Copenhagen: what to see, eat and drink

Old-fashioned charm and character meet cutting-edge design on the streets of Scandinavia's most cosmopolitan capital. Lonely Planet Magazine explain how to get to grips with this wonderful and exciting city.

Why go?

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Copenhagen is compact yet crams a lot into a small space, making it the most accessible of Scandinavia’s capitals and an oasis of calm, sociability and culture. Its backdrop of gabled 17th-century houses, cobbled squares and green copper spires provide the historic charm – a history that includes the Vikings and Hans Christian Anderson also lends the city a mythical quality, where fairytales and legends never seem far away. But Copenhagen is also defined by designer chic and the alternative communities that have found a comfortable home in this open-minded place.

Things to do

Just about everyone who comes to Copenhagen ends up at some stage in the wonderful Tivoli Gardens. This expansive park offers everything from flower gardens and boat rides to beer gardens, food pavilions, fanciful architecture, fun-park rides and firework displays.

A world away are the medieval streets of Old Copenhagen, which is best surveyed from the summit of Rundetårn. The views from this red- brick Round Tower have changed little since the 18th century when Tsar Peter the Great rode his horse all the way to the top.

An even older perspective on life is on offer at the Rosenborg Slot, a storybook 17th-century Renaissance castle whose interior gives a bejewelled look at centuries of royal Danish history.

History is also the main event at National Museet where you can learn everything about the Vikings.

For art history head to the Statens Museum for Kunst, where Danish masters share wall space with Rubens, Dür er, Matisse and Picasso.

Scandinavia’s love affair with the clean lines of modern design finds an inspiring home in the Dansk Design Center.

Louisiana contains arguably northern Europe’s best collection of contemporary art with Danish artists alongside Picasso, Bacon, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Rothko.

Where to eat and drink

Local staples range from heavy pork dishes to pickled herrings, although the favourite is smørrebrød (open sandwich with a choice of filling).

The small, family-run Ida Davidson, restaurant in a cellar is the city’s finest purveyor of smørrebrød with 250 varieties available.

Peder Oxe is an organic restaurant serving modern European and Danish food amid a beautiful interior with Portuguese tiles.

Michelin-starred Noma’s inventive cooking uses local produce such as musk ox, smoked eel and locally caught lobster.

Find French techniques and local ingredients in the vaulted cellar of a historic mansion at Prémisse.

You'll find more French Danish fusion at Restaurant Kanalen – dishes include bouillabaisse – but with a canal-side location.

Where to stay

You’d be hard-pressed to find better value than the budget Wake Up Copenhagen. Think strong, contrasting colours, terrific views, wi-fi and flat-screen TVs.

The centrally located budget digs, Hotel Cabinn City are like a study in simple Scandinavian design with no-frills decor but clean lines and high levels of comfort.

The Hotel Fox’s rooms are the work of 21 internationally renowned graphic artists and illustrators, which means that staying here is like sleeping in a contemporary art gallery.

The well-priced Carlton Hotel Guldsmede combines French colonial design with contrasting colour tones and the overall effect is rather lovely.