Unique Things to Do in Copenhagen: A Non-Touristy City Guide

by madelineraeaway

It’s no secret that I love Copenhagen. It’s truly the definition of a world-class city. And there is a seemingly never-ending list of unique things to do in Copenhagen. Despite having spent so much time in the city, my “things I want to do in Copenhagen” list just keeps on getting longer and longer… and longer. 

I first visited Copenhagen in December 2017, well before I made the cross-globe move to Scandinavia. Within minutes of being there, it was love at first sight and I knew I had found one of my favourite cities.

There’s something extra special about Copenhagen – I come alive every time I visit. I’m not sure if it’s the contagious spirit of the locals. The canals that fill the city. Or the fact that the city is quite literally littered with bike lanes that draws me in.

Maybe it’s the food culture, which is some of the best in the world (more on that here, where I talk about all my favourite Copenhagen restaurants). Or the fact that even in the coldest months, you’ll find locals sitting outside under cosy blankets having drinks with friends – you know, that Danish “hygge” concept that everyone raves about (it’s a real thing, btw).

I guess it’s all of those things. And more. I could visit the city one hundred times – I could even live there – and I am confident that it would never, ever get old, and I would never stop finding things to do.

Having been to this city countless time, I’ve been wanting to write this guide for a while. But, I’ve kept putting it off. There’s so much to say about this city, and I’ve felt like I didn’t even know where to begin.

But here it is – in all it’s very comprehensive glory. The goal of my Copenhagen guide is to stretch far beyond the typical touristy suggestions and dive a bit deeper into some of my favourite local gems (although it will include some of the touristy things too, because they surely can’t be missed).

my favourite unique things to do in copenhagen

(and a few touristy ones, too)

VISIT NYHAVN

Okay, I know I said this was going to be a non-touristy guide, and this is the most touristy suggestion ever – but hear me out. Nyhavn is the most iconic spot in Copenhagen. When tourists and locals alike picture Copenhagen, they picture the colourful buildings lining the canal. And that’s why this spot cannot be missed on any itinerary.

With that being said, yes, Nyhavn is touristy. And expensive. But it’s also super beautiful. I rarely visit Copenhagen without at least stopping by and I am blown away every time. 

Here’s my suggestion for Nyhavn: visit, take a few photos, and leave. I wouldn’t recommend eating or grabbing a drink at the restaurants that line the canals. They are overpriced, and the quality pales in comparison to many of the other culinary gems that scatter the city (more about some of those gems here).

Okay, so now that we’ve gotten that touristy suggestion out of the way, we can move on…

Nyhavn, Copenhagen
Actually, not quite yet because i have one more nyhavn suggestion.

And that is if you only have a short time in Copenhagen, take a boat cruise from the Nyhavn harbour. They will take you all over Copenhagen, and you’ll get to take in the city from a unique perspective: on the water. It’ll also take you by the famed Little Mermaid Statue (which is not worth going out of your way otherwise because it is, quite frankly, overhyped). So… consider it two birds, one stone. 

roam around the best neighbourhoods in copenhagen

Dare to stray far away from the city centre and you’ll find the true, unmistakable charm of Copenhagen. Some of these neighbourhoods may seem “a bit out of the way,” but I promise you can’t miss them. So, put on some comfortable shoes and start exploring (or take local transit – but some of the best hidden gems are bound to be discovered en route). Here’s my favourites:

VESTERBRO

I love this neighbourhood of Copenhagen. Like, seriously, I could live here. Located southwest of the Central Station and Tivoli, it’s home to the most beautiful winding streets, shops, and some of the most fabulous restaurants in Copenhagen. I could wander here for hours. 

The Meatpacking District

Located next to Vesterbro, Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District is a warehouse area has been converted into an industrial foodie’s paradise. It features rows of side-by-side restaurants – some of the best in the city- with patios and live music in the warmer months. It is the perfect spot to grab lunch or a beer in the Danish sun, or just people watch because the area is bound to be bustling.

See Also: My complete foodie’s guide to Copenhagen.

Christianshavn

The beautiful canals of Christianshavn are some of my favourite streets to roam in Copenhagen. Lining the canals there are tons of charming colourful apartment buildings, coffee shops, and stores to pop into and browse. 

Nørrebro

Home to one of the most Instagrammable spots in Copenhagen, Superkilen Park, and easily some of the best restaurants in the city. This is the spot to go for the best vintage shops, trendy international eats, and other scandi-design stores.

See Also: My list of the most Instagrammable places in Copenhagen.

wander out to REFFEN

Easily one of my favourite spots to visit during the warmer months, Reffen is the Nordic’s largest street food market and is home to shops, food trucks, craft beer, and lots of live music.

I wrote more about Reffen here in my post about all the best places to eat and drink in Copenhagen.

unleash your inner child at tivoli gardens

Okay, I know. This is also “touristy.” But you cannot visit Copenhagen and not visit Tivoli – one of the world’s oldest theme parks. Even if rides aren’t your thing, buy a park pass and wander around. I promise it is worth seeing.

Tivoli is beautiful any time of the year, but Christmas at Tivoli is extra special. If your schedule allows it, pay a visit during their Christmas market. Drink some mulled wine, enjoy the epic Christmas decorations, and be transported back in time.

