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The Insider’s Guide to Copenhagen

Prepare to be charmed by neighborhoods full of fresh-faced bikers, exquisite architecture, and locals who speak English better than you.

Copenhagen’s waterfront, where excellent restaurants abut the harbor.
Imbibing at La Banchina in Refshaleøen
From left: Enjoying the city’s preferred mode of transportation; in sunny Vesterbro; an early-evening snack on the water

BEFORE YOU GO

WATCH

City Hall is the setting for scenes in Nordic noir favorite The Killing, and the bridge in, well, The Bridge is near the airport. The Necco-­wafer-colored facades of ­Nyhavn figure prominently in The Danish Girl, an Oscar-winning film about transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.

READ

Set in Copenhagen and Greenland, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Høeg, is both a gripping, atmospheric mystery and a pretty biting indictment of Denmark’s colonial past. The Almost Nearly Perfect People, by ­Michael Booth, is part humorous travelogue, part insightful cultural analysis, and amusingly expounds on the notion of hygge.

GET SITUATED

Stay near buzzy art galleries, gritty clubs, or somewhere quaint and quiet — choose your own adventure.

Copenhagen neighborhoods (from left): Nørrebro, Vesterbro, and Østerbro
The free-spirited neighborhood Christiania

SCANDISTYLE: DRESS LIKE A LOCAL

A certain minimalist aesthetic and Denmark’s comparatively small gene pool can sometimes make it seem like the streets are filled with tall blond people looking effortlessly great as they cycle around in black jeans, black coats, and massive scarves. And while there is something to the cliché — the prevailing street vibe, according to fashion blogger Marie My, translates into “sneakers with everything, no matter if you’re wearing a feminine floral dress or mom jeans” — designers are embracing bold colors and looking beyond their ­borders. The population is diversifying, and “everyone is wearing everything!” says My.

FASHION TIPS FROM LOCALS

ARMIN TEHRANI, art director

From left: Armin Tehrani and Luisa Elvia Traina

GETTING AROUND

Join the 41 percent — that’s how many locals bike each day. Mikael Colville-Andersen, founder and CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co., which advises cities on how to improve their cycling infrastructure, breaks down Danish biking basics.

A local taking to the road with her kids

STARCHITECTURE

Where world-renowned local architect Bjarke Ingels sends visitors looking for design inspo.

The stunning interior of Bagsværd Kirke

NEIGHBORHOOD TO WATCH: REFSHALEØEN

Copenhagen’s hottest new neighborhood isn’t really a neighborhood at all. For most of its existence, Refshaleøen, an island on the south side of the city’s harbor, was populated by nothing more than shipping warehouses. But a stint as the home to the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 — as well as some much-loved local music festivals like Distortion — drew attention to the area. Now creative entrepreneurs are grabbing up the abandoned warehouses as fast as they can, turning this once industrial wasteland into the city’s newest destination for food, sports, and all kinds of fun.

Where to go in Refshaleøen
Dockside at La Banchina

KNOW YOUR LUNCH

THE WORLD OF SMØRREBRØD

The Danish open-faced sandwiches called smørrebrød

WHERE CHEFS — AND THEIR KIDS — EAT

Dad is famed Noma chef René, mom is cookbook author Nadine, and even the wee-est member has a perfect palate. Some must-eat recs for every age from the Redzepi clan.

The airy Restaurant Barr
From left: Nadine Redzepi with her 4-year-old, Ro, making dinner at home; Restaurant Barr’s pilgrimage-worthy schnitzel

AFTER DARK: YOUR BEST NIGHT OUT

Natural wines, excellent dancing, and wee-hours-of-the-morning shawarma

In late August and September at Vega, look out for Grandmaster Flash, Franz Ferdinand, and the grandfather of all viral memes, Rick Astley

Skål! IMBIBER’S PARADISE

Søren Krogh Sørensen, beloved cult bartender and local cocktail visionary, shares his favorite places to drink.

WINE

Ved Stranden 10: There’s no menu — the staff just asks questions about your preferences and suggests a glass from that. The bar itself has beautiful interiors filled with Danish Modern furniture, and in the warmer months, the outdoor service area along the canal is one of my all-time favorites.

BEER

Himmeriget: It’s at the perfect level of super nerdy beers and service that still makes you feel comfortable. You can ask for beers that will challenge you or that are right in your comfort zone. They also have a nice collection of amaro and whiskeys.

COCKTAILS

Atze Peng: When it comes to cocktails, I like places that stand out a little, places you would only find if you were a local. This spot offers a small, very personal take on what cocktails in Copenhagen can be. You’ll also have a fantastic conversation with the bartender on what you’ll be served.

PERFECT SOUVENIR: BRING THIS VASE BACK

Sculptural vases from ceramicist Inge Vincents

FORAGE YOUR NEXT MEAL

Copenhagen is ground zero for the foraging movement, launched in its modern form when chef René Redzepi of Noma began searching for local ingredients that would help him define a distinctly Nordic cuisine. His team still goes out regularly to forage for plants and ants, but there’s no need to trek far to find the flavor of the city.

The beach meadow by Kongelundsfortet, just south of Copenhagen, a prime foraging spot
Mikkel-Lau Mikkelsen picking garlic mustard. Note: Danish law, in effect since 1241, requires you to limit your foraging to what you can carry in a hat — roughly the amount of a plastic bag.

GET OUTTA TOWN: DAY TRIPS

Castles, culture, sunbathing, and famous falafel, just a short way away — we’re talking sometimes as short as a bike ride.

Helsingør

The imposing castle on a spit of land was supposedly the inspiration for Hamlet, and every August a Shakespeare festival, complete with performances by prominent international theater troupes, is held on its patio. Even without the Bard it’s a cool place to visit, with a museum, craft shops, and a coffee roastery inside the moat walls.

Dragør

An impossibly adorable Danish village on the water, Dragør has narrow streets lined with red-tiled and thatch-roofed houses and neatly tended flower gardens. The center holds a handful of small galleries and charming restaurants. Note: Because it’s located just 13 kilometers from the center of Copenhagen, it makes for a great bike ride.

Humlebæk

A posh, stately town up the coast that has become a bedroom community for the city, Humlebæk is home to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, one of the best — and most idiosyncratic — modern and contemporary art museums in Europe. Just up the road, the farm stand at Krogerup Avlsgaard sells excellent produce, flowers, and cider.

Malmö, Sweden

Malmö may be a country away, but it’s also an easy 35-minute train ride from Copenhagen. (Note of interest: You get there by crossing the bridge in the television show The Bridge.) With the exception of Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Turning Torso building and its new food hall, there’s not much in the way of sites, but the vibe in its urban streets is distinct, and its falafel is rightly famous.

Taking a dip in Dragør

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Airbnb Magazine celebrates humanity wherever it exists: across borders, time zones, languages, and skin tones.

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