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Culture in Copenhagen - a guide to the city's treasures

2024-06-03

Embark on a cultural journey in Copenhagen – a city with something for everyone! Explore the many cultural attractions, historic landmarks, modern art scenes, or visit some of the very best museums in Denmark.

Below you’ll find our guide to some of the amazing cultural treasures in Copenhagen, and we have found a mix of indoor and outdoor suggestions for you.

SMK: Explore Denmark's Largest Art Collection

Are you an art-lover? Then you must pay a visit to SMK! This museum is not only the largest in Denmark but is also considered the heart of Danish art. Enjoy one of the best Matisse collections in the world as well as the country’s most comprehensive collection of Danish contemporary art.

Step into the world of Danish and Nordic art from 1750 – 1900, and immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Danish art history that Copenhagen proudly showcases. In addition to the permanent art exhibitions SMK also presents different special exhibitions ranging from modern art installations to classic masterpieces. Whether you are a fan of Matisse, Picasso, or someone else entirely, there is always something new and exciting to explore at SMK.

Locate SMK at Sølvgade 48-50, 1307 Copenhagen K

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Image by Joakim Züger

Christiansborg: Political and Architectural Majesty

Christiansborg isn’t just the political heart of Denmark, but also an architectural marvel. Take a guided tour of the Royal Reception Room, the very place where the Queen signs the country's laws and hosts State Banquets, and greets important stately figures visiting Copenhagen.

After visiting the Queen's official chambers, why not explore what lies beneath? The history of Christiansborg is not just in the grand rooms but also in the old ruins hidden below. Underneath the palace you’ll find 800-year-old ruins, the oldest ruin is from Bishop Absalon’s castle and dates all the way back to the 1100s. The other big ruin is the foundation of the Blue Tower, the largest tower at the former Copenhagen Castle. In this tower, the tragic tale of Leonora Christine unfolds. The daughter of King Christian IV, she endured over 21 years of unjust captivity within these very walls.

After exploring the ancient ruins, make your way to the royal stables to meet the majestic white horses, who have been part of Copenhagen's history and traditions for centuries. Here, you can get up close to the carriages still used in royal parades today. Among these historical treasures is King Christian XI’s favorite horse, Pearl, now preserved to capture a piece of royal history.

Locate Christiansborg Palace at Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 Copenhagen

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Image by Mikkel Grønlund

Nyhavn: Colorful History and Vibrant Present

Nyhavn is likely one of the most recognizable places in all of Copenhagen, often featured on postcards, in travel guides, and in films, as well as on social media. Imagine sipping coffee by the waterfront, surrounded by the vibrant hues of Nyhavn's colorful and historic buildings, each with a story to tell.

Many years ago, Nyhavn was an important commercial harbor. Ships sailing from the Danish colonies, such as the West Indies, brought sugar, rum, and coffee to these docks. Especially the sugar was of high importance in Denmark, but unfortunately also very closely connected to the slavery and the dark past of Copenhagen with slaves and slave trade. Yet, as you stroll along the waterfront today, Nyhavn has transformed, its once somber docks now a tapestry of bustling cafes, serene boat tours, and the laughter of both locals and travelers alike, symbolizing the city's journey from its historical trade roots to a beloved urban sanctuary.

If you want to learn more about the dark chapter of the Danish past, we recommend our Bus, Boat & Podwalk Ticket, where you get access to the captivating podcast ‘The Slaves of Copenhagen’. The story begins at Nyhavn 11, and on the building’s façade you can still see a small figure holding a sugar cone in his hand. 

Podwalk_SlavesCPH.jpg

Assistens Cemetery: Culture and History Among the Tombstones

Take a walk through the idyllic Assistens Cemetery, resting place for some of Denmark's most notable figures. Pay your respects to the legendary writer H.C. Andersen, the profound philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the groundbreaking physicist Niels Bohr, the influential scientist H.C. Ørsted, and the renowned composer Carl Nielsen.

The many amazing monuments and memorials represent different periods from Denmark’s history, and you can also find war graves dating all the way back to World War I and II. Beautiful artwork and sculptures add a cultural dimension to the cemetery making it not just a resting place, but also an open-air art gallery. As you meander among the tombstones, take a moment to reflect on the legacies left behind by these great Danes, and perhaps find inspiration in the serenity of their final resting place.

Locate Assistens Cemetery at Kapelvej 2, 2200 Copenhagen N

Classic Canal Tour: Enjoy Historical Copenhagen From the Water

Don't miss the chance to see Copenhagen from its enchanting waterways. Book your Classic Canal Tour now and experience the historical heartbeat of the city from a different perspective. Enjoy the view of some of the most iconic landmarks in Copenhagen such as the world-famous Little Mermaid, Amalienborg Palace, The Royal Opera House, and the Old Stock Exchange. Most of our tours are live guided in Danish and English, but we also offer daily departures from Nyhavn with audio guide. Take the tour from Nyhavn or Ved Stranden and enjoy a cozy 1-hour boat tour. During the colder months all our boats are covered and heated.

As we wrap up our cultural stroll through Copenhagen, we hope you've found a spark of inspiration in the snapshots of history, art, and life we've shared. From the impressive art halls of SMK to the stately grandeur of Christiansborg, the colorful quays of Nyhavn, and the serene paths of Assistens Cemetery, Copenhagen's cultural tapestry is as rich as it is inviting. Whether you're admiring the architecture or tracing the footsteps of famous Danes, each site offers a unique glimpse into the city's soul. Remember, the charming canals offer a unique perspective to tie together your cultural experiences in Copenhagen. Just as a treasure chest is full of unexpected gems, Copenhagen's cultural scene offers endless opportunities for discovery.

Colorful houses and wooden boats lining canal in Nyhavn in Copenhagen. eee
Colorful houses and wooden boats lining canal in Nyhavn in Copenhagen. eee

Discover the best things to see and do in Copenhagen

There are plenty of things to do in the city, and here you can find inspiration on what to do while you're here.

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