10 Best Things to See, Do, and Eat in Copenhagen

Denmark’s capital of cool is a haven for art, architecture, cuisine, and outdoor adventure—and a model for sustainable tourism. Here’s how best to enjoy all this Scandinavian city has to offer.

People sitting on docks and on a boat sunbathing, eating, and drinking outside of La Banchina restaurant in Copenhagen

A seafood dinner and a dip in the water at La Banchina in Refshaleøen are a must.

Courtesy of Simon Bang/Visit Copenhagen

Copenhagen is now easier to reach than ever for North American travelers, thanks to a brand-new American Airlines flight from Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Launched in June 2024, it marks the first time the airline is flying to the Nordics since 2019, when its service to Reykjavík, Iceland, ended. The new flight connects with more than 85 routes across North America and arrives in Copenhagen daily at 11 a.m., the perfect time to kick-start a stay in the Danish capital.

Whether you fly into Copenhagen on American or any number of U.S. or international carriers with service to Denmark, forget about taking a car from the airport. The city’s amazing public transit system will bring you to the center of town within 20 minutes. Download the Copenhagen Card app, which provides access to more than 80 attractions and all public transport via your mobile device. Here are our favorite things to do once you’re there.

1. Rent a boat or a (free) kayak

Spend a few hours on the water exploring Copenhagen’s charming and colorful canals by renting a GoBoat you can steer yourself or a GreenKayak, which you can borrow for free as long as you spend your time picking out trash from the canals along the way. (There’s no minimum amount you need to pick up; the important part is the effort.) If you want a more social exploration of life along the water, book a Hey Captain canal tour, during which passengers are encouraged to mix, mingle, and chat with each other, with fun conversational prompts.

Five people on a rented GoBoat, with historic Copenhagen buildings in background

Head out on the Copenhagen waterfront in your own rented GoBoat.

Photo by Abdellah Ihadian

2. Enjoy a communal dinner followed by craft beer

A growing number of Copenhagen venues are promoting socialization among visitors in a world where we’ve become increasingly isolated due to technology. Head to the communal dining experience Absalon Church, where you’ll be sharing a table and breaking bread with strangers, working together to serve one another and to gather plates and glasses after eating. The venue, a former church, often hosts a ping-pong battle after dinner. After making new friends at Absalon, grab a beer at Warpigs or Åben in Copenhagen’s nearby Meatpacking District.

3. Check out the Carlsberg City District

You can easily spend several hours exploring the Carlsberg City District, former headquarters of the famous brewery that’s being transformed into one of the most well-thought-out neighborhoods in Copenhagen—thanks to an ambitious urban development project that won the award for the World’s Best Master Plan in 2009. Grab a third-wave brew at Coffee Collective Carlsberg Byen before walking among this beautiful mix of old and new buildings, including the boutique Hotel Ottilia, located in an old beer storage facility. Head to the rooftop terrace for a sunset drink or get cozy in the lobby bar, stocked with unique gins and lagers. At the Home of Carlsberg museum, you’ll learn the fascinating story of the Jacobsen family, which founded the Carlsberg brewery, their equitable philosophy regarding the shared science of beer, and a famous feud. Grab a burger at Gasoline Grill or snag a seat at Beyla for extremely sophisticated vegan and vegetarian fare.

A modern, rust-colored building with dramatic curves in the Nordhavn neighborhood

Design lovers should definitely opt for an architecture tour of the modern and mind-boggling Nordhavn neighborhood.

Courtesy of Daniel Rasmussen/Visit Copenhagen

4. Take a bike, architecture, or slow tour

Spend a morning or afternoon biking around the city with Cycling Copenhagen, which offers great city overview tours or deep dives into emerging neighborhoods, or with the Bicycle Chef, if you want to add in a culinary experience. The Danish Architecture Centre also offers architecture walking tours, including one that takes in the amazing urban development district Nordhavn—an absolute must for anyone interested in modern architecture, urban planning, and sustainable development. Or book a tour with Slow Tours Copenhagen; it offers themed city walks such as “Women in Copenhagen” or “Green Copenhagen” (the latter is focused on sustainability efforts in Nordhavn). While in Nordhavn, take a dip at the Strandbad, a bathing area that’s free for all to use.

5. Marvel at world-class art and design museums

Use your Copenhagen Card to take the train to the seaside for a morning spent soaking up art and architecture at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, about an hour outside of Copenhagen. Back in the city center, indulge in a wide range of Danish and European art at the National Gallery of Denmark, the largest art museum in the country, or at the Design Museum of Denmark, which reopened in 2022 after an extensive renovation and now features a permanent Danish Modern exhibition. Added bonus: the museum shops are fine places to nab some last-minute Danish souvenirs to bring home. For something a bit different, the Cisterns is an underground art experience located in an old reservoir in a park.

