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

It’s no secret that I love Copenhagen. It’s truly the definition of a world-class city and one of my favourite places in the whole entire world. Whether you’re a lover of design, food, sustainability, or balanced living, there is a seemingly never-ending list of unique things to do in Copenhagen. I’ve spent a lot of time in Copenhagen deeply exploring the different boroughs, biking through the streets, and eating at some of the best restaurants the city has to offer. And there are so many unique things to do in Copenhagen.

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 around the world has become so fascinated with.

I guess it’s all of those things. And more. I could visit the city one hundred times – I could live there – and I am confident that my romanticism of the city would never get old.

I’ve done all the research so you don’t have to, and here’s my very detailed guide of unique things to do in Copenhagen. The goal is to stretch far beyond the typical touristy suggestions and dive a bit deeper into some of my favourite local non-touristy gems (although it will include some of the touristy things too, because they surely can’t be missed). Let’s go!

Unique Things to Do in Copenhagen
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Visit Copenhagen's Harbor: 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 Nyhavn 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…

Actually, not quite yet because i have one more nyhavn suggestion: Take a Copenhagen Boat Tour

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 Indre By (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 or embrace your inner Dane and rent a bike to explore the city. Here’s my favourite spots:

Vesterbro

I love this neighbourhood of Copenhagen and if I were to ever move to the city, this is where I’d want to live. 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 romanticizing about what life would look like if I lived in one of the beautiful turn-of-the-century apartments.

If you’re spending a day in Vesterbro, you should start your day off with breakfast at Mad & Kaffe for a tapas-style brunch, then wander down Istedgade and Sønder Boulevard and stop into the shops. On a sunny day, you’ll notice Danes sitting outside and having a drink no matter the month of the year. So, do as the Danish do and on a patio in the sun with a glass of wine, and just enjoy the neighbourhood. For dinner, head over Kødbyen (keep reading for more on that).

Kødbyen (The Meatpacking District)

Next to Vesterbro, Copenhagen’s Kødbyen (The Meatpacking District), 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.

If you’re wondering where to eat in Kødbyen, some of my favourite can’t miss spots are Fleisch for traditional Danish smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches), Kødbyens Fiskebar for seafood, Hija de Sanchez for tacos, H15 Cafeteria for trendy locally-sourced seasonal Nordic dishes, Tommi’s Burger Joint for burgers, and Bollywood for Indian food.

Christianshavn

The beautiful canals of Christianshavn are some of my favourite streets to roam without a plan in Copenhagen. Lining the canals there are tons of charming colourful apartment buildings, coffee shops, and stores to pop into and browse.

The best thing to do in Christianshavn is just roam. But while you’re there, you should absolutely visit Church of our Saviour (and climb up to the top of the open-air staircase if you’re feeling brave). Close by, you’ll also find the iconic Andersen Bakery where you absolutely must stop for a ‘Japandi’ (Japanese and Scandi) inspired coffee and pastry. 

Nørrebro

Nørrebro was named one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world in 2021 – and it’s easy to see why. Because the neighbourhood of Nørrebro is just plain cool. 

Nørrebro is largely off the radar of most visitors to Copenhagen but it is actually my favourite place to spend a day in the city. It is the spot to go if you’re looking for a chill day in the city and is home to the best vintage shops, trendy international eats, hip wine bars, and other really cool Scandi design stores.

A day in Nørrebro can start wandering up-and-down Nørrebrogade and stopping for a pastry and coffee at Andersen & Maillard. A visit to the Assistens Kirkegård (Assistens Cemetary) is a must to see the grave sites of Hans Christian Andersen and other notable Danes, and from there you can head up to Jægersborggade to browse some of the coolest vintage shops and galleries in the city. A stop at Bæst for their pizza is a must, and I love Pompette for a glass of natural wine on their Parisien-inspired terrace.

Frederiksberg

A family-friendly neighbourhood with tons of green space and tree-lined boulevards, Frederiksberg is a wealthy borough of Copenhagen that shouldn’t be counted out. Here you’ll get a glimpse into local life for Copenhagen residents, with parents riding their cargo bikes with kids in tow along the cities bike lanes. Frederiksberg is home to flapship shops of some of Denmark’s most iconic brands and is a great area for a shopping day. 

Some of my favourite Fredriksberg highlights include a walk in Frederiksberg Palace Gardens, and a visit to one of the best bakeries in the city Hart Bakery. For shopping, head to Værnedamsvej which has been referred to as Copenhagen’s mini-Paris and grab lunch at cafe Granola

Visit Reffen street food market

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. It easily one of my favourite things to do in Copenhagen in the winter. 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 apprehensive to visit Christiania. But you shouldn’t be. Because if you’re letting fear dictate your decision to visit Christiania, you’re seriously missing out on one of the most unique things to do in Copenhagen.

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. 

Freetown Christiania rules: 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. There is a strict “no photo policy.”

Go for a swim in the Copenhagen canals

Want to really feel like a local in Copenhagen? Hop on a bike and head to the canals. No matter the month of the year, you’re bound to see locals bathing in the canals. In the winter, it is a popular activity to take an ice bath and head to a sauna. And in the summer months, the banks that line the canals turn the city into one big party on hot summer days. 

To get the full experience, I really recommend renting a hot tub at CopenHot and going for a chilly canal swim – it’s one of the best things to do in Copenhagen in the winter.

Enjoy 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.

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.

Central Hotel & Café: The smallest hotel in the world

This is a tiny little 12 square metre hotel with only one room! Yes, only one! And it also has a tiny cafe in front. It is  such a charming little spot hidden away in Vesterbro, and a really cosy place to grab a coffee – or just to photograph. 

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 at the Best Restaurants in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is my favourite food city 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.

Day tripS 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.

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 if you’re short on time.

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

The city is full of amazing hotels so it can be hard to choose where to stay in Copenhagen. You might be tempted to stay in Indra By, but I’d recommend staying close to the central station for easy access to the enstire city. In my opinion, Vesterbro is one of the best neighbourhoods in Copenhagen to stay. Here’s a few favourite hotels ranging from budget to mid-range:

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!). They also have an on-site spa and bike rentals so you can really live out your Danish dream.

Price range: 180-200€ per night

Scandic palace hotel

My parents stayed at the Scandic Palace Hotel when they came to visit – and wow. This place was old and historical over-looking Copenhagen’s City Hall Square, 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 by the most incredible views of the city.

Price range: 200-225€ per night

Comfort Hotel Vesterbro

If you’re looking for a great value in a central local, Comfort Hotel Vesterbro is a perfect base. Located close to the central station, it is a sustainability-minded property that offers clean and spacious rooms, and a fantastic breakfast. 

Price range: 150-175€ per night

Urban House Copenhagen

It’s a bit of a long story, but I actually stayed at Urban House Copenhagen for a whole week in 2020 and it’s such a great value property. They offer a variety of rooms that range from shared dormitories to small private rooms and family rooms. 

Price range for a private room: 100-125€ per night

I wasn't kidding when Isaid there were a lot of unique things to do in 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.

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