9 Reasons Copenhagen Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

Denmark's capital city has kept a low profile with American travelers for decades. But these outdoor adventures and bold, dynamic neighborhoods make Copenhagen a must-see.

August 14, 2019
By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: MIKKEL SCHEBYE JOHNSEN/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Martin Kaufmann/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: Thomas Høyrup Christensen/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Anders Bøgild/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Thomas Høyrup Christensen/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Joe Sills

Photo By: SydkystDanmark/Copenhagen Media Center

Photo By: Emilie Ristevski/Copenhagen Media Center

Copenhagen is a booming hub of culinary and artistic creativity that's mingling with one of Europe's finest architectural legacies. Here, historic medieval towers still dominate the city's skyline, while skateparks, live music and food trucks rule the streets below.

This balance between the old and new is often flirted with but rarely mastered outside of Denmark, which means to experience Copenhagen fully, you'll want to blend history and adventure like the locals do at the following destinations.

Copenhagen Canals

Familiarize yourself with central Copenhagen by starting with a cruise. While the canals in Amsterdam and Venice may be more well-known, Copenhagen’s labyrinth of cityside waterways are just as scenic. (Did you expect anything less from the ancient home of a seafaring empire?) Copenhagen’s canals criss-cross its city center, making the rounds beneath medieval landmarks and through modern neighborhoods and giving you the perfect vantage point to soak the city in.

Know before you go: A handful of canal tour operators rule the seas in Copenhagen, with prices averaging from $30 for a seat on a public tour to $200 for your own private view.

Food Truck Paradise

Copenhagen was once one of the largest makers of cargo and cruise ships in the world, and that industry’s transition to other markets has left a surplus of massive, abandoned warehouses on the city’s waterfront. Some locals have taken advantage of that real estate, moving homes and businesses into the empty spaces. Chief among those is Reffen, a combination food truck rodeo, skatepark and rock climbing gym that plays hosts to dozens of startup restaurants right next to the city’s harbor.

In other words Reffen is the perfect place to wrap up a day out in the city.

Know before you go: Reffen is open from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Inside, you'll find flavors from nearly every continent. Table reservations near the water are accepted for groups of five or more.

Harbor Hot Tubs

Odds are you’ll notice something unusual about the harbor adjacent to Reffen. While you’re scarfing down your food truck treasures, you’re likely to spy one of Copenhagen’s most unique outdoor activities—harbor hot tubs. These portable saunas float blissfully through the city’s port, breaming with locals and tourists spending the afternoon getting toasty in the brisk Baltic Sea.

Know before you go: Sailing hot tub cruises for up to five passengers are available via Copenhot. The cruises last an hour and a half and cost about $330 total.

Rundetaarn

When construction on Rundetaarn—“the Round Tower” in English—began in 1635, Denmark was one of the world’s leading authorities in astronomy. Today, this medieval marvel still proudly stands watch every evening in central Copenhagen, doubling as an occasional concert hall and exhibition center.

In summer months, the sun doesn't set on Copenhagen until after 9:00 p.m., which gives you plenty of time to take in an after dinner view at The Round Tower.

Know before you go: Tickets cost about $4.00. Expect to wait in line during peak season from May to August. If you’re an amateur astronomer, you can make use of the restored observatory from mid-October to mid-December.

Tivoli

Light up the night by taking a visit to Tivoli. Hans Christen Anderson waxed poetic about this Victorian-era amusement park more than a century ago. Today, Tivoli is still one of the most visited attractions in Denmark. Park gates have been open here since 1843, and more than 150 years since its grand opening, the fun at Tivoli still hasn’t stopped.

Know before you go: Hours are from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday. The park is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are available on site and online, and entry costs about $20.

Vestamager

Copenhagen is serious about green space; so serious, in fact, that an entire district of the city—Vestamager— is home to only birds, deer, cattle and horses. You can find this tranquil meadowland adjacent to the island of Christianhavn near the city center. While much of Vestamager is reserved exclusively for animals, several areas feature walking paths and areas for humans to enjoy as well.

Try visiting in the early morning hours for an otherworldly stroll.

Know before you go: Be sure to check out the iconic skeleton of Amager Ark, a replica Viking longship, rising from the spongey ground at Kalvebod Fælled. The art was created by Italian environmental artist Alfio Bonnano to emphasis the collision of man and nature.

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania is among Copenhagen’s most famous destinations. This walled city within a city was created by squatters in the 1970s, who saw an opportunity to create their own free society in an abandoned Danish military area. Today, Christiania is a colorful escape from the city at large that attracts around 500,000 visitors each year.

It's easily accessible via footpath from Vestamager.

Know before you go: Openly carrying a camera is ill-advised in Christiania. In addition to Danish law, the area still operates under its own codes. Cameras are banned near the cannabis traders on Pusher Street. Elsewhere, it’s a good idea to ask for permission before shooting.

The Forest Tower

Not to be outshined by Copenhagen’s more famous, astronomical tower, the newly-opened Forest Tower at Camp Adventure is beginning to make a name for itself among Danes and international visitors alike. Reaching the top, nearly 150 feet above the beach forest below, requires visitors to walk nearly a mile around its spiral infrastructure.

Know before you go: Camp Adventure is accessible via train and bus from Copenhagen. Alternately, a one hour car ride will put you at the gates as well. Plan on spending about $20 for entry to the Forest Tower, and make sure to take your turn on Northern Europe’s longest zip-line (1,558 feet) while you’re there. Admission to both attractions will run you just over $60.

The Baltic Sea

The Baltic Sea is an incredible summer swimming and fishing destination, and Copenhagen has guarded the gates to its secrets for centuries. Hop from the city over to one of Denmark’s 400 named islands for a few days outside of the city, or take a day trip to the dramatic chalk cliffs at Møns Klint, which place you over 200 feet above the turquoise, swirling sea below.

Know before you go: Plan on hiring a car for the hour and a half drive to Møns Klint. The adventurous can descend a 497-step path to the bottom of the cliffs at Møns Klint for an in-your-face look at the Baltic. If you've found your way to Camp Adventure, follow the E47 south towards Møns Klint. You'll be cliffside in just over an hour.

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