Copenhagen is a vibrant city that is becoming a popular travel destination and for good reason. The city has a number of amazing things to offer and provides any traveler with a ton of entertainment choices. Cobbled streets with colorful houses, beautiful outdoor areas, an amazing food scene, great bars, and so much more, are exactly what makes Copenhagen such a great and unmissable city to visit.
Copenhagen has been my home for ten years and I love the city. Therefore, I’d go as far as to call myself an expert on how to enjoy my amazing hometown. So get ready to learn how to visit Copenhagen like a local.
Visit Copenhagen Like a Dane
One thing you should know about Copenhagen is that it’s small and doesn’t overwhelm travelers. What really makes Copenhagen so unique is the atmosphere, the people, and the freedom that oozes through the city. And to experience how amazing the city is, you have to visit Copenhagen like a true Dane.
If Copenhagen is an upcoming travel destination for you, or you simply need inspiration for your bucket list, then keep reading below. I will share exactly where to stay, what to do, and where to visit so you get the full local experience.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
Many people come to Copenhagen and aim to stay in the very center of the city. First, the center of Copenhagen is great for some things but is both touristy and overpriced. Second, it is loud as the area is full of tourists and shoppers during the day, and party crowds at night. Lastly, Danes don’t live in the center of the city, they seek out other areas that provide more culture, calmness, and a better ambiance.
Danes love interior design and pour much love into their homes. Most of the year is so cold and dark that Danes need their homes to be inviting and comfortable. Airbnb’s are both widely spread across areas of the city and at different price ranges. You won’t experience better Danish culture than staying in one of their homes.
Look for an Airbnb, or hotel options if you prefer, in one of the following areas:
Many years ago the area was mainly occupied by a large immigration population and is still the colorful ethnic epicenter of the city. Today, Nørrebro is a very popular student area, and the place is full of Danes at all hours of the day.
Nørrebro provides great shopping options, cafes, and bars, and is within walking distance of many places that you will want to visit while in town.
Search for hotels in Nørrebro on TripAdvisor
Things to do in Nørrebro
Visit Assistent Kirkegården where famous writers and poets like Hans Christian Andersen rests. Go shopping in the colorful streets of Elmegade and Jægersborggade.Enjoy an evening in Ravnsborggade, Blågårdsgade, and Rantzausgade. Eat the best Kebabs in the city. Liban Cuisine and Ahaaa Den Arabisk Madhus are local favourites. See a full list here.Visit “The Red Square” and “The Black Square”.Take a multi cultural walking tour of Nørrebro. Admire the colorful street art and the unique climbing wall at Banana Park.Book this multicultural tour of Nørrebro by bicycle to explore one of the hippest neighborhoods in Copenhagen.
Vesterbro is the hippest area of the city and is the home of both families, young people, and everything in between. Many people claim that true locals live in the Vesterbro area. Heck, they even dress a specific way and stand out in a crowd.
Vesterbro is home to the famous Meatpacking District, some of the best coffee places in the city, and some of the best restaurants in town.
In this neighborhood you should:
Search for hotels in Vesterbro on TripAdvisor
Frederiksberg is an interesting area of Copenhagen that even has its own commune. Not only is Frederiksberg a very nice area full of locals and beautiful streets, but it’s placed perfectly between both Nørrebro and Vesterbro. Staying here will have you within walking distance of both, and is also a short trip into the city center.
In this neighborhood you should:Go shopping at Gammel Kongevej and VærnedamsvejDrink coffee at the smallest hotel in Europe, Central Hotel & Café.Walk up the impressive boulevard of Frederiksberg Allé.Enjoy the beautiful green area of Frederiksberg Have and see the elephants from the park side of Copenhagen Zoo. Experience the magical underground art exhibition of Cisternerne.
Search for hotels in Frederiksberg on TripAdvisor
Østerbro is a quiet and calm area of Copenhagen, mainly populated by families. You won’t find the hippest restaurants and bars here but instead calm nights, wide streets, and a short walk to the ocean. On top, Østerbro has its own cute and local vibe that makes the area very inviting.
