Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen

Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen

Copenhagen is certainly one of the most stylish of the Scandinavian cities but it’s not bragging about it or singing it’s own praises. It’s a relaxed, down-to-earth place, with effortlessly well-dressed Danes casually cycling past, bustling cafes spilling out onto the tranquil waterfronts and smart design shops waiting to be explored. Copenhagen ranks high in surveys of quality of life, and it’s not hard to see why the Danes have it so good – that magic formula of good city planning, lively culture, tasty cuisine and a strong emphasis on community.

It may have been because it was the summer when I visited in August, but people weren’t rushing about like in London; everyone seemed to be in a calm, quietly content mood, slowly going about their business. The sun was shining and Copenhagen was soaking it up.

Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen
The colourful buildings of Nyhavn
Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen
People swarm to this colourful waterway to eat, drink and watch the world go by

Copenhagen is a city built on decades of design heritage and culture – from mid-century icons such as Finn Juhl and Arne Jacobsen paving the way, to young contemporary designers like Muuto and Ferm Living making their mark on the city, and indeed the design world, today. There was so much good design to see, whether it was simply admiring how well designed their supermarkets are or how their road and bicycle lane system leaves London looking out of touch. Or the sedate, laid-back cafes that instantly make you feel at home and the trendsetting design shops bursting to the seams with the cleverest little products to make your everyday that bit better. You can’t help but be blown away with their efflortless flair for design.

I was there for the annual furniture and lifestyle fair northmodern (you can see my top picks here) so design was the first thing on my mind. After exploring what it had to offer and discovering a few new brands, I couldn’t wait to wander the streets of Copenhagen in search of coffee and culture.

So here I’ve created a travel guide for a cultural weekend in the Danish capital of design, taking in the best museums and art galleries, the coolest coffee shops and the top interiors shops and showrooms. I’ve even collated all the places I visited into a handy Jauntful map below.

Northmodern and design showrooms

There is also a downloadable pdf version which you can print off here or just click on the tab on the right above.

Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen
There’s pretty bicycles everywhere in Copenhagen…

Copenhagen is a flat compact city built around a network of waterways. It’s not hard to lose your way and you can easily walk to most places or pretend to be a local and whizz around on a bike. In the city centre you’ll find elegant pedestrianised streets, old museums and havens of green parks, plus touristy hot-spots such as Tivoli Gardens. While in neighbouring districts, such as Østerbro, Nørrebro, Vesterbro and Islands Brugge you’ll come across quieter streets, small, independent shops, boutiques and easygoing cafes.

So here’s where I visited in brief…

Things to do

Rundetaarn
Botanical Gardens
Nyhavn
Ordrupgaard Museum and Finn Juhl’s house
Designmuseum Danmark
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Places to eat and drink

Atelier September
Coffee Collective
Original Coffee
Torvehallerne
The Standard
Grød
Ved Stranden Vinhandel & Bar
Mirabelle

Shops and showrooms to visit

HAY House
Frama
Stilleben
Illum Bolighus

Travel Guide: A design-packed weekend in Copenhagen
…and even prettier houses in faded colourful tones
A violet purple home in one of Copenhagen's back streets
A violet purple home in one of Copenhagen’s back streets

And here’s what I got up to in more detail…

Things to do

Rundetaarn

I had seen this on instagram a number of times and was intrigued to visit the Rundetaarn or Round Tower. Originally an astronomical observatory, this 34.8m-high tower was built in 1637. The gently winding Spiral Ramp is the only way up to the viewing platform, it’s 209m long and twists 7 and a half times around the tower’s hollow core. I was more taken by the light that bounced around this magical space than the view at the top. Little window seats provide places to pause on the way up or the opportunity to stop and wait for people to go by for that perfect shot!

Købmagergade 52A, 1150 Copenhagen

The Rundetaarn, Copenhagen
Light bounces around the Rundetaarn or Round Tower
Botanical gardens

The botanical gardens are a green oasis in the heart of the city centre. There’s 10 hectares of garden and 27 glasshouses to explore, but it’s the old Palm House from 1874 that really captures the imagination. Narrow, cast-iron spiral staircases lead you up to a small passageway around the top of the building where palms sprawl and reach for the light. Outside there is a small kiosk where you can enjoy a drink sitting outside admiring the verdant surroundings. There’s special opening hours for some of the glasshouses, so do check their website before you visit.

