Køpmannæhafn: Merchants’ Harbour
This year is been a mix of going to places never visited before, and returning to many others as a second time with others, pretty much, a yearly return in order to visit other cities and landmarks nearby. It’s great to have so many cities in a radius of around 3 hours flight max, making it extremely easy and convenient to keep doing what I love the most: to travel. In this case, it’s the second time I come to Copenhagen, 5 years and a month to be precise after the last visit, and for a bit longer this time but a similar route to include Malmo in Sweden and other smaller cities in Denmark. A nice 4 days with my family this time, as it is normal for us to do at least a yearly holiday the four of us, mum, dad, my brother and I.
Once more, I take the chance to completely remake this guide for the city I did create few years back now that I have way more and better up to date information, and a nicer way in listing the sights perfectly by neighbourhood and in an sense order for easy following a route and not missing anything.
Denmark is somehow, one of the less visited countries from the many I’ve been. But in the other hand, this is a small country with an extremely centralised economy and population most of which living in the capital and its metropolitan area. We’ve been many years ago at the second largest city, Aarhus, and that already felt very small. Bearing these cities, there is only one more you can fly from London, this is Billund, famous for being home to one of the largest Legoland parks in the world.
Enjoying the whole city and all of its sights without rush is good enough for 2 days. This is a perfect weekend gateway, or in combination with other cities when coming for longer. The most popular almost every tourist do is going to Malmo just across the Oresund Bridge, in Sweden; or the beautiful nearby cities of Helsingør and Roskilde, both listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites for their beautiful castles and cathedrals. Back in 2011 we’ve done the same, Copenhagen and Malmo; this time I’ve planned the same with my family as they’ve never been, plus the beautiful city of Helsingør, north of Copenhagen.
The old town is extremely charming, with many colourful and beautiful buildings everywhere; the City Hall and grand buildings around that square, the Royal Palace, the Parliament, Tivoli Gardens and ancient amusement park and the many squares and streets of the old town are absolutely the highlights of the city; while the Nyhavn (New Harbour) offers the picturesque and iconic image everybody knows and have seen of the city at any travel magazine or website with the 17th and 18th century multicoloured wooden townhouses. Of course no need to mention that the Nyhavn is an UNESCO World Heritage Site for those obvious reasons of history and beauty.
But even though the city is having so many impressive buildings and sights, it is a little sculpture that it’s the icon number one and true symbol of the city: the Little Mermaid. Having seen it only in pictures I always believed it to be somehow bigger, but I was mistaken; it really is small.
With regards to food, there are plenty of choices for everyone’s taste, and the good news, prices are very competitive and so the amount and quality. Of course never fall for the first restaurant you see but compare around you a bunch or know the area you are. It is quite surprising with the prices for what is a rather high level of living the Danish people enjoy. Nothing to compare with the sky-high prices of Norway, but quite similar to those in Sweden where you also get a great value for money knowing where to look for.
For more information about the city visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Denmark’s currency is the Danish Corona (DKK). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Copenhagen
- Indre By Meaning Inner City, is the historical core of the old town, the downtown, in a circular shape, heritage of the former city walls that once circled around the primitive city. Dividing it into different quadrants, from north to south:
-Kastellet The northeasternmost area within the old town, home to the Citadel, hence its name.
-Saint Alban’s Church Built in 1887 as the Anglican church in Gothic revival style. Next to it is the Gefion Fountain, both at the footsteps of the Castle.
-Kastellet Built by Christian IV, it is one of Northern Europe’s best preserved star fortress. Walking inside or along the walls offers great perspectives, and also the beautiful wooden windmill inside.
-The Little Mermaid Just east of the Kastellet along the coast, the symbol of the city and must do. It is as the name suggests, unexpectedly very little!
-Middle section (west of Frederiksstaden) The area of the city between the Kastellet at the north and Gothersgade Avenue to the south that connect the lakes on the west with the Kings New Square at the east, where Nyhavn starts (Inner Harbor).
