Copenhagen is Denmark's capital, part of Northern Europe's Nordic countries and Scandinavian culture.
The name itself, Copenhagen, has an interesting history. The original Danish name for the word meant "merchants' harbor," and through German translations, became known as Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is a unique city, characterized by its canals, cycling culture, strong economy, and happy locals. It is actually known as being the happiest city in the world, due to its shorter workdays, free college tuition, more vacation days, and levels of personal interaction.
Beyond being the happiest city in the world, Copenhagen is home to excellent Danish cuisine, a magnificent transportation system, stunning churches and museums, and even a hippie commune that attracts foreign visitors from across the globe.
The following guide will give you the ins and outs of this stunning capital city, with information on weather, what to eat, what to see, how to get around, and where to stay.
Weather In Copenhagen
Average High/Low Temperatures by Month
Months with the Most Rainfall/Snow
June through September and November see averages of 2.4 inches of rain per month. The annual rainfall in Denmark averages 24 inches of precipitation, and Copenhagen has an average of 170 rainy days throughout the year.
Winter in Copenhagen is gloomy with minimal sunshine, and there are sometimes extreme amounts of snow. Despite the capital city's snowy months from December until early March, the snow usually subsides quickly and seldom lasts very long.
The Climate in Copenhagen
Copenhagen has an oceanic climate, which can vary greatly throughout the year. Beyond the city's previously mentioned rainy and snowy months, June sees the most sunshine in Copenhagen, with an average of around eight hours of sun per day. On June 21 of this year, Copenhagen will experience it's annual Summer Solstice, with extended hours of sunshine during this day. July is the warmest month in Copenhagen.
The Best Time to Visit Copenhagen
Deciding the best time to visit Copenhagen all depends on the individual traveler's tastes! June and July are the city's warmest months, with average high temperatures around 70ºF. Temperatures are ideal during summer months in Copenhagen, a great excuse to hop on a bike and cruise around the city like a true Copenhagener!
If you're like me and you love Europe's festive holiday markets, you may want to visit Copenhagen during the winter. It is cold, yes, but the city boasts an array of charming Christmas markets, filled with unique gifts, souvenirs, and, of course, the ever-so-popular mulled wine known as Glogg.
You can read more about Copenhagen's different Christmas markets here.
What to Pack for a Trip to Copenhagen
Considering Copenhagen's constantly changing and unpredictable weather, it would be in a traveler's best interest to pack both warm and light clothes, depending on when you're going to visit.
Don't forget the essentials when packing for a trip to Copenhagen: a warm coat, light jacket, sunglasses, an umbrella, a scarf, hat, gloves, rain boots, and other comfortable walking shoes!
TripSavvy has even written an excellent article with further information about What to Pack for Copenhagen.
Best Things To See In Copenhagen
An amusement park and pleasure garden, Tivoli Gardens is situated in central Copenhagen, offering rides, games, musicals, ballet, and major concerts.
Travelers visiting Tivoli Gardens can catch stunning views of the city on the Ferris Wheel, embark on virtual reality adventures, or test-taste various Danish specialities throughout the park's many food stalls.
The Little Mermaid statue is unquestionably one of Copenhagen's biggest tourist attractions, a gift given to the City of Copenhagen from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1938. This bronze and granite sculpture is inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Anderson's famous fairytales.
Rosenborg Castle is a 400-year-old Renaissance castle built by Christian IV, quickly becoming the former king's favorite castle and venue for special events. When visiting the castle, guests can gaze upon Christian IV's possessions, the Danish Crown Jewels, Knights' Hall, and the Princess' Chamber.
Nyhavn is one of the most recognizable spots in Copenhagen, with its beautiful, old, colorful houses lined across the former commercial port.
What was once a popular hangout for sailors filled with pubs, alehouses, and ladies of leisure has since been renovated and features an abundance of restaurants with jazz music and a relaxed atmosphere along the canal.
One of Denmark's most renowned churches, Church of Our Savior was inaugurated in 1752 and has attracted visitors across the globe as a popular pastime to climb the 400 steps to the top. Each year, more than 60,000 people climb the flights of stairs to the top of the church, standing 270 feet above street level.
Best Food To Eat In Copenhagen
1. Hot dogs
Hot dogs are life in Denmark. The nation consumes more pork than anyone in the world, with the average Danish citizen consuming around 142 pounds of pork per year. Linked to this fun fact is the culture of hot dogs in Denmark.