In this neighborhood you should:Go shopping in Nordre Frihavnsgade.Visit the big green area of Fælledparken.Experience the fitness rooftop overlooking the ocean at Konditaget Lüders.Watch a football match at Parken Stadion.Go swimming in Nordhavn. Eat at the rooftop garden restaurant ØsterGro. See the colorful houses of Brumleby.
If you are unsure whether your accommodation is central, look how close it’s placed to the main lakes of the city or if it’s within the city metro ring. Anything within that circle or close to those lakes is central and offers great things within a walking distance.
Another Good Place to Stay is Malmo, Sweden. It takes just 20 minutes to cross the Oresund bridge that links Denmark to this city in Sweden. Read more information on Malmo.
Search for Hotels in Østerbro on TripAdvisor
How to get around Copenhagen like a Local
Getting around in Copenhagen like a true Dane is done by bike. You have many bike rental options around town or you can even grab a city bike. The latter option can be picked up and dropped off at stations all over the city. See more information on City Bikes here.
Be very careful when riding around a bike in Copenhagen and know that you are fully part of traffic. Biking is the main means of transportation in the city and locals go fast. Stick to the right side of the bike lane, look over your shoulder, and always use hand signals for turning and stopping.
If biking is not for you, then Copenhagen has an excellent public transport system, and the metro will get you to most places very efficiently.
If you are in Copenhagen for a few days then grab a “rejsekort” from a machine, or one of the 7 eleven’s, at a metro or train station. The card costs 80 dkk and you have to top it up on top of that. Public transportation is not cheap in Denmark, but the “rejsekort” gives you almost half price on your trips and works for the metro, busses, and trains. Just remember to check in at the start of your trip and check out at the end. If you have transfers check in at each station but only check out when you have arrived at your final destination. Check out DOT for finding your travel itinerary or even to purchase tickets online.
What to do in Copenhagen
While there are many things to do in Copenhagen, and you will probably want to visit some touristy sites like Nyhavn and the museums, there are two things that Danes love to do in their capital.
The Liberty state of Christiania is probably the most famous tourist attraction in Copenhagen and understandably so. The history of Christiania is both extremely interesting and completely unique.
Even though the place does attract a large group of tourists, it is also a popular hang-out spot amongst Danes. Christiania has preserved a part of Danish culture that you don’t find anywhere else and that Danes love. What makes Christiania so special is the freedom and the simplicity of the people who live in this area.
Try heading to Christiania on the weekend for markets, exhibitions, parades, and music events. In the warmer months you have live music playing every weekend at Nemoland. On top, the square at Nemoland is always packed with Danes drinking beer, playing board games, and enjoying the vibe of the neighbourhood. Only know that you can never take pictures in Pusher street as this will make local sellers of Marihuana very angry.
Go For a Swim
Danes love to swim in Copenhagen and they do it all year round. Yes, even in winter with ice on the water. The ability to swim in the water surrounding Copenhagen is one of the things that makes it so unique. There are many places you can go but know that swimming outside the enclosed areas is illegal and you can get a fine.
The best places to go swimming is Nordhavn, Islands Brygge, Kalvebod Brygge, and Inderhavnen.
Visit The Tivoli Gardens
The Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen is a world-famous amusement park that Danes are very proud of. Stepping inside Tivoli is like stepping into a tiny magical wonderland that completely transports you away from the pulsing city outside.
The Tivoli Gardens are not only popular amongst locals because of fun rides, but even more because of the ambiance and the beauty of the entire park.
One of the things Danes love the most is going to “Fredagsrock” in Tivoli during the warmer months of May till September. Every Friday during this period, Tivoli hosts a big open-air concert by local or international artists. You don’t need to purchase a ticket, but only pay the Tivoli entry fee and make your way to the main square of the park.
Tivoli is seasonably open from April till the end of September but opens again for Halloween and Christmas. During Halloween and Christmas Tivoli is beautifully decorated and packed with locals. If you are fortunate enough to be in Copenhagen during these periods, then Tivoli is a must to experience.
