A First-Timer's Guide to Copenhagen

By Jessica Russo

Copenhagen is colored in cool. With a world-renowned food scene, a vibrant harborfront, unique shops, and fun nightlife, the Danish capital is a cultural playground.

In a city filled with so much to see and do, you may not know where to start. This handy guide will ensure that you don't miss any of the good stuff.

Photo by Instagram user @megcusick

What to Pack

Okay, here's the deal - the warmest it gets in Copenhagen is a pleasant 68F in July. With that being said, leave your tank tops and flip flops at home. If you travel to Copenhagen during the winter, you'll definitely want to bring a warm jacket, a scarf, waterproof boots, gloves, and a knit hat. Traveling during the warmer months? T-shirts, light jackets, and comfortable shoes will do the trick. No matter what time of year you go, always bring a rain jacket and umbrella. Please don't make us say we told you so.

Photo by Instagram user @stormspakhus

What to Eat

Rød pølse

When in Copenhagen, you must try a classic danish hot dog, A.K.A., a Rød Pølse. You'll smell the smokey, savory juices sizzling all over the city! This long sausage, that's red in color, is served with mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions, and/or remoulade.


These Danish open-face sandwiches are so much more than just bread and toppings. They are a beloved national dish that can range from simple buttered Danish rye to piled-high, protein-packed powerhouses. Oh, and they look pretty, too.


These little sweet snacks taste like a beautiful blend of pancakes and doughnuts. Usually sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with jam, syrup, nutella, or fruit, Æbleskiver are the perfect sweet breakfast or pick-me-up dessert.


Yes, this is just the Dutch word for "potatoes," but as you'll see, the Danes eat potatoes with literally everything. These yummy spuds are often caramelized in a delicious mixture of butter, duck fat, brown sugar, and sometimes onion, salt, and pepper, for flavor. This scrumptiously savory side dish is the perfect go-to after a long day of exploring.

Photo by Instagram user @unicose_living

Where to Eat

Must-see Sites


This colorful 17th-century waterfront is the perfect place to spend a morning, afternoon, or night. Stretching from Kongens Nytorv to the harbor near the Royal Playhouse, Nyhavn is lined with eye-popping townhouses, vibrant bars, and cute cafes. The perfect place for a stroll, a bite to eat, or a beautiful sunset.


Home of the Danish royal family, Amalienborg is as beautiful as it is historic. Experience the changing of the guards and immerse yourself in royal history.

The Little Mermaid

Unveiled in 1913, this bronze statue was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's famous fairytale - you guessed it - The Little Mermaid. Take some photos at Langelinje Pier and admire Edvard Eriksen's popular work of art.

Kronborg Caslte

Okay, so this one's a few miles outside the city, but if you can make it there, it's worth the trip. Not only is this 16th-century castle mysteriously beautiful, it's also the model for Elsinore in Hamlet! Step back into Shakespearean times and immerse yourself in royal tales.


Nestled in the heart of the city, this large shopping area is buzzing with high-end stores, budget-friendly shops, street performers, and dining options. Spend the day here people-watching or loading up on souvenirs!

How to Get Around

Public transportation in Copenhagen will be your best friend. The city's metro trains, buses, and waterbuses are reliable, punctual, and take you just about everywhere. If you think you'll be taking public transportation a lot, look into City Pass or Copenhagen Card, tickets in which unlimited public transport is available at a discounted flat rate.

If the sun is shining and you feel like usin' your legs, walk or bike. There is no better way to explore a city! Walking or cycling around will make you feel like a native. You never know what surprises you might discover around any corner!

First-Timer Tips

Copenhageners cycle -- fast

Did you know that half of people in Copenhagen bike to work? While cycle lanes are clearly defined, be careful when crossing any street. Cyclers will whiz right by!

Hope you're hungry

Glistening with Michelin-star restaurants and sprinkled with amazing street food, this city is filled with flavor. Try yummy hot dogs and sweet treats from street markets, then treat yourself to an elegant sitdown seafood dinner.

Copenhagen is a green city

Eco-friendly is an understatement. This city is very progressive in terms of its environmental consciousness. Think: electric buses, recycling, and organic shops everywhere you look. As a matter of fact, 3/4 of food served in public eateries is organic in Copenhagen!

Denmark doesn't use the euro

Instead, they use the krone (crown)! So, when exchanging currency, make sure you choose the krone (DKK). There's nothing you want to do less than pay exchange fees twice.

Tipping is minimal

On your restaurant bills, check to see if a service charge was included (hint: it probably was). If it wasn't, 10% is perfectly fine. Taxi drivers don't expect a tip, but rounding up is always appreciated.

Copenhageners are serious about the holidays

Christmas and New Years are amazing times to go to Copenhagen. The city bursts into a festive fantasyland of Christmas lights, elegant decorations, and of course, the famous Danish Christmas markets.

Useful Danish Phrases

  • Hello - Goddag/Hej (Go-day/Hi)
  • Goodbye - Farvel (Fah-vel)
  • Excuse me - Undskyld (Un-school)
  • Thank you - Tak (tack)
  • Do you speak English? - Taler du engelsk? (Tai-ler do eng-gelsk?)
  • How much is it? - Hvor meget koster det? (Vor my-et kaw-sta day)

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