Copenhagen Nyhavn panorama city crowds enjoying sunshine restaurants bars Denmark

Your Trip to Copenhagen: The Complete Guide

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Regularly ranked among the happiest places globally, Copenhagen is a delight for visitors and residents alike. The compact city of 1.3 million, which plans to be carbon-neutral by 2025, is easy to navigate on bike or foot, historic castles sit in lush urban parks, clean power plants double as urban playgrounds world-class modern art fills the galleries of museums around the city. Like the whirl of the roller coasters at Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen's vibrant food and wine scenes are fast-moving, and each month brings a new opening from a famed chef or another intimate wine bar with an impressive list of biodynamic bottles. Spend time working up an appetite for the city's phenomenal food scene by flitting between dips in the pristinely clean harbor, biking around royal grounds, or shopping for the perennially cool Danish design.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: While almost every month of the year has its own appeal, the best time to visit Copenhagen is May through September. One of Copenhagen's most appealing parts is that even during the peak months of July and August, the city never feels swarmed with people but full of life and vibrant.

Language: Danish. There are helpful words to know, but Danes, especially those in Copenhagen, speak near-perfect English.

Currency: Danish kroner. Approximately six Danish kroner equals $1. Copenhagen is almost entirely cashless.

Getting Around: Biking is, by far, the most common way to get around the flat streets of Copenhagen. Download a bike-share app or rent a bike from your hotel. The driverless, eco-friendly Metro, busses, and water busses cover most of the city. Cabs are available but are crazy-expensive.

Travel Tip: If you have data, pre-load your phone with a few key apps, like Donkey Republic for quick bike rentals and Mobilbilletter for buying tickets for public transportation. 

Things to Do 

Copenhagen's museums cover everything from ancient Vikings to Andy Warhol and are a draw for many visitors, as is Walt Disney's muse, Tivoli Gardens. Shopping trips, canal tours, and lunches around town fill the days while top tables, excellent cocktails, and live music occupy the nights. 

  • It's worth getting under the skin of the city a bit with a great guided tour. Hyper-local experiences, like a food tour, are worthy of your time, not to mention a delicious way to discover the city's vibrant culinary scene.
  • Even if you're visiting in winter, finding a way to see Copenhagen by water is a quintessential Copenhagen experience. Go for a winter swim, relax in the long summer sun, rent a kayak, or join a guided boat tour with a laid-back local.
  • Discover why locals love Copenhagen so much and rent a bike, choosing to stop at lush parks, by the canal for people watching, or zip out to the industrial Refshalevej neighborhood for street food and a Mikkeller beer.

To help make the most of your trip to Copenhagen, we have a full guide covering the top museums, dishes to try, and the best bars in town.

What to Eat and Drink

A decade ago, Copenhagen's food scene was nothing compared to today's, and menus were loaded with herring and traditional dishes. While the pickled fish is still present today, it's presented in cool and innovative ways. But there's also great Mexican, pizza, delicious pastries, ramen, and some of Scandinavia's best burgers. Yes, everything seems to have roots in Noma, Northern Europe's most famous restaurant. Still, a host of 30-something chefs are shaking up the scene and appealing to a new crop of visitors looking to see what Copenhagen is cooking up next.

When it comes to liquor, cheap, local lagers, like Carlsberg, are the favorite of students in the park and sunbathers enjoying the city's generous open container laws. But it doesn't take long to realize that Copenhagen isn't a budget or backpacker town, and everything else is pretty pricy. But try and ignore the $20 cocktail price tag for at least one night to check out some of the craft cocktail bars, like Ruby and Balderdash. Like their foodie counterparts, the cocktail makers take their craft very seriously and source the ingredients, like small-batch liquors and seasonal juices, to make a great cocktail.

You can't leave town without trying one of the city's natural wine bars. Sure, the wine's vocabulary is like a secret language, and the bold colors and cloudy liquid can be confusing. Still, passionate wine merchants, like Rødder & Vin and Rosforth & Rosforth, make discovering a great bio bottle a real treat.

Discover some of the best restaurants and bars in town, as well as great local dishes you can't miss.

Where to Stay 

The beauty of Copenhagen's small footprint is that you can't go too wrong when picking a place to stay. The city center and the area around Nyhavn's colorful houses are filled with hotels, but the price is reflective of the prime locations or the hotel's design-savvy interior. A lot of visitors are shocked to see that $300 (or more!) only gets them a small room with two twin beds pushed together. Another hotel bummer: There are few international chains, making finding a room on reward points a chore.

But don't worry too much: There's a substantial AirBnB market in town, and it's a good way to get more space for your buck, and many are outfitted with top Danish furniture brands. Look at neighborhoods just outside of the city center, like Frederiksberg or Nørrebro. They're packed with local charm, great pastry spots, and local fashion shops.

The flat city makes it easy to bike around, and the 24-hour Metro makes it easy to go further afield without feeling like you're committing to a daily commute.

Before deciding, pick up some safety tips, and see our picks for top hotels.

Getting There 

It's easier than ever to get a direct flight from the U.S. to Copenhagen, especially on Star Alliance member Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). All flights, including European budget airlines and international carriers, arrive at Copenhagen Airport (CPH). Even with luggage and jet lag, it's easy to get from the airport to the city on the Metro, which connects to the airport and leaves every few minutes. There are plenty of cabs, but they're expensive.

Culture and Customs 

The Danes are polite and value arriving on time (seriously, don't be late for dinner reservations!), but they are not overly warm to people outside of their tight-knit groups of friends. Everyone in Denmark is considered equal, making working in Denmark a challenge for Americans, and men and women share household and children-related duties.

Unless you're at a five-star restaurant, expect to flag down a member of the waitstaff at least once, and they almost certainly won't stop by to make sure you're enjoying your meal. If you'd like another glass of wine or to order something else, don't be shy. Tipping is not expected.

Danish people value practical dressing over high fashion and couture, and sensible footwear and biking-friendly clothing is the top choice of most.

Money-Saving Tips 

  • 7-Elevens across town are great for healthy, inexpensive meals and snacks. Pick up a quinoa wrap, kale salad, hot dog, or cold-pressed juice while you're out.
  • The Danes have a healthy appetite. Many restaurants have menus filled with small plates, and a waiter might suggest six to eight a person. This can often result in a lot of food and a hefty bill. Start with three or four dishes, and remember you can always order more.
  • Many of the museums in the city have free entrance once a week. Otherwise, consider buying the Copenhagen Card for a day or more. The card includes unlimited public transportation and provides access to museums, the city's zoo, Tivoli Gardens, castles, and the Carlsberg Brewery.
  • Copenhagen is incredibly walkable, so bring comfortable shoes and save money by not taking taxi cabs.
  • For even more money-saving tips, check out the best free things to do in Copenhagen.
Article Sources
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  1. World Population Review. "Copenhagen Population 2020."