What is Copenhagen known for? Fun facts about Copenhagen and much more

Denmark’s largest city has received a lot of well-deserved time in the spotlight recently, and plenty of curious tourists have now ventured to the deep north to find out what the fuss is about. But what exactly is Copenhagen known for?

The short answer to that question is “a lot”. From grand palaces to more churches than you could count and a couple of theme parks thrown in for good measure, Copenhagen has a lot to offer tourists and locals alike. The city has also undergone a culinary revolution, and its livability scores are impossible to ignore.

While you know about Copenhagen, though, how much do you really know? And, what is Copenhagen famous for? Keep reading, and you’ll find out.

Being the capital of Denmark

Let’s start with the most obvious of Copenhagen facts: Copenhagen is Denmark’s capital city. If you ask anyone that hasn’t been to Denmark if they know any cities here, they’ll probably mention Copenhagen — and usually, that’ll be the only place they know.

Copenhagen has been Denmark’s capital city since the 15th century. However, it hasn’t always been the capital of Denmark; beforehand, nearby Roskilde held this title.

These days, Copenhagen is the largest city in Denmark and much bigger than Roskilde — though the town remains a popular day trip from the capital. Around 800,000 people lived in Copenhagen in Q4 2021, with the metropolitan area being home to well over a million.

As Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen is the country’s main hub for culture. In recent years, government services have spread to other parts of the country in an attempt to stop the rest of Denmark from falling behind.

Hygge

If you’ve ever heard of one Danish word, it’s undoubtedly hygge. The term is used in multiple ways when you speak to Danes, and it’s difficult to translate. Hygge means something like feeling cozy and content, and you’ll know what it is when you feel it.

When you first visit Copenhagen, it’s impossible to notice how influential this ethos is in Denmark. Every store you walk into will have seemingly perfect levels of lighting and ambiance, and most pubs and restaurants will look incredibly welcoming.

To find out what hygge is, your best choice is to book a flight to the Danish capital and discover it for yourself.

Learn more about hygge here.

Amusement parks

If you ask anyone “what is Copenhagen famous for?”, amusement parks will probably be one of the first things they mention. Tivoli is the city’s undisputed king in this respect, and it’s arguably the most famous theme park in Scandinavia.

Tivoli is right next to the main train station in Copenhagen, and it’s the second-oldest functioning theme park on the planet. The gardens have been around since 1843, and to this day, it’s well-loved by locals and tourists alike.

Tivoli opens intermittently throughout the year, with distinct themes for each season. Inside, you can enjoy the thrills of multiple rides and multiple culinary delights. Even if you don’t care much for either of these, walking around is a rewarding experience on its own.

The amusement park formed part of Walt Disney’s inspiration for his Disney World establishments, which have since become a must-visit in France, the US, elsewhere. Entry tickets are available online.

You’ll find another historic amusement park north of Copenhagen: Bakken. Located next to the Dyrehaven nature reserve, Bakken is the oldest functioning theme park on the planet. If you thought Tivoli was old, can you guess when Bakken first opened?

If you guessed 1583, you’re right. There’s a fun Copenhagen fact to add to your list of things you now know.

Bakken is much smaller than Tivoli, and it’s free to enter. To get there, take the S-train from Copenhagen Central Station to Klampenborg.

Michelin Star restaurants

Scandinavian food has a reputation for being dull, though that isn’t necessarily true. In recent years, the Nordic region has begun to win over more foodies — and Copenhagen is leading that revolution.

14 restaurants have a Michelin Star in Copenhagen, and these establishments share 23 between them. For a relatively small city, that’s pretty impressive.

Arguably the most famous Michelin Star restaurant in Denmark’s capital is Noma. You’ll find this exclusive eatery close to the city’s opera house and not far from Refshaløen.

Noma specializes in New Nordic Cuisine, which effectively aims to make the most of the ingredients you have in the local area. It has frequently been named one of the best restaurants globally, and this attention has undoubtedly drawn more people to Copenhagen.

