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Scandinavia’s coolest spot: 3 days in wonderful Copenhagen

Though the Danish capital is rather small compared to some of its European counterparts, it packs a punch. Known for sustainable design, liveable spaces and happy people, Copenhagen has plenty to offer. The best way to take on this city is one neighbourhood at a time. So here is a nifty little how-to for the perfect day in the city’s top three districts; a blend of tourist must-do’s and local know-how.

City centre & Refshaleøen

Stop by and admire the colours at food market Torvehallerne

Stop by and admire the colours at food market Torvehallerne © mariaafischer

The city centre is – you guessed it – the heart of Copenhagen and home to the historical sights juxtaposed with contemporary urban living. Here’s a day full of activities that blend the Denmark of old with today’s ruling hipsterdom.

Kick off your day at Torvehallerne; translating literally to ‘the hall of squares’ this food and goods market is always bustling. We recommend getting a cup of coffee from the Coffee Collective – the local favourite for coffee lovers who want a good cup of joe from sustainable sources. Pair that with a cinnamon bun from Laura’s Bakery and you’re ready to take on the day.

Walk down one of the main shopping streets, Købmagergade, and get a taste of where the hub of Copenhagen life was in centuries past. Though full of new stores, the old charm oozes out of each and every fountain and cobblestone. Pop into the Round Tower for a panoramic view of the whole city for just 25 DKK. Remember to stop halfway up and see what exhibitions are showing in the mini gallery. Mosey through the shopping streets – including the famous Strøget ­– as you make your way south.

Get to the court of the Rosenborg Castle (located in the King’s Garden) at 11.30 to witness the changing of the Royal Danish Guard as they march from the Castle to Amalienborg, the palace where the Royal family lives. Now you’re right next to picturesque Nyhavn, the ‘New Harbour’ where the sailors of old would come to rest after a long journey out to sea. Instead of going to one of the area’s mediocre tourist-trap restaurants, find a pølsevøgn (hot dog wagon) and grab a quick, ultra-Danish lunch of a hot dog with roasted onions and pickles.

Take a canal tour from Nyhavn

Take a canal tour from Nyhavn ©Yoann JEZEQUEL Photography/Getty Images

A post-lunch boat tour is the perfect way of admiring all the historical landmarks from their best side. Find different types of tours departing from Nyhavn or Holmens Church and get a chance to see all the must-sees in one fun, fell swoop.

Afterwards, stroll across the water on the biking and pedestrian bridge (Inderhavnsbroen) and explore the small canals and walkways along the Royal Danish Academy for Fine Arts. Hop on a bike or take the 9A bus to Refshaleøen, the newest industrial development of Copenhagen. Stop at the beer-lover’s Mikkeller Brewery for a taste of ale directly from the taps.

Do like the locals: enjoy a glass of wine at La Banchina

Do like the locals: enjoy a glass of wine at La Banchina © anneruizlamaud

Visit La Banchina as the sun is setting to enjoy some delicious Nordic fare while locals swim in the small harbour front next to the restaurant. Clink glasses of natural wine and congratulate yourself on a day well spent.

Nørrebro

With a coffee in hand, explore one of Nørrebro's most beloved green spaces: the Assistens Cemetery

With a coffee in hand, explore one of Nørrebro’s most beloved green spaces: the Assistens Cemetery © mads_elsoe

This district is known as the “edgy” side of Copenhagen. Nørrebro is young, vibrant and full of hidden secrets, and small enough that you can explore it by foot alone.

Start your day on Jægersborggade, a tiny street full of quirky shops and restaurants for some good coffee and light bites. Slip into Meyer’s Bakery for one of Claus Meyers’ famed flour concoctions.

At the end of Jægersborggade is the main entrance to Assistens Kirkegård, the beautiful cemetery locals treat like a park. It might seem weird, but it is a very common thing to take walks through the grounds or even stop and have a picnic in good weather. Try and find some famous gravestones such as physicist Niels Bohr, beloved fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard or jazz musician Ben Webster.

Make your way towards Blågårdsgade, a walking street full of small bars, cafes and boutique shops. This street is the personification of Nørrebro. You’ll find people of all types and ages conversing over beers, wine or coffee and enjoying one another’s company. Find somewhere you like, sit down, order some food and feel like you belong – because you do!

