Summertime in Copenhagen - Navigating the City and Surrounding Areas
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
I had the wonderful opportunity in the summer of 2019 to stay in the picturesque city of Copenhagen. The images you see on Google of this city really only capture the famous Nyhavn waterfront canal, which is beautiful, but there is so much more charm and so much more to see in this city that quickly makes you feel both in awe and completely welcomed. Lucky for you, I got to spend four weeks blindly navigating the neighborhoods on the budget of a financially independent 21-year-old, and now am able to tell you about where to go, what to skip, and how to ultimately spend your time in Copenhagen, Denmark.
First off are the basics:
Just about everyone in CPH is very friendly and knows perfect English. Keep in mind; it is not a diverse place whatsoever, but it is a very liberal city. LGBT clubs are very common and as long as you don't go during an election like I did, you probably won't see any political issues.
- You must have a rain coat and some layers - even in the middle of the summer.
- RENT. A. BIKE. - 99% of the time it will be faster than driving (they do not have Uber or Lyft, by the way) or taking public transit. You can buy train tickets from your phone online if you need to get out of the city. I used Rådhusstraede Cykler to rent a bike for my stay, and it was pretty inexpensive and they were very friendly.
- Get an airbnb! Hostels get quite crowded and you never know who you will be paired with, and the hotels are crazy expensive. Airbnbs will make you feel more like a local anyways!
- Don't bother trying to get Mexican food in CPH
- Don't bother with the amusement park or the large mall.
- Look out for any festivals going on during your stay! I was lucky enough to be in town during Denmark's annual Architecture/Design Festival as well as their Photo Festival, both of which opened up daily events all over the city that were free and amazing experiences. A lot of them often served free wine too if that's any incentive ;)
1: The Louisiana Museum
A little outside Copenhagen in Humlebaek, Denmark is the amazing Louisiana Museum. This is without a doubt my favorite museum that I have ever been to (and that's coming from an art student who spend a good amount of time in Paris as well). The indoor and outdoor exhibits are both amazing and the ocean is just down the hill. Not to mention the train ride from CPH is beautiful.
2: Freetown Christiania
Christiania is one of the most art-driven areas I've had the pleasure of visiting. It was formerly a military base turned hippie squatting area (in the 70s), and now is home to plenty of free-spirited Danes and plenty of street art. Be warned, there are many areas of this little neighborhood where you are not allowed to take photos, but it is well worth the visit. It is also right next to the sweet neighborhood Christianhavn, where I stayed.
3: Reffen - Copenhagen Street Food
Reffen, home to some of the best food I had on this trip as well as activities like paintball, rock climbing, and a sweet contemporary art museum, is a creative and beautiful area to spend a few hours with friends and family. Make sure you stop by Bad Habits Ice Cream when you're here and stroll on over to the edge of Refshaleøen to take in the ocean views. Often times they will also have outdoor exhibits surrounding the area.
4: Nyhavn Waterfront
This one is a no-brainer. This 17th century waterfront is one of the most colorful, picturesque areas of Copenhagen and is home to plenty of restaurants and cafes. Nearby, too, is the Kunsthal Charlottenborg Art Museum.
5: Malmo, Sweeden
If you have the time to take a day trip out of CPH, Malmo is a great option. The museums, from what I found, are all free and well worth the trip. The city itself, too, is very artistic and clean.
Should you go here, make sure to visit the Moderna Museet Malmo and Malmo Konsthall museums.
Other Fun Options:
1: Climb to the top of the Church of our Savior
Visit here for great views of Christiania and the water.
2: The Black Diamond / Royal Library
My 35mm photos don't do this place justice; the architecture of this building is so fun and the exploring the interior is a must (sometimes they even have exhibits in the lowest level). The locals often jump in the canal right next to this building too on hot days.
