Copenhagen is a city I had placed at the top of my destination list for quite some time before my trip there last month. Although many had told me that it was a very expensive city, I had sourced reasonably priced flights and accommodation earlier this year and so, with a good friend of mine, I made the decision to finally visit! I had thought it would be quite like Amsterdam – colourful tall houses, canals, lots of bikes, efficient (check out my Amsterdam guide here) – and while I wasn’t wrong, I wasn’t entirely right either. Copenhagen was probably the least ‘tourist-y’ city I’ve ever visited, which was quite a unique and welcome experience. I’ve been fascinated by the concept of ‘hygge‘ (a key characteristic of Danish culture which is a quality of cosiness, comfort and something that contributes to a sense of contentment and well-being) for a while now, and I had also read in several articles and books about the aspects of Danish living that contribute towards it’s consistently high rankings in World Happiness Indices and reports. I had a wonderful trip there, and in this guide I’ll share with you what we did and saw in Copenhagen, and equally importantly, where we ate and caffeinated! We stayed in the Steel House Hostel in the Vesterbro neighbourhood – I would definitely recommend it. Our double room was a wee bit small, BUT super clean, great service, and the hostel has lots of amenities (tv room, mini-cinema, games, yoga classes, free water to refill bottles, a cafe and seating area), as well as being in a fun district of the city with good food and drink options close by.
SEE and DO
Rent bikes! Just like Amsterdam, Copenhagen is a city designed for transport on two wheels or two feet, not by car. Of course, there are cars and roads through the city, but the streets are so well-laid out for safe cycling that it would be a shame not to rent bikes during your visit, as it’s such a key part of Danish city living and a great way to see lots of sights in a day without walking miles! We rented ours for 50 DK (Danish Kroner) for 3 hours (it was 75DK for 6 hours) from our hostel, but there are plenty of bike rental companies around the city. Even if you’re not a regular cyclist (which I’m not!) the city is so well laid out for biking that (once you have an idea of where you’re going) it’s accessible to both new and seasoned cyclists.
Tivoli Gardens – Possibly the most famous attraction in Copenhagen, this large amusement park is worth a visit, if expensive. Paying in was 130 DK, but that is purely to enter the park. What we did, and what I would recommend if you’re not to fussed about the rides but want to see the park, is to pay the entrance fee, bring a picnic or lunch to go in with you, and just sit in the park and soak in the atmosphere before a stroll through it. You pay as you go for each ride so it can be as pricey a trip as you like. It’s a funky park and very well-kept, and I really enjoyed our visit.
Stroget – This is the main shopping district street of Copenhagen, and a really nice street to stroll your way down, window shopping en route, and maybe picking up a souvenir! We also popped into Illum shopping centre as we had been told the rooftop coffee shop was a gem of a spot for a sunny afternoon pick-me-up – which it was! We went to Original Coffee cafe and sat outside with iced coffees – it was 27 degrees out so this was a welcome rest!
Botanical Gardens and Rosenborg Castle – These are located side by side and are both beautiful to see and stroll through. We didn’t go into the greenhouses or exhibit in the Botanical Gardens but just walking through them was enough, especially on a sunny day! Rosenborg Castle was breathtaking – again, we didn’t pay into the castle itself as it was just too sunny to be indoors, so we strolled through the vast gardens and joined the many sunbathers and picnic-ers with a rest on the grass!
Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid Statue – Meaning ‘New Harbour’, this was my favourite part of Copenhagen that we visited. You might recognise the pretty colourful waterfront houses from photos of the city (see my photo below!) We cycled to the Little Mermaid Statue (which, while we enjoyed visiting, was a little over-hyped – it’s a beautiful statue, there’s just too many tourists climbing on it to get a photo!) and then parked our bikes at Nyhavn to stroll the area. It doesn’t take long to visit this part of the city, but it’s so, so worth it, especially on a sunny day.
Copenhagen Canal Tour – We booked a jazz canal tour with the Stromma company (i.e. a jazz band was playing on board during our tour!) for our last night, and it was an absolute trip highlight. It cost a little over 20 euro, and was so worth it. Our tour was 90 minutes – the jazz tour runs on Thursday and Sunday evenings, but I know regular tours run a lot more frequently than this. If your budget allows, I would absolutely recommend doing a canal tour – it’s a lovely way to see the sights of the city, and can be ideal at the start, middle or end of your trip.
