A Solo Guide to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is easy to navigate, incredibly safe, and boasts a multilingual population. Plus, there’s the Danish commitment to hygge (roughly translation: cozy), which means that the city feels warm and companionable—ideal for a solo traveler.
Øster Farimagsgade 10, 2100 København, Denmark
A visit to Denmark must include trying the country’s famous, impossible-to-pronounce open-faced sandwich, smørrebrød (I’m fairly certain that only native Danish speakers can pronounce it properly -"SMUHR-bruth”). Smørrebrød translates to “buttered bread,” and a traditional smørrebrød lunch usually includes three or four small sandwiches ranging from potatoes and radish to egg salad. The once working-class lunch gets a chefy makeover at Aamanns where the smørrebrød is served on homemade rye bread. The restaurant design is charming, with big stencils of radishes and cows on the walls. Order the smørrebrød trio for lunch, and ask to have it paired with a biodynamic wine.
Jægersborggade 27, 2200 København, Denmark
It’s easy to spend half a day exploring Copenhagen‘s street Jægersborggade. The block is lined with some of the city’s best shops and restaurants including Coffee Collective, Manfreds, Meyer’s Bakery, and my favorite ceramics studio, Keramiker. Ceramicist Inge Vincents can often be seen through the window carefully shaping her delicate white vases, cups, and bowls. Her pieces are so paper-thin that they take on an ethereal, translucent quality. While Inge’s pieces may look fragile, they are definitely still functional. In fact, chef Christian Puglisi uses her pieces at his famous restaurant Relae, located just up the street. I didn’t dare take a cup home in my suitcase, but lucky for me Inge ships to the United States.
Sankt Annæ Pl. 36, 1250 København, Denmark
Copenhagen has a staggering array of museums, concerts halls, and opera houses. The one captured above (while getting rained on during a boat ride in the harbor on our way to see the Little Mermaid statue), is of the Royal Danish Playhouse. Opened in 2008, the playhouse was designed to complement the nearby Copenhagen Opera House, as well as the original 1874 playhouse venue located on Kongens Nytorv. The bluish-green glass-enclosed area affords visitors panoramic views of the harbor, and also has a restaurant and cafe if you want to accompany your view with food or drink. Or considering the weather I was in, it’s a nice pace to simply protect yourself from the elements.
When you think of a royal palace, you usually think of one set building. In Copenhagen‘s case there are actually four distinct buildings which surround a large central square. Why four? Apparently, because it was originally inhabited by four noble families. Only, when Christiansborg Palace burnt down in 1794 the royal family needed a new place to live. For the king and queen, it wouldn’t do to live in the same palace lesser nobility had previous inhabited. The solution? Acquire all four noble houses and turn them into a super-palace. While the Queen still uses some of the buildings as her winter residence, others are open to the public or converted into a museum. This is also a fantastic spot to see the changing of the guard, and for a slice of history head to the corner facing the fountain (and opera house). Looking back into the square, you’ll see a small patch of damaged stucco. That patch is an un-repaired piece of the palace that illustrates blast damage from WWII.
I’d like to believe that had my public library been as stunning as the Black Diamond in Copenhagen, I would have spent more time studying at the library and less time doing whatever one does when one is supposed to be doing their reading. But the reality is that I probably would have spent most of the time staring out at the water and at the handsome people who wander through its naturally lit halls. The Black Diamond is the newer annex to The Danish Royal Library. It gets its name from the black granite, tinted windows and trapezoidal design (isosceles I think; perhaps I would be more sure had I worked harder on that geometry homework). When you turn the corner, it peers out like a large warship: dark, massive, and slightly foreboding. But the people and bicycles scattered about near the library’s entrance bely the need for concern. At the library’s entrance there is a cafe perfect for you to steady yourself with coffee, pastries, and more people watching. The library holds an art exhibit, concerts, The National Museum of Photography, The Museum of Danish Cartoon Art, as well as its own collection. But the pièce de résistance is the atrium that overlooks the harbor. Take the escalator up a few floors and turn and seize the view. But don’t gasp too loudly: there are people probably trying to do their geometry homework.
A great relaxed wine bar with a wine happy hour which is extremely popular. There’s a nice wine selection which stretches beyond the bar’s namesake wine, a quirky interior atmosphere, and a very relaxed environment. This isn’t the type of wine bar you have to put a jacket on for, which makes it a perfect fit for Vesterbro and a huge hit among locals. This is the sister location to Malbeck Vinoteria, located in Norrebro. Photo: Malbeck Vinbar
Strøget, København, Denmark
Copenhagen’s pedestrian-only shopping street, Strøget, stretches from the city square (Radhusplasn) to Nyhavn (Kongens Nytorv) and is lined by shops, cafes, department stores and restaurants. Walking the street from end to end is an absolute must as part of any visit to Copenhagen. Set aside some extra time to enjoy the street performers and skilled buskers that line the street year-round.
Vandkunsten 5, 1467 København, Denmark
This tiny street is one of the oldest in Copenhagen and is, in my opinion, also the city’s most charmingly beautiful little lane. Lined by historic houses painted in distinctly Scandinavian hues, Magaestrade is charming no matter what time of year it is or what the weather is like.
