Travel to Copenhagen

Nyhavn

[UPDATED 2022] I’ve been to Denmark more than 30 times, and most of the trips have been in and around Copenhagen. This guide for travel to Copenhagen is based on my many visits, mostly for work. However, some years have passed since then including two covid-19 pandemic years. Therefore, unfortunately some of my favourite restaurants and hotels are no longer there. I finally got to visit again in 2022, so I am posting this updated guide!

So, what makes Copenhagen such a wonderful city to visit? First, it is located along the North and Baltic seas, which means it has coast and harbours on three sides of the city. Second, there is a good mix of traditional and modern architecture which complement each other. For example, the modern Opera house built in 2001 is just across the water from quaint Nyhavn. Third, the city is a paradise for foodies. There are many amazing casual and up-scale restaurants to choose from. Fourth, there is a good balance of city and green spaces. Finally, it is walkable and safe, which makes getting around easy. On the less positive side, the prices can be expensive for accommodation, food and especially alcohol. I really can’t wait for the next time I can travel to Copenhagen!

Rosenborg Castle
Rosenborg Castle
Copenhagen Opera House
Copenhagen Opera House
Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens

Highlights

Before you go

  • Most people speak English in the city, so you are unlikely to need any translator apps
  • Summers are amazing and bright with long days, though the weather can always change so be prepared with layers. Also look for special events such as outdoor concerts.
  • In contrast, the winters can be cold and very dark. You can expect rain or snow quite often.
  • Cycling is a common mode of transport. However, you should know the road rules before cycling. And, as a pedestrian, be aware of cycle lines parallel to the sidewalk as cyclists can travel very fast!
  • Noma restaurant won the best restaurant in the world award multiple times. It is still a notable place to go if you have the budget. However, there are many other places to try for delicious food for all budgets
  • Alcohol can be expensive because there are high taxes on it. Therefore, you may consider bringing your own duty-free wine, beer or spirits if you’ll be staying for awhile
  • Some of the palaces such as Amalienborg can sell out, so you may want to book tickets online in advance
  • Lego comes from Denmark and the Lego store is worth a visit to see the creations of the moment
  • Consider the Copenhagen Card if you are going to be visiting a lot of the tourist attractions for one or more days. It also includes the local transport
  • On Wednesdays, some museums are free including Thorvaldsen’s museum, Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center and Museum of Copenhagen
  • Some restaurants close on the earlier side (9 or 10 PM) or stop serving food around then, so check times when planning your dinners
  • Rains could be a good option for retail therapy if you’re in need of waterproof outdoor gear.
The Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen
The Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen
Church of Our Saviour
Church of Our Saviour
Round Tower, Copenhagen
Round Tower, Copenhagen

Transport

  • Copenhagen airports is one of my favourite airports to be stuck in, and that has happened once or twice. It’s small but there are a number of good restaurants inside, as well as the delicious Lagkagehuset Bakery. In addition, there are many good shops to wander through and pass the time. From the airport there are many public transport choices to get into Copenhagen including train and metro.
  • One interesting tip is that Business class flights between London (and some other cities) and Copenhagen are very cheap. It is only a two-hour flight. However, for a small additional charge, you can check in luggage, have access to the business lounge, and be served food and drinks.
  • Taxis are available from the airport to the city centre if you want to save time. However, they are expensive
  • Within the city, I usually took either the train or metro. There are single tickets or daily passes for transport so see the DSB site and app. Tickets can be bought at machines in the station. The system is organised in zones, and usually tourists can get the small city pass which covers 4 zones. The airport to the city centre is 3 zones, for example.
  • For work, I might take a taxi if I had luggage or was running short of time. They are a lot more expensive than public transport. If you need to find an app then try TAXA
  • Additionally, there are many trains to Sweden from Copenhagen, including an overnight one to Stockholm which I had the pleasure of taking once

