A First-timer’s Guide to Copenhagen

Nyhavn copenhagen things to do denmark blog

‘Hygge’ – it’s a term we’d never heard before stepping foot in Denmark, but now we’re obsessed. After a few google searches we learnt it encompasses a uniquely Danish concept that is difficult to describe in English, but describes a feeling of ‘cosiness’ or ‘contentment’ and an overall sense of wellbeing in life. It can be used to describe a spontaneous moment of joy or the comfort of being with the ones you love. This idea really resonated with us and the more time we spent in Denmark the more we realised those clever Danes are just oozing hygge. From the way they dress (think light linens, practical fabrics and neutral tones) to their minimalistic yet beautiful buildings… and not to mention some of the happiest locals we’ve come across on our travels to date. With our first stop in Denmark being the country’s capital Copenhagen we were keen to uncover how we too can incorporate a little more ‘hygge’ into our lives.

Originally we had planned to visit Copenhagen in September/October, however decided to bring it forward when we looked into the average daily temperatures around that time of year (daily lows of 7 degrees and highs of 12). While Denmark had always been on our list of places we definitely wanted to visit (Ky was particularly keen to explore his Danish heritage!) we had never really considered it as a Summer destination. And what a shame it would have been if we’d missed this absolute gem in all its summer glory! (without the crushing crowds that plague some of Europe’s other major cities around this time of year). So here is our public service announcement to you…. visit Denmark in the Summer. This was an absolute gamechanger for us and has already got us planning a longer Scandinavian summer loop for future trips.

Immediately after stepping off the train at Copenhagen Central Station we were struck by the city’s cleanliness, cool Scandi vibes, and welcoming locals. We also noticed significantly fewer tourists and a real emphasis on looking after both oneself and the environment – there were far fewer cars on the roads thanks to so many of the locals cycling to work. The weather was crisp (yet still sunny hitting ‘unseasonable’ tops of 25 degrees during the day). A perfect change of pace for us after sweltering through 35+ degrees in central Europe. With a ridiculously reliable train network and the freshest fruit and vegetables we’ve been able to get our hands on in a long while, this was the exact change of pace we didn’t know we needed.

If you are indeed considering an inner city getaway to Copenhagen we’ve put together a list of some of our favourite areas of the city to explore (which is by no means an exhaustive one) and best places for coffee and food!


  • Nyhavn: Definitely the most ‘touristy’ of all the districts we visited, however it’s touristy for a reason – because it is postcard beautiful. The waterfront of Nyhavn is lined with 17th century multicoloured houses that really set the tone for the area. Here you can find lively bars and restaurants to stop and enjoy the scenery, although be wary that they obviously come with a ‘tourist tax’ given their location.
  • Freetown Christiania: We don’t even know where to start when it comes to explaining the district of Freetown Christiania. It was a very unique experience and like nothing we had seen before. This self sufficient commune began when squatters decided to settle in an abandoned military base. Now this edgy yet welcoming neighbourhood in the heart of the city is famous for its bohemian lifestyle and locals openly selling cannabis along ‘Pusher Street’. Be warned however there is a strict no photos policy enforced by those who live there.
  • Christianshavn – Located right next to Nyhavn harbour and Freetown Christiania, we thoroughly enjoyed wandering along the calm harbour and stopped at Broens Gadekøkken Copenhagen for a bite to eat (see here for more on food markets in Copenhagen). Check out the impressive Church of our Saviour and climb to the top to see the city from above while you’re there.
  • Norrebro – This multicultural neighbourhood was a delight to explore and grab a quick bite from one of the many kebab stores lining the streets. If you happen to make it out here you definitely have to visit Superkilen, a public park containing objects from all over the world. This is different from your average ‘museum’ however, as most of the objects are everyday items such as rubbish bins (from Scotland), lamp posts (from London), park benches (from Mexico and the Czech Republic) and drain covers (from Tanzania). There was even a hammock supposedly from Australia. Tess was blown away by how such otherwise mundane inanimate objects could be so fascinating grouped together in a purposeful way. We have since learned this park was established as a means of bringing locals together and promoting tolerance between the diverse communities that call Norrebro home.
  • Osterport/Ostebro – The areas of Osterbro and Osterport are located close to Kastellet (a charming 17th century fortress complete with a mote), and Nyboder (Rows of distinctive orange houses that used to be used as naval accommodation). You can also walk to see Copenhagen’s (in)famous little mermaid statue from here, although we didn’t bother after hearing from multiple sources that it’s really not worth the effort (and crowds). We’ll let you decide for yourselves though.
  • Søerne (The Lakes) – These three rectangular lakes on the edge of Copenhagen’s city centre were perfect to run around after a long travel day the day before. Popular with walkers, runners and cyclists they’re a great place to soak up some of the cities stunning architecture while sipping on a quality coffee (see some of our coffee recommendations below).
  • Tivoli Gardens – The famous gardens and amusement park are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city! However, entry doesn’t come cheap (~30 euros for entry, and more for food/rides etc), and the crowds are busy in summer. We had heard from others who visited Copenhagen that Tivoli was beautiful, however we decided to fore-go a visit and prioritised other areas. However, it’s on the list for next time! Let us know if you have visited Tivoli and if we should check it out in the comments below!

