Things to Do in Copenhagen
Amalienborg Palace is the official residence of the Danish royal family, the world’s oldest monarchy. One of Copenhagen’s most beautiful monuments and a popular visitor attraction, the Amalienborg complex contains four stately palaces: Christian VII’s Palace, Frederik VIII’s Palace, Christian IX’s Palace, and Christian VIII’s Palace.
One of Denmark’s most beloved icons, the Little Mermaid first appeared in Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fairytale and achieved even wider recognition with Disney’s 1989 animated adaptation. A statue of the character by artist Edvard Eriksen looks out over Copenhagen’s harbor, and is among the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Opened in 1843 in Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens is one of Europe’s most famous—and one of the world’s oldest operating—amusement parks, and served as a model for Disneyland in the United States. Tivoli offers a lively mix of attractions, gardens, and restaurants, and maintains a traditional feel and quaint charm.
Copenhagen’s waterfront Nyhavn district is one of the city’s most picturesque destinations, featuring a canal lined with brightly painted townhouses and cozy bars, restaurants, and cafés. Cobbled streets, sailboats, and tidy houseboats create a feeling of old-world charm that attracts visitors year round.
Sharing its Modernist home with the four-star Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel on Amager Island on the Øresund, Casino Copenhagen is the city’s only casino and the largest in Denmark. Its interior is a mass of subdued lighting and it has an atmosphere of subdued concentration; there are nearly 30 gaming tables for roulette, blackjack, poker and Texas Hold‘em players and the casino also offers more than 140 high-return slot machines in floodlit arcades. Live sports including horse racing and football can also be viewed on big screens.
There are several bars, restaurants and private members clubs on the premises, and unusually for informal Denmark, there is a smart-casual dress code that excludes sportswear, headgear, shorts and t-shirts for both sexes. A variety of casino packages are available to guests of the Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel and other visitors but these must be ordered in advance.
Copenhagen Casino is featured on sightseeing Copenhagen hop-on-and-off tours and shore excursions around Christiania.
Once the principal residence of Danish monarchs, Christiansborg Palace is now the beating heart of Denmark’s government—home to the country’s parliament, prime minister’s office, and supreme court. Christiansborg is one of Copenhagen’s most iconic landmarks, holding over 800 years of Danish history.
With a futuristic roof canopy jutting out over the harbor, the glass and steel Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen) makes a striking impression. And the building is just as lovely on the inside, with a marble foyer and gold-plated ceiling. Catch a performance there, or simply admire the opera house’s award-winning design.
Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle (Rosenborg Slot) is a Danish palace built in the early 17th century in the Dutch Renaissance style—typical of Danish buildings of the time—by architectural innovator King Christian IV. Originally the king’s summer home, today the castle contains a museum exhibiting the Royal Collections, impressive heirlooms representing the span of royal Danish culture from the late 16th to 19th centuries.
Opened shortly after the death of Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1844, the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen is the only place in the world to see all of his works of art. The first public museum building in Denmark, the museum features Thorvaldsen’s sculptures, sketches, letters, books and personal objects, as well as contemporary art, antiquities, paintings and graphic art. The ground floor is home to Thorvaldsen’s own plaster and marble sculptures, while the first floor displays a collection of paintings and Greek, Roman and Egyptian antiquities.
The building itself is known to be one of Denmark’s most beautiful buildings. Inspired by ancient Greek architecture, it was built around an inner courtyard where Thorvaldsen is buried. With brightly colored walls inspired by the colors and patterns found in Pompeii and Herculaneum, mosaic floors and decorated ceilings, the museum building looks today just as it did more than 150 years ago. Outside, a frieze wraps around the building that tells the story of the arrival of Thorvaldsen’s sculptures to Copenhagen.
Immortalized as the setting of Shakespeare’sHamlet, Kronborg Castle is one of Denmark’s top attractions. The fortress casts an imposing silhouette on Øresund (“the Sound”), and its towering Renaissance facade holds more than 400 years of history. From lavish ballrooms to the darkest of dungeons, this castle has it all.
More Things to Do in Copenhagen
Built in 1625, the Old Stock Exchange is one of Copenhagen’s oldest and most recognizable buildings. Characterized by a green copper roof, the landmark is one of Denmark’s finest examples of Dutch Renaissance architecture. Unfortunately, it’s not open to the public due to its role as the headquarters of the Danish Chamber of Commerce.
The National Aquarium Denmark (Den Blå Planet) is one of Northern Europe’s largest aquariums, with over 20,000 marine mammals and fish housed within its sleek modernist facade. Designed to resemble a whirlpool when viewed from above, the structure is set on the banks of the Øresund straight.
Founded in 1859, Copenhagen Zoo is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Europe. The animal inhabitants of the 27-acre (11-hectare) zoo span all corners of the globe, including rare and endangered species such as polar bears, rhinoceros, giraffe, zebra, and lions.
Dramatically set on the shores of Øresund (the Sound), the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is Denmark’s leading modern and contemporary art institution. Behind its glass-fronted facade are more than 3,000 pieces, including works by Picasso, Warhol, and Bourgeois. Visitors also enjoy the museum’s idyllic seafront sculpture park.