'Sausage wagons' abound in Copenhagen, and a trip to this unique capital city wouldn't be complete without taste-testing a proper Danish hot dog, topped with crispy fried onions, pickles, and creamy remoulade.
Rugbrød is a very common form of rye bread in Denmark, resembling a long brown and expelled rectangle. This popular Danish bread is commonly slathered with cured or pickled fish, meat, pâté, or pickled vegetables, and is usually served for lunch.
Similar to rugbrød, smørrebrød normally consists of a piece of buttered rye bread, topped with homemade cold cuts, fish, meat, cheese, and garnishes. Smørrebrød is the ultimate Danish sandwich.
4. Stegt flæsk
Consisting of fried pork belly and served with potatoes, a white sauce, and chopped parsley, stegt flæsk could be translated literally to "crisp fried pork strips" and is the national dish of Denmark. Needless to say, you shouldn't leave Copenhagen without trying stegt flæsk.
Typically served at Christmas, risalamande is a traditional Danish dessert, made out of rice pudding and mixed with whipped cream, vanilla, and chopped almonds.
6. Danish pastries
If you're traveling around Copenhagen and want a quick bite to eat, either for breakfast or in between tourist attractions, hop into any bakery that smells good and grab yourself a danish pastry.
Traditional Danish pastries are multi-layered and made with sweetened yeast dough, usually topped with fillings such as fruit, nuts, or cheese.
Best Kept Secret In Copenhagen
Tucked away in the borough of Copenhagen's Christianshavn neighborhood lies Freetown Christiania, an intentional community and commune of around 850 to 1,000 residents.
This hidden gem and alternative neighborhood in Copenhagen is home to various concert venues and halls, bars, organic and vegetarian eateries, workshops, art galleries, and beautiful nature. It's also home to Christiania Smedie, the oldest business in all of Freetown Christiania.
Christiania Smedie was a blacksmiths that originally opened in the '70s. Primarily producing furnaces in its early years, Christiania Smedie then shifted its focus to create crate bikes for the car-free community of Christiania.
Another big draw to this hippie commune is its Green Light District. There were once several stalls along Pusher Street where visitors could purchase an array of cannabis products. But today, locals have tried to halt the buying and selling of marijuana in Christiania, due to conflicts surrounding drugs in the area, though remnants of this culture are still prevalent.
Regardless of the reason you wish to visit Christiania, a stop at this quaint hippie district will be worth your while.
Other Things To Do In Copenhagen
Cooking Classes and Food Tours
Danish cuisine is some of the best in the world, and Copenhagen offers an array of cooking classes and food tours, an essential outing for foodie travelers!
CPH Good Food invites guests to eat their way through Nordic food and traditions, while highlighting unique ingredients and simple techniques of Nordic cuisine.
Copenhagen Food Tour is another great way to indulge in Danish cuisine, a unique opportunity to experience the authentic Copenhagen through delicious food, all while listening to fascinating stories about the city's history.
One of the most defining characteristics of Denmark as a whole is its cycling culture, similar to that of the Netherlands.
Renting a bike and riding around Copenhagen is a must, and a trip to the Danish capital wouldn't really be complete without doing so. You'll feel like a local, and it's a great way to see all of the city's main tourist attractions while saving time on wheels!
Best Areas To Stay In Copenhagen
1. Indre By (Old City)
Known as the inner city, Indre By is Copenhagen's oldest neighborhood, filled with pleasant walking streets, and a handful of the city's most famous museums and churches. This area offers some of the best hotels in the capital city.
2. Nyhavn (New Harbor)
A neighborhood as well as a canal, Nyhavn is situated within Indre By and is one of the trendiest places in the city. If you're coming to Copenhagen to taste some exquisite Danish cuisine, you'll want to stay in this neighborhood. Nyhavn is home to the city's restaurant culture, with the main street being lined with endless top-notch restaurants.
Christianshavn is a picturesque small village right in the center of the city, an eclectic area with 16th century houses, old brick lanes, and quaint canals. Residing in Christianshavn in Copenhagen will also be your ticket in the door to visiting Christiania.
Known as Copenhagen's beautiful theater district, Frederiksberg is a municipality in itself, consisting of several world-class theaters. It is known amongst locals as the Beverly Hills of Copenhagen.
How To Get Around In Copenhagen
While you can see a lot of Copenhagen on foot, the city offers some superb public transportation, including a metro, trains, and buses. All of these modes of transportation can be accessed using the same card known as the CityPass, which covers the trip to and from the airport to Copenhagen, and allows travel through the rest of the Greater Copenhagen area. With the CityPass, travelers can enjoy unlimited travel on buses, trains, and the metro.
