Over the past few years, Copenhagen has become a wildly popular destination. Some come to visit the Little Mermaid and walk in the footsteps of Hans Christian Andersen, others to have a bite of the famous food scene, but all are impressed by Denmark's capital.
As Copenhagen is a small city, with just 600.000 inhabitants in the central city area, you can cover a lot of ground in just one trip, if you plan it well. Despite the city's compact size, its neighborhoods all offer something different and unique, from colorful, young and hip districts to more upscale areas sprinkled with medieval history.
Grab a bike and get ready to explore Copenhagen's best neighborhoods in just a few days.
Best for a first time trip to Copenhagen
This neighborhood has to be first on the list for new arrivals, as it was deemed the world’s coolest neighborhood in 2021, a fact that the Danes (particularly residents of Nørrebro) are particularly proud of. There are plenty of reasons for this nomination. Nørrebro is the most ethnically diverse, and most densely populated neighborhood of Copenhagen, full of sidewalk breweries, parks full of people and great food from around the world served by local restaurants and street food trucks.
Nørrebro is where you go to grasp the local vibe of Copenhagen. Start your day by heading to one of the must-visit bakeries (Benji, Rondo, Mirabelle, Andersen & Maillard, or Collective Bakery). Any one of these will do, as they are all to die for, many of them created by Noma alumni bakers. Have breakfast the Danish way – order coffee and sourdough buns with butter and cheese, and add a sweet pastry for a breakfast dessert.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the neighborhood. Head to Jægersborggade to find clothes from local designers at Damernes Magasin, hand-selected interior items at Craft Sisters and artisan food at Ro Chokolade and Grød, which serves upscale versions of porridge with delicious toppings, along with congee and risotto.
Be sure to check out the historic Assistens Cemetery and have a look at Hans Christian Andersen’s grave, then grab an inexpensive lunch at authentic hummus and manakish spot, Ali Bageri. In the afternoon, head to the Dronning Louises Bro bridge overlooking the lakes of Copenhagen to chill in the sunshine, accompanied by a bottled beverage in the company of friendly locals.
Indre By (Central Copenhagen)
Best for sightseeing and shopping
If you think of Copenhagen, the chances are a picture of the famous colored houses by the harbor – known locally as Nyhavn – is what pops into your head. Nyhavn is one of the main attractions of Copenhagen and a highlight of the Indre By neighborhood.
Indre By translates to 'Inner City' and this is Copenhagen’s historic center. It’s a great place to stay if you’re visiting Copenhagen for the first time and crave convenience. In Indre By, you'll be within walking distance of most of the must-see tourist sights and the city’s medieval heart. Top attractions such as Nyhavn, the Christiansborg Slot parliament building, Rosenborg Slot castle, the Queen’s residence at Amalienborg Slot and the Round Tower are all here.
If you’re into art, check out Statens Museum for Kunst, for its impressive collection of art, with works dating back to the 1300s. Make sure you grab coffee at Apollo, set in a gorgeous courtyard overlooking Nyhavn. If shopping is your workout, browse along Strøget, one of Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping streets, where you’ll find the iconic department stores, Illum and Magasin.
Best for a hip weekend stay
If you want to understand more about the history of Vesterbro and how it has developed, the neighborhood plays a central role in Tove Ditlevsen's famous books about her upbringing (start with her Copenhagen Trilogy, made up of Barndom, Ungdom and Gift).
But today this formerly gritty red-light district and working-class neighborhood has been reinvented as the hippest area in Copenhagen. This popular district for visitors and locals is brimming with restaurants, fun bars and clubs, particularly concentrated around the Meatpacking District. Close to the city center, Vesterbro is a great area to stay for the weekend if you’re looking to party and explore Copenhagen in a more local way.
Grab breakfast at Mad & Kaffe, where you can build your own brunch out of a variety of tasty dishes. Stroll tree-lined Sønderboulevarden to understand why this area is so celebrated. In the Meatpacking district, have the best coffee in town at Prolog, and grab lunch from one of the area’s hip restaurants – tacos at Hija de Sanchez, sourdough pizza at Mother, dim sum at Magasasa or finer dining at Gorilla.
Throughout the day, visit Absalon, a former church turned community hub for food, drinks, coffee and games. Every night at 6pm, this non-profit institution offers communal dining and it’s an unforgettable experience, as you get to eat delicious, healthy food at an almost-too-good-to-be-true price in the company of local Copenhageners, from senior citizens to students looking for a budget-friendly meal and a good time. Make sure you book ahead on their website.
Christianshavn and Christiania
Best for water views and hippy vibes
Technically a part of Indre By, the man-made island of Christianshavn was created by King Christian IV in the 1600s. With its picturesque canals, water views and little, colored townhouses, it’s one of the most desirable areas to live in, and well worth a visit even if you're passing through.
Besides the canals and the iconic, twisting tower of the Church of Our Saviour, Christianshavn is known as the home of Copenhagen's self-styled "Freetown" – the commune of Christiania. An interesting contrast to the more upscale vibe elsewhere in Christianshavn, Christiania is a former military base taken over by squatters and artists. Today, weed is sold seemingly freely (although it’s technically illegal in Denmark), families live in sometimes-gorgeous, sometimes-funny-looking houses by the lake, and hippie culture thrives.
Have coffee or lunch at Månefiskeren or Morgenstedet before leaving Christiania, then head to the Refshaleøen area for street food, baked goods at Lille Bakery and maybe a rest-stop beverage and a dip in the ocean at La Banchina.
Best for cafe culture, fanciness and fashion
If Copenhagen had a little Paris, it would be Frederiksberg – a neighborhood of gorgeous, tree-lined boulevards with sidewalk cafes featuring fancy-looking, coffee-sipping residents. You’re likely to find yourself dreaming of living here.
If you’re in a shopping mood, don’t miss browsing along Værnedamsvej and Gammel Kongevej, which specialize in Scandinavian interior shops full of fun knick-knacks, such as Dora and Wood Wood Wood, and fashion and jewelry shops such as Ganni, Julie Nielsdotter and I Blame Lulu. Visit Central Cafe and Hotel, the tiniest hotel in the world, for a cup of coffee, and have a fancy but budget-friendly dinner at Polly or Les Trois Cochons.
In need of an afternoon hangout? Visit the gorgeous park, Frederiksberg Have, featuring a lake with canals and an impressive castle, Frederiksberg Slot.