VISIT A HIPPY COMMUNE: FREETOWN CHRISTIANIA

I’ve spoke with many tourists who have said they were afraid to visit Christiania. And I was like whaaaat? Because if you’re letting fear dictate your decision to visit Christiania, you’re seriously missing out.

This “Hippy Commune” is home to roughly 1,000 residents and it operates as a freetown (in fact, they have a sign at the exit that says “You Are Now Entering the EU” because they operate independent of the EU). Here, you’ll find stall of locals selling homemade goods, others busking in the streets, and many others selling marijuana along the “main street.” It is such a unique cultural experience that everyone should see when they are visiting Copenhagen. 

Tip: Leave your camera in your bag in the “shopping” area, or else the locals will ask you to put it away and delete the photos.

Christiania, Copenhagen

TAKE IN SOME OF COPENHAGEN’S COOLEST LANDMARKS

There are so many cool spots in Copenhagen to walk past, take some photos of, or just simply admire. Here’s a few of my favourites.

Magaestrade

This winding narrow road is beautiful. The colourful buildings, the way the light shines around the bend of the street. This is my favourite street in Copenhagen, without a doubt. Now, I’m just left trying to figure out how I can purchase an apartment there so I can wake up with this view out my window everyday.

Rosenborgs slott

This castle looks like it is straight out of a fairytale and is surrounded by lavish green gardens. Also nearby is the Botanical Gardens, which is another great spot to check out if you’re in the area.

Superkilen

This super unique urban space and skateboard park is full of street art, and is a really cool spot to roam around and take pictures (it’s so good, I featured it in my most Instagrammable places in Copenhagen guide).

Church of our saviour

This beautiful church with a spiral tower sits atop Christianshavn and is truly a sight that can’t be missed. Admire it from the exterior, or, if your’re feeling brave, head inside and climb to the top of the spiral tower for some of the most beautiful views in Copenhagen-

The Round Tower

If you’re looking for another spot to view Copenhagen from atop, The Round Tower offers the perfect opportunity to see the rooftops of Copenhagen. The walk up to the top of the tower is also very unique, with a steep winding ramp replacing steps.

eat your way through the city

Copenhagen is one of THE BEST food cities in the world. So, if you’re anything like me, your itinerary with include LOTS of great restaurant stops. I wrote all about all my favourite restaurants and bars in Copenhagen here. Check it out if the inner foodie in you needs some inspiration.

take a day trip from copenhagen

One of the best things about Denmark is how small the country is. This means that there are tons of day trip from Copenhagen options. Here’s a few of my favourites.

kronborg castle

Surely you’re familiar with the story of Hamlet. Well, did you know that the real life Elsinore is only an hour away from Copenhagen by train? Kronborg Castle is located in the Danish town of Helsingör (Elsinore in English) and is home to cute cafes, beautiful waterfront views, and this gorgeous castle. It is absolutely worth a visit if you have time to spare in Copenhagen.

Louisiana museum

The world-class Louisiana Museum is located in Humlebaek, Denmark, which is able 35 minutes away from Copenhagen Central. This is one of my favourite museums I have ever been to, because I found the exhibits very unique. If you’re into modern art, you can’t miss this place.

Yayoi Kusama Louisiana Museum
take the train across to Sweden

Malmö, Sweden, where I live, is about 40 minutes by train from Copenhagen Central. There is so much to do in Malmö, you could easily spend 2-3 days there. But, if you’ve only got one day to spare, it is a perfect day trip from Copenhagen. The city centre isn’t very big, so you can see so much of the city in one day (and you can check Sweden off your bucketlist too!).

I’ve wrote a lot about Malmö and southern Sweden on the blog. You can check out everything here to help you plan your day trip.

Where to stay in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is full of amazing hotels. Because I live so close, I have only stayed overnight in the city once. However, I have had visitors who have stayed in the city as well, and here are my top two hotel recommendations. Both hotels are close to the central station, so they are easy to get to with luggage, and are within walking distance from many of the must-sees on my list.

Axel Guldsmeden

We stayed at Axel Guldsmeden during my first visit to Copenhagen and the property was beautiful. The whole hotel is Bali-inspired, and is very eco-conscious (they even gave us our own recycled bamboo toothbrushes!).

Axel Guldsmeden Hotel
Scandic palace hotel

My parents stayed at the Scandic Palace Hotel when they came to visit – and wow. This place was so old and historical, and beautifully maintained with gorgeous crown mouldings and winding staircases. If possible, ask for a room with a balcony facing the square and you will be welcomed with the most incredible views of the city.

I wasn't kidding when i said there was a lot to do in and around copenhagen.

This city is one of my favourite cities in the world for so many reasons. And I know if you visit, it will be one of yours too!

If I missed anything in this guide, add it to the comments below. And if you’re visiting the city, don’t forget to check out all my food and drink recommendations at the best restaurants in Copenhagen.

LIKE WHAT YOU READ? PIN IT BELOW.

A Guide to Non-Touristy Copenhagen
A Copenhagen City Guide
Things to Do in Copenhagen
The Best Hotel in Copenhagen

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1 comment

Madeline Rae Away's Guide To The Best Restaurants in Copenhagen December 1, 2019 - 3:20 pm

[…] Also: My complete city guide to Copenhagen where I dish the details on all my favourite off-the-beaten-path Copenhagen spots, including this […]

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