-Østre Anlæg Gardens Linked to the Kastellet outer gardens by a square at their northwestern part, the Oslo Plads. It was originally part of the fortifications, becoming a landscaped public garden after those were demolished to expand and unify the city.
-National Gallery of Denmark Located within the Østre Anlæg Gardens at its southern corner. Home to collections from the 12th century to the present.
-Botanical Gardens Limits with the Østre Anlæg gardens to the north, and the Rosenborg Palace gardens to the east.
-Geological Museum At the northeastern corner, outside of the botanical garden itself.
-Wintergarden The key element from 1874 among other pavillions of this historical botanical garden. Free admission inside.
-Øster Voldgade Literally meaning the East Rampart Street, is the main avenue that divides both the Botanical and Rosenborg Gardens.
-Rosenborg Palace and Gardens Built in 1606 in Dutch Renaissance style as one of the many of Christian IV’s architectural projects, and surrounded by the King’s Garden is home of the Danish Crown jewels which are on display in the catacombs. Many pavillions, sculptures and fountains scattered through the gardens make compose this oldest and most visited garden in Copenhagen.
-Gothersgade Avenue Starts by the Sortedam Lake on the west, passing through the southern side of both Botanical and Rosemborg Gardens to end at the east by the Kings New Square. It is one of the major thoroughfares, and while almost the entire street is worth every building architecturally speaking, the following are some of the major landmarks:
-Saint Andrew’s Church At the west of the street, near the lake. Lutheran church completed in 1901.
-Nørreport Station One of the major transport hubs in the city where commuter trains, metro and buses interconnect. The square over the railway tracks is of new creation as a new public space.
-Rosemborg Barracks Part of the Rosemborg Palace complex, are home to the palace guards and Royal Guard Life Museum.
-Reformed Church Consecrated in 1689, with great Baroque interiors.
-Adult Education Centre This large building opposite the southern corner of the Rosemborg Gardens has a beautiful facade in lines of art-nouveau. It was the headquarters of the Copenhagen Lighting Company.
-Baron Boltens Gård At number 8 Gothersgade, this half-timbered building dates from 1771 and was place for international trade and popular meeting place for prominent citizens and international merchants.
-Frederiksstaden To the south from Kastellet, having its west boundary the longest street in Copenhagen, Store Kongensgade; to the east the harbour, and to the south limiting with the Nyhavn (Inner Harbor). It was developed during the reign of Frederick V and the large majority of buildings are placed between elegant orthogonal streets and avenues. From north to south:
-Store Kongensgade The longest street in Copenhagen linking Oslo Plads with Kings New Square. It does not have that much important sights in comparison to the neighbouring parallel avenues to this.
-Nyboder Terraces At the northern section, just south from Kastellet, are those former naval barracks planned and first built by Christian IV to accommodate the Royal Danish Navy personnel and their families.
-St Paul’s Church Or Nyboder’s Church, built in 1877 in the middle of the barracks district.
-Bredgade Literal translation for Broad Street, is the immediate parallel street to the east of the Store Kongensgade. Starts at the southernmost tip of the Kastellet, in Esplanaden, and ends at the Kings New Square crossing through the 18th century extension of the city characterised by its Rococo mansions.
-Design Museum Occupies an entire apple spamming from Bredgade on the west to the parallel avenue, Amaliegade Street on the east. Beautiful buildings all around and in its central open square.
-Saint Ansgar’s Cathedral The next building after the Design Museum is the principal church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Copenhagen. Consecrated in 1842, becoming cathedral in 1941.
-Østre Landsret Danish for Eastern High Court, across the road in the next corner from Saint Ansgar’s Cathedral.
-Alexander Nevsky Church This is the Russian church, built in 1883 inspired on the 17th century Muscovite architecture.
-Marble Church Or Frederik’s Church, was started in 1749 like the rest of the neighbourhood around it, standing as ruin for over 150 years until its opening in 1894. It’s located in between Store Kongensgade and Bredgade streets at a square in the middle.