The best coffee in Copenhagen:

Let me preface this by saying Copenhagen’s coffee scene was excellent, but it comes at a hefty price tag. At $8-$9 AUD a pop we made sure to do our research before ordering, as the only thing worse than a bad coffee is a bad coffee that costs double what we’re used to back home. We’ve put together some of our favourites so the stress of a bad coffee can be taken out of the equation for you (you’re welcome!)

  • Coffee Collective – Turns out there are a few coffee collective’s scattered around the city, but we chose to visit the store at TorvehallernKBH Copenhagen. Paired with a delicious lemon pastry this coffee was a winner.
  • Prolog Coffee – In the centre of Copenhagen’s trendy meat packing district we soaked up the more laid back atmosphere on a Saturday morning. With seating both outside and inside it was a great place to enjoy the last of Copenhagen’s summer weather. Our coffee here ranks as one of our favourite in Europe so far!
  • Roast Coffee – This little coffee gem is easy to miss from the outside but serves a mean cuppa joe. The baristas take pride in the coffee and are known to compete in coffee art contests.
  • Anderson Bakery – Ok so we didn’t actually try the coffee here (as we were well and truly caffeinated already when we stopped by), however we did chow down on some scrumptious Danish sweet treats. We can only assume if their coffee is as good as their baked goods it’ll be one for the list.

The food in Copenhagen

The food scene in Copenhagen pleasantly surprised us! As mentioned in a previous post the Danes really know how to put on an outdoor food market. From Reffen, the Tivoli Food Hall, TorvehallernKBH and Broens Gadekøkken there’s no shortage of tasty street food in the city. Click here to read about some of our favourite dishes that we tried.

However, one can’t visit Denmark without trying their famous Smørrebrød – a traditional open sandwich made with buttered rye and various topping combinations. We’ve since learned from locals and friends back home that the humble Smørrebrød is a staple in every Dane’s diet. While we sampled Smørrebrød a few times (and even tried to make our own one night) our absolute favourites had to be from Lillian’s Smørrebrød. We enjoyed tasting the smoked salmon and dill, curried potato and bacon, egg and herring, and Danish meatballs with potato salad. We rated Lillian’s Smørrebrød as a DO NOT MISS location for when you visit Copenhagen!

The bars in Copenhagen

The bars and nightlife in Copenhagen has a lot going for it, particularly in the summer. Whilst we won’t provide an exhaustive list, the outdoor bars lining the streets in the Meatpacking District and at Reffen Food Market are worth a look! Additionally, the bar & outdoor event space of Byhaven Pumpehuset, or the plethora of award winning cocktail bars (like the famous bar Ruby we visited), are worth checking out!

Want to stay in Copenhagen?

Take a look at some options below to stay in one of our favourite European cities:


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Comments (5):

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