Copenhagen is certainly the coolest kid on the Nordic block - the Danish capital gives Scandinavia that X factor.
It has parks, beaches, award-winning food, safe cycling routes and lots of cool attractions, and with all this in mind it is unsurprising that Copenhagen and Denmark regularly top the international happiness surveys.
If you are going on a planned mini cruise to Copenhagen, then follow our guide to help you tap into the city’s happy vibe. We reveal the top three excursions you can do, top free attractions you can visit and share some expert tips you should be aware of before your trip.
Top 3 excursions
The highlights of the city of Copenhagen are endless – there is always something new to discover and it’s worth doing some research beforehand to decide what the priorities are for you so that you can better manage your time in port.
If you would prefer to join an organised excursion rather than explore this wonderful city independently, we prepare and operate a comprehensive Shore Excursion Programme taking in the main highlights so that you can relax and let us do the hard work!
One of our favourite attractions in Copenhagen is undoubtedly Amalienborg Palace, residence of the Royal family. Situated in a spacious cobbled square, the Palace consists of four identical classical facades with an equestrian statue of its founder in the centre. If your call times allow, the Changing of the Guard takes place daily in the Square at around noon and is well worth a watch.
Second on our list is Nyhavn, the picture-perfect restaurant-lined street depicted in most postcard images of Copenhagen. Take a seat in one of the many bustling restaurants or cafes in this historic sailor’s quarter and watch the world go by.
Little Mermaid statue
Finally, no visit to Copenhagen is complete without paying a visit to the city’s iconic Little Mermaid statue. Located close to the port, this small unimposing Statue was a gift to the city donated by Carl Jacobsen and has been a major tourist attraction since 1913.
Top 3 restaurants
Whilst in the past the Danish and new Nordic cuisine was not on many people’s lips, this has changed dramatically with Copenhagen now one of the leading gastronomic destinations in the world.
There are 16 restaurants in the Danish capital that own a Michelin star, which is the highest number the city has ever had. So if you are looking to eat at one of the best restaurants in the city, then these three should be on the top of your list.
This gourmet restaurant has been awarded two Michelin stars in the Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2016 and has been ranked as the world’s best restaurant in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Noma is famed for serving up the best Scandinavian cuisine and sources ingredients from Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Denmark.
Many people believe that Noma’s head chef Rene Redzepi was a driving force behind the revival of Nordic food and the way dining rooms operate. At Noma, diners are brought their dishes by the chefs themselves!
Noma is renowned for creating exceptional food, but its setting adds extra appeal. It is based in a renovated harbour-front warehouse in Christianshavn.
Awarded three Michelin stars in the Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2016, Restaurant Geranium has been ranked as the 28th best restaurant in the world.
Restaurant Geranium is run by Rasmus Kofoed, who himself picked up the world’s best chef award in 2011, and is a lucid, light and dynamic restaurant.
The restaurant says that its aim is to create meals that “involve all our senses - restores, challenges and enriches” and whilst achieving this it is taking Scandinavian cuisine in exciting new directions.
Situated on the 8th floor in Fælledparken (Common Gardens) in the centre of Copenhagen, diners are treated to stunning views over the city, but whilst the views are incredible, the restaurant’s 20-plus course Universe menu takes all the plaudits as it changes with the seasons.
The food takes guests on an exploration of Scandinavia’s wild and organic produce in beautifully presented forms, and its salted hake, parsley stems and Finnish caviar in buttermilk is a standout dish.
Restaurant AOC holds two Michelin stars in Guide Michelin Nordic Cities 2016 and its central location makes it a must-visit.
Based on Nordic produce from the sea and earth, the restaurant’s cuisine is the brainchild of Chef Søren Selin and it offers diners four- to seven-course set menus. What’s more is that guests can go on a sensory evening at the restaurant and this includes everything into a seven- or 10-course menu.
The restaurant has a renowned selection of wine from the old and new world regions that guests can choose from. Restaurant AOC aims for its food and wine to accompany each other in perfect harmony, and this is one of the reasons why its wine list is so extensive.
The restaurant is only small and is situated in the vaulted cellar of the historic mansion, Moltkes Palæ, which seats about 40 people in one service. Due to its huge popularity you will need to book a table well in advance to guarantee a dining experience you won’t forget in a while.
Top 3 free things to do
If you want to save some money, then here are some of the top things you can do in the Danish capital that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.
Right in the centre of Copenhagen is where the stunning Botanical Garden is located. This 10-hectare garden is well-known for its complex of historical glasshouses dating back to 1874.
The garden is free to visit and those that come here will not be left disappointed as it is home to the largest collection of living plants. It has over 13,000 species of plants, which include 600 species of Danish plants, 1,100 species of perennial plants, 1,100 species of annual plants as well as plants from mountainous areas in Central and Southern Europe.
