Copenhagen Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Denmark > Copenhagen > History

All roads, trains, and bicycle paths of Denmark lead to the heart of the Capital. The Inner City is the unrivalled commercial and cultural centre of the entire country; and, if Slotsholmen is included, also the political. Always buzzing with activity and crammed with people, only Sundays reveal the city completely empty as very few people actually live here. This is a picturesque area with many buildings dating back to the early 18th century. The street web dates back to the Middle Ages, which somehow explains the many seemingly irrational twists and turns.

Going all the way through the old city centre is the pedestrian high street Strøget. From the rumble of Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square) to the neatness of Kongens Nytorv, it gradually becomes more sophisticated (and expensive) as the stores take names like Gucci and Prada and Gianni Versace. Købmagergade, also a pedestrian street, is fast becoming main-stream fashion street, with the likes of Esprit, Diesel and Benetton opening major outlets along several local brands. It also sees several excellent food stores farther up towards Nørreport. The area around Kronprinsensgade has the best of local fashion designers, Bruuns Bazaar and Munthe-plus-Simonsen being among the most distinguished. Klosterstræde follows up on the position only a tad more 'street'. By Amagertorv is exclusive design-store Illums Bolighus and the flagship-stores of famous Royal Copenhagen porcelain and Georg Jensen silverware. Taking up almost an entire block by the corner of Købmagergade and Strøget is upscale department store Illum. Magasin du Nord on Kongens Nytorv is another gargantuan department store with an excellent food section.

Sights and seats
Amagertorv, geographically at the dead centre of town usually features singing and dancing by the somewhat bizarre statue in the middle which can be enjoyed, or booed, from outdoor tables at cafes Europa and Norden. Strædet is a more quiet and peaceful pedestrian street parallel to Strøget and features many interesting browsing opportunities and cute cafes. Fiolstræde has Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady) with statues by sculptor Thorvaldsen, and the old Copenhagen University HQ with a small department of the Royal Library open to the public. Kongens Nytorv features the Royal Theatre (ballet, opera, and plays), the famous hotel D'Angleterre, and the exhibition place for modern art Charlottenborg. Behind Kongens Nytorv is Nikolaj, a church turned exhibition place for international and Danish contemporary art. Restaurants are everywhere, especially densely cluttered on and around the idyllic town square of Gråbrødretorv.

Cornered by Vor Frue Plads and Rådhuspladsen, the name translates into 'A Stream of Piss' - a reference to the area's by-gone status as one of the last bastions of inner city slum. Today, Studiestræde is all about male fashion, with In Circus spearheading the more daring and experimental scene and Samsøe&Samsøe leading the no-nonsense Copenhagen trademark style. Floss and Sabines are both excellent cafes on Larsbjørnsstræde, and Baden Baden is probably the best record store in Copenhagen for new sounds.

I will leave it to someone else to elaborate on the fact that the monstrous Christiansborg, the seat of the Danish parliament, is standing on wooden pillars constantly threatening to rot and break. Slotsholmen is the very core of a very centralistic Danish state. The semi-artificial island holds not just the parliament, but also everything from the Supreme Court to the royal horses, the Offices of the Prime Minister, The Danish Stock Exchange, Slotskirken, the Museum of Arms, Thorvaldsens museum, the Royal Court Theatre with the adjoining Theatre Museum, the royal brewery of Christian IV, as well the Royal Library including its recent addition, The Black Diamond, arguably the most astonishing new piece of architecture north of Bilbao.

Looking like a supremely idyllic little piece of Amsterdam, Christianshavn is actually built on garbage dumped between Copenhagen and Amager. History aside, a Canal Cruise is recommended to take you sliding by the beautiful old houses watching Copenhageners prepare for the sea or just living it easy on the deck of some home-made house-boat.

Emphasizing the Amsterdam-feel of Christianshavn is Christiania, a squatted free town unlike anything you have ever seen (at least not this far from Kingston), where all possible sorts of things are sold in the open and anarchy reins, more or less controlled by self-appointed authorities.

Holmen was closed off to the public until a couple of years ago when film students and architects bordered the then naval base and turned the area into an unique colony for the arts. Thorsen delivers a spectacular sunset over the City and has recently been honored as cafe of the year 1999 by weekly paper Nat&Dag.

Really not the place to go unless, of course, you are looking for a fight.

The brand new hip spot with trendy galleries opening left and right. At the moment, though, Islands Brygge is still in the making; one wrong turn and you will be walking for hours on end without setting eyes on a human being. Instead, look for galleries Nikolaj Wallner, Tommy Lund, Recent Works, Nils Stærk and Hallo! - all on Njalsgade.

The old whore of the Copenhagen boroughs. Gentrification always had a hard time here as the erotic shops, prostitutes, and junkies refused to leave despite the city's on-going attempts to clean the area and shine up the buildings. Idstedgade still stands as the very idea of human decay gloriously juxtaposed with big hotels and an ever increasing number of students and artists. Superclub Vega is the center of night life, cafes Høegs and Bang&Jensen where tout le Vesterbro-monde meet.

A city in its own right, Frederiksberg is surrounded by Copenhagen on all sides, still maintaining its formal independence. Indeed, Frederiksberg is not like Copenhagen at all. Turning from lively and buzzing Vesterbrogade into Frederiksberg Alle sees the lights go dim, the buildings tall and gloomy, and even the abundance of theatres on this street does not make it anything like Broadway, but rather like clearing the Champs Elysée of people and fingering a block-out. There is a certain Parisian oddness to Frederiksberg which many people find charming. It is mainly residential belonging to a mostly conservative, well-to-do, and above 40 crowd. It does have many quality restaurants, wineries, tailors and so on. Deeper into the city, Frederiksberg Have reveals itself as a most beautiful park; with a Zoo in it.

To the rest of the country, Nørrebro equals street riots, but despite the annual reversals into war-zone, Nørrebro remains one of the most colourful and ethnically diverse areas of Copenhagen (and entirely safe, mostly). A stroll up Nørrebrogade is a sight-seeing tour in itself, as is Assistens Kirkegård, one of the city's oldest cemeteries boasting a star-studded line-up with Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard up front. It now also functions as a park with the inhabitants freely taking their picnic among gravestones of old. Sankt Hans Torv features cafes Sebastopol, Funke and Pussy Galore. Elmegade has excellent fashion stores like Storm, and unusual gallery Starving Artistz. Blågårdsgade hides one bargain gem after another, like Garage. Clubs like Rust, Stengade 30, and Propaganda, and late-night bars like Barcelona and Props make for a bright night out.

Stretching along the Lakes on the City-side, Nørrevold looks like the outer burroughs but is strictly its own. Stroll down intellectual hangout Nansensgade for great alternative shopping opportunities with an intimate ambience. Do not miss the bathroom decoration at Bankeråt. Stay out of Ørstedsparken at night unless you know.

From the jolly beer-swingers in Nyhavn to the sanctuary of Kongens Have, Frederiksstaden is Stadtviertel Royale, laid out in a regular grid with the royal castle Amalienborg in the centre and Marmorkirken towering above the lawyers, antique stores and galleries of Bredgade and Store Kongensgade. Kunst-Industrimuseet shows various exhibitions of modern design and design history. Rosenborg Castle is a former kingly country house now open to the public.

Small yellow row-houses originally laid out by Christian IV in the 17th Century and until recently inhabited solely by the navy.

Historic defence-guard, still maintaining its army presence. Open to the public.

Where you can personally greet no less celebrity but the Little Mermaid. North of the marina a new upscale residential area is being built and shops and restaurants are opening all over the waterfront.

The largest of the Copenhagen boroughs, Østerbro is bigger than most Danish cities, still a rather dull experience. The broad streets cut like canyons through endless uniform tenement buildings of red brick. Exceptions to this are Øster Farimagsgade, Nordre Frihavnsgade and Østerbrogade all offering shops and leben to the many inhabitants. Østerbro is also home to the national stadium, Parken; and the largest park in the city,Fælledparken; as well as most embassies. Kartoffelrækkerne (literally 'the potato rows") by Øster Farimagsgade have given name to a Danish phrase describing a certain political mentality as these former humble working class houses now are sold at soaring prices to a mostly very leftish establishment of professors, artists, public administrators and so on.

Going all the way from Østerbro to ye olde Elsinore, Strandvejen spells money, tennis courts, and long drinks by the marinas. A cap ride extra ordinaire will lead you past the estates and villas every Danish entrepreneur and jewellery-rattling housewife dreams of possessing. Dyrehaven with its tame deer, controlled wildlife and exclusive restaurants is the favourite outing of all Copenhageners at any time of the year.