Soak up the sun on Queen Louise's Bridge

Soak up the sun on Queen Louise’s Bridge © ipats

Cross Nørrebrogade and stroll down Ravnsborggade, the street in Copenhagen to get antiques. Peek into the shops and chat with the owners to get a sense of Danish history with personal stories. When you’re done browsing the ancient wares, do the necessary Copenhagen move and walk around the lakes. Stop on Queen Louise’s bridge – if you dare – for the ultimate Nørrebro cool kid hangout.

Pop into The Barking Dog on Sankt Hans Gade for a great pre-dinner cocktail from one of Copenhagen’s best bars. Then move up the street and onto Guldbergsgade to enjoy dinner at Bæst, an Italian restaurant run by famous chef Christian Puglisi. Their pizza is ranked as one of the best in the world. Be sure to ask your server about their sustainability practices and how they’re shaking up the traditional food scene across Europe.

For an after-dinner drink, hop into Brus next door – a micro-brewery using local Danish ingredients.

Try and catch a show at Alice, one of Copenhagen’s best-kept secrets. This well-respected world music venue also has up-and-coming jazz acts on its repertoire. Grooving to some tunes from all over the world is the perfect way to cap off a night in Nørrebro.

Vesterbro

Roller coasters, restaurants, beautiful gardens ... Tivoli is a place for both kids and adults

Roller coasters, restaurants, beautiful gardens … Tivoli is a place for both kids and adults © kirstinejensendk

This district is known for its plethora of restaurants and cafes – for food, this is the neighbourhood to be in. Full of young families and art students, Vesterbro is all about communal spaces, fine dining and big-city vibes.

Værnedamsvej – Copenhagen’s ‘Little Paris’ street – hosts one of the city’s best breakfast spot, Granola. A trendy spot among Copenhageners, Granola offers up some great food – get yourself some choice servings of traditional smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches).

Take a short walk to Tivoli – one of Denmark’s oldest amusement parks. If you don’t want to enter, simply walk around the perimeter and observe the beauty of the campus. Once on the other side, pop into Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – a modern and ancient art museum with a beautiful natural indoor garden. It’s free to enter the museum on Tuesdays; otherwise, it’s always free to simply enjoy the garden.

You’re probably getting a bit peckish right about now. How about some good dim sum in Copenhagen? Try Fu Hao, a restaurant off the beaten path that does some of the best, authentic Chinese dim sum. Roam around the area for some peeks into Chinese and Arab markets and pop into the main train station to marvel at the architecture.

Stroll down Sønder Boulevard and see one of the most popular communal spaces in the city. Buy a beverage at Kihoskh and hang outside for a second, watching the cyclists go by. Then head to Absalon, a community centre living in a renovated church. See if there are any workshops, film screenings or impromptu table tennis tournaments.

The Meatpacking District is brimming with restaurants and bars

The Meatpacking District is brimming with restaurants and bars

Night time in Vesterbro means one thing: Kødbyen (the Meatpacking District). By day, it’s full of butchers and fishmongers doing the day’s business to get good cuts of delicious proteins out to restaurants all across the area. But come sunset, it offers some of the best restaurants in the city. We recommend Kødbyens Fiskebar for fish lovers, Nose2Tail for meat aficionados and Chicky Grill for a taste of the Danish 80s. Note – Kødbyen is not the best place for vegetarians.

Neighbouring street Istedgade is lined with bars, but Kødbyen is also home to some of the city’s dance spots. Shimmy on over to Mesteren & Lærlingen for some soul and boogie while Jolene and Bakken have a more electronic scene. For the real night owls, KB18 has concerts and hardcore DJ sets that last until 8am.

After a night of dancing and drinking, there’s nothing like the perfect late-night bite. Vesterbro has you covered. Go to Isted Grill for the famous “flæskestegssandwich”, a sandwich packed with roasted pork shoulder with crackling, red cabbage, pickles and mayonnaise – or béarnaise sauce for those in the know. Or hit up Kebabistan for the ultimate late night Turkish food. Both are open late on the weekends.

One last thing!

The beautiful garden at Louisiana Museum is the perfect spot to rest your feet and enjoy the view

The beautiful garden at Louisiana Museum is the perfect spot to rest your feet and enjoy the view

Okay, this isn’t technically in Copenhagen, but Louisiana Museum of Modern Art – one of the world’s most unique modern art museums – is just a short train ride from the city centre. Housing impressive contemporary artists in a museum meant to feel like a traditional Danish home, this stop is a must for lovers of art and architecture.

With the exhibitions, sculpture garden, delicious cafe with a panoramic view over the Øresund channel to Sweden and the world-class gift shop, we recommend you partition off at least half a day for this activity.

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