Øster Farimagsgade 2B, 1353 Copehagen

Copenhagen's botanical gardens
A green oasis at Copenhagen’s botanical gardens
Copenhagen's botanical gardens
Climb up the spiral staircase of the Victorian glasshouse
A perfect spot for a coffee
A perfect spot for a coffee
Nyhavn

This 17th-century waterfront is probably the number one tourist hot-spot, but worth visiting nonetheless. Once a busy, commercial port, it was the gateway from the sea to the old city centre Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square). Today Nybavn is lined with picturesque, colourful old buildings bustling with bars and restaurants. It’s the perfect spot to watch the world go by, or sit dangling your feet over the quayside enjoying a beer.

Colourful Nyhavn in Copenhagen
Nyhavn – a lively waterfront bustling with activity
Nyhavn, Copenhagen
This 17th century canal is lined with colourful buildings
Ordrupgaard Museum and Finn Juhl’s house

On the outskirts of the city, in a quiet residential street in Charlottenlund, you’ll discover the Ordrupgaard Museum, dedicated to French impressionist art and Danish art. The old 20th-century country house was extended with a bold, modern addition by architect Zaha Hadid in 2005. The dark building, cast in black lava concrete, juts out into the landscape. Inside, her distinctive, fluid curves transition spaces seamlessly from galleries to corridors and a cafe, while huge expanses of glass bring the surrounding landscape in.

Site-specific works by the likes of Olafur Eliasson and Carsten Holler are dotted around the gardens. But, the real reason for my visit was to see Danish architect Finn Juhl’s house in Ordrupgaard’s grounds. He was just 30 years old when he designed, built and decorated this modernist home in 1942.

His idea was to create a coherent home where everything had been designed by his own hand, right down to everyday items such as cutlery and crockery. The L-shaped house is an early example of open-plan living – sequences of rooms connect to each other, but subtle changes in level and small clusters of furniture create intimate corners. This isn’t clean, white modernism, Juhl was a fan of colour – he painted the ceiling in the living room yellow as he felt it resembled a canvas with the sun shining through. His own handcrafted furniture occupies the spaces, from his Chieftain armchair to his famous two-seater sofa that provides a curved, cocoon-like form in which to sit.

Vilvordevej 110, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark. There’s a major exhibition on Monet taking place until December 2016. 

Zaha Hadid's Ordrupgaard museum, just outside of Copenhagen
Dark black walls inside the Ordrupgaard museum
Zaha Hadid's Ordrupgaard museum, just outside of Copenhagen
Inside the curvaceous cafe

Zaha Hadid's Ordrupgaard museum, just outside of Copenhagen Zaha Hadid's Ordrupgaard museum, just outside of Copenhagen

Zaha Hadid's Ordrupgaard museum, just outside of Copenhagen
Places to sit and pause outside the museum
Finn Juhl's house
The living room at Finn Juhl’s house
Finn Juhl's house
The hallway was decked in greenery
Finn Juhl's house
Finn Juhl’s dining chairs occupy a space near a cosy fireplace
Designmuseum Danmark

Designmuseum Danmark is Denmark’s largest museum for Danish and international design. From furniture and industrial design to decorative and applied arts there’s something for everyone. When I went there was an exhibition on Danish Design Now, reflecting on the country’s new designers and craftsmen as well as tendencies, lifestyle choices, and technological innovations. Outside, the popular cafe spills out into the courtyard.

Bredgade 68, 1260 Copenhagen

Designmuseum Danmark
The old building of the Designmuseum looks almost French
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is a must-see gallery located about an hour’s train ride out of the city. I did plan to go here, but got too occupied with everything in the city centre. The modernist building has panoramic views across the water to Sweden, while inside they have six to ten special exhibitions annually.

