The Nyhavn Canal in Copenhagen

My Secret City: Copenhagen

The epitome of Scandi cool, Denmark’s capital city offers a mix of royal history and modern architecture, mixed with culture and culinary delights. Alumnus Krister Bladh (DipHE 2007) shares his insider’s guide to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen has repeatedly been called the most liveable city in the world and truth be told, its inhabitants do come across as happy and friendly. A central hub for travellers in Northern Europe, it is close to both the continent and the farther reaches of Europe, like Norway and Sweden. The Danish kingdom also encompasses Greenland and many young people from Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands come to Copenhagen.

"It took me a few years to learn Danish, but it’s easy to feel like a Copenhagener even if you don’t speak the local language."

Loppen might be the best music venue in all of Scandinavia. First time I went it was the middle of winter and the snow had been packed to ice. Loppen is located in the “free town” Christiania, so things like clearing the snow doesn’t occur. It’s a big venue but the stage is still only one foot above the floor, so it’s very intimate. It first opened in the 70s when Christiania was established as a micronation within Denmark.

I love visiting the Glyptotek for its architecture. It’s an awe-inspiring museum that first opened in 1897. The oldest part of the building is in a renaissance style and the Winter Garden is amazing, like a more impressive Kibble Palace [a historic greenhouse in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens].

When I want to relax, I bring a book or find a new one at the Black Diamond, which is the nickname of the Royal Library. Although it was completed in 1999, it still looks futuristic. It’s situated alongside the water, so you can enjoy a fantastic view while making yourself feel rather important.

"If you ask around, you will find lots of well-organised private parties happening around the city, which has a thriving electronic music scene."

Ved Siden Af is Copenhagen’s best club, located very close to the central station, and is my favourite place for a night out. They don’t appreciate tourists, so if you want to go I would recommend you do some research about who is playing and what their sound is, since you might be turned away at the door otherwise. It is often open until 9am, which is quite uncommon in Copenhagen.

If you like shopping for organic foods and craft beer, Khioskh is the place for you. Right on Sonder Boulevard, you’ll find this shop on a sunny corner, with its own outdoor seating. They also sell ice cream in the summer. Around the corner they have a bar called Rbabarrab, which is very cosy.

For a day out of the city, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is less than an hour’s train ride from Copenhagen, and I think it is the best museum in Denmark. You will need to spend the whole day here if you want to explore their temporary exhibitions as well as the sculpture park and the permanent collection. The cafe is a winner too.

My food & drink hit list

The place for ’hygge’
Hygge is the Danish concept of ’having a good time’. This is a social thing and usually involves food and drink. I really enjoy the chain of specialty coffee bars called Coffee Collective and I went there a lot when one of my friends was working there. The one in Kristen Bernikows Gade is especially cosy.

There are too many to mention, but Danish drinking culture is based around beer, producing many internationally lauded microbreweries. Some operate their own bars, like Brus in Nørrebro (run by the To Øl brewery). Gamma is one of the best local breweries you’ll most likely find them in the whisky bar Dispensary – also located in Nørrebro.

Street food
Just by Nørreport station you’ll find Torvehallerne – a large food court with two buildings and a patio. I love that there is something from most corners of the world and sure, it’s a bit pricey but you’re also paying for the bustling atmosphere. The Unika cheese shop and the bistro Le Petit are two of my favourites. The latter usually have a very affordable meal of the day and on Tuesday they have DJs behind the bar.

A meal with friends
Apollo Bar inside Kunsthal Charlottenborg is my favourite place to invite friends who are from out of town. It has the atmosphere of an art gallery and many students from the art school spend their last pennies on expensive wine and food here. Apollo is run by the famous chef Frederik Bille Brahe, who also runs Atelier September and is said to have invented the avocado sandwich. So you can expect small and simple dishes.

A must-try
J Day is a special day in Denmark, which is when Tuborg release their Christmas lager (J is for Julebryg). That happens on the first Friday of November and if you’re around on that day, you will definitely be handed a can at some point.

This article was first published January 2022. All opinions expressed are the views of the author and are not endorsed by the University of Glasgow.

The old amusement park in Tivoli Gardens lit up at nighttime [Photo: Shutterstock]

Tivoli Gardens amusement park opened in 1843 and is the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world.

External view of The Royal Library, a modern black boxy construction next to water [Photo: Shutterstock]

Clad in black granite, the extension to the Royal Library is known as the ‘Black Diamond’ due to its clean lines and glittering polished surfaces.

Street in Freetown Christiania with people and bikes in the street [Photo: Shutterstock]

Christiania is a "free town" of residents living on a former military area in the borough of Christianshavn.

Rosenborg Castle with blooming terraces in the foreground [Photo: Shutterstock]

Rosenborg Castle is located in the centre of Copenhagen and was originally built as a summer house by order of Christian IV.

External view of Kunsthal Charlottenborg [Photo: Shutterstock]

Kunsthal Charlottenborg is one of the largest exhibition spaces for contemporary art in Northern Europe.

Winter Garden with glass domed roof inside the New Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum [Photo: Shutterstock]

The glorious Winter Garden is located inside Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art and sculpture museum.

Row of colourful buildings in sunset alongside the Nyhavn Canal, with boats lined along the side of the canal [Photo: Shutterstock]

Nyhavn is a 17th-century waterfront, canal and entertainment district lined by brightly coloured 17th and early 18th century townhouses and bars, cafes and restaurants.

Exterior of The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with a sculpture in the foreground [Photo: Shutterstock]

The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is the most visited art museum in Denmark and has an extensive permanent collection of modern and contemporary art.

Variety of fresh buns behind the shop window in Torvehallerne indoor market [Photo: Shutterstock]

Fresh buns for sale in Torvehallerne market, an urban, covered marketplace selling local produce, gourmet foods, drinks and desserts.