Copenhagen Travel Guide

Copenhagen Travel Guide

Tiny but mighty, Copenhagen is one of the world’s most sought after travel destinations tantalizing travellers time and time again with its innovative New Nordic food scene, effortless minimalism and legendary Norse history. Despite its size, Copenhagen bursts with an abundance of distinct districts, from the cobbled streets of Nyhavn, where old pastel-coloured townhouses lean ever-so-slightly towards the canal below, to the industrial hipster district of Nørrebro lined with high-end eateries and indie boutiques. Danes have a proud history of progressing gay rights, as the first country in the world to recognise same-sex partnerships. That, plus its two annual Pride Parades, and name as host of World Pride in 2021, it’s clear that Copenhagen is a city where queer spirit rules the streets and anybody is welcome. Wondering what to do in Copenhagen? For your definitive Copenhagen gay travel guide, you’ve come to the right place.

The best hotels in Copenhagen

Let’s kick off this Copenhagen travel guide with a roundup of the best places to stay in Copenhagen. In a city strongly influenced by the stunning design and impeccable taste, every aspect of your trip will reflect this effortless take on décor, including your accommodation of course. One of the best new hotels on the block is Hotel SP34, a boutique hotel decorated with Danish design classics and custom-made furniture. The style is typically Scandinavian, but with a warm and welcoming feel. Perfectly located in Central Copenhagen’s Latin Quarter, this cool hotel offers friendly staff, two great restaurants, and a rooftop terrace with a view of the famous colourful terraces that line the canal. Nearby, just 200 meters from the Nyhavn harbourside, is Hotel Sanders, an elegant offering in the heart of Copenhagen’s bustling tourist district, with stylish rooms, complimentary breakfasts and a glass-enclosed rooftop conservatory garden. This find is popular among gay clientele for its upscale bar, outdoor fireplace and loaner bike scheme.

Travellers seeking serenity may want to step outside the harbour area to find accommodation in calmer locales. Hotel Skt. Annæ, situated near the Amalienborg royal palace, is one such choice, giving off a calm residential feel while also being luxurious as hell. While the front terrace is reserved for warm-weather wine tastings, the fireplace-featuring indoor lounge and the chandelier-lit atrium ensure there’s always a comfy spot to relax. Another royal retreat is available at the Hotel Alexandra, whose design and artwork serves as a homage to Denmark’s mid-century design achievements. Oozing retro charm and featuring locally sourced relics from the 1940s-‘70s, this hotel offers rooms that each tribute a different national talent, from the Ant, Egg and Swan chairs in the Arne Jacobsen room to the psychedelic pink plastic walls of the Verner Panton suite.

Another of Denmark’s unique as ever offerings is the Hotel Herman K, set within a circa-1963 transformer station near the busy Kongens Nytorv Square. Lux yet with understated industrial vibes, this property (part of the Brøchner Hotels Group) features a façade of dark bronze which opens up onto a lobby dominated by a 3D-printed installation by artist Pio Diaz. A dream abode for design freaks, each room from its ‘Tiny’ category to its penthouse effortlessly contrasts surface and texture to blissful effect.

Hotel Alexandra

Scandic Hotel Kødbyen Vesterbro | Photo: Nick Karvounis

Scandic Hotel Kødbyen Vesterbro | Photo: Nick Karvounis

Scandic Hotel Kødbyen Vesterbro | Photo: Nick Karvounis

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Recommended hotels in Copenhagen
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Things to do in Copenhagen

Of all the things to do in Copenhagen, regardless of whether you’re moseying around town or making tracks on your city bike, keeping it cool and artsy is a must. Let’s start then with a visit to Warehouse9, a live art performance space in the Meat Packing district, known for its ground-breaking events that feature performance art, dance, burlesque, art and music. Strongly involved in political activism, Warehouse9’s events, tend to focus on trans, queer and gender issues. Check out their Facebook page for information on upcoming events. Those who like their politics silent and hung on walls may prefer a trip to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Worthy of the 40-kilometre trip north of the city centre for its beautiful coastal location and architecture alone, this museum also holds a reputation for being in touch with the zeitgeist of the contemporary art world. In addition to its permanent collection of over 3,000 works (covering contemporary and modernist classics) and up to 12 annual special exhibitions, the museum also hosts concerts and lectures by various international artists.