Gl Strandvej 13, 3050 Humlebæk, Denmark 

Places to eat and drink

Atelier September

Another hugely popular place on Instagram – snap-happy people flock here from all over the world to sample their famous avocado on rye! And boy is it worth it. The beautifully designed Atelier September also serves up natural food, fresh juices and artisan coffee in it’s light, airy setting.

Gothersgade 30, 1123, Copenhagen

Atelier September, Copenhagen
Atelier September, Copenhagen
Atelier September, Copenhagen
The light interior inside
Atelier September, Copenhagen
The much-coveted window seats

Atelier September, Copenhagen Atelier September, Copenhagen

Atelier September, Copenhagen
Atelier September for the best avocado and rye
Coffee Collective

These guys seriously know their coffee, they can tell you all about the bean and roast. Coffee Collective have a couple dotted around the city, including a stall at the Torvehallerne food market, but the cafe on Jægersborggade is the original. Their aim is to do away with barriers and draw the links of the coffee chain closer to one another. There is no counter separating guests from barista – forming an open coffee kitchen that creates a relaxed atmosphere.

Jægersborggade 10, Copenhagen

Original Coffee

Found in four locations across the capital, this coffee shop serves locally roasted coffee as well as sandwiches and cakes from an organic bakery.

Bredgade 36

Torvehallerne

Torvehallerne is a lively food market in the city centre where you’ll find over 60 stalls selling everything from fresh produce, meat and fish, to smørrebrød open sandwiches, tacos and tapas. There’s every kind of cuisine you could ask for as well as plenty of bars to wash it all down with.

Frederiksborggade 21, 1360 Copenhagen

Torvehallerne
People sit outside at Torvehallerne food market
Torvehallerne
There’s lots of different cuisines to try
Danish cinnamon buns
Such as mouth-watering cinnamon buns
Food market Copenhagen
So many different things to try

Torvehallerne Torvehallerne

Torvehallerne
A lovely plant stall
The Standard

Danish-Italian design duo GamFratesi transformed this former custom house on the waterfront near to Nyhavn into a gastronomic landmark, complete with three restaurants and a jazz club. Almanak serves Danish dishes and Verandah is a contemporary, pan-Indian restaurant, while STUDIO is the more upmarket of the three. Enjoy a cocktail sitting in GamFratesi’s Beetle Chair for Gubi taking in the stylish surroundings at the bar. Or while away a couple of hours sitting outside looking over the water and watching the boats go past.

Havnegade 44, 1058 Copenhagen

The Standard, Copenhagen
One of the restaurants at The Standard

The Standard, Copenhagen The Standard, Copenhagen

The Standard, Copenhagen
There’s lots of spots for cocktails with friends, whether it’s cosy inside or looking out on the water outside

The Standard, Copenhagen The Standard, Copenhagen

The Standard, Copenhagen
The beautiful bar at The Standard
The Standard, Copenhagen
The Standard, Copenhagen

Also try Grød on Jægersborggade for trendy porridge, Ved Stranden Vinhandel & Bar on Ved Stranden for a glass or two in a smart setting and Mirabelle on Guldbergsgade for breakfast and tasty baked goods.

Shops and showrooms to visit

Frama

Housed in a former pharmacy built in the 1800s and remarkably restored, Frama is a design studio and concept store in the neighbourhood of Nyboder. It’s really a very multi-functional space, oozing with creativity. There’s a kitchen where they host ‘long table gatherings’ and there was an exhibition of work from Plethora magazine when I visited. Their collection of products, from stools and shelves to stoneware and candleholders, and even clothes, focuses on solid materials with natural finishes and simple geometry. I was kicking myself that hand luggage wouldn’t let me bring back one of their softly scented hand lotions.

Fredericiagade 57, 1310 Copenhagen

FRAMA Copenhagen
The beautiful concept store that is FRAMA
FRAMA Copenhagen
A smart kitchen at the back
FRAMA Copenhagen
The most lovely smelling lotions and potions
HAY House

The mother ship as I like to call it! HAY House is a design mecca, two floors of beautiful Danish design from the popular brand HAY. The Bouroullec brothers’ Palissade collection was occupying a sunny spot on the top floor when I visited, while the HAY market offers small accessories to take home as the perfect souvenirs.