-Frederiksgade This is probably one of the most beautiful streets in the city, connecting perpendicularly the Store Kongensgade, Marble Church, Bredgade, Amalienborg Palace, Amaliegade and Amalie Garden by the harbour.
-Moltke’s Mansion Built in 1700 in Baroque style predating by half a century the construction of this neighbourhood.
-Odd Fellows Mansion Right across the road from the Moltke’s Mansion was built in 1755.
-St Anne’s Square One of the city’s major landmarks, this rectangular large square links from Bredgade to the harbour by the Royal Danish Playhouse. Marks the border between Frederiksstaden and Nyhavn districts. It’s shape is reminiscent from the former canal that was here, in similar way Nyhavn is, now occupied by a garden in the middle.
-King Christian X Statue Located at the head of the square as it intersects with Bredgade.
-Garrison Church Consecrated in 1706 is at the southern side, near the Bredgade Street at its west.
-DFDS Former Headquarters Among the beautiful buildings around, the former headquarters of one of the largest shipping companies in the world still here.
-Royal Danish Playhouse At the eastern side of the square by the harbour, was built in 2004 as gift to the city from the shipping magnate Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, immediately becoming a new symbol of modern Copenhagen.
-Amaliegade The third of the main avenues crossing Frederiksstaden north to south, is the one home to the landmark Amalienborg Palace. Once again, along its entire length is fully surrounded by Rococo palaces and mansions.
-Amalienborg Palace With it’s notorious octagonal courtyard, is the main residence of the Danish Royal Family, composed of 4 symmetrical classical style palaces to each other, with Rococo interiors. Everyday at noon you can see the changing of the Royal Guards.
-Christian VII’s Palace Originally known as Moltke’s Palace.
-Christian VIII’s Palace Originally known as Levetzau’s Palace.
-Frederick VIII’s Palace Originally known as Brockdorff’s Palace.
-Christian IX’s Palace Originally known as Schack’s Palace.
-King Frederik V Statue At the centre of the square.
-Amalie Garden At the water front, small gardens from the palace complex yet beautiful offering great views of the harbour and the palaces.
-Gammelholm Meaning Old Islet is this small quadrant, south Frederiksstaden just across the Nyhavn (Inner Harbour). In a triangular shape where its westernmost point is marked by the Kings New Square.
-Nyhavn Along the northernmost side of Gammelholm, is the icon, symbol and landmark number one of the city. The beautiful 17th century Inner Harbour with the multiple colourful townhouses. The oldest house, at number 9, dates from 1681. Countless cafes, restaurant and overall entertainment occupies the street level of every building and pavement; and by the pier head you can get onto a boat for a tour of the canals of the city, or simply as public transportation across towards Christianshavn.
-Kings New Square (Kongens Nytorv) One of the largest and most important squares in the city, and major transport hub. The Inner Harbour (Nyhavn) head is at its top right corner.
-Thott Palace At the top right corner of the square, was built in 1683 and it’s home to the French Embassy.
-Charlottenborg Palace Completed in from 1677 in Dutch Baroque style was the residence for Ulrik Frederik Gyldenløve, and home to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts since 1754. If has facades over the square and the Nyhavn.
-Royal Danish Theater The next building across the road from the Charlottenborg, was built in 1874.
-Magasin du Nord Across the road from the Theatre, is the top department store in Copenhagen for up-scale shopping.
-Hotel D’Angleterre Since 1795 in the same location, is one of the very first luxurious hotels in the world, and still to this date one of the high-class in the city.
-Slotsholmen The Castle Islet, south of Gammelholm (Old Islet) and completely surrounded by canals in its perimeter and the harbour, is since the middle ages the centre of the Government of Denmark, with impressive palaces and buildings home to the parliament and ministries.
-Christiansborg Palace The main landmark in the island, this huge complex of buildings are home to the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court of Denmark, the Prime Minister’s Office and the State Rooms of the Queen. It occupies the entire half north of the island itself.
-Danish National Archives In between the Christiansborg Palace and the Royal Danish Library and Gardens.
