As the quintessential capital of Scandinavia, Copenhagen is full of amazing things to see and do. However, it is best experienced like a local! Uncover all of the best local secrets with this ultimate local guide to Copenhagen.
See where Copenhagen lands on my list of the top 12 solo travel destinations in Europe!
The Ultimate Local Guide to Copenhagen: What, Where, and How
City Center (Indre By)
Simply strolling around the center of Copenhagen is a treat. You will fall in love with the charming, colored buildings and hidden courtyards scattered around. The city center will give you a real taste of what traditional Danish architecture looks like.
The old fortress is situated on a unique star-shaped island north of the city center. It’s full of history and has a great view of the sea between Denmark and Sweden.
Tivoli is the second-oldest amusement park in the world. Smack dab in the city’s center, it’s a magical place that is truly worth the price. Roller coasters, food galore, and a musical light show on the pond every night will enchant you.
The Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
The Round Tower, located in the city center, will give you great views over Copenhagen. It’s also the oldest functioning observatory in Europe! Attached to a church, entrance is about €4.
Christiansborg Palace (Christiansborg Slot)
With the highest tower in Copenhagen, Christiansborg Palace will also give you stupendous views over the city. The palace is currently the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court of Denmark. The best part? Entrance is free.
This 17th-century stock exchange center is one of the oldest buildings in Copenhagen. The architecture is interesting and impressive. It’s topped with a spire in the center comprised of four intertwined dragon’s tails with three crowns on top, symbolizing the Scandinavian empire.
King’s New Square (Kongens Nytorv)
Kongens Nytorv is the largest square in the city. It’s especially magical at Christmas time when markets frequently run in the square and the Hotel D’Angleterre is adorned with lights and garland.
New Harbor (Nyhavn)
Perhaps the most photographed part of Copenhagen, the harbor is located just off of Kongens Nytorv. It is lined with colorful buildings and docked sailboats flying the Danish flag. This is a nice walk to take along the water.
Christiania is technically an independent commune of Denmark. It has about 850 to 1,000 residents. Christiania is perhaps known most famously for its relaxed attitude towards drugs, especially marijuana. It’s a really nice place to relax along the pond in nature.
Rosenborg Castle & The King’s Garden (Rosenborg Slot & Kongens Have)
Rosenborg Castle and gardens are a majestic location just on the edge of the city center. This is especially a nice place to have a picnic in the sun and stroll around.
The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue)
This list probably wouldn’t be complete without The Little Mermaid statue. The author of The Little Mermaid, H.C. Andersen, was from Denmark, and one of his most famous fairytales is honored with this statue. Though I found it underwhelming and far too crowded with tourists, it is still apparently the most visited attraction in Copenhagen. You probably won’t find any locals here, though.
The grungy, alternative neighborhood of Copenhagen, Nørrebro is where all of the interesting culture and fashion is happening. This neighborhood is a great place to check out when you’re ready for something with a slightly different vibe than the proper, historic inner city.
Fælledparken is the largest park in Copenhagen. Filled with forests, lawns, gazebos, ponds, jungle gyms, workout equipment, and even skate parks, it’s an especially lovely place in the summer. All kinds of outdoor events happen here. It’s an easy way to get a dose of nature while still staying in the city.
Though not cheap, this fine dining establishment is the best of modern Nordic cuisine. Everything is experimental and painstakingly prepared. Someone will introduce every course along with the perfect wine pairing for each dish if you choose to indulge. Don’t miss this treat!
This restaurant is located close to the fortress (Kastellet) on the water. It’s a great place to eat on the waterfront, with nice indoor and outdoor spaces.
Paper Island (Papirøen)
Paper Island is near Nyhavn (the harbor). It’s basically a massive indoor street food market housed inside an old warehouse. The food is AMAZING, and it’s a great, casual place to eat along the water.
The Laundromat Cafe
The Laundromat Cafe has two locations: one in Nørrebro, and one in Østerbro. My favorite was the one in Nørrebro; it carries the neighborhood’s multicultural feel inside. With all-day breakfast, you can’t go wrong here.
Original Coffee Illum
This cafe has the best view in my opinion. Located on top of the shopping center ILLUM in the city center, Original Coffee has a special selection of pastries and delicious coffee. This is a great place to get some work done and enjoy a great view, too.
Cafe Bopa was described to me by a local as a classic in Østerbro. Housed inside of an incredibly old building, it is dim, lit entirely with candles. It’s a great place to get coffee and a bite to eat.
Bastard Cafe is amazing for one reason: it has board games! Come here on a rainy afternoon and play your heart out in typical Danish fashion.
Culture Box reminded me the most of a Berlin club of any place in Copenhagen. Really well-known DJs frequently play here and the dancefloor is a cool, multicolor space.
La Fontaine is an amazing place to go for live jazz. I went a few times with locals for beers and to watch the local talent and was blown away. It’s a great way to get some relatively cheap entertainment!
Farfar Bodega & Dans
Bodegas, or “dive bars” in American parlance, are a Danish tradition you don’t want to miss. While Farfar’s isn’t the classiest establishment, it has two levels and a great variety of drinks and dancing.
LA Tequila Bar
If you thought Farfar’s wasn’t classy, just wait until you see LA Tequila Bar. It’s far from nice but a fun place to drink and dance with the student population of Copenhagen – especially on Tequila Tuesdays!
Like I’ve said before, I’m a huge walker when I travel, and Copenhagen is pretty walkable. Especially if you’re only staying in the center of the city, you’ll be able to get away with just walking, no problem.
There is something truly magical about seeing the city by bike. You couldn’t experience Copenhagen like a true local without one. Rent a bike from the many bike shops in town – just be aware of the local cycling rules and don’t get in the way of others on the bike path!
If you’re staying a little farther outside the city center or are planning on traveling some larger distances on the fringes of Copenhagen, the newly-built metro might be a good option for you. If you’re staying for multiple days, a multi-day metro pass is often a good value.
The Ultimate Local Guide to Copenhagen: Authentic Experiences
Drink… Carlsberg, Tuborg, schnapps, gløgg (mulled wine), mead, akvavit, Fernet-Branca (for licorice-lovers), strong and black coffee
Eat… Rye bread, smørrebrod (rye bread with various traditional Danish spreads on top), herring, remoulade, kanelsnegle (cinnamon rolls; literally: cinnamon snails), frikadeller (meatballs), pølse (hotdogs; get this everywhere on the street)
Ride… A bike
Visit… A bodega for a beer and some traditional bar games with dice
Go… Take a run around The Lakes in between the traditional city center and outside the city center
Enjoy… Some fresh sausage, cheese, pastries, and coffee for breakfast
See the Lights at Tivoli
Every night, there is a light show at Tivoli. The lights all around the pond will light up and the water fountains will dance in sync to music that Tivoli specially orchestrates!
Freetown Christiania is a unique independent community in the southeastern part of the city center. It is surrounded by “city walls” and a pond. Visit and enter into another world! Hang out in nature and enjoy some of the local delicacies.
Enjoy a Traditional Danish Bodega
A bodega is a classic Danish haunt where you’re bound to find plenty of locals. Learn how to play the bar games with dice that Danes love so much and enjoy the smoky, old atmosphere with a Carlsberg.
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