1. The Little Mermaid
4. Thorvaldsen’s Museum
5. The Black Diamond
6. Statens Museum for Kunst
8. Islands Brygge
9. The National Museum
10. Copenhagen Opera House
What to see in Copenhagen city – which attractions to prioritise? Maybe it is not your first time in Copenhagen, or maybe you just seek something slightly different from the ‘usual’ most popular sights in the Danish capital – although still with a wish to include a few of the most famous attractions. In that case you may find inspiration in this top 10 list of things to see and do in Copenhagen.
You will gain insight into Copenhagen’s cultural life, architecture and history – and at the same time you will have the opportunity to meet the Danes and be part of the local life in the vibrant streets of Copenhagen city, which especially in summer seethes with ambience and life.
Ascot Hotel (mid-range) set in a charming 19th-century building near Tivoli and the Central Station. The hotel offers a breakfast buffet and has free gym access.
Copenhagen Island Hotel (top) this modern, stylish hotel is located on an artificial island in central Copenhagen near Fisketorvet and is only one train stop from Tivoli and Copenhagen Central Station.
When deciding on what to see in Copenhagen city, you should definitely consider the world-famous and iconic bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen at Langelinie. The statue was commissioned by the son of the founder of Carlsberg, Carl Jacobsen, and placed on the rock in 1913. The Little Mermaid was based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales of the same name.
As she sits there, she appears real tiny, but still tourists from the whole world flock to catch a glimpse of and make a selfie with the fabled Mermaid.
She has nearly continuously sat at Langelinie since her creation. An exception was for the Expo 2010 in Shanghai. The statue was then moved from its location in Copenhagen to the Danish Pavilion at the Shanghai exhibition.
What you should definitely also see in the city is Nyhavn – have a drink here at Copenhagen’s picturesque harbour which has really become the iconic image and symbol of Copenhagen.
Nyhavn is a gateway to the sea from central Copenhagen. Its history goes back to the 1600s when it was dug by Swedish prisoners. King Christian V then established a convenient, new harbour in the city, Nyhavn, in the years 1670 to 1675. Soon it was used by both fishermen and tradesmen for transporting goods to and from the city of Copenhagen.
The row of coloured townhouses, and their bars and restaurants, are popular among Danes and foreign visitors, and both the street and the canal seethe with life as soon as the sun appears on the sky.
Any ship addict will marvel at the sight of the old harbour ships lining the canal, including the Lightvessel XVII Gedser Rev from 1895, Anna Møller from 1906 and Svalan af Nyhavn from 1924. Nyhavn even boasts a theatre boat, The Boat Theatre from 1898! On the city side of Nyhavn there is a monument, the Memorial Anchor, commemorating the 1,700 Danish sailors, who lost their lives during World War II.
Take a stroll at Christianshavn, the idyllic neighbourhood in inner Copenhagen, located on a number of artificial islands and surrounded by charming canals.
The area was established in the 17th century by King Christian IV as part of the Copenhagen fortifications featuring 12 bastions.
Until some decades ago it was rather a working-class borough, but from the 1970s onwards it imperceptibly developed into a flourishing, bohemian area. Today, it is one of the trendiest places you can live in within the city of Copenhagen, and it is extremely popular with all population groups, whether it is students, families or senior citizens. Christianshavn counts both a residential area located around the attractive Christianshavn Canal, as well as the alternative community Fristaden Christiania.
Discover Thorvaldsen’s works. A gem of a museum in Copenhagen is Thorvaldsen’s Museum, a museum dedicated to the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844).
Inaugurated in 1848, the museum displays the artist’s proficient work throughout his life. It is a fascinating museum of Thorvandsen’s marble and plaster works, as well as models for cast bronze and marble statues. He worked within the neoclassical genre and spent a great part of his life in Rome.
In addition to his own sculptural works, the collection exhibits artworks and other artifacts from the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures.
Explore modern architecture at Copenhagen’s waterfront. The Black Diamond, or in Danish Den Sorte Diamant, is an untraditional extension to the Royal Danish Library’s original building on the islet Slotsholmen – and definitely one of the unique Copenhagen attractions. The glazed black granite block was completed in 1999, and its name obviously refers to its appearance – resembling a black diamond. Designed by the Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen, the waterfront structure has an absolutely central location at the harbour.