Østergade 61, 1100, Copenhagen

HAY House, Copenhagen
A bit of tropical calm at HAY house
HAY House, Copenhagen
Sunny corners of HAY house

Also visit Stilleben on Niels Hemmingsens Gade for prints and home accessories and Illum Blights for all your favourite Scandi brands under one roof.

A design-packed city guide to Copenhagen
The stunning streets of Copenhagen
A design-packed city guide to Copenhagen
A little spot to rest and watch the world go by
A design-packed city guide to Copenhagen
All the pastel shades

So there we have it, one design-packed weekend in Copenhagen! What a city, I can’t wait to be back, the Danes love of design really captured my heart.

I hope it’s also given you some tips for your own trip to the Danish capital too. Let me know in the comments section below if you have any questions or indeed any tips of your own that I’ve missed…

A design-packed city guide to Copenhagen
A wonderful design-packed weekend in Copenhagen

All images: Cate St Hill

  1. Such a nice, informative post! I’ve been to some of these spots but thanks to you I have discovered some new places to visit the next time I’m there! Cheers!

    xx, Cleshawn | http://www.hometohem.com

  2. Pingback: My top picks from northmodern 2016 - part 2 - cate st hill

  3. Pingback: Frama store Copenhagen - cate st hill

  4. I love Copenhagen and definitely need to go back soon. What a great guide you’ve made. x

  5. Love this post. And wow the photos. Didn’t know Frama, will definitely check it out next time I’m home. And this whole blog post is just perfect for when people ask me what to do-see-eat in Cph. Now I can just answer with a link to this! 😉

  6. Wow, stunning post Cate, and what a place. I’ve never felt any inclination to visit but I have a completely different view now, thank you!

  7. Bloody hell, how much do I want a cinnamon bun right now??! What a beautiful city. Totally calm and yet full of history, beautiful architecture and authenticity. Love the vibe just from your photos, which are absolutely brilliant as ever Cate. Just another place to add to the long list of places we need to go to!x

  8. Fantastic tips Cate – some of my favourites in there. Love the way you’ve made the guide downloadable too x

    • Thanks, I’ve found jauntful so useful for planning my trips and saving places I see on Instagram or Pinterest where I want to go, really recommend it x

  9. What a fantastically comprehensive guide. I’m bookmarking this for sure. Never been to Copenhagen but desperately want to visit. When I do eventually go I’ll use your guide for sure.

  10. Copenhagen is on my ‘must visit’ list and I want to go even more now! You’ve put together a brilliant guide and the images are all wonderful.

  11. wow wow wow what a great guide! It’s making want to return asap! The city has totally captured my heart too, love all of your tips and photography!

  12. Woah – absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I’m looking for somewhere to take a mini break with hubby and toddler, but that I’ll like looking at too. This looks ideal. Your pics are gorgeous! x

    • Thanks Karen! I think Copenhagen would be a great city with hubby and toddler, it’s very family friendly, most of the tube carriages are given over to space for pushchairs and there’s lots of fun things to do with children like boat rides, tivoli, gardens, museums x

  13. Absolutely loved the guide. I’m spending 5 days in Copenhagen during November and I can’t wait! I’m off to Madrid in a few weeks – if only I could find a guide as well put together as this for the Spanish capital.

    • Thanks Shaun, very glad you liked it. I’m sure you’ll have a great time in November. I haven’t been to Madrid before but it’s on my list!

  14. Wonderful guide Cate and some fab tips for my next trip! Really loved Atelier September & Stilleben when I visited last.. xx

  15. Brilliant, thanks Cate – I can’t wait x

  16. Hi Cate

    Brilliant guide thanks – I’ve pinned loads to My Pins. I’m off on the 5th for two and a bit days – I’m travelling solo, just wondered if you found it to be safe at night?

    • Hi Leona, glad you liked it! I travelled on my own too and found it really safe, definitely more so than say London or Paris, I walked around at night, went to restaurants by myself etc – the streets are well lit, there’s always people cycling past, everyone’s very friendly and I didn’t even see many homeless people. I hope you have a lovely trip! x

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