The metro in Copenhagen runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During rush hour, there are 2-4 minutes between trains; outside of rush hour, trains stop every 3-6 minutes. After midnight, trains run less frequently.
The S-Trains in Copenhagen run between 5:00 a.m. and half past midnight, with Line F running every 4-5 minutes, and Lines A, B, C, and E running every 10 minutes.
Key Phrases To Know In Danish
When traveling to Copenhagen, don't be afraid to fully immerse yourself in the culture and test out your Danish speaking skills! Even if you feel like you're butchering it, locals from any country usually appreciate foreigners making an effort. When traveling abroad, a little effort can go a long way.
While Danes typically have a very high level of English, learning and practicing the following important words and phrases could potentially make your trip to Copenhagen a little easier. Even if you don't attempt to speak the language while you're there, at least recognizing these phrases in conversation could help you find where the bathroom is, or know how much something costs.
The following vital Danish phrases are sure to help you during your trip to Copenhagen.
Good morning: God morgen
Please: Hvis du vil være så venlig at
Thank you: Mange tak
You're welcome: Selv tak
Excuse me: Undskyld
How much?: Hvad koster det?
Bathroom: Toilet (herrer)= Men's; toilet (damer)= Women's
Do you speak English?: Taler du engelsk?
I don't speak Danish: Jeg taler ikke dansk
If you're worried about the pronunciation of some of these phrases, check out Useful Danish Words and Phrases for help with pronunciation.
Watch the following video to learn more about some top local phrases used throughout Copenhagen.
Things To Know About Danish/Copenhagen Culture
1. Mind your manners
The Danes are incredibly particular about manners and politeness, so make sure you're on your best behavior in Copenhagen!
2. The art of (not) saying 'thank you'
Despite the truth that Danes are incredibly polite, don't expect many 'thank you's' when visiting Copenhagen.
In the Danish language, the words for 'please' and 'thank you' are simply redundant, thus Danes will rarely say these words in conversation due to their already constant politeness.
3. Privacy, privacy, privacy
It is well known that Danes are very private people, and really getting to know Copenhageners might be difficult during your travels. It's not because locals don't want to talk to foreigners, they just live with the notion that everyone is busy and has their own lives, and they don't want to interrupt, bother, or disturb anyone.
Danes have a problem with superficiality, and you won't find anyone being 'fake nice' in Denmark or Copenhagen. It's one of the reasons they find the question "How are you?" so amusing. To people from Denmark, saying "how are you" is blatantly superficial, for most people don't actually mind or listen to how a person responds to the question.
Like many Scandinavian countries, punctuality is key. Relating to the ways in which Danes are overtly polite and well-mannered, being punctual is just another layer to that!
Danes are known for being outspoken, which can oftentimes come off as rude. Try not to take offense to any locals "telling it like it is" and understand that openly expressing yourself and your opinions is simply part of Danish culture.
7. 'Hygge": Learn it, love it
You may hear the term 'hygge' while traveling through Copenhagen and wonder what that means.
Hygge is a Danish term that doesn't necessarily have a direct translation or meaning, but more broadly refers to the country's most prototypical social commodity of being in a state of comfort, relaxation, and peace with the ones around you, usually while out eating and drinking.
More To Read...
If you're itching to learn more about Copenhagen before embarking on your Danish adventure, the following articles, travel guides, and books will allow you to dive head first--not only into some useful information for traveling to this remarkable capital city--but also on renowned literature that will provide some insight into Danish and Copenhagen culture.
Helpful Articles about Copenhagen Travel
1. Travel + Leisure: Copenhagen Travel Guide
2. The Telegraph: Destinations Copenhagen
3. NY Times: 36 Hours in Copenhagen
4. Lonely Planet: Copenhagen Travel Tips & Articles
Copenhagen Travel Guides
Here is a list of some of the best travel guides for Copenhagen (with Amazon links!):
For some outstanding fictional reading material, both about Copenhagen and by famous Danish authors, be sure to read:
1. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow: Written in 1992 by Danish author Peter Høeg
2. Kerrigan in Copenhagen: A literary bar-hopping novel unveiling the cultural history of Copenhagen
3. Sharpe's Prey: Set in 1807 during the Napoleonic Wars, a lieutenant is sent to Copenhagen to protect a nobleman on a secret mission.
4. The Danish Girl: A fictionalized account of the life of Lili Elbe, one of the earliest recipients of sex reassignment surgery
Cover Photo Credit: Unsplash / Nick Karvounis