Copenhagen is a city of fairy tales, and many are told in Tivoli Gardens, one of the city’s most well-known attractions. This historic amusement park is located just moments from the centre of Copenhagen via subway and has been open since 1843, making it the second-longest running in the world. Come here to experience the kitsch, old-fashioned thematics as well as numerous rides and games to keep you occupied all day long. More than just a place for rollercoasters, the park also provides an oasis away from the city, home to various water fountains and gardens for picnics and lazy days. Get your culture to fill next at Denmark’s National Museum which is the place to go for Viking Age artefacts as well as a huge collection of classical, Eastern and Danish antiquities. The museum is located in the ornate Prince’s Palace built in 1744, where, as well as admiring the well-preserved design and architecture, you can also see the remains of the Huldremose Woman, who dates back as far as the 1st century!

Photo: Pierre Chatel Innocenti

Photo: Pierre Chatel Innocenti

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For deeper insight into the development of Copenhagen’s LGBT society, consider booking Copenhagen LGBT Historical Walking Tours, led by reporter and homosexual rights author Bjarne Henrik Lundis

With so much Copenhagen sightseeing to do and so little time, a walking tour is the perfect way to spend an afternoon while learning more about the city’s unique history. For deeper insight into the development of Copenhagen’s LGBT society, consider booking Copenhagen LGBT Historical Walking Tours, led by reporter and homosexual rights author Bjarne Henrik Lundis, who shares his knowledge about the city’s gay history and the emergence of LGBT rights. The two-hour tour will take you on an educational adventure past the Copenhagen City Court, the former home of The National League of Gays, Knabostræde, as well as Ørstedsparken. Travellers who have more than a day to kill should consider branching out from the city centre and heading to Northern Zealand where Denmark’s most famous castle and the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kronborg Castle, sits. Raised up on a mass of land facing the sound between Elsinore and Helsingborg in Sweden, Kronborg Castle is a fortified vantage point that was home to the royal family until the late 1600s. Take a tour through the original rooms dressed with baroque and renaissance interiors to glimpse the decadence of Danish royalty, most notably within Frederik II’s ballroom or in the stone casemates where a statue of Ogier the Dane stands.

The courtyard of Kronborg castle | Photo: Jens Herrndorff

The courtyard of Kronborg castle | Photo: Jens Herrndorff

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What to see in Copenhagen

The city’s compact size means you have the chance to get a good look around its different neighbourhoods, whether on foot or by bike. The most popular area for visitors is Central Copenhagen and the Latin Quarter, where you’ll discover most of the city’s neat boutiques, independent roasters and fancy restaurants. If pushed for time, don’t miss out on a trip through Larsbjørnsstræde, Studiestræde and Sankt Peder Stræde to experience the most charming parts of Central Copenhagen. Nyhavn, the old heritage harbour area nearby, is also not short of cosy cafés and bars on the quayside, home of the pastel-coloured 18th-century terrace houses that feature on all the postcards. Stroll through the area multiple times to experience the full scope of the harbour, ending at the commemorative WW2 anchor, before settling in at one of the many leisurely live music bars before dinner.

Copenhagen is a city of many architectural gems, both old and new. One of the most striking of Copenhagen points of interest is the Grundtvigs Kirke, a famed church situated atop a small hill on the outskirts of the city, easily accessible by bus. The Gothic-style brickwork and rare expressionist architecture (designed by Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint in the 1920s) attract visitors from all over the world, cameras at the ready. Another must-visit is Rundetårn (The Round Tower) originally built as an astronomy observatory platform in the 17th century and since becoming one of Denmark’s most-visited structures for another reason. As well as housing exhibitions, concerts and community activities, most people come to the Round Tower to climb its steep spiral staircase and be rewarded with a stunning view of central Copenhagen.