There are 27 glasshouses at the Botanical Garden, but the main glasshouse is the old Palm House. The cast-iron spiral stairs leading to a walkway at the top are a classic feature.
The garden is open from 8.30 am - 6.00 pm from April 1 - September 30 and 8.30 am - 4.00 pm during winter (October 1 - March 31).
The David Collection
If you are an art enthusiast, then the David Collection in Copenhagen is certainly worth visiting as not only is it free to visit, but the museum boasts the largest collection of Islamic art in Scandinavia.
The museum’s collection also boasts European 18th century fine and applied art and early Danish modern art.
The Collection of Islamic Art is the museum’s largest and has artefacts from all over the world that span a period from the 7th century to the 19th century. The collection includes miniature paintings, ceramics, stone and stucco, glass, calligraphy, metalwork, weapons, jewellery, wood, ivory, papier-Mache, textiles, carpets and leather.
Free walking tours in Copenhagen
If you want to find out about Vikings, power struggles and the princes and princesses of Copenhagen, then you can for free!
Copenhagen Walking Tours offer a free tour of the city every day of the year. It starts at Copenhagen City Hall at 11am.
Guests will be taken to all the top attractions in the city, like the Amalienborg Palace and Nyhavn, and all tours are in English.
Top 3 souvenirs to bring home
Copenhagen is a city known for design and visitors won’t be short of choices when shopping here. The next time you visit Copenhagen then the following souvenirs would be worth bringing home.
These colourful interlocking bricks were actually first designed in Denmark in 1949 and this souvenir would either inspire a child in your life or would give you fond memories of when you were a child.
Strøget, Copenhagen’s pedestrian boulevard, is where LEGO’s flagship store is based and is the perfect place to buy some LEGO pieces or a full set.
Royal Danish Porcelain
Royal Danish Porcelain is the brand behind the distinctive blue-and-white patterned dishes and cups that are synonymous with Denmark.
For more than 240 years, Royal Copenhagen has been producing Royal Danish porcelain and with origins in hand-painted designs it is one of the most luxurious and desirable porcelain brands in the world.
Buying a set of cups and saucers and plates would add some real class to the next dinner party you host or will impress the in-laws when they next come around.
The Royal Copenhagen not only produces cups and mugs and plates, but also makes teapots, jugs, bowls and serving dishes as well.
When talking about alcoholic drinks, Aquavit may not be the first one that springs to mind, but if you are looking to bring something home that is very traditional then Aquavit is the perfect drink.
Aquavit liquor is usually the first choice for many Scandinavians, especially if celebrating a special occasion.
What is unique about this drink is the fact that its colour can range from being clear to dark brown, although generally it is yellow. If the drink is darker, then it is likely to have come from an older cask and lighter coloured drinks are from younger casks.
To enjoy this drink in the traditional way, it is best to serve it chilled and unmixed in a small glass.
The top 3 culture shocks
While Amsterdam is renowned as being a popular place to cycle, not many people realise how big cycling is in Copenhagen.
The number of bicycles on Copenhagen’s street far outweigh the number of cars, and that is why you need to keep more of an eye open for a bicycle than you do for a car when crossing a road.
Cycling may be a popular way for locals to commute to work, but it is also a fantastic way to see the city.
One of the reasons why so many people cycle in Copenhagen is because there are lots of cycle paths across the city and it is very safe compared to other large cities across the world.
Coffee is expensive
According to an article on the Daily Californian, coffee in Denmark is very expensive. Cups of coffee generally cost €4-€6 a cup.
Some coffee houses charge €7 or €8 a cup, but while the coffee might be expensive the cakes and other treats that you can eat more than make up for the slightly overpriced coffee.
Danes drink small amounts of beer anytime of the day
Drinking a small amount of alcohol is normal for many Danes and therefore it is not strange to see a local drinking a beer in Copenhagen at 10.30am on a weekday or at lunch.
Expat Arrivals says that although Danish people retain a healthy attitude towards alcohol, drunkenness is generally considered unacceptable.
Top 3 expert tips
Rent a bicycle
Copenhagen is synonymous with bike riding, so do as the locals do and rent a bike for a quick, easy and cheap way of seeing what the city has to offer.
Take a boat ride
What better way to get your bearings than with a city canal tour. Boats can be picked up from the Nyhavn area.
Cross the canal
The vibrant colours and historic tall ships make Nyhavn a popular destination.
Be sure to take a stroll along the ‘less famous’ side (without bars/restaurants) for the best views and to see the lighthouse ship Geyser Rev.
Be sure to keep a look out for house number 20, where beloved Danish author Hans Christian Anderson lived in 1835 when he published his first set of fairy tales