Denmark’s National History Museum is housed within Frederiksborg Castle, the largest Renaissance castle in Scandinavia. Spread out over three small islets on Slotssøen (the castle lake), the palatial museum contains more than 500 years of Danish history, illustrated through a vast collection of paintings, furniture, and decorative art.
The Rundetårn (or 'Round Tower' in English) is perhaps the best place in Copenhagen to enjoy panoramic views of the city’s skyline with its fairytale old town and many spires. The observation deck is located 35meters (115 feet) above street level, offering an expansive view of inner Copenhagen
The tower was built by King Christian IV, the famous architectural innovator of Denmark, to be an astronomical observatory. A wrought iron lattice runs along the edge of the platform, featuring Christian IV’s monogram. The Rundetårn was mentioned in two Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and is commonly used as a metric to compare heights of buildings in Denmark.
An exhibition center given over to promoting contemporary art, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND is located in the center of Copenhagen on Gammel Strand, one of the city’s busiest harbor-side streets. Tucked away in an elegant 1750s townhouse since 1952, the Kunstforeningen was renovated and expanded in 2010 by Danish architectural practice Vilhelm Lauritzen.
As well as hosting up to eight exhibitions per year from up-and-coming Danish talent and international big names (Mario Testino’s celebrity photos featured in 2016) in its light and airy purpose-built galleries, the venue has an arts movie house and stages a packed schedule of talks and lectures. Facilities also include a well-stocked bookshop and a pleasant courtyard café; this is a lovely spot to while away an hour after visiting the museums around Christiansborg Palace.
As the seat of the Danish government, Christiansborg Palace is one of Copenhagen’s most important landmarks; but it also hides a secret. The palace sits on the ruins of two earlier castles, the eldest being 800 years old. Deep below the palace lies a maze of atmospheric ruins that transport visitors back to medieval Copenhagen.
Copenhagen’s pentagon-shaped Kastellet (Citadel) is one of the best-preserved fortresses in northern Europe. Built in 1662, the site, although still used for military activities occasionally, functions is now used as a public park. During a walk around the grassy grounds, you’ll find well-preserved barracks, a small chapel, a windmill, and a moat.
The National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) is the country's largest cultural and historical museum. Exhibits encompass 14,000 years of Danish history and include a prehistoric Sun Chariot, Egyptian mummies, and an original hash stall derived from Copenhagen’s infamous commune, Christiania.
Urban centers are known for their diverse flavors and unique establishments. Nowhere is this truer than in Copenhagen’s Torvehallerne. This incredible market is jam-packed with more than 60 vendors selling everything from fresh fish to organic produce to home-baked goods. For travelers looking to eat their way through the city, this is the place to do it!
Sample cheese, caramel and chocolate at a shop selling items from the Danish island of Bornholm, Italian-style pizzas from Grom’s and tuck into the flavors of France at Ma Poule, where a glass of wine and possible the best sandwich in the city has the possibility to transport travelers without needing a passport! Whether it’s sushi, tapas, paleo fare or strong and sweet coffee, Torvehallerne is the perfect stop for visitors looking to get a taste of the city!
Aristocratic and much-mustachioed Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) was the most important Danish astronomer of the 16th century and lived on the (now Swedish) island of Ven (spelt ‘Hven’ in Danish). His influence was so great that in 1642 the Rundetaarn (Round Tower) Observatory was built in Copenahgen’s Latin Quarter to carry on his work; his memory also lingers on today at the city’s planetarium.
Inaugurated in 1989, the planetarium is constructed of biscuit-and-blue bricks in a distinctive circular design and sits on the banks of St Jorgen’s Lake; it was designed by Danish architects MAA Knud Munk. Inside its space-age interior are two family-focused theaters; one showing 3D ‘edutainment’ movies on a continuous loop, covering a variety of subjects in the natural world from monsters of the deep to life in space. But the major attraction is the vast dome-shaped screen in the Space Theatre (children younger than three are not allowed in), where rapt audiences can immerse themselves in 3D and IMAX journeys through the universe.
Most movies are narrated in Danish but English translations are available via headsets for 20 DKK. The Planetarium also has a permanent exhibition of astronomy and space travel that addresses the mysteries of our galaxy, while the ‘Journey through Space’ exhibit looks at how astronauts survive in the Space Station. Free guided tours are provided during school holidays. The Planetarium is on the route of the hop-on, hop-off bus Carlsberg tour of Copenhagen.
Kunsthal Charlottenborg is the official exhibition gallery of the Royal Danish Academy of Art and is the biggest venue for contemporary art in Copenhagen. The palatial residence was constructed in the 17th century for Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve. Queen Dowager Charlotte Amalie bought the Baroque palace in 1700, and her name has been affixed to it ever since.
Charlottenborg presents 4 - 5 exhibitions per year. It has become famous for its open submission spring exhibition, which is reviewed by a jury before the selection is shown. The fall exhibition is by invitation only. In addition to its exhibition space, Charlottenborg also has a Mezzanine available for many mediums of expression of the contemporary arts, from performances to debates.
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