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Important things to know about Copenhagen

How to make the most of your Danish travels.


Copenhagen is a wonderful city with much to see and visit.  The city is relatively small and it is possible to explore the entire city on foot. However, many choose to explore the city on bicycles and this is the most popular way of getting around the city.

Copenhagen – the merchants’ harbour

Copenhagen goes back centuries.  It was originally called “Harbour” but later, in the Middle Ages that changed to ‘the Merchants’ habour and it remained that way.  Now it has a slightly more modern sound.  In Danish it is pronounced “kerbenhawn”, rather than the German pronunciation “Copen-hargen”.

The Merchants habour really describes the city very well.   The waterfront city benefited from trade owing to its location, one of the only straits connecting the Baltic Sea countries with earth’s oceans.  Copenhagen, apart from a few skirmishes, has for the most part been able to develop naturally.

Copenhagen’s architecture

There are various Danish architectural styles to be found in the different city quarters.  However, they blend together to make a very harmonious picture. There is so much that is worth seeing. The beautiful red-bricked and copper roofed buildings of Christian IV’s together with the Round Tower and Rosenborg Castle.  Also, Christian V’s, Nyhavn canal which is a must. And the obvious tourist spots where you can see the city’s traditional houses, including those of medieval style right through to 19th century blocks. It is worth trekking a little further out to the outskirts of the city to get a more serene look and feel of the city.

According to Sofie Lunøe, who is a native of Copenhagen, and is the owner of a jewellery shop in the vibrant Grabødretory “The real charm of Copenhagen is found in the quieter streets that are harder to find than Kongens Nytorv.  The absolutely best way to see central Copenhagen is to take your time, wandering the streets parallel to the main ones, to see how well the historical buildings blend in with our modern-day lives.”

Check out Copenhagen’s independent stores

It is worth by- passing the big stores. The Danish are well known for good design and architecture and most homes will have at least one vase or lamp by a well- known Danish designer.   You will find the well-known brands and large stores, like Pandora and Georg Jensen on Strøget, the main shopping street but if you want to see the independent shops, community restaurants and exciting clothes designers that are thriving in Copenhagen you need to explore the smaller streets.

In Sophie Lunøe’s opinion these small independent shops give the visitor a more “intimate shopping experience”.  She goes onto say “I have a lot of tourists come in who are very surprised that my workshop is in the middle of my store. They can see me making the jewellery pieces I sell and talk to me about the process.  That’s the case in most of these shops.  You get a much more personal experience, and we’ll happily tell you about the best local restaurants and which other shops to visit in the area.”

In order to really understand and learn about Copenhagen and find it’s best shops, it is best to heed the advice of those who live there; listen to their advice and tips on what to see, do and play, and even which online slots to indulge in.  This way you can really experience it the way the locals do.

Danish culture and its code of politeness

When the Danish travel outside of Scandinavia they are often characterized as “hard to get to know”.  Inside Scandinavia they are thought of as quite the opposite.  This, however, has more to do with a different understanding of the code of politeness that is particular to Danish culture than in