Copenhagen is like a teenager who just got her braces off. The Denmark capital has long been a desirable destination, but in the past few years, it has truly come into its own. In fact, the travel gurus at Lonely Planet selected it as the top place to visit in 2019, and for good reason. The friendly, accessible, sparkling-clean city known for its iconic design and pioneering cuisine charms visitors who seek an off-the-beaten-path experience. In Copenhagen, no matter which direction you head in, you’re going the right way.
Fly into Copenhagen’s immaculate international airport and take a quick 15-minute train ride into the city center. Check into Thekrane, an exclusive boutique hotel experience for two. Situated inside a refurbished industrial coal crane, it is decked out in minimalist decor and boasts panoramic views of the historic harbor. Although walking is sufficient transportation here, Thekrane offers an in-house BMW and bicycles to take you around town at your leisure.
Head to the city’s trendiest neighborhood, Vesterbro, for a sun-speckled alfresco brunch at Mad & Kaffe. This local favorite is known for its reasonably priced spreads with a pick-your-pairing plethora of options. The grapefruit with tarragon sugar; fried chorizo sausage with mustard dip; and avocado with beetroot hummus, almonds, chili oil and herbs will fuel a day of exploration.
Even if you aren’t much of a museum goer, visit Thorvaldsens Museum. Built in 1848 to house the works of famed sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, it offers an uncomplicated introduction to the art, aesthetic and architecture of Denmark. Take advantage of the free audio guide, which is filled with both useful information and quick-witted asides.
Stroll through Nyhavn, the formerly grimy sailor’s quarter that’s now populated with rainbow-colored townhouses, historical wooden ships and bustling restaurants. If you’re a fan of author Hans Christian Andersen, check out houses 18, 20 and 67, where he once resided. If you couldn’t care less about fairy tales, pop into the tiny off-license for a serving of classic Danish beer Grøn Tuborg.
If you aren’t willing to sell your firstborn child to snag a table at the über-exclusive Noma, head instead to Michelin-starred Kong Hans Kælder. Considered the crown jewel of Danish gastronomy, the restaurant is situated in a cozy underground vault that once served as a wine cellar for 15th century Danish king Hans. In stark contrast to Noma’s famed deconstructed cuisine, chef Mark Lundgaard and sommelier Peter Pepke have created an inspired classical experience employing premium Danish and French ingredients.
Stroll through Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) and Strøget, the pedestrian walkway of charming linked squares. Boutiques abound, but Danish design is best seen at Illum Bolighus, a department store that’s been dubbed “a temple of modern design.” This homeware mecca is a purveyor to the Danish royal court.
If you want to see the city from the sea, Strömma Danmark provides an impeccable tour that identifies classic churches, notable homes and new structures plus provides libations along the way. For a more idyllic experience, the company’s hop-on, hop-off pass allows you to sightsee at your own pace.
Make your way to the self-proclaimed free state of Christiania, an alternative society-within-a-society founded in the seventies when squatters took over an abandoned military barracks. Today, the 850-person community is a thriving center for art, food and music. It’s safe to walk around, but be respectful of the community’s customs and avoid taking photos and videos. If you’re lucky, you can catch a free concert at outdoor venue Café Nemoland.
Cap your visit with dinner at Michelin-recommended Restaurant Hummer, known for its pairings of lobster and bubbles. Crab, mussels, oysters, scallops, rose shrimp — this eatery showcases the best of Copenhagen’s seafood. Toast to 48 well-spent hours and start planning your next trip to the Denmark capital.