3: Danish Jewish Museum
Whether or not you are Jewish, this museum is a work of art in and of itself; if you were able to see the corridors inside from a birds eye view, you would see the letters for the Hebrew word "Mitzvah," meaning "good deed." Every wall and floor, too, link to Jewish history and practice. I definitely recommend giving this place a visit.
1: Frederiksberg Have Park
This is the most beautiful park I have ever been to. Hands down.
It looks like it flew directly out of one of Monet's paintings and is filled with happy plants, storks, and peacocks. Please do not miss this park, and please don't make the same mistake that I did and only bring your film camera here.
2: Sondermarken Park / Cisterns
This park is right next to Frederiksberg Park and worth walking over to afterwards. This park is calm and nice but the coolest part about it is the Cisterns, a crazy underground space filled with water and interactive exhibitions. Hope you aren't easily spooked!
3: Assistens Cemetery
It may sound strange to treat a cemetery as you would a public park, but the Danes have a very different relationship to cemeteries than we do in the states; they treat it more as a place of celebration than of mourning, and it shows in the way this area was designed. This is a popular spot for relaxing in the summer, and you'll realize why once you go.
4: Kings Garden
This was my favorite park to visit when I just wanted somewhere to stroll around or sit and read under a tree. It also has a very sweet castle that you can visit.
5: Botanical Garden
Run by the University of Copenhagen, the Garden is a huge area filled with historical glasshouses and beautiful plants. If you pay to get inside the largest glasshouse, you can hang out with some butterflies and see their beautiful spiral staircase within the house. Otherwise, the garden is free to enter.
6: Superkilen Park
This is one of the most creative parks I have ever been to; it kind of felt like an adult playground! A great spot both for skateboarders and people who just want a sense of adventure in such a big city.
7: H.C. Ørstedsparken
This park would be a great picnic spot, which is how I would use it. It has a sweet little pond, a water feature, and beautiful trees in the early summertime.
I eat mostly vegan/gluten free foods, and myself and the friends that I made in Copenhagen all LOVED this place. SO tasty and so healthy. Options include Acai Bowls, Poke Bowls, Vegan Burgers, and amazing Sweet Potato Fries.
Please, for me, please go here and get yourself a dessert. I miss this place so much. They have plenty of GF and vegan options, but also plenty of normal bakery options.
This Middle Eastern street food really hits the spot. Great option too if you're on a budget, as this was the cheapest food I could find in CPH.
4: Momo Wok Box
Smack in the middle of downtown CPH, this place serves comfort Asian food that tastes amazing and is pretty inexpensive too.
5: Glass Markets
If you have a group of family and/or friends that can never seem to agree on what to eat, this is a great choice. The markets are a similar vibe to Reffen, where there are all different kinds of great restaurants open.
6: Paludan Bog and Cafe
The inside of this cafe is so stinkin cute and doubles as a bookstore. It feels like you're eating inside an old library. Not to mention I got the most amazing sandwich there that I still think about all the time.
7: Christianshavn Boat Rental and Cafe
Not the best food I've ever had, but it was so worth it just to dine on a swaying boat house and dip my feet in the water during dinner. It was so fun to watch kayakers on the canal pull up and pick up their drinks too.
1: Buzz Kaffebar
This place had an amazing Chai Tea and great salads and sandwiches for a quick bite.
2: The Living Room
Apart from the hipster/vintage vibes and comfy seating, I was OBSESSED with their "Gingerade" drink as well as their Chai Teas (can you tell I like Chai). Such a good reading / work spot too.
If you couldn't already tell by the name, this is a great place for students and young people. Created and run by the University of Copenhagen, this place has a great cider and beer selection and is super cheap. Not to mention they have swing dance lessons and improv nights.
4: Floss Bar
If you're okay with the idea of smelling like smoke for the next week, make your way over to Floss for a fun night out with friends.
In case you couldn't already tell, I miss this place like crazy (the things I would do to move here...) and would be stoked to talk to anyone about planning a trip out there. Reach out if you want to know more!