Accommodation

  • Comfort Hotel Vesterbro, not to be confused with Comfort Inn from the USA, had a renovation in the mid 2010s. It was great to stay there in 2016. Comfortable, central, simple and clean.
  • Axel Guldsmeden and 66 Guldsmeden are part of the same chain. Boutique hotels with healthy, natural breakfasts and chic décor
  • Imperial Hotel is a large and central hotel with a great buffet breakfast. My only complaint is that some beds are too soft
  • Wakeup Copenhagen is a budget-friendly hotel and simple. It was not the most comfortable and is located slightly out of the main centre near the water
  • Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade is similar in the budget-friendly Wakeup chain. This one is slightly north of the city centre but near Rosenborg Castle
  • Copenhagen Marriott is a luxury hotel along the water. It is more expensive but worth it if you want
  • Best Western Hotel Hebron is very central, and mid-range. Comfortable and good breakfast
  • Hotel Kong Arthur is an upscale four-star hotel with stylish décor. Located near the lakes
  • Ascot Hotel is centrally located and a close walk from the Central Station. I had a huge room!
  • Phoenix Hotel is an upscale four-star hotel near to Amalienborg Castle. Small, comfy rooms
  • One can’t get much closer to the main station than City hotel Nebo. The single room was basic and clean. It had a bed, desk and basin. However, I had to share the shower and toilets with the whole floor.
  • Hotel Alexandra is quite central, a few minutes from Tivoli. My single room was small, clean and had an en suite bathroom and desk.
National Aquarium Denmark Den Blå Planet
National Aquarium Denmark Den Blå Planet
Copenhagen Botanical Garden
Copenhagen Botanical Garden
Cool decor at Axel Guldsmeden Hotel
Cool decor at Axel Guldsmeden Hotel
Paté Paté French restaurant, Copenhagen
Paté Paté French restaurant, Copenhagen
Herring at Frk. Barners Kælder, Copenhagen
Herring at Frk. Barners Kælder, Copenhagen
Tartare and cucumber at Huks Fluks
Tartare and cucumber at Huks Fluks
Maple-BBQ ribs at maple- tasted as good as it looks!
Maple-BBQ ribs at maple- tasted as good as it looks!
Pizza at Mother, Copenhagen
Pizza at Mother, Copenhagen
Berry trio dessert at Maple
Berry trio dessert at Maple
Norrlyst pulled pork smørrebrød
Norrlyst pulled pork smørrebrød
Pastry from Buka
Pastry from Buka
Smoked salmon, poached eggs and rosti at Union Kitchen
Smoked salmon, poached eggs and rosti at Union Kitchen
Cinnamon roll from Emmerys
Cinnamon roll from Emmerys
Tasting menu at Selma- Herring
Tasting menu at Selma- Herring
Tasting lunch at Gemyse- spicy corn with polenta
Tasting lunch at Gemyse- spicy corn with polenta
Tasting lunch at Gemyse- Grilled tomato with sauce basquaise and almonds
Tasting lunch at Gemyse- Grilled tomato with sauce basquaise and almonds
Taffelbay bread and pastries
Taffelbay bread and pastries

Food

When I looked back at my trip photos, I was disappointed that I did not take more photos of my meals in Copenhagen. Since I was often out with work colleagues, I felt a bit self-conscious to be taking food portraits of every dish. In any case, there are a few photos to share and a lot of recommendations! I’ve tried to update this list based on what is still open in 2022. Sadly the pandemic closed down a few favourites, including Relae!

In general, I recommend to try some of the traditional Danish foods. These include rye bread, either on its own or as an open-faced sandwich (smørrebrød). Norrlyst is a good place for delicious smørrebrød. Also, the pickled herring are traditional and unique, though not to everyone’s taste! My favourite place to have herring is Frk Barners Kaelder, and they usually give you a side shot of aquavit! Seafood is plentiful in the cuisine, but there are vegetarian and meat options available in most places. Another typically Danish restaurant is Karla. Madklubben has excellent steaks amongst other hearty dishes.

Danish bakery pastries and breads are amazing. In fact, the large bakery called Lagkagehuset has come over to London branded as Ole & Steen. Another local favourite is Sankt Peders Bageri.