-Royal Danish Library Its gardens at the front provide a great view of the buildings all around, especially the 1906 main library building. Right behind this by the harbour is the extension, in the building named the Black Diamond, built in 1999 by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen.
-The Tøjhus Museum West from the Library is the former arsenal from 1604.
-Christian IV’s Stock Exchange The Børsen, at the northern side of the island by the canal, was built in 1640 and is a masterpiece of Dutch Renaissance. Its 56 meters spire is modelled of 4 dragon tails twisted together.
-Christian IV’s Brewhouse Built in 1608, was never intended as the name suggest as a brewery, but was part of the city’s fortification bastions at the southwesternmost point of the island..
-Middelalderbyen Meaning Medieval Town, is the oldest part of Copenhagen. Here there are no avenues and streets on a grid pattern, but bendy streets and little alleys dating to the medieval era. It occupies the large area located west of the Slotsholmen, south of Frederiksstaden.
-Strøget The world’s oldest and longest pedestrian street linking Kongens Nytorv by the Hotel D’Angleterre with City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen) to the west crossing the entire Middelalderbyen, with majority of the sights of this area along the street or adjacent ones.
-Saint Nicholas Church Just a street behind the Magasin du Nord department store.
-Amagertor and Højbro Plads (High Bridge Square) Both squares united into one are a major intersection along Strøget. From here to the south you reach the northern access to the Slotsholmen (the Castle Islet). Completely surrounded by beautiful buildings, the Absalon equestrian statue in the middle, and plenty of shops on any street around.
-Købmagergade This pedestrian street starts by Højbro Plads/Strøget heading north towards the Nørreport Station. Along its way you will find another of the iconic landmarks in the city, the Rundetårn (Round Tower).
-Rundetårn (Round Tower) Built in 1642 as an astronomical observatory, one of the many architectural projects of Christian IV. Nowadays you can get great views of the whole city from its top. The Trinitatis Church literally attached to the tower by one of its sides was built afterwards.
-Church of the Holy Ghost One of the oldest in the city, although its current look comes after the great fire of 1728.
-Church of Our Lady Not along Strøget but a street behind in Frue Plads next to the main building of the University of Copenhagen.
-Gammeltorv and Nytorv Squares Meaning Old and New Market, but to the eyes its just as one square, is the next landmark along Strøget Street. The Court House is one of the most prominent buildings, easy to recognise.
-Rådhuspladsen The City Hall Square, where the Strøget Street ends is one of the most recognisable landmarks of Copenhagen with its iconic City Hall, art-nouveau buildings and the historic Tivoli amusement park.
-City Hall Built in 1905 inspired by the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, Italy; is one of the most elegant buildings in the city in pure art-nouveau style.
-Hovedbrandstation The Central Fire Station, just behind the City Hall, was designed by Ludvig Fenger in Historicist style in 1892.
-Politikens Hus Houses the newspaper printing of the daily Politiken.
-Palace Hotel After the City Hall, the second most elegant building in the square.
-Tivoli Gardens Opened in 1843 making it the second oldest amusement park in the world, with the oldest one also in Copenhagen. Among its rides are the oldest still operating roller-coaster, from 1915, and the oldest ferris-wheel still in use from 1943.
-National Museum of Denmark South of the City Hall Square is centred on 14000 years of Danish history.
-Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Art Museum Mostly centred on antique sculpture from the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean. The collection is built form the personal items of Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries.
-Politigården The Danish Police Headquarters, behind the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, was built between 1918 and 1924 in Neoclassical style.
-Central Train Station At the opposite side of the City Hall Square and Tivoli Gardens, is a beautiful piece of architecture.
- Christianshavn This district lies to the southeast, separated from the Inner City by both the Inner Harbour (Inderhavnen) and Copenhagen Harbour. It is characterised by its many canals and the Freetown Christiania. It follows the shape of the former fortification bastions. The best way to visit is by getting on a tour boat from Nyhavn as it will navigate through the canals. Otherwise it will not make much sense if you want to come here on foot unless you have plenty of time in the city.
-Church of Our Saviour Dating back to 1695 in Dutch Baroque style it is more famous for its corkscrew spire, which you can climb to the top for the best views of the city.
-Copenhagen Opera House Designed by Jean Nouvel was opened in 2009 and along with the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is the most expensive concert hall ever built to date.
- Outside of Indre By It makes sense only to come to these places if you are having plenty of time in the city to visit everything else within the Inner City.
-Frederiksberg Palace The summer residence of Charles IV, inspired by Italian architecture. It has extensive landscaped gardens and the Copenhagen’s Zoo. Take metro line 1 to Frederiksberg Station, then its a short walk south.
-Carlsberg Brewery Southeast of the Frederiksberg Palace Gardens. For the lovers of beer, or merely for visiting one of the most famous beer breweries in the world.
-Dyrehavsbakken Amusement Park Created during the reign of Christian IV making it the oldest surviving amusement park in the world. Commuter train lines C and F gets you to Klampenborg station, meters from the park’s entrance.
Kastrup Airport is the largest of any Scandinavian country and has a great availability of destination within Europe and across the world. It is located to the south of the city and easily accessible by commuter train or the metro. Does not matter which one you take, the cost for a single ticket is the same at 36DKK, valid for a period of 60 minutes after validation, meaning you can get on further transportation to your final destination with the same ticket. It is 12 minutes to the Central Train Station of Copenhagen, and 30 minutes to the neighboring city of Malmo in Sweden.
Being that near, Malmo’s Sturup Airport can also be a good option when planning a visit to Copenhagen. Airfares are definitely cheaper there than Copenhagen in low-cost carriers. Or something you could consider is making an open-jaw by arriving irrespective to Copenhagen or Malmo airport, and leaving back from the airport of the other city. It can save you money and the extra cost for avoiding a train ride across the Oresund Bridge.
Coming overland makes more sense only within the neighboring Scandinavian countries and/or some cities in Germany. There most frequent service is that between Copenhagen and Malmo in Sweden, with also services to Stockholm and Gothenburg, to Hamburg and Berlin. The same applies to international bus routes, which also include many more distant cities and countries.
Within the city there is a good choice of metro, buses and boats. The cheapest single tickets are 24DKK, and those cover zones 1 and 2. Should you need to travel farther, then the price will increment accordingly to the zones you travel (12DKK per extra zone). You can get the tickets at the automated machines without any hassle. Once you validate the ticket you have 60 minutes where you could interchange to any other transport with the same ticket.
Hotel prices are quite high in the city and overall everywhere in the country. Finding a good deal is difficult, high or low season. The choice is very large in the other hand, so it comes down to you and your budget when having to chose. For both of our stays, this was the same case, and while on our first time we were near the city centre, in this latest occasion we got a great hotel, but in the airport area. Prices drop dramatically depending on the area. So while in the city centre is really expensive, the airport is half the price for top hotels including breakfast. A good side on this is that the airport is only 15 minutes from downtown by direct train and metro. So as usual in here, a nice point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred hotel search engine websites such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
In our recent stay in August 2016 we stayed at the Hilton, in Ellehammersvej 20, just outside the terminal buildings. Being the middle of high season, this is where we found one of the best deals for a top hotel, including breakfast and all the extra facilities; plus I was coming with my family for which I was looking for something really nice. Just at the base meters away was the metro station with easy and fast connection to the city centre, so we did not mind the location at all. The rooms were larger than average, of course top Hilton standards in comfort and care, great staff very helpful and polite, and the best breakfast of any hotel chain, their famous Hilton breakfast.
Back in September 2011 we stayed at the First Excelsior, in Colbjornsensgade 4-8. Small and quiet property a block away from the central train station hence great location in the city centre. From here you can walk to everywhere in the city without the need of public transportation, even to the farther sights the Little Mermaid and the Castle. It was basic but good enough to our needs. Nice friendly staff, quiet and comfortable room.