Getting a table at Noma is difficult, and the waiting list is long. It’s not hard to see why, though; surrounded by beautiful nature in a cozy wooden building, the restaurant offers fresh dishes that come with a hefty price tag.

If you want to visit Noma, you can try your luck and book a table on the restaurant’s website.

Livability

Many people who visit Copenhagen speak fondly of the city, which is true for those who are lucky enough to live here. Over the past few decades, the Danish capital has been transformed into one of the world’s most livable cities.

Copenhagen has finished top of the Monocle Quality of Life Survey four times as of February 2022. It was named king of the 2021 edition, with Nordic neighbors Helsinki and Stockholm also making the top five.

Why is Copenhagen so livable, though? Well, multiple factors come into play.

First and foremost, the Danish capital has done an excellent job at making a good quality of life accessible for most people — regardless of income level. Yes, the city is expensive — but plenty of fun activities are free, such as swimming (that includes during the winter, by the way).

Copenhagen is also a leader in sustainability, with CopenHill — a ski slope on top of a waste-to-energy power plant — being one prime example. The city has also done an excellent job with urban development, transforming many of its former industrial areas into trendy new districts.

And of course, there are the bicycles (more on them later).

Other reasons that the Danish capital is such a good place to live include plenty of green spaces and an excellent public transport network.

Beer

If you could get the perfect match on Tinder, you would be Denmark, and you’d swipe right on beer. Copenhagen has always been a powerhouse in the global beer scene, with Carlsberg taking much of the planet by storm.

Tuborg was also founded close to Copenhagen, in the upscale suburb of Hellerup. If you step into almost any bar in the Danish capital, you’ll more often than not find both of these on the menu.

In more recent years, numerous innovators have raised Copenhagen’s stock even further when it comes to beer. Arguably the most famous new brand is Mikkeller, which has been around since 2005. Across the city, you can enjoy some hygge in one of Mikkeller’s many craft beer bars.

Another distinct feature you’ll notice in Copenhagen is how many places there are to drink — and how diverse these offerings are. You can find anything from bodegas to pop-up stands in the summer, plus much more.

If you visit the Danish capital during the summer, you’ll also notice plenty of people walking around with cans in their hands or sitting along the waterfront with some. Our advice? Do the same.

Find out more about Copenhagen and beer here.

Cycling

“What is Copenhagen famous for?”, we hear you ask again? Hint: you peddle on it, and it has two wheels.

If you live in Copenhagen for an extended period, you’ll probably learn how to master riding your bike after having a pint of Carlsberg — all while battling the wind. Bicycles are a way of life in the Danish capital, and it’s impossible to ignore the massive network of bike lanes almost everywhere.

Copenhagen regularly features at the top of lists for the world’s most bike-friendly cities, with Amsterdam being one of its closest competitors. Malmö, which is just across the water in Sweden, is also known for being excellent to get around on two wheels.

Cycling is the go-to mode of transport for many locals. Each day, it’s estimated that people in Copenhagen collectively cycle over one million kilometers. The city also places a significant emphasis on bike lane maintenance, and you’ll find wider routes along busy streets like Nørrebrogade and Gyldenløvesgade. 

One of the coolest facts about Copenhagen is that it’s also home to the world’s busiest cycling route, which is Dronning Louises Bro — the bridge connecting the inner city and Nørrebro.

Cycling in Copenhagen can seem intimidating to first-time visitors, but it’s remarkably safe. Accidents happen, but these are few and far between. Drivers also know to look out for cyclists, and there’s much less friction between the two than you’ll find in other cities.

If you’re nervous about cycling in Copenhagen, consider these tips:

  • Cycle on the side closest to the pavement to begin with.
  • If you’re stopping, put your right hand up like you’re going to high-five someone. This will let others know, avoiding accidents and you learning about angry Danish swear words.
  • Try cycling on the weekends to get used to it at first. Alternatively, pick some of the city’s quieter streets.