I tried out the Too Good to Go app for the first time in Denmark. It was fortunate to find Taffelbay Nørreport on the list. They were friendly, quick and gave me a big bag of bread and pastries! The rye bread and croissants were especially good. And the normal prices are fine too. 

I discovered a new bakery called Emmerys and their cinnamon bun was excellent! And Buka is great for pastries and for the rye bread. I even took a loaf home to London.

Queen’s Delight bakery specialised in delicious eclairs with unique flavours such as elderflower.

Østerberg ice cream is a small, specialty ice cream chain. I had three sorbets- sea buckthorn, dragon fruit and elderflower. All are very fresh and flavourful, perfect for a sunny day. 

One of the coolest food areas in Copenhagen is Kødbyen, the old meat-packing area. Mother pizza is a favourite, as well as the French Paté Paté or Fiskebar for seafood. Also, for more casual fare and drinks, Warpigs Brewery and Gorilla are both fun and tasty.

Of the casual chain restaurants I recommend Joe & the juice for sandwiches and smoothies or Sticks & Sushi for Asian. For quick food, it is also a good idea to visit the markets such as TorvehallerneKBH.

Surprisingly, there are some Asian food choices around the city. A few of my favourites are Poonchai Thai, Nibon-Ya sushi, and A hidden gem was The South Indian in Vesterbro, authentic and delicious!

For finer dining I first have to mention Noma, which has been named the best restaurant in the world on multiple occasions. I have not yet been there and the price is steep, but those I know who have gone were impressed. For pricier, but still affordable upscale dining, I have a few suggestions. Marv & Ben offers dishes made from locally sourced ingredients in a minimalist and open setting. For upscale Italian, one can visit L’Enoteca di Mr. Brunello. The restaurant KöD is especially known for steak and has a great atmosphere! Finally, both Retour and Pastis are classy French restaurants with memorable dishes.

The Union Kitchen is a trendy, friendly cafe with tasty, diverse and fresh food. I had a plate with rosti (fried potato cakes), smoked salmon and poached eggs. My friend had Korean fried chicken with sesame slaw and he said that was great too.

Maple casual dining was busy even on a Monday, so it’s best to book a table in advance. The service was very efficient and friendly. They take time to explain the food and wine. I had the tuna tostada to start- three crispy, fresh tortilla chips topped with aioli, chili, coriander, avocado and fresh tuna chunks. Then I had the maple-BBQ pork ribs with salad and fries. It was delicious and the ribs were cooked to perfection. They give you gloves to eat with so your hands don’t get too messy. For dessert I tried a trio of summer desserts. This included raspberry panna cotta, white chocolate ice cream, crumbled Oreo, and raspberry truffles. Yum!

Selma is a casual and stylish restaurant known for its smørrebrød. You can choose from the many varieties a la carte. However, they also have a tasting menu with 8 courses which I would highly recommend. It’s a good mix of seafood and vegetables. Then you get to try a lot of different dishes and flavours with a bit less bread. The homemade aquavit was also amazing! The brown butter flavour reminded me of caramel and was so tasty. Finally, they have a great selection of Mikkeller beer on tap.

Gemyse is a classy vegetarian restaurant located inside of Tivoli. That means you need to buy admission for the day and can visit the beautiful gardens. For lunch, the small tasting menu has two starters and two mains. The fried garlic pitta bread is moreish and goes well with the paprika hummous. The carrot tartare with Kimchee and mustard seed is a unique, tasty flavour. The grilled tomato is fancier than it sounds with a rich basquaise sauce and almonds. And the spicy corn with polenta has a great flavour and texture mix. I was full but still had the petits fours, two bites of the gateau marcel (chocolate mousse cake).

Thorvaldsens Museum
Thorvaldsens Museum
The David Collection
The David Collection
View from Christianborg
View from Christianborg

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, it is safe and easy to find your way around the city

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Yes almost everyone speaks English. Even at the post office, the man at the counter asked in perfect English if I needed any help.

Q: Is it a walkable city?

A: Yes the city centre is walkable and if you get tired, you can use the bus and metro systems.

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