Tivoli Gardens is a 175-year-old amusement park which Walt Disney modeled Disneyland. It is not to be missed. Read more here: Tivoli Gardens – Copenhagen’s Enchanting Amusement Park and Pleasure Garden
Go For a Walk
Copenhagen is a great place to take a walk since there are a bunch of green areas and the city has more bikes than cars. Denmark is known as one of the greenest countries in the world, and even though Copenhagen is the capital, nature is embedded in almost every part of the city. The most common walk is around the main lakes. Other than that, take a walk in some of the parks. Go to either Fælledparken, Assistent Kirkegården, Frederiksberg Have, or Kongens Have. Walking along the canals is another great option.
For more Things to do in Copenhagen for tourists read: 12 Terrific Things to do in Copenhagen in Two Days
Where to Visit Copenhagen Like a Local
I’d advise you to prioritize spending some time in both the Nørrebro and Vesterbro areas. Here it’s easy to walk around and soak up the vibe of the city. Other than that, there are three other things you should prioritize.
GO TO REFSHALEØEN
Refshaleøen is a new area of Copenhagen that is very spacious and industrial. The area provides a different setting for both swimming and visiting cafes, bars, and restaurants. Since it is a little out of the city, Danes come here to enjoy the spacious area and smaller crowds.
Visit Lille Bakery, La Banchina, or even Noma in this area for something truly special. At Refshaleøen you also find the largest street food market, “Reffen”, that is a fun experience.
While Refshaleøen is best visited by bike, you can also grab the ferry from Langelinie or even grab a bus.
Check out the Meatpacking District
The Meatpacking District of Copenhagen is a mecca for food lovers and to enjoy an evening out. Danes love The Meatpacking District and go here all hours of the day. Whether you want breakfast, coffee, lunch, dinner, or a party, this area has it all.
If you are in Copenhagen during the summer there are always different events during the weekend. These range from music festivals to food venues, and different markets. These events are always packed with locals and are organized by bars or restaurants around, or by the commune.
You can also check out the popular street food market “Den Grønne Kødby’ which is open in the warmer months.
Take a City Bike Tour
Copenhagen is best experienced like a true local by bike. There are numerous bike tours in the city where you can experience the best areas and sights easily and enjoyably.
Sail in the Canals of Copenhagen
One of the best aspects of Copenhagen is the surrounding ocean. While in town you must experience the city from the water.
Most commonly tourists, and sometimes locals, take a canal tour starting from Nyhavn.
An alternative option, also popular amongst locals, is to rent a private GoBoat from Islands Brygge. At a pretty affordable price, you get your own little boat to take around the canal systems and you can even bring your own picnic. The boats go slow and you don’t need a license.
What to Eat In Copenhagen
Copenhagen is world-famous for its food scene and you find many amazing restaurants throughout the city. Besides visiting amazing restaurants and cafes, make sure to prioritize the following while you are there.
Many people don’t know this but the Danish hotdog is something different and special. Danes have their own different sauces and topping for the Danish Hotdog. You find hotdog booths mainly in the center of the city and they provide a quick, easy, and delicious meal.
The open sandwich is the most common and traditional Danish lunch that you have to try while you are in the country. You find Smørrebrød at small delis all over town. For a high-end and unique Smørrebrød experience, visit either Aamanns or Restaurant Palægade. Though pricey, you won’t find any better in Copenhagen.
Bread and Pastries
Danes are world-famous for bread and pastries, and bakeries are everywhere in Copenhagen. To do like the true Danes, grab breakfast from one of them and eat it somewhere outside. The absolute best options are Hart Bakery, Juno The Bakery, Mirabelle, and Andersen & Maillard.
Copenhagen is an amazing and extremely beautiful city to visit. Because of its size, it is very easy to move around and you can experience all the great aspects of Copenhagen stress-free. It truly is one of the best cities to visit in Europe and brings its own completely unique experience.