Sortedam Dossering 9, st, th, 2200 København N, Denmark
This group of more than 30 cafés across Denmark are open early, so they’re great for breakfast. The tea, coffee, and sandwiches are all very nice, but what really sets Lagkagehuset apart is the quality of the cakes. It would take an iron will to resist one of their strawberry tarts or a slice of Christianshavnerkage, a hazelnut torte topped with strawberry-vanilla cream and berries. The café in Copenhagen overlooks the lakes, and when the water glitters on a sunny day, there are few places more pleasant for an impromptu afternoon tea.
Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark
If you’re visiting Copenhagen, don’t miss a visit to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It’s an easy 1/2 hour train ride from the city followed by about a 10 minute walk. Everything about our visit was excellent but a highlight is spending time in the sculpture garden which overlooks the Sound (and you can see the coast of Sweden in the distance). This is a great outing with kids. The children’s wing does a fantastic job of creating interesting ways for the kids to plug into modern art and the museum. On our visit there was a sculpture garden detective kit where kids had to seek out certain sculptures and examine different aspects and make some discoveries. Our kids loved it and it kept them engaged -- and it allowed me to leave them with my husband while I viewed the galleries in peace. There is also a great winding slide near the children’s wing that they spent a lot of time on. At the end of the day we got a bite to eat and and a glass of wine (for the adults) on the terrace overlooking the Calder sculpture garden and the Sound. Don’t miss the gift shop with lots of great modern design items to tempt you.
Julius Thomsens Pl. 1, 1925 Frederiksberg, Denmark
Bike culture is a core part of the Copenhagen lifestyle. One way to experience this is to take advantage of Copenhagen’s relatively new tourist bikes. These are the white bikes located throughout the city (check the website for pickup points). You can pick up the bike, and rent it on the spot. The bikes have LCD screens with directions and electric engines to supplement your peddle power. When you’re done, you just return the bike to the nearest empty station and you’re all set!
Hal 7 & 8, Papirøen, Trangravsvej 14, 7/8, 1436 København, Denmark
Don’t be confused by the name: This isn’t street food so much as dockside warehouse food. Walk over Inderhavnsbroen, one of the city’s newer bridges (opened in 2016), and you’ll cross from the heart of Copenhagen to a former industrial area that is now a foodie paradise. It is to the city what Borough Market is to London—a hugely popular attraction where people flock to eat great food off paper plates. Chinese, Korean, Italian, Moroccan . . . It’s all here and so inviting that it’s hard to know where to start. The only note of caution: Copenhagen Street Food is so popular that the weekend crowds can be intimidating.
Sankt Peders Stræde 34, 1453 Copenhagen
Located in converted historic townhouses amid the winding streets of Copenhagen’s lively Latin Quarter, Hotel SP34 opened in early 2014 as an homage to the neighborhood and to mid-century Danish design. Each room is outfitted in clean-lined furnishings and muted tones, all meant to evoke Sankt Peders Stræde, the historic street on which the hotel sits, and give guests the feeling of living in their own Danish home, in a true Danish neighborhood. In the lobby—home to a stylish bar and lounge that serves coffee, beer (including the hotel’s own Brøchner Organic Lager), and wine throughout the day—the first thing guests see is a bicycle, a tribute both to Copenhageners’ favorite mode of transportation and to the renowned Sögreni bike shop down the street. The hotel contributes to the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife scene with two restaurants and four bars, as well as the longtime favorite Din Nye Van café and music venue; being at the heart of it all only adds to that Copenhagen-local experience.
Situated right in the heart of downtown, CPH Downtown is a vibrant hostel with a great reputation, friendly staff, and modern facility. Locals and travelers alike often can be found mixing and mingling in the hostel bar which not only services hostel patrons, but which is also open to the public. Photo: CPH Downtown Hostel
24 Skt Hans Torv
It doesn’t look like much, but this tiny kebab shop just off of Sankt Hans Torv is a great spot to get a kebab. Also, if you look closely at the counter you’ll see that it is decorated with passages from Machiavelli’s Prince. Made famous by the Turkish district in Berlin, kebabs are a Copenhagen specialty and Dane’s go-to budget food. For those unfamiliar, they are similar in form and shape to what most Americans would call a Greek Gyro. More accurately named based on their size pitabrød (small) or durum (large) but loosely called “kebabs” these takeout restaurants offer beef, beef/lamb, chicken, or falafel variations. Quality, price, and flavors vary widely. With different vendors using different types of chili, yogurt sauce, lettuce, tomato, and various other fixings. While you can find kebab shops (which also often serve pizza) all over Copenhagen the highest concentration is along Nørrebrogade in Nørrebro between the lakes and the area two blocks north of Nørrebro station.
Toldbodgade 2, 1253 København, Denmark
These guys take a lot of pride in the food they prepare. Things are made from scratch daily, and they focus on sourcing high-quality ingredients based on taste and what’s in season. Beyond just smørrebrød and the usual Danish lunch menu, Told and Snaps is a fully functional restaurant. They also have an assortment of traditional snaps, both purchased and homemade variations. As this is a traditional Danish lunch restaurant, it’s not typically open for dinner.