You don’t need to know your Rococo from your Renaissance, or your Swan chair from your swan boat to enjoy your time in Copenhagen. The city was named UNESCO World Architecture Capital this year thanks to its innovative outlook on design and long architectural heritage, but Copenhagen is far from pretentious about its design pedigree. Here, joy is found in the little things: narrow cobbled streets, colourful buildings, light-filled museums and warm, friendly bakeries.

For travellers passionate about design and architecture, 2023 offers the perfect opportunity to experience the city, with spotlights on local urban planning, tours hosted by the Danish Architecture Center and exhibitions focusing on everything from historic architecture to innovative new perspectives on living. Set aside a weekend to walk the city streets, browse interior design boutiques, visit events such as Three Days of Design (a citywide design festival that takes place each June), enjoy beautifully designed restaurants and discover forward-thinking fashion.

Day 1: The Copenhagen classics


Take a harbour tour. The Stromma Boat tour runs from colourful Nyhavn past the modern opera house, historic naval quarters and Little Mermaid statue, immediately immersing you in the city’s rich waterfront history. If you’re confident behind the tiller, consider taking a Go Boat — a solar-powered self-guided boat — for a spin instead. Finish with lunch at waterfront eatery Restaurant Barr, where you can sample a range of smørrebrød — traditional open-faced sandwiches.


Explore Tivoli Gardens. Said to have been the inspiration for Disneyland, this historic theme park dates back to 1843 and is home to one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world. Explore the adrenaline-inducing rides, candy floss stalls and carnival sideshow games, and be sure to set aside some time to explore the lush gardens too.


The latest trend taking Copenhagen’s food scene by storm is ‘the new Asian Wave’, a collection of restaurants bringing inspiration from Korean, Chinese and Japanese food to the city. For a deep dive into the movement’s myriad flavours, head to ISSEI, an Asian-Peruvian fusion restaurant that offers a selection of omakase menus. ISSEI is housed within the design-focused Radisson Collection Royal Hotel, Copenhagen, whose luxurious rooms and central location make for an ideal base from which to explore the city.

Boats sit on the waterway of a harbour in Copenhagen

Explore Copenhagen by water with a Stromma Boat tour or by hiring a solar-powered, self-guided boat. 

Photograph by Marco Bottigelli, Getty Images

Day 2: Dive into design


Start at the Danish Architecture Center to find out more about the importance of design and architecture in the city through the exhibition So Danish!, then experience it yourself as you cycle the bike paths to Designmuseum Danmark. Format, the museum’s cafe, is a great spot for a mid-morning coffee. 


Continue on your bike to Nyhavn and catch the yellow city ferry to the end of the line at Refshaleøen. This former industrial site — once home to a boat building yard — has become one of the most fashionable areas of the city, boasting a street food market, Reffen, the Copenhagen Contemporary art gallery and the hugely popular Lille Bakery. Nearby, discover Bjarke Ingels Group’s Copenhill, an innovative ski slope and hiking trail perched atop the local waste to energy plant. 


For a table at Copenhagen’s famed Michelin-starred restaurants Noma, Alchemist or Alouette, you’ll need to book well ahead. Otherwise, try booking one of the city’s newest hotspots, Mirabelle Spiseria, in the hip area of Nørrebro. After dinner, take a natural wine bar tour, stopping at Pompette and Terroiristen as you go.

Visitors explore a modernist gallery

Design-lovers should be sure to visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk.

Photograph by Robert Smith, Alamy

Day 3: Artistic exploration 


Take a slow morning stroll around the streets of Copenhagen, soaking up all the details, and stop at a cosy bakery for morning coffee and a pastry. Highly recommended bakeries include Andersen, Hart Bageri, Bageriet Benji and Rondo. Then take a train to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the region’s sensational modern art gallery, where you can take in the enormous works of American figurative painter Dana Schultz and a soulful light installation by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.


A full Danish lunch in the café, complete with open-faced sandwiches and a view of Alexander Calder’s sculptures, is not to be missed. Afterwards, continue to explore the Louisiana’s collections and sculpture garden — and make sure you leave time to browse the gallery’s beautifully curated design and lifestyle shop. 


Treat yourself to dinner in a castle on your last night in the city, with a reservation at Meyers i Tårnet, a classic Danish restaurant in the tower of Christiansborg Palace.

To subscribe to National Geographic Traveller (UK) magazine click here. (Available in select countries only).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *