Top Tips for Your Next City Break – Copenhagen


Copenhagen is a coastal, visitor-friendly, contained capital, where good English is (almost) universally and willingly spoken, with a wealth of history, great design and architecture there is much to enjoy. The residents are generally very positive and helpful and the city is very clean, well laid-out and easy to navigate.

Danish Royal Opera House

Unless you have a penchant for long nights and cold weather, it is probably best to avoid visiting in the winter. Springtime can bring sunshine, blooms and blossom and is a great time of year to explore the streets, harbourside, parks and canals.

Background reading and viewing?
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (gripping, icy murder mystery), The Killing by David Hewson (more chilly grit) The Copenhagen Affair by Amulya Malladi (a comedy of manners and re-finding lost love). The Bridge – a terrific TV series where detectives from Sweden and Denmark must co-operate to resolve a homicide. Borgen is an engaging and complex Danish political drama television series. Adam Price is the co-writer and developer of the series, together with Jeppe Gjervig Gram and Tobias Lindholm. Despite these dark tales Copenhagen is really a very upbeat and progessive place.

krone coins

The krone (the crown). Plural = kroner.
There are currently around 8 kroner to the pound.
There are 1000, 500, 200, l00 and 50 kroner banknotes.
The 5, 2 and 1 kroner coins are highly distinctive and have holes in the center.

Bikes in Copenhagen

Get around by?
Bike. Copenhagen has overtaken Amsterdam as the cycling capital of Europe. It now boasts more bikes than cars. Cycle lanes are plentiful and the culture is impressively respectful of people riding bikes for work or leisure. There are numerous bike hire schemes that are simple to use and inexpensive.

The 'metro' underground train system is quite compact but is efficiently-operated and trains are frequent.

There are numerous hotels in Copenhagen on all budgets but, if you value your independence, there are lots of great apartments available to hire on Airbnb.

cinnamon bun

Food and Drink?
Gastronomy and fine wine are not the foremost considerations in the Danish capital but there is plenty to appreciate if you are prepared to do some research and ask questions. I quizzed a sommelier at length about three different wines and he simply let me try them all before deciding which I wanted to commit to. Seafood is a sound choice, for obvious reasons. Open sandwiches are traditional and come in a wide variety of styles and Scandinavia is home to the concept of the smörgåsbord where a selection of different ingredients can be enjoyed in conjunction with each other. Carlsberg and Tuborg are the biggest branded beers but there are many great bottlings from micro-breweries. French, German and Italian wines are widely available and are usually fairly-priced. Cinnamon buns are a breakfast specialty and good coffee is ubiquitous. Akvavit, which is distilled from grain or potatoes and flavoured with herbs, is the national drink and has been produced since the 15th century.

spring swimming in Copenhagn harbour

Don't miss?
The opportunity for a bracing harbour-side swim. There are several year-round swimming sites and Danes swear by the health benefits of an icy plunge. Demand is, understandably, greater in the more clement months but it is (obviously and literally) cooler in the 'off' season and is a badge of pride for first-time visitors.

A ferry trip around the many great sights along the harbour. This sounds touristy because it is touristy, but the boats are quite compact – they have to be to pass through low and narrow bridges – and there are many beautiful modern and historic buildings, boats and natural features to enjoy. There is (very informative) professional commentary in English!

The Louisiana art museum and sculpture park at Humlebæk. This involves a scenic train ride north of the city but is well worth the effort. It hosts a magnificent collection including works by Picasso, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder. Asger Jorn, Alberto Giacometti and César Baldaccini amongst many others. The grounds are stunning with coastal views across to Sweden and the café, although busy, is terrific too.

Any Hans Christian Andersen-themed attractions. He wrote some great tales but is not the only Dane of any merit who ever lived. Don't get your hopes up about Den Lille Havfrue (the Little Mermaid) either. It is a small statue gifted to the city by brewery magnate Carl Jacobsen in 1913 and it really isn't a big deal.

The Little Mermaid - Copenhagen harbour

Take home?
Bodum kitchen-ware, Lego kits for youngsters and a restorative bottle of akvavit for offsetting winter chills.