Approaching the building along the waterside at the right time of the day, you will marvel at the reflections of the tiny waves on the façade of the building. It is truly like a sparkling diamond!
In addition to being a library, the structure houses a number of other public facilities. It features an auditorium, the Queen’s Hall, for concerts, theatre plays and conferences. Moreover, you will find a bookshop, a restaurant, a café and a couple of museums on photography and cartoon art.
Study art at The National Gallery, Statens Museum for Kunst, the largest art museum in Copenhagen. The collection comprises 260,000 pieces of art located in three distinct collections, spanning over paintings and sculptures, dating from around 1300, paper drawings and over 2,000 plaster statues.
Originally, beginning in the 16th century, it was the Kings’ private collections which were on display here at Statens Museum for Kunst, but from the mid-1800s this changed, and the collections were opened to the public.
Since then new acquisitions have been added every year, making it an intriguing art museum, always updated on the styles, trends and significant artists.
Walk through the cobbled streets of Nyboder which is one of the absolutely authentic and historic Copenhagen attractions.
Naval accommodation in Nyboder was an invention by King Christian IV. He constructed the orangish complex of houses with the characteristic red window shutters for his army to provide reasonable accommodation for officers, sailors and other personnel employed in the navy , also when they retired. He hired the Flemish architect Hans van Steenwinkel, who performed the construction task between 1631 and 1648. Precisely the year that the King died, it was completed!
The oldest houses were single storey, but most of the still existing buildings are two-storey. Throughout the last centuries Nyboder has had thousands of residents and it still belongs to the Ministry of Defence and houses Danish military families.
Chill out at trendy Islands Brygge at Copenhagen’s waterfront. It is centrally located on the northwestern coast of the island Amager, facing the promenade and recreational area Kalvebod Bølge. Islands Brygge is also a site where you will find one of the eye-catching Copenhagen Harbour Baths. It is extremely popular in summer!
This part of Copenhagen used to be an industrial and dockland area, but since 2000 it has undergone an amazing development turning it into an attractive neighbourhood with a blend of old houses and top-notch modern architecture.
The dockland past is still preserved in some of the buildings along the waterfront, including the characteristic Gemini Residence, two old silos, which have been converted into apartments.
Dive into Denmark’s past at the National Museum, Nationalmuseet, in Copenhagen. It is the largest museum in Denmark showcasing Denmark’s cultural heritage and background through a vast number of authentic artifacts, displayed in the exhibitions.
Here you can get insight into unique archeological finds such as the famous Golden Horns and the Egtved Girl in her tomb. Other fascinating objects from the Danish prehistory include the Trundholm Chariot of the Sun and the Gundestrup Cauldron.
The museum will take you through Denmark’s history from reindeer hunting in the Ice Age and primitive life in the Viking Age, through the dark Middle Ages and Renaissance up to present day. It covers 14,000 years of Danish history, the power, the monarchy, the colonies, ethnology, ethnography and much more.
Also the ancient cultures of Greece and Italy, the Near East and Egypt are included in the exhibitions.
Visit one of the most modern opera houses in the world, the Copenhagen Opera House, which is located on the island Dokøen at Holmen. It was built just opposite Amalienborg in alignment with both the castle and the Marble Church, giving it a prominent location. Construction (2001-2004) amounted to more than US$500 million, placing the national Opera House on the top of all opera house budgets worldwide.
The Opera House belongs to and is administered by The Royal Theatre, which traditionally has been located at Kongens Nytorv in the inner city.
An unusual and outstanding design was undertaken by the architect Henning Larsen, the engineers Rambøll and Buro Happold, as well as the theatre consultant Theatreplan. The foundation of A.P. Møller (the co-founder of the Mærsk company) donated the Opera House to the Danish state. The structure opened to the public in 2005.
Not surprisingly, the concert hall has an amazing acoustics and can seat more than 1,500 people.
Do you have 3 days in Copenhagen? Then take a look at 3 Days of Sightseeing in Copenhagen
See: How to Travel Light
What to See in Copenhagen City – 10 Top Attractions
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What to See in Copenhagen City – 10 Top Attractions