You’ve seen it on shows like The Bridge and you just can’t wait to get your knitted sweater on and head to Copenhagen – but there’s a lot more to discover about “the City of Spires”. The Danish capital is the cultural and economic epicenter of Denmark and 794,128 people call the city center home. What else is Copenhagen known for?
Copenhagen is known for being the city of fairy tales. Reputed to be happiest city in the world, Copenhagen is known for its canals, excellent food, Tivoli Gardens and for once being home to the children’s writer, Hans C Andersen. It is also famous for the Danish language, its community spirit and the beer breweries.
Danes say the only way to understand ‘hygge’ is to experience it, and Copenhagen is made for just that. Let’s take a closer look at the 15 things that Copenhagen is known for!
1. Tivoli Gardens
Copenhagen is famous for its exquisite gardens, and the best of all has got to be Tivoli.
Built in 1843, Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen is the second oldest amusement park in the world. When Walt Disney visited Tivoli, his souvenir was the inspiration to build Disney World – thank you, Tivoli!
Eat, play, and join in the fun at Tivoli whatever time of year you visit. However, Christmas is when Tivoli undergoes its most impressive transformation, with over 1000 Christmas trees and a bustling market. Pick up some hand-knitted socks or traditional Danish apple donuts, æbleskiver, and experience a fairytale winter wonderland!
Chances are, you recognize the irresistibly charming houses in the district of Nyhavn, even if you haven’t been there before. These quintessentially Scandi buildings are bursting with life all year round.
Originally a commercial hotspot back when Denmark made most of its money from herring fishing, it’s now known for great restaurants, the canal and jazz music. Absorb the view of the canal and treat yourself to a meal at Skagen, famous for typical Danish dishes.
Hans Christian Andersen, the writer of fairy tales like The Little Mermaid and Princess And The Pea, lived at number 20. This very instagrammable location is where many of Denmark’s past celebrities lived, and you can often spot it in movies or on TV.
By the way, Nyhavn is the starting point for one of the many canal tours you can take in Copenhagen!
You’ll notice that the canals winding their way through the city are conveniently situated beside many of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions: The Opera House, Black Diamond Library and the old stock exchange.
Make life easy for yourself and hop aboard for an hour-long canal tour of the city, given in English and other European languages by experienced guides for just 99 DKK ($15.62). They’ll give you a historical overview and answer any questions you may have – and some of the tours are themed! Jazz night, anyone?
4. The Little Mermaid
Known to Danes as Den Lille Havfrue, the statue of The Little Mermaid is Copenhagen’s most visited attraction.
Designed by Edvard Eriksen, a Danish sculptor, the sculpture of The Little Mermaid has been part of the Copenhagen landscape since 1913. Commissioned by the owner of the Carlsberg Brewery, J C Jakobsen, she is now a symbol of the city and Denmark as a whole.
She sits just above the lapping shores of the Baltic sea staring at the land she so desperately wanted to live on. And when you see Copenhagen for yourself, who could blame her? Give her a wave if you walk past, although she’s rarely lonely. Hundreds of people come to see her every day from all corners of the earth.
Say “Copenhagen” and foodies all over the world will clap their hands together with delight and exclaim: “Noma!” If you don’t recognize the name, here’s why it’s a big deal.
Copenhagen is home to the world’s best restaurant. At least, it won the title of World’s Best Restaurant in the years 2010-14, and in 2019, it was the second best. Noma gets its name from putting the words ‘Nordisk’ and ‘Mad’ together. And while the food may be unconventional, the ‘mad’ actually means ‘food’ in Danish.
At Noma you’ll be served anything from soup concealed in potted plants to edible flowers, which is about as ‘fine dining’ as you can get. You need to book months in advance and menus are seasonal so they constantly change. While we recommend you give it a go at some point, it comes with a hefty price-tag. A meal here will set you back about 2,300 DKK ($365).
Don’t let Noma trick you into thinking Copenhagen is too expensive to eat in. You can dine for just 20-100 DKK ($ 3-15) a meal if you know where to go. Enter the Danish concept of ‘fællesspisning’ or, literally translated, ‘eating together’.
Copenhagen is known for promoting community spirit, and going to a fællesspisning event will do just that. You’ll eat at a long table, Viking-Style, and meet people of all ages and backgrounds. Get to know locals and other travelers and eat for next to nothing, it’s a win-win!
At Kafa X you’ll only pay 20 DKK ($3.20) for a large vegan or vegetarian meal, made entirely of food that would have gone to waste. If you help cook or clean up, you can even get your meal free! Other regular fællesspisning events are hosted at places like Absalon, KU.BE, and Kraftwerket.
Copenhagen is also famous for its local delicacies, in particular smørrebrød, an open-top rye bread sandwich. It’s true that Danes love their bread, with most of them eating smørrebrød for lunch a couple of times a week.