Grundtvigs Church | Photo: Nana Hagel

Grundtvigs Church | Photo: Nana Hagel

North of the city centre lies hip and culturally diverse Nørrebro. Walk over Dronning Louises Bro (Queen Louise’s Bridge) on a sunny summer day, and you’ll soon realise exactly why it’s nicknamed ‘The Hipster Bridge’.  A quick bike ride from Nørrebro will take you to Frederiksberg, a district known for its beautiful townhouses, picturesque avenues and green spaces, with Frederiksberg Gardens known as one of Copenhagen’s largest and most beautiful parks. On a warm day join in the happy rituals of locals as they cycle by the lake, barbeque in the sun or simply relax under the shade of a tree. If lying supine on the grass is not free-spirited enough for you, the hippie district of Freetown Christiania may be able to help. Acting as a community and commune of about 1,000 residents over almost eight hectares in the borough of Christianshavn, this district offers an insight into Danish liberalism and sustainable living. On the site of an old military base, the car-free streets of Christiania boast grungy bars, independent concert venues, hearty vegetarian and vegan fare, and a special atmosphere not felt anywhere else in the city.

Photo: Nick Karvounis

Photo: Nick Karvounis

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The Latin Quarter, not far from Torvehallerne, offers many gems among its narrow streets and colourful facades

Where to eat in Copenhagen

On the western margin of the city centre just minutes from the pastel-coloured terraces lining the canal, is Søerne, a series of three rectangular lakes and a distinctive feature of Copenhagen’s topography. Overlooking these lakes is restaurant Höst, which serves up affordable New Nordic cuisine in a space that was recently awarded The Best Designed Restaurant in the World. Not far from Höst is Torvehallerne, not a restaurant but rather a huge covered market spanning two buildings. Established in 2011, Torvehallerne has become a popular place amongst locals and visitors alike. With more than 80 vendors in the glass and steel halls bathed in natural light, this is a haven for food lovers. A culinary hot spot throughout the year for quality foods, delicacies and even kitchen utensils, in summer the market bursts with life onto the streets surrounding.

The Latin Quarter, not far from Torvehallerne, offers many gems among its narrow streets and colourful facades. Restaurant BROR treats patrons to honest food, made with the best in-season, regional produce. Over in hip Nørrebro meanwhile, there are numerous upscale offerings to choose from, including the Michelin-starred Relæ, Manfreds and Bæst, all created by world-renowned chef Christian Puglisi. All three serve no-nonsense gastronomy with fresh, local produce, the former two with an emphasis on Nordic cuisine. The recently opened Bæst serves Italian food with a heavy focus on organic meats and produce. Both Relæ and Manfreds are located on Nørrebro’s most charming street Jægersborggade where you will find a string of independent shops selling interior design, fashion and delicacies such as chocolate, coffee and cheeses. Jægersborggade is also home to the original outfit of The Coffee Collective, a store which has helped put Copenhagen on the international coffee map with their exceptional roasts and fair trade ethos.

Höst | Photo: Nana Hagel

Höst | Photo: Nana Hagel

In green Frederiksberg, just a short bike ride from Nørrebro, you’ll find Restaurant Radio, a welcoming space decorated as a stylish wooden cabin. Innovative Nordic cuisine, made from produce delivered fresh from farms every day, has made this place a foodie favourite. We continue our trip west to Vesterbro, which boasts many great restaurants and cafés and is popular with a slightly more mature audience than Nørrebro. Young families with strollers blend in with tattooed men on their ‘fixie’ bikes and, on a sunny day, life is lived on the sidewalk. Vesterbro is also home to the so-called Meat Packing District, a great place to spend an evening out. Next up, at the Bib-Gourmande recommended Fiskebaren (The Fish Bar) you’ll be treated to raw fish and seafood, as well as cooked dishes, with produce sourced from the waters around Denmark. If you’re in the mood for French and Spanish inspired cuisine in beautiful surroundings, opt for Paté Paté, located in a former paté factory. For after-dinner drinks, the options are plentiful, and if you’d like to visit in daylight, the local food market Kødbyens Mad Og Marked has vendors selling everything from tacos to roast pork sandwiches. Don’t miss the heavenly porridge from Copenhagen darlings GRØD. If you’re in the mood for the famous Danish ‘smørrebrød’, head to Øl&Brød, a lunch place opened by the Danish microbrewery Mikkeller. The smørrebrød is innovative, the place beautifully decorated with Danish design classics, and the beers world class.

