Prim houses line tidy cobblestoned streets and canals, and the kitschy Tivoli Gardens forms the city’s centerpiece. But beyond these postcard-perfect moments, Copenhagen is an ambitious city with much to explore. First, there’s the design: sleek Scandinavian functionalism as championed by Arne Jacobsen in the 1950’s has developed into a citywide aesthetic. And then there’s the food: some of Europe’s most creative chefs are turning Nordic cuisine on its head in surprisingly delicious ways. And ﬁnally, there are the neighborhoods. Central Copenhagen has plenty of charms (historic buildings and pedestrian shopping zones), and its peripheries, ﬁlled with style-conscious Danes and their local haunts, are also worth a detour.
When you visit Copenhagen, you’ll find that Denmark’s capital isn’t an easy place to characterize. Its streets are lined with neoclassical buildings that date from the days when Denmark was a major trading power, pastel row houses with flower boxes and lace curtains, and modern design masterpieces from the 20th century. It is home to Tivoli Gardens, aglow in electric lights, but also the infamous Christiania, an autonomous community with its own radical ethos. You can dine on traditional Danish fare or opt instead for a culinary adventure at Noma, according to some, the best haute cuisine restaurant in the world.
What Not to Miss in Copenhagen
Any list of Copenhagen travel musts will inevitably be an odd mix of sights that charming, strange, cozy, and cutting-edge.
• Opera House
• Tivoli Gardens
• Statens Museum for Kunst
• Little Mermaid
• Amalienborg Palace
When to Visit Copenhagen
Summer, when the days are long and relatively warm and outdoor cafes are crowded, is, not surprisingly, the high season. But few people make winter more enjoyable than the Danes and the weeks leading up to Christmas are uniquely magical, a period of candlelit coziness and glittering lights.
Taking a tour of the glass-and-steel Copenhagen Opera House, highlighting its backstage areas and architecture—it was designed in response to the ornate royal Amalienborg Palace.
Trying a flødeboller (snowball)—delicious confections of marshmallow cream and dark chocolate atop a marzipan base—at Summerbird.
Browsing the colorful display of newsboys, fedoras, cloches, and pillboxes for sale at Susanna Juul, a shop seemingly from another era.