City Guide to Copenhagen, Denmark
Advice for exploring the humble yet vibrant Danish capital city.
For college travelers, Copenhagen represents a peaceful, unique, and versatile European destination. Though Denmark and Scandinavia are notoriously expensive cities, it is possible to experience the Danish capital city on a student budget. RyanAir flights to and from here are ridiculously cheap, loads of excellent hostels make for affordable accommodation, and student discounts lessen the costs of some worthwhile attractions. Copenhagen is also small enough that most of the area can be explored on foot, allowing for a more intimate experience with the city while saving costs on public transportation.
The relatively small size also makes Copenhagen the perfect spot for a weekend trip. Most of Copenhagen’s best attractions can be covered in a few short days, allowing it to slide in nicely with a busy student schedule. Also conveniently located at the crossroads of Scandinavia and popular mainland European cities like Berlin or Amsterdam, it is definitely worth adding a weekend in Denmark to a European tour. Most people in the city also speak English, which definitely brings a sense of comfort to American study abroad students.
What to See:
Church of our Savior
For a small price (with student discount available), you can climb the bell tower of this gorgeous, Baroque church. After making your way up the narrow, winding spiral staircase rimmed with gold, let your eyes feast on the panoramic view of the colorful city.
As the world’s second-oldest amusement park, Tivoli Gardens hosts numerous restaurants, exciting rides, and frequent shows and performances. The area is particularly stunning in the winter, when Christmas decorations and exuberant lights transform the park into a magnificent winter wonderland.
If you’re looking for an escape from urban life, the Botanic Gardens make for an incredibly scenic and peaceful afternoon. After meandering through the lush outdoor garden filled with stone walkways and a serene, glassy pond, enter the massive greenhouses to see eccentric flowers and outrageous exotic plants.
This centrally located, pedestrians-only street is the life and soul of Copenhagen’s Old Town. As one of the city’s main shopping areas, this long avenue is home to many popular, high-end stores in addition to traditional local shops.
One of Copenhagen’s most iconic sights, this canal-side street is packed with adorable, brightly painted buildings that add picturesque vibrance to the endless rows of boats resting calmly on the water. You may choose to stop in one of the many cafes along the street, or simply stroll around and absorb the colorful energy of the area.
Located in Copenhagen’s Christianshavn borough, this neighborhood crawls with creativity and has a carefree atmosphere. From winding dirt roads, to food trucks with outdoor picnic tables, to skateboarding areas, to tons of fantastic street art, Freetown Christiania represents a charming oasis of artistic freedom and intoxicating vibes. Photography is not allowed, however, so be sure to appreciate the humble quirkiness of the neighborhood as you will never see anything else like it.
Fun for Free:
Stroll Along the Canals
Canals are the threads that hold the fabric of Copenhagen together, so walking along the endless maze of little rivers is the best way to see the city’s beauty for free. Sunsets turn the canals into glowing streams of gold, while nighttime causes the city’s buildings to reflect their glimmering lights into the water.
Rosenborg Castle and Gardens
Though you have to pay to enter this gorgeous Renaissance Palace, it is free to observe the majestic building from the outside. The spacious gardens are also open to the public, which are perfect for an afternoon walk or a picnic in the soft grass.
A quick trip to Copenhagen’s gigantic public library is a wonderful addition to free sightseeing. The building’s sleek, modernist architecture is quite impressive, and the sweeping glass windows create lovely views.
What to Eat:
Denmark is famous for these delicious open faced sandwiches, which consist of dark rye bread and various toppings including cheese, meat, and other spreads.
It’s definitely worth treating yourself to nice brunch in Copenhagen, including fresh coffee, baked goods, and other hearty dishes. The city is crawling with incredible brunch places, but a popular favorite is Mad & Kaffe, which has multiple locations and allows you to create your own brunch plate.
While cafes and bakeries lie around every corner, Andersen Bakery and Cafe near Central Station is famous for its gourmet hot dogs and traditional Danish pastries.
The Meatpacking District is packed with amazing food places and bustling bars, and represents a great area for a night out. Visit the food market, Kødbyens Mad & Marked, open on weekends throughout the summer with around 70 different food vendors. In the evening, visit WarPigs, a brewpub complete with a restaurant as well as an on-site brewery.
Walking is the cheapest and most enjoyable way to explore the city, and luckily Copenhagen has a reputation for having a very safe environment.
The Metro is also a useful tool that is easy to figure out and relatively inexpensive. For example, the Metro can transport you from the airport right to Copenhagen Central Station, which is conveniently located within walking distance from the heart of the city.
Biking represents another fun and easy form of transportation, and the city hosts numerous bike rental companies including the popular Copenhagen City Bike.
As many locals love biking, most roads have bike lanes which are frequently packed with bike traffic. Definitely keep an eye on these and try to avoid walking in them to avoid being run over by bikers.
Denmark also prides itself on its Christmas traditions, so definitely try to visit during the holidays to get a taste of the magnificent Christmas markets and decorations.
Overall, Copenhagen is notorious for being one of the happiest places in the world, so be sure to relax, absorb the laid-back atmosphere, and truly enjoy your time there.