Perfect as a snack or light meal, smørrebrød is exactly what busy explorers need to fuel their adventures. The sauce Danes love the most is the famous rémoulade, which often features on top of a smørrebrød. You’ll be wanting to take it home with you when you’ve tried it!
8. ‘Danish’ Pastry
Another thing Copenhagen is famous for are Nordic thrillers and mysteries, but one peculiarity is deeply rooted in the city. I’m talking about Danish pastries, because in Copenhagen, they don’t call them Danish – they call them Wienerbrød (Vienna bread). In North Germany and Austria, they are known as a ‘Kopenhagener’, but Danes insist they’re Austrian.
So which is it? Well, somewhere in the middle. The story goes that in 1840s Copenhagen, an Austrian baking apprentice made the mistake of not kneading butter into his dough. Instead, he layered it and thus, the Danish pastry was born.
Why Danes resist being credited for these delicious treats is probably the biggest mystery of all. If you want to sample a Wienerbrød or another sweet treat yourself, we recommend La Glace, Copenhagen’s oldest bakery.
9. The Danish Language
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last five or six years you’ll definitely have heard of ‘hygge’. It seems you can’t escape Scandimania, and several Danish words have been increasingly slipping into English recently.
But did you know that the Danish language is only comprised of 200,000 words? It’s hard to pronounce, even the Danes admit that, but it’s got some adorable terminology. Many English words have their roots in Danish from the Vikings: including days of the week, ‘cake’ and ‘glitter’.
Copenhagen is known to be the happiest city in the world, and when they call a butterfly ‘sommerfugl’, or, summer bird, how could they not be?
10. The Happiest City In The World
The Danes enjoy the best overall life satisfaction in Copenhagen, and the city ranks highest in the world for happiness! But what does that mean exactly? Well, according to studies, four simple things make for the happiest people: activity, security, family and individuality.
Danes are, by nature, active people. Most people cycle or walk to work, and spend their weekends with their families outdoors to get their blood pumping. In Copenhagen, the average working week is 37 hours long giving parents more time to spend with their children. With 52 weeks paid maternity and paternity leave, Danish moms and dads get a lot of time to spend with their newborn!
Whilst community spirit is greatly encouraged, Danes appreciate individual quirks. Gender, sexuality and the job you have are not indicators of your personality or worth in Denmark.
Copenhagen is also known for being one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world.
The cycle path in Copenhagen is an impressive 412km (256 miles) in length. Over 62% of Copenhagen’s citizens commute to work, school or university by bicycle. Even more astonishingly, almost as many people commute by bike in Copenhagen as in the entirety of the United States!
If you want to take the easiest and cheapest route around Copenhagen, rent a bike! The landscape is flat making it ideal for easy cruising.
12. Carlsberg Beer and Brewery
Danes have been drinking beer for 5,000 years so it’s no wonder that Copenhagen is famous for its beer and breweries. It’s estimated that Danes drink 80 liters (21 gallons) of beer per person – and the most famous Danish beer, Carlsberg, is brewed in Copenhagen.
J C Jakobsen founded Carlsberg in 1847 and he named it after his son, Carl. The old brewery is open for tours, if you’re curious to see how it’s made, but mostly it’s a great excuse to sample some for yourself!
The average beer price is 30 DKK ($4.50) in Copenhagen, making it vastly cheaper than its neighboring countries.
13. One of the world’s oldest monarchies
Copenhagen is famous for being home to the Danish royal family, one of the oldest monarchies in the world. Her Majesty Queen Margarethe II of Denmark can trace her family back an impressive 1000 years.
In fact, the known beginning of her lineage is that of the Viking king, Harald Bluetooth, whose name is now used every time we want to connect to something wireless – bet you didn’t know that! The royals are immensely popular in Denmark, and frequently top the Dane of The Year polls.
You can try to catch a glimpse of them by visiting Amalienborg palace, or just walk around outside and take in its size and beauty.
14. City of Spires
Copenhagen is famous for being the City of Spires. Grab a friend and get the best views from way above. Whichever direction you look in, you’ll see something you haven’t seen before!
The tallest tower is located at Christiansborg Palace, the original home of the Danish royal family. At almost 106 meters (348 feet) you can see for miles around.
15. Bargain Danish buys
Many of us are in awe of Danish design, be it clothes, jewelry, books or homewares. Buying them brand new is out of many people’s price range, but luckily you’ve got a few options.
If you want something really unique to bring back with you from Copenhagen, you’ve got to check out Fredriksberg Loppetorv. This flea market is open every Saturday from April to mid-October, and you can pick up a bargain for very little money.
If you’re visiting in wintertime, check out the shop Loppehylder. Locals rent a shelf in the shop to sell their unwanted stuff, and in return you can give an old item a new home!
Copenhagen is known for many different things, but you’ll definitely find a few of your own favorites when you visit! Next time you find yourself in Denmark, be sure to go exploring in this fantastic city.