace, the museum's more than 10,000 works of art, antiquities, and archaeological finds focus on the 19th century. There's something for everyone, including Egyptian artifacts and French paintings. While there is too much to cover in a day, free guided tours (or private hour-long tours for a fee) focus on the history and the highlights, like the biggest collection of Rodin sculptures outside of France and paintings by Cézanne, Monet, and Renoir.
Ostre Anlæg park, which holds, among others, the National Gallery of Denmark, is where you'll find the personal collection of tobacco trader Heinrich Hirschsprung and his wife. There are lovely 19th- and 20th-century paintings from the Danish Golden Age. Paintings on display include an extensive collection of work from international artists who took up residency at the Skagen artist colony. Their creativity advocated for a more modern painting style, breaking away from the academic paintings captured in the Danish Golden Age.
National Gallery of Denmark
Known more commonly as SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst), this is the largest museum in Denmark and houses works collected by Danish royalty for generations. The building acts as a crash course on all things Danish, from Viking tools to medieval fashion and Denmark's history from the 1600s to modern day. There's more than any reasonable person could see in a day, so book one of the thematic tours and prioritize learning a lot about a little. There's great children's museum (best for ages four to 12), a section on Egyptian mummies, and a top-notch gift shop.
This subterranean world is easy to miss, even though it's by the zoo and Frederiksberg Castle in the beautiful Soendermarken Park. The best way to find the former water reservoir is to find the glass pyramid by the park's water fountain. Once there, descend underground, where you might be asked to wear rain boots or paddle your own canoe in the dark. Rotating exhibits are designed to heighten your senses and are often experienced in minimal lighting with soft and melodramatic music, which gives the underground world a cool but spooky vibe.
Large-scale and often interactive exhibits dominate the main room at this reclaimed 75,000-square-foot warehouse in the trendy Refshaleoen neighborhood. Adjoining rooms often have movie installations, dance performances, and other works designed to leave the viewers captivated and question what they experience. Things often change, so be sure to check the website, but past artists have included Bruce Nauman and Yoko Ono.
Danish Architecture Center
Want to know more about what makes Copenhagen a design mecca or how architecture can improve happiness and the planet? Find these answers and more at the sleek Danish Architecture Center. Rotating exhibits highlight the classic works of Arne Jacobsen while others help children see the world from a new point of view. Believing that design must be seen to be understood, the museum's docents lead excellent city tours on foot, bike, and boat. Each guided tour ticket includes entrance to the museum.
The museum is named for hometown hero Bertel Thorvaldsen, an incredible sculptor in the Neoclassical period and one of the first Danish artists to gain real international fame. Thorvaldsen spent significant time in Rome crafting bespoke pieces for Napoleon and the Pope. The museum showcases his plaster and marble sculptures, personal letters, memorabilia, and art he collected in Italy and abroad. Guided tours are 50 minutes, and you can book one that ends with wine and snacks. This bite-sized museum in the center of town is perfect for chilly, rainy days when you want to warm up indoors and learn something.