Recently I bought a return ticket to Copenhagen for £50 on Ryanair so I hightailed it north to enjoy Denmark for the first time! With its bright colors and whimsical bike culture, I was SO EXCITED to finally see Copenhagen for myself.
Copenhagen is famous for cycling, incredible interior design, and being home to the happiness people in the world! Literally, everything is flawlessly designed to be efficient, clean, and captivating. It’s no wonder why the quality of life is rated so high in Copenhagen. The downside? It can get HELLA cold in the winter – but what’s a little wind chill when you have ‘Hygge‘ culture (loosely translates as “coziness”) at your disposal?
It’s not news that, like a lot of Scandinavia, Copenhagen can get expensive, but there are definitely some great spots to find some budget activities or places to eat. I managed to keep costs down by staying with friends this time and enjoying a lot of amazing free spots around this historic city. Despite its reputation for being expensive, you can definitely enjoy a weekend away in Copenhagen on a shoestring budget.
With that in mind, light the log fire, get yourself some Hygge vibes, and fry me up a plate of Frikadeller! Let’s dive in and find out the best places to stay, what to do, and where to eat in beautiful Copenhagen, Denmark!
Where to Stay:
I was fortunate enough to stay with a friend in Copenhagen, but I would recommend staying in where all the action is so you can walk to all the major hot spots or stumble home easily. You do you.
I would recommend:
If you’re looking for a completely free place to stay in Copenhagen and you aren’t lucky enough to have a friend with a spare room, I’d recommend hitting up Trusted Housesitters.
You can sign up to their site, be vetted, and then you can housesit for people all over the world, completely free of charge. All you need to do is look after the place, maybe water a few plants. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
Things To Do:
I’m a simple girl, with simple needs. Most of my trips are centered around food and Instagram photos so that’s exactly what we focused on during my time in Copenhagen. In my Google Maps tour, I marked some of the best tourist locations and food sites so you can get the most iconic photos possible when you visit.
If you enjoy a bit more hand-holding during your vacation, here are a few highly-rated tours on Viator.
If I had only 24 hours in Copenhagen, my top 3 destinations would definitely:
Nyhavn started out originally as a busy commercial port, where ships from every corner of the world would come, dock, and trade. Known back then for its bars and local ladies of pleasure, little has changed in Nyhavn today.
Both sides of the Nyhavn canal are lined with bars, restaurants, and gentlemen’s clubs (after hours) that rage until the wee hours of the morning.
This is where we took my iconic Copenhagen photos opposite the colorful houses. For ideal blog photos without any randoms lurking around, I would recommend coming to Nyhavn between 8:00am – 9:00am.
This is early enough to avoid hoards of tourists, but also late enough to miss the stumbling strip club patrons as they witness the judgement of the glaring morning sun.
Freetown Christiania was the unexpected JEWEL of Copenhagen (for me). Christiania is deemed as an ‘alternative’ neighborhood in Copenhagen by the official Visit Copenhagen website BUT in reality, it’s a little rebel town that governs itself independently.
Residents of Christiania pay no property tax, no income tax (unless they’re part of the commercialized bit), and marijuana is “legal” within the neighborhood limits. Photos are strictly prohibited unless otherwise posted.
The sidewalks of Christiania’s town center is lined with marijuana and hashish vendors with make-shift booths set-up for cash-only business. There’s no real ‘legal age’ to consider as the whole operation is in a gray area. Christiania also hosts loads of quirky events and concerts, interesting homemade houses, and loads of art galleries/workshops. It’s truly one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen and their disdain towards authority is something that many of us can resonate with. FIGHT ON CHRISTIANIA!
** Note: I took the colorful photo (above) inside of Christiania in an ‘approved’ photo zone (art gallery) so CHILL. **
Perhaps one of the last great ‘tourist-free’ locals spot is the incredible outdoor food market – Refshaleøen or ‘REFFEN’ on Google Maps. Sorry to blow up your spot Danish people, but this place is too good NOT to share.
We literally lost ourselves in a maze of deliciousness and eventually settled on Ghanian food maybe by a half-American, half-Danish guy. Stall after stall, we saw Mexican tacos, Danish open-faced sandwiches (Smørrebrød), and Chinese dumplings all co-existing in the same place with local beers on-tap as far as the eye can see. It was an incredible culinary experience because we just sampled our way through the never-ending forest of food and there were loads of quirky things (and people) to watch and enjoy.
It was also rustic and ‘hipstery’ (my fav!) as all of the food stalls were made from shipping containers, trailers, and little hallowed out sheds. 10, 10, 10 across the board!
(Please enjoy my Ru Paul reference)
I would also 100% cycle to this location. It’s a long walk otherwise, and as it’s Denmark, there are a ton of places to lock up your bike once you get there, so there’s no need to worry about having your bike stolen while you’re enjoying delicious global food.
Google Maps Tour
As I am a lovely person who likes to be as helpful as possible to all my readers, I’ve created an easy-to-follow tour of my favorite hotspots on Google Maps. All you have to do it download it onto your Maps app by clicking the box in the right-hand corner and you’re all ready to go!
I’ve broken it down into three distinct sections to make it easy to follow:
- Tourist Sites
However, if you don’t want to click through all the links and layers on my Google Maps tour, I’ve listed all the spots below for you to check out. Let’s dive in and find out more.
