Lonely Planet Local Caroline has lived in Copenhagen, Denmark for the past four years. Not only has she made it her home, but also her career, guiding tours of the city and sharing Copenhagen with the world through her writing. Caroline never tires of exploring her adopted city, especially enjoying the local food with her husband, who is a chef.
The thing I love most about Copenhagen is… that it's a capital city with a small-city feel. It's shaped by both history and innovation, and there's always something new and interesting to explore – street markets, museums, restaurants, festivals, and more – but the city is compact and the pace is surprisingly relaxed. It's not frenetic or overwhelming, and there are plenty of green spaces to take some time to enjoy your surroundings.
The best way to see Copenhagen… is on foot or by bike. Bikes rule the road in Copenhagen, and it's a very popular way to travel here, but I like to walk. I think when you walk in a city, you really experience your surroundings, and that's especially true in Copenhagen. You can always find a charming street with interesting buildings, vibrant street art, and tiny independent shops and coffee houses tucked into cellars.
When I have visitors in town… I like to mix the must-see tourist destinations with some local experiences. As a tour guide, I love showing off the famous sights of this beautiful city, taking guests to places like Nyhavn and Amalienborg Palace, but I also like to share Copenhagen's secrets and head to places that tourists may miss, like the hidden gardens of the Royal Library. I also make sure they get a taste of the regional food, from traditional flavours to innovative New Nordic cuisine.
The one food you must try is… smørrebrød! The difficult-to-pronounce but oh-so-delicious open-faced sandwiches are the lunch food in Denmark. These tasty slabs of rye bread piled high with toppings like roast beef, smoked salmon, or potato and bacon can range from classic to creative. The choices in Copenhagen are endless, but for the traditional style, I love the tiny Café Halvvejen or the cosy Restaurant Kronborg, and for something a little different, I go to stylish Kompasset.
On a sunny day… head for the parks! When the weather gets warm, Copenhagen residents flock to one of the many green spaces to enjoy the summer sun. I love Frederiksberg Have, a sprawling garden overlooked by a palace. It also features a viewing area where you can see the elephants at Copenhagen Zoo next door. The favourite outdoor activity during Danish summer is a barbecue, featuring lots of food and lots of beer; most people have their own mini barbecue, or you can pick up a cheap single-use grill at most grocery stores.
A must-do Copenhagen event is… Kulturnatten, or Culture Night. It only happens one day a year, in October. With one inexpensive ticket, you can gain free entry to around 600 cultural sites and events around the city, including ones that are not normally accessible to the public. The highlight of my Culture Night was at Christiansborg Palace, sipping tea in the Royal Kitchen where banquets are prepared for royalty and dignitaries alike.
My least favourite thing about Copenhagen is… the harsh winter weather. My best advice when visiting in the colder seasons is to wear lots of layers topped off by a waterproof jacket with a hood (umbrellas and wind do not mix!), and of course don't forget a good pair of boots. The city is definitely still worth seeing in winter though, especially if you visit in December and enjoy the magical Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens. The main advantage of visiting Copenhagen in the off season is that the city is far less crowded and the experience is all the more authentic. It's also an excuse to spend time in one of the many warm, comfy coffee shops and bakeries.
When I want to get out of the city… I hop on the commuter train to Klampenborg and head to Dyrehaven, a deer reserve about 20 minutes north of Copenhagen. This immense park is gorgeous all year round, and is perfect for long walks, picnics, or a bike ride. There's a former Royal hunting lodge, and wild deer can almost always be spotted grazing in the fields and among the trees. In the summer months, you can visit Bakken, the oldest amusement park in the world, which lies inside the reserve.
My best tips for making the most of the city would be… to venture outside the tourist centre and explore other neighbourhoods! Copenhagen's Inner City has so much to offer, but its surrounding neighbourhoods are the place to get a look at life as the city-dwellers actually experience it. Each one has a different feel and personality, and there is so much to discover. And finally, do as the Danes do and embrace the concept of hygge, a sense of warmth, cosiness and comfort, the perfect state of happiness and well-being. Eat tasty food, spend time with friendly people, and take the time to appreciate your surroundings and all of the good things in life. It's the key to understanding the local experience in Copenhagen.
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