Exterior of Copenhagen Contemporary museum with a rusted metal and glass facade and a bright red booth in front

When in Refshaleøen, make sure to stop by modern art museum Copenhagen Contemporary.

Courtesy of Visit Copenhagen

6. Roam the hip Refshaleøen neighborhood

Be sure to carve out some time for Refshaleøen, a former industrial area on the Copenhagen harbor turned cooler-than-thou neighborhood that is now home to some of the best bakeries, eateries, and art institutes in the city. Enjoy lunch at Lille Bakery, followed by an afternoon coffee and pastry at Hart Bageri. Explore modern art at Copenhagen Contemporary or hit the slopes at CopenHill, a power plant with a ski slope atop recycled steel, concrete, and aluminum. End the day at La Banchina, a seafood restaurant with fresh oysters, fish sandwiches, and natural wine, where you can warm up in saunas before (and after) taking a dip in the harbor. Another dinner option is Øens Have, one of the largest urban farms in Scandinavia, where meals are served in yurts.

7. Indulge in Copenhagen’s famous culinary scene

The famed Noma restaurant put Copenhagen on the global culinary map, but it is one of three Copenhagen restaurants that have three Michelin stars. The other two are Jordnær and Geranium. Of course, these restaurants often require reservations months in advance. If you don’t score a table, don’t worry—there are plenty of places where you can experience the Nordic culinary movement. That includes the one- Michelin-starred Alouette, which sources its menu from local farms, and Aure, a restaurant adjacent to Noma that was awarded a Michelin star less than three months after opening. There’s also the very innovative Alchemist, billed as an “experience” rather than just a restaurant.

8. Explore one of the oldest amusement parks in the world

Tivoli Gardens in central Copenhagen is the second oldest amusement park in the world and served as the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Disneyland theme park in Southern California. Whether you just want to stroll the attractive grounds or try out some of the antique rides, Tivoli is a silly and fun feast for the senses.

Overhead shot of two types of pastries, one topped with red powdered sugar and one with a chocolate coating at Hart Bageri

Hart Bageri is among the list of “it” bakeries that are having a major moment in Copenhagen.

Courtesy of Marc Skafte-Vaabengaard/Visit Copenhagen

9. Load up on pastries and sweets

No trip to Copenhagen is complete without pastries. Get up early and get into line at Juno the bakery, founded by a former Noma cook and churning out some of the best cardamom rolls in the city. Other noteworthy bakeries in Copenhagen include Andersen & Maillard, which doubles as a coffee roastery, and serves up everything from classic croissants to pistachio and coffee cake “cubes” as well as loaves of bread. Københavns Bageri is an artisanal bakery in the Carlsberg City District; its cardamom rolls and croissants are frequently in the display case alongside kringles and cookies. You can also hop into almost any corner candy shop to stock up on black licorice and gummy candies for your travels, with many varieties unavailable in the United States, which also makes this a great travel gift for friends and family back home.

10. Day trip to Kronborg Castle

If you want to explore beyond the city borders, the Copenhagen Card provides access to public transport throughout the entire capital region. You can use it for a day trip to Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is renowned as the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, located in Elsinore, about an hour north of Copenhagen by train.

Kaj Hotel: a houseboat with a wooden exterior that is situated on a canal

There’s nothing quite like the houseboat turned guest hotel Kaj Hotel in Copenhagen, complete with kayaks that are available for use.

Courtesy of Yohan Marion/Unsplash

Where to stay

If you’re looking for a centrally located luxury hotel, check into Hotel D’Angleterre, the oldest accommodation in the city and a true grande dame of Copenhagen, with recently renovated suites and a Michelin-starred restaurant in-house, Marchal—well worth the splurge for a multi-course upscale meal with dishes like a filet of Danish roebuck (aka deer) and a langoustine bisque to start. Or if you’d rather head to one of the newest and hippest hotels in town, make Hotel Bella Grande your home base. The accidentally Wes Anderson vibe at this chic new property from the team behind the effortlessly cool Coco Hotel is perfect for design lovers, as is the Donna restaurant for Italian dinner fare. For the most serene and unique stay, book Kaj Hotel, a single hotel room on a houseboat floating on a small canal that is in short walking or biking distance (or a quick bus ride) to the Refshaleøen neighborhood. The unit sleeps up to four people, and there are two kayaks available for guest use, as well as some complimentary wine, plus coffee and porridge for breakfast.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at Afar where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined Afar in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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