Paté Paté  | Photo: Miklos Szabo

Paté Paté | Photo: Miklos Szabo

Shopping in Copenhagen

Shops are scattered all over town, and even though many are found in the centre, the different neighbourhoods have their fair share of places to drop your cash. On Istedgade, one of Vesterbro’s main streets, you will find recently opened gallery Ekely. This beautifully designed space sells carefully curated art books, special editions, prints and sculptures from some of today’s most prominent Danish and International artists.

Also in Vesterbro and worth a visit is Nibble Shop, featuring a large variety of national and international magazines, as well as books about gastronomy and lifestyle. For a taste of Danish graphic design, visit Playtype on charming Værnedamsvej. This fabulous little shop sells notebooks, cups and posters with characteristic Danish typography.

Just a stone’s throw away, also on Værnedamsvej, Summerbird sells some of the best handmade chocolate Copenhagen has to offer. Their ‘flødeboller’, Danish cream puffs, are an absolute must-try. For menswear, try one of the most notable fashion successes in Denmark, the Henrik Vibskov Boutique. It combines his trademark colourful designs with Danish and international brands with an emphasis on playfulness, graphic design and prints.

Photo: Bryce Koebel

Photo: Bryce Koebel

Photo: Christopher Campbell

Photo: Christopher Campbell

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Located in a canal-side townhouse facing parliament buildings in Copenhagen’s old quarter, Ruby is an unpretentious bar with a relaxed and homely atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re right at home

Copenhagen nightlife

Effortlessly stylish both by day and night, rest assured that those ultra-cool Danes haven’t forgotten how to have fun. Studiestæde and the surrounding streets of the old Latin Quarter, the de facto gay area, is where gay nightlife gets cracking. While Copenhagen’s gay area is relatively small, the gay scene refuses to be confined to one space, most obviously so during Pride when rainbow flags fly high across the entire city. Whether you’re looking for a glittering queer club, a relaxed pub or a chic Scandi mixer bar, our Copenhagen gay scene guide has got you covered. It’s never wrong to kick start your night off with a cocktail, and at Ruby the connoisseur-crafted cocktails really are to die for. Located in a canal-side townhouse facing parliament buildings in Copenhagen’s old quarter, Ruby is an unpretentious bar with a relaxed and homely atmosphere that will make you feel like you’re right at home.

A visit to Curfew is a must if you find yourself thirsty in Vesterbro, as this bar has both vintage vibes and lip-smacking cocktails. Acting as the hangout spot for German officers in the 1940s and even gangsters during the 50s, Curfew maintains its mysterious allure with a speakeasy theme and mellow milieu. Another ideal speakeasy offering in Vesterbro is Duck and Cover, a subterranean sanctuary hidden from view of the busy bars nearby. Featuring a nice collection of vintage décor, Duck and Cover is a great place for a subdued nightcap and an introduction to various Scandinavian liquors, such as Finnish Napue rye gin, to try within creative seasonal concoctions. Just a short shuffle away in Frederiksberg, more bars await, and Café Intime is one of our favourites. A retro piano bar full of quirky characters (most of whom happen to be gay), Café Intime has a packed weekly schedule of events including Sunday jazz nights, Wednesday sing-a-longs and who knows what else.

Curfew

Curfew

Best described as understated chic is gay bar Oscar, a trendy space boasting a number of handsome bartenders and a firm no smoking policy. With an enviable selection of gin as well as an outdoor area for socializing in the sun, it’s little wonder why the clientele here are so friendly. Not so understated but one for the records is dance bar Blume, hidden away behind a secret door on an upscale street in the centre of Copenhagen. Don’t give up searching because upon entering you will be joyfully greeted by your hosts in a rustic setting of grey stone walls, gold laced wallpaper and soft lighting focused on a huge bar strewn with curious spirits and champagne bottles. Blume hosts many an attraction, including interesting clientele and top notch DJs playing mash-ups of disco, funk and electronic. At its heart however, Blume is a stellar cocktail den, serving up tempting original creations such as the award-winning Norseman Sour (containing gin, seaberries, lemon juice and liquorice), the cool Cucumber Yum Yum (gin, aquavit, cucumber, raspberry, honey, and lime juice), or the Bubbly Blume (elderflower, orange blossom, Chambord, lemon juice, and sparkling wine).

Curfew

Curfew

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