The colourful buildings of Nyhavn are a popular tourist attraction in Copenhagen | ?MissPassionPhotography / iStock
Drenched in history and culture, Copenhagen is a striking city with world-class institutions, renowned restaurants and must-visit historic landmarks. Uncover the beauty of this Nordic city with a list of the 20 must-visit attractions in Copenhagen.
Polar bears roaming, lions roaring and chimpanzees swinging – that’s just some of the sights that await you at the Copenhagen Zoo. Home to over 4,000 animals and 264 species, the zoo is also recognised for having the world’s best elephant facilities. Experience Denmark’s largest wildlife sanctuary where you’ll also find an artificial rainforest, African plains, and an icy Arctic enclosure. Great for travellers, you can roam around the zoo without losing much time by using fast track tickets that allows you to skip the queue.
The Tivoli Gardens, located next to the Vesterbro district, is a famous amusement park in Copenhagen. The second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843 and has been thrilling amusement-hunters ever since. Take a ride on Rutschebanen, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world, or see the stunning view of Copenhagen from the 80-metre-tall (260-foot-tall) carousel Star Flyer. Tivoli also offers a relaxing spot among their beautiful Japanese gardens.
Situated in central Copenhagen, the Black Diamond is the extension of the Royal Danish Library. With its imposing exterior that reflects its surrounding landscape, it’s hard to miss this cultural gem designed by the Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The Black Diamond has its finger on the pulse as the cultural platform for local and international leaders in their creative fields.
?David Stjernholm / Courtesy of Kunsthal Charlottenborg
Kunsthal Charlottenborg is one of the largest spaces for contemporary art in Northern Europe, presenting an ambitious program featuring up and coming talents as well as established stars from both Denmark and abroad. With intermedia spaces for films, talks, performances, concerts and film screenings, this is a contemporary haven for art lovers – located just off Nyhavn’s waterfront strip.
Created between 1670 and 1675 as a gateway from the sea to the inner city, Nyhavn was notorious for beer, sailors and prostitution, gaining a reputation as the city’s entertainment district. Now a popular tourist area, it has transformed into a lively space full of restaurants and shops. If you are looking for somewhere to sit back and people-watch during the summer, this is the place. Stop by Bo-Bi Bar just around the corner for a classic bodega vibe, where sailors, politicians and journalists would all rub shoulders in this smoky (and infamous) joint.
One of Denmark’s greatest tales by the city’s most famous wordsmith, Hans Christian Andersen, the statue represents the moment the mermaid gives up everything to be united with the prince she has fallen in love with on land. Created by Edvard Eriksen, the statue was donated to the city by the Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen and remains one of the most visited spots in Copenhagen.
Want an all-encompassing view of the rich history of one of the leading Nordic countries? Make a beeline for the National Museum of Denmark and learn about everything from the 2,000-year-old bog woman to Viking lore. Perfect for those travelling with kids, the museum is equipped with interactive activities giving an insightful view into Denmark’s past. Through informative exhibitions, you’ll discover the city’s past while learning about the events that shaped the country.
The 17th-century stock exchange building, B?rsen, is located in Christiansborg Palace on the island of Slotsholmen. With its majestic Dutch Renaissance architecture, it’s a recommended stop for architecture and history buffs looking to soak up Danish design. Now the home of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the building is a prime example of the celebration of Danish design within the commercial and economical Danish landscape.
With its famous formation in the shape of a Pentagon with bastions at its corners, Kastellet is an example of a fortress at its finest. One of the most celebrated examples in all of Northern Europe, it was once part of the ramparts built to protect the city. These days its a public park that’s popular with families on the weekends.
The Glyptotek is home to an incredible selection of art and artefacts dating back 6,000 years. Funded by Carlsberg founder J. C. Jacobsen, he also donated his personal art collection to the museum. A prime institution in Denmark, Glyptoteket is an independent institution that has become an important landmark in Copenhagen.
Home to the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court of Denmark, Christiansborg is the only building in the world that holds all three of a country’s branches of government. The first castle was built on the site in 1167, and was the official residence of the Danish kings until 1794 when a fire gutted the building. It became the seat of parliament in 1849 once it was restored. With parts of the palace open for tours, visitors can admire the grand halls and see one of Europe’s largest collections of copperware in the Royal Kitchen.
Copenhagen is a city with a perfect balance of the preserved old and the renovated new, and the Danish Royal Opera House perfectly epitomises how history can find its home in modern new digs. Built as a gift to the city by the shipping magnate Maersk McKinney-M?ller, the Opera House offers discounted seats in a bid to make opera accessible to all.
If there is one must-visit place in Copenhagen, it’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the home of modern Danish and international artworks. Located 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Copenhagen, the institution is home to over 3,500 pieces of art, including a permanent collection by the likes of Calder and Giacometti. The museum is also home to a sculpture park that features 60 different sculptures.
Travel to outer space or into the depths of the world’s biggest oceans thanks to Tycho Brahe Planetarium’s huge 3D screens. 3D movies and IMAX films presenting our planet’s mysteries to young and old are screened every day.
With over 400 species living within 7 million litres of water, the Blue Planet offers an exciting underwater experience in Northern Europe’s largest aquarium. Home to the brown-banded bamboo shark, the Atlantic goliath grouper and the redbelly yellowtail fusilier, the aquarium is a great place to visit if you’re looking to encounter unique sea creatures. While there, you’ll get to meet the big five: sea otters, hammerhead sharks, arapaima, giant Pacific octopuses and stingrays; watch the animals get fed and learn about the ocean.
Designed to continue the pioneering research of the astronomer Tycho Brahe, the Round Tower offers stunning views of Copenhagen. If your knees are in good shape, walk up its notable 200 metres spiral ramp that takes you to the top. The 17th-century observation tower was completed in 1642 and has become one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions.
A visit to Amalienborg Palace will captivate visitors’ interest not only because it is the royal family’s winter residence but also because 150 years of Danish history unfold through the diverse rooms and exhibitions.
Located off the busy streets of central Copenhagen, the Botanical Gardens oozes with serenity. Twenty-seven glasshouses can be found here, one being the 16-metre-tall (50-foot-tall) Palm House, which houses more than 13,000 species, with 600 of them being of Danish origin.
This 400-year-old Renaissance Castle was a favourite of King Christian IV, whose reign saw the construction of the Round Tower, B?rsen and Rosenborg, where he died. Take a tour of the castle and its grounds, and seep up some of the history between Rosenborg’s stone walls.
If you have 30 minutes to spare, look no further than the City Hall tour that gives you insight into Danish history, including the story behind the Lord Mayor and council’s headquarters. If history isn’t your bag, at least enjoy the incredible views of Tivoli Gardens and see Jens Olsen’s World Clock – an advanced astronomical design.