My friend Niamh and I are keen yogis, so we wanted to see what the class scene was like in Copenhagen. Our original idea was to try 3 different studios, but being honest, that was gonna be rather expensive, and we found a great deal with Streetyoga (which has locations in Vesterbro and Norrebro), giving us 3 classes for 150 DK (just over 20 euro), so we did two Vinyasa classes in the Vesterbro studio, and 1 in Norrebro, with different teachers for each. The Vesterbro studio was particularly gorgeous, hence our second trip there! They were very friendly and chilled out, and very reasonably priced too.
EAT and DRINK
*Note: As breakfast/brunch is my favourite meal of the day, this guide focuses mostly on places ideal for the start of the day, but many are also suitable for lunch too!
This food hall and market is definitely a great spot to visit regardless of the time of day. It has food market stalls that sell produce but mostly cafe and restaurant stands to suit your breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or snack needs. There’s lots of seats and bars too – a lovely spot to spend an evening in the sun. Although I don’t follow a ‘Paleo’ diet, I tried the Paleo cafe here for a late lunch during our trip and really enjoyed the salmon/spinach/pumpkin salad I had here. I also picked up a rye scone from the Granny’s House cafe here (had to try the rye when in Denmark!) which was a delicious combination with my salad.
One of my favourite foodie finds of the trip, GROD was top of my list as it had popped up on so many Copenhagen food blogs I found. GROD is known for it’s epic porridge bowls, and it did NOT disappoint. I had the Oat II Porridge – with Skyr yoghurt (which I’m obsessed with), stewed apple, GROD granola and peanut butter. Reasonably priced, utterly delicious and super friendly staff too. We went to the Torvehallerne GROD, but there are others around the city I know.
Prolog cafe was my favourite coffee of the trip – located in the Meat-Packing District (which has a LOT of different restaurants and bars – definitely one to visit for an evening out), it’s very small but has seats outside and some indoors. We grabbed coffees to go after yoga and continued on our way, and the brew was bliss!
This restaurant was where we had our first dinner on day one, and we’re still raving about it! MadGlad is in Vesterbro, and essentially was a (mostly) vegetarian buffet style cafe. You pay 69 DK (i.e. about 10 euro) and fill your plate (and refill if you like!) with a range of hot and cold (mostly) vegetarian dishes. We LOVED this place, and had to stop ourselves going back each night!
Granola cafe was another one that kept popping up on travel/food guides I found for Copenhagen, so we made a post-yoga visit for breakfast during our trip. The menu has lots of options for meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike, and the vibes were very friendly and chilled out. I had a Skyr/fruit/granola bowl while Niamh tried the chia porridge – both were delicious, and we had a sunny window seat too!
The Coffee Collective
A coffee spot near Stroget which was a nice pitstop for a brew according to Niamh (I wanted to try the coffee here but my tummy wasn’t feeling the need to re-caffeinate that day!), with in and outdoor seating. A good spot for a little rest on your strolls!
Located in Norrebro, Social was a cafe we stopped into for pre-yoga coffee. It’s right on the canal, and sitting outside with our big mugs of coffee in the sun was a really blissful moment of the trip. Friendly staff, a cool menu (we didn’t eat here but it looked great!), good vibes – well worth a trip, especially if you’re seeing the Norrebro area on your travels, or cycling the canal near Torvehallerne.
This spot was a great pick-me-up lunch which you can sit in to have or get to take away (which we did – we took ours to Tivoli Gardens for a picnic!). As you can see from my photo, there were MANY plant-based options, and they had great falafel too! It was reasonably priced at 69 DK for a takeaway lunch.
Mad and Kaffe
I’ve saved the best for last gang! This was our last foodie find of the trip where we had brunch before heading to the airport. I had heard a LOT of hype about this spot (located in Vesterbro), and yes, it did live up to it! You order 3, 5 or 7 dishes from their menu, sort of like a brunch tapas, and what you pay depends on the number of dishes you order. We waited about 10 minutes for a table (it’s very popular!) and the staff were very friendly too. I tried the scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and yoghurt/granola/nuts/fruit bowl, which was an epic combination. We also tried one of their juices (beetroot, ginger, apple) which was delicious. It was just over 90 DK for 3 dishes which was enough for each of us, but I saw many people with 5, so it just depends on what your appetite is and budget. I definitely think this place was worth the trip, and loved the tapas-style brunch vibe!
And that’s a wrap gang! I hope you enjoyed this travel guide – let me know if you’re making a trip to Copenhagen and find it helpful! You know where to find me – @theirishbalance on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook. Now I need to figure out where my next trip will be to – all ideas welcome!
Ciara 🙂 x