Now, I’ve gone through my views on Nyhavn quite a lot in the sections above, but simply put, this area of Copenhagen is a must-visit while you’re there. It’s the iconic image of the city that you see in publications and on social media for a reason.
Even if you just end up passing through the area on your way to somewhere else, it’s well worth pausing and having a wander around the port, taking in all the colorful buildings and beautiful bars.
Again, you can read above for my personal experience with Freetown Christiania, but it was definitely a cool place to visit, and totally different from anywhere else I’ve been in Europe. Even though it has a reputation for being a bit dystopian and run by the Hell’s Angels, it’s also a place that’s full of art and creativity.
You can wander through local galleries, where you can meet the artists themselves, and discover what it’s like to live outside of a traditional society. Also, there are plenty of awesome places to eat, including a vegan cafe where the produce is grown right outside the establishment. It’s super cool and super fresh.
If you’re into European history, the Kastellet has to be on your Copenhagen itinerary. It’s located super close to the Little Mermaid statue, so you can easily hit up both sights in one quick trip if you’re short on time.
Kastellet directly translates to Citadel in English, and that’s exactly what this sight is – a fortress designed to protect the city! You can wander around the compound, learning more about Danish military history, and even see what their army looks like now, as it’s still a functioning site!
The Little Mermaid
Okay, so hear me out. Yes, much like the Mona Lisa in Paris, the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen is a lot smaller than you think it’s going to be, but it’s still a legendary sight. Although a lot of people will say to go in the evening when the crowds are fewer and it’s lit up, I’d disagree.
I’ve been to the Little Mermaid statue after dark and although it is lit up, it’s not super visible, especially if you want to get a good photo of it. Just suck it up and go with the crowds during the daylight hours.
Okay, so it’s no secret that I absolutely love a food market when I’m traveling. I just think it’s one of the best ways to see how the locals live and get affordable, fresh groceries in a pinch. TorvehallerneKBH can be found right by Nørreport Station, so it’s easy to get to no matter where you are in the city.
Once you’re inside, you’ll be treated to over 80 different shops and vendors, selling produce, cooked meals, and more. It’s an awesome covered food market that’s a perfect place to visit if you’re staying in an Airbnb and are planning to cook some of your meals to keep costs down.
Finally, I have spoken about my love for the lesser-known REFFEN food market above, but I cannot say enough how much I think you should visit this place if you’re in Copenhagen. Not only is it filled with varied food vendors from all over the world, but it also has entertainment and live music on most nights.
If you’re looking for a spot that’s lively where everyone in your group can eat and drink what they like, and generally have a good time, then this is an ideal spot to visit when you’re in Copenhagen.
There’s something so magical about a Scandinavian bakery and Landbageriet is one of the best in the city. It’s only a small place, so you’ve got to get there early before they sell out, but it’s definitely worth it. The best bit? They also have a good selection of vegan and gluten-free pastries and cakes which makes it accessible and delicious for everyone.
Meyers Bageri – Jægersborggade
The Danish take their bread very seriously. After all, this is a country that has mastered the delicious art of the open-face sandwich. So, if you’re looking for high-quality, freshly-baked Danish bread, you have to head to Meyers Bageri – Jægersborggade. It is a bit on the expensive side, but you’re on vacation – you deserve a treat!
Paludan Bog & Café
Bookworms, this place is 100% for you. Housed in an old bookstore in the heart of the university district, Paludan Bog & Café gives you so many cozy vibes while delivering no frills cafe fare. They specialize in organic ingredients which is super cool and means that everything tastes really fresh. Wander around the bookstore, find a favorite and then sit and read your new purchase with a warming cup of tea – sounds heavenly!
Next Door Cafe
If you’re looking for a quirky breakfast, brunch, or lunch spot, head over to Next Door Cafe. It makes everything on site from its refreshing pressed juices to its tasty cakes and full cooked breakfasts. Honestly, it’s such a welcoming place, and the ideal spot after a heavy night out in Copenhagen.
Restaurant Marv & Ben
Let’s be honest, Nordic high-end cuisine is known all over the world for being simple, local, fresh, and unbelievably tasty. That being said, hardly anyone has been to a Nordic restaurant. Marv and Ben’s is an awesome restaurant that takes Nordic Gastronomy and runs with it. It’s got a huge open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work, and the organic wine list is as long as my arm.
If you told me that a restaurant in a basement was serving some of the most delicious food in Copenhagen, I’d be skeptical to say the least, but Restaurant Puk does exactly that. Located in the basement of an 18th century building, Puk delivers amazing home-style, traditional Danish food in an intimate setting.
Denmark are very into their beers, and if you’re into craft beers, you need to make sure that the Mikkeller Bar is on your hitlist. It’s a bar with a super hipster vibe that has dozens of taps pouring brews from the Mikkeller brewery and other local, smaller breweries. If you want to try local beers or find something new, check this place out.
Heidi’s Bier Bar – Copenhagen
Okay, so Heidi’s Bier Bar is an insane place. You have waitresses in traditional Austrian dresses which look like they’d fit in at Oktoberfest, a huge list of European beers, and DJs playing Euro-pop all night long. It’s like one big European mix, but it’s so much fun to be around!
If you’re looking for a more laidback vibe than Heidi’s, head to the beautifully-designed Ruby. You can sit back on their comfy sofas with your friends and order artisanal cocktails that are totally delicious. You can stick with the classics, or you can branch out and try one of Ruby’s more creative mixes.