Architecture

If you were to ask Google “what is Copenhagen known for?”, architecture would probably be one of the things mentioned. Denmark’s largest city has done a surprisingly good job mixing daring modern designs with the traditional chocolate box-style houses you see in the city center.

Copenhagen’s architectural highlights deserve an article on their own, but perhaps the most famous example is Nyhavn. This iconic colorful harbor is one of the most touristy spots in the city, but it’s one of those rare places that justifies its attention.

Some of the buildings on Nyhavn have been around since the 17th century, and Hans Christian Andersen lived in two separate houses here during his time on this planet. Today, the area is a popular hub consisting of several restaurants and bars.

Copenhagen is also home to numerous palaces and castles. Christiansborg Palace is the Danish Prime Minister’s workplace, and it remains one of the highest points in the city. Further up the water, you’ll find Amalienborg Palace — home of the Danish Royal Family. Meanwhile, Rosenborg Castle is a popular place to hang out close to the city center.

Copenhagen doesn’t have as many skyscrapers as other cities in Europe or the US, which is perhaps one reason why it’s so unique. Architects have, however, had some freedom to get experimental.

One of the unique forms of modern architecture in Central Copenhagen is the Black Diamond, where you’ll find the Royal Danish Library. Just across the water is Cirkelbroen, an interesting bike bridge that you can also walk across.

Copenhagen’s newer neighborhoods also have attractive modern designs worth checking out. These include Sluseholmen — part of Sydhavnen — and Ørestad, which is in the south of the city and close to the airport.

There are organised tours that will take you around some of the finest architectural highlights the city has to offer, such as this one from Viator.

Equality

Equality is one of the cornerstone values in each Scandinavian country. Copenhagen is an excellent place to see this in action for yourself, not least for the eye-watering tax rates.

Denmark’s capital is one of the most tolerant cities in the world, and it’s known for being one of the friendliest places for LGBTQ+ people to visit.

In everyday society, Copenhagen is pretty egalitarian. Income inequality is relatively low, and it’s not uncommon to see a CEO swimming in one of the public bathing areas. You might even see a few “famous” (at least in a local sense) faces jaunting around on their bike.

You’ll also notice this emphasis on equality in interactions with Copenhageners. You will shake everyone’s hands when meeting them for the first time, regardless of gender or age.

Fashion

Scandinavia is one of the world’s top regions for fashion. Copenhagen might not be as famous as Stockholm in this respect, but it still has an important place on the global scale.

If you go for a walk in the city, it’s almost impossible not to be impressed by the locals’ impeccable dress sense — and their ability to combine form and function somehow.

Over the years, several Danish fashion brands have made their mark on the globe. Samsøe & Samsøe is one of the most famous examples, and Mads Nørgaard is a name you’ll be familiar with if you’ve lived in Denmark for a while.

Les Deux is another famous name you’ll see people wearing, and GANNI is another.

If you plan to visit or live in the Danish capital, you’ll probably start to fall in love with in-person shopping. Copenhagen has several large department stores, with the two most prominent being Magasin and ILLUM. Moreover, you’ll find plenty of places to shop around Strøget — the main shopping street — and elsewhere.

Dynamic neighborhoods

Although Copenhagen is relatively compact, each neighborhood has its own unique vibe. It’s pretty easy to tell where someone lives based on what they wear, and each district has something different to offer.

If we look at what Copenhagen is famous for, its “bro” neighborhoods will be up there. These districts got their name from the Danish word “bridge”, and they originate from when the city was fortified.

Nørrebro, Østerbro, and Vesterbro are close to each other, but their personalities couldn’t be more conflicting. Nørrebro is known as Denmark’s most multicultural neighborhood, and you’ll find a bohemian crowd coupled with plenty of excellent places to eat.

Not far away, Østerbro is an affluent and peaceful district that’s mainly inhabited by families. Meanwhile, Vesterbro is Copenhagen’s undisputed home of hipsters.

Close to Vesterbro and Nørrebro is Frederiksberg, which is its own municipality. The district is leafy and high-end, with more of a younger crowd than Østerbro.

Other Copenhagen suburbs include Valby and Vanløse, in addition to Christianshavn, Amagerbro, and Sydhavnen.

Smørrebrød

Pronounced “with difficulty” (or something like “sm-ur-bwo”), smørrebrød is one of the most famous Danish dishes. It’s pretty simple to make, in truth — all you need is rye bread, butter, and some toppings. Most importantly, though, you must eat it with a knife and fork.

In Copenhagen, you’ll find a wide range of establishments that serve smørrebrød. Some places specialize in the dish, whereas others offer other traditional Danish dishes as well.

Some places will serve the bread and toppings separately and put everything together yourself. If you go to one of the city’s street food areas, you shouldn’t expect too many issues finding a place to grab some of the stuff either.

Water

If you open a map of Copenhagen, you’ll notice one thing in particular: Water covers much of the city. The Danish capital has a wide selection of canals and three iconic lakes that cut through the city center.

That’s without mentioning the inner harbor, too.

Needless to say, water plays a significant role in the Danish capital’s character. You’ll see people out on their boats throughout the summer, along with plenty of swimming areas and locals soaking up the sun on the shores.

One of the best ways to explore the Danish capital is from the water, too. Several companies operate boat tours, which will give you a unique perspective and take you to neighborhoods you otherwise might not have explored.

Work-life balance 

Many people around the world live to work. Some need to out of necessity, and others do so out of choice. However, many people overwork themselves because they feel like it’s necessary to further their career; Copenhagen disagrees with this approach.

Many foreigners find it surprising when they first move to Denmark how relaxed the Danish work environment is. If you happen to be in the office at 2pm on a Friday, you might be one of the only ones.

Danes also get generous annual leave, and it’s not uncommon for many people to take the first three weeks off in July. If you come to Copenhagen around this time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve been tricked into visiting a capital and not some obscure seaside town.

Denmark has some of the lowest working hours in Europe, with the average being around 37 per week. Workplaces encourage you to take time off, and you’ll almost certainly not run into any issues if you ask your boss to leave early and pick up the kids.

Learn more about Danish business culture here.

Soccer

It’s no secret that the Danes love soccer. You can expect to see Copenhagen draped in red and white whenever the Danish national team plays, especially if it’s in a big tournament. But Copenhageners take their club football very seriously as well.

Many Danes support a team from abroad, and the Premier League is a popular choice in this instance. Liverpool and Manchester United are particularly popular, and many Danish footballers ply their trade in England.

On more of a local level, many people in Copenhagen support FC Copenhagen – one of the biggest teams in Denmark. Also known as FCK, the club regularly competes in European competitions and reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League in 2019/2020.

FCK regularly faces off against Brøndby, in what is known as the Copenhagen derby. These affairs are usually intense and colorful; more often than not, they also produce goals. If you’re a fan of sports, you should try and get tickets if you happen to be in town for a game. 

So, what is Copenhagen known for?

What Copenhagen is known for is being a dynamic, fun, and ever-evolving city. There’s a lot to love about living here, and visitors are often guaranteed a memorable experience. From great food to friendly locals and excellent design, the Danish capital wears many hats and does most things well.

Copenhagen is a city where tradition and modernity blend impeccably with one another and where everybody is treated equally. If darting around on your bike while hopping between cafés and restaurants sounds good to you, you might just have found your new home.

The city has plenty of hotels and places to stay so you can make the most of your visit. Check out some of these hotels.

This article has provided you with some useful Copenhagen facts, and we hope we’ve sparked your curiosity a little. Copenhagen is one of Europe’s most dynamic cities; come and join the fun!

If you’re looking for more fun things to do, check out our guide to the best spas in Copenhagen!

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

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