72 Hours in Copenhagen
Copenhagen embodies the best of past and present, from the fairytale-like Tivoli gardens and pastel canal houses to edgy design boutiques and buzzy Scandi restaurants. Leigh Crandall maps out a three-day itinerary from green spaces to galleries, canals to concert halls, to help you make the most of Denmark’s capital city
If you want to see the city like a local, rent a bike—over half of Copenhagen’s residents commute on two wheels and special bike lanes criss-cross the city. Start with a ride out to Langelinie Pier, where you’ll find one of Copenhagen’s most iconic attractions, the Little Mermaid sculpture inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. Next, head south to Amalienborg, four palaces that make up the winter home of the Danish royal family. Arrive at noon to watch the pomp and circumstance of the traditional changing of the guard ceremony.
When hunger strikes, head to nearby Nyhavn, the picturesque 17th century waterfront where colorful houses, cafes and bars lining the canal. Head to lunch at Cap Horn, a standout among the area’s restaurants thanks to a charming interior and a seasonal, organic menu starring freshly caught fish, free-range lamb and steaks.
Next, pedal on to Rosenborg Castle Gardens, the oldest and most visited park in the city. Tour the castle built by King Christian IV, which includes the Knights’ Hall with the coronation thrones and crown jewels. End the day with a visit to Statens Museum for Kunst, the Danish national gallery featuring over 300,000 works.
Try well ahead of time for a reservation at noma, consistently ranked among the best restaurants in the world thanks to the visually stunning, inventive Scandinavian cuisine of chef René Redzepi. Another stellar option: dinner at Restaurant Radio housed in the old Broadcasting House near the Copenhagen Lakes. Founded by the father of the New Nordic cuisine movement Claus Meyer, the three or five course tasting menus focus on imaginative preparations of organic and local ingredients like langoustine and cod.
Take your bike and board the S-train north to Klampenborg Station and Dyrehaven, a 2,718-acre forest park where you’ll find towering 400-year-old oak trees and thousands of deer roaming free. Ride to the 18th century Hermitage Palace, originally built to host banquets after royal hunts. From there, head to Peter Lieps House, a circa 1916 restaurant specializing in Smørrebrød—traditional open-faced sandwiches on rye bread topped with meats, fish, cheese or spreads. On your way out, pass through Bakken, a 431-year-old amusement park, and grab a cup of beer in London Pub, a double-decker London bus that’s been converted into a bar and café.
Head to Copenhagen’s bustling Meatpacking District in Vesterbro in the late afternoon to browse the boutiques along Istedgade, dig through the records at Sort Kaffe and Vinyl and wander galleries and museums like the Fotografisk Center for Fine Art Photography. Make a dinner reservation at Kødbyens Fiskebar. Start with raw bar selections like Danish skaw shrimp and oysters, followed by local hake fried in seaweed butter or Limfjorden blue mussels steamed in apple cider. After dinner, pull up a chair at Mikkeller Bar, a beer lover’s mecca serving local brews in a stylish, minimalist setting.
Spend the morning poking around artsy Nørrebro (the Brooklyn of Copenhagen) chock full of independent boutiques, restaurants and bars. Start the day off with a cinnamon roll made with Valrhona chocolate at Meyers Bageri, then window shop along Jaegersborggade, Elmegade and Faelledvej streets at spots like Danish jewelry-design collective Ladyfingers, ceramic shops Uh La La and Inge Vincents and vintage clothing and accessories shop Glam. Antiques hunters should also hit Ravnsborggade, where one of the city’s best flea markets pops up on select Sundays throughout the year. While you’re in the area, take a stroll through Assistens, a museum/park/cemetery, where Hans Christian Anderson and Søren Kierkegaard are buried—the green space is one of the city’s prettiest and it’s a popular picnic destination in warmer weather.
Next, head to Tivoli. Yes, it’s a little touristy, but the world’s second oldest amusement park is well worth seeing for its rides, open-air stages, games and shops. The pretty park also has several great lunch options, including the 131-year stalwart Grøften, serving Danish comfort food like homemade rolled pork sausage, roast pork and fried fillet of plaice alongside a lengthy menu of schnapps.
Take the afternoon to visit to Christiania, an 84-acre self-governed commune of Copenhagen founded in 1971 where about 1,000 people reside in self-built houses. Local tour guides lead visitors through the area’s cafés, art galleries and alleys covered in street art. Afterwards, go for dinner at Restaurant Kanalen, set along the channel of Christianshavn, and watch ships sail by (note: beware the bread basket, which is so fantastic you may not save room for the main meal).
Spend your last evening taking in a performance at the magnificent, waterside Opera House. Or, visit the buzzy new Jazz Club at The Standard. Founded by Claus Meyer and Danish jazz musician Niels Lan Doky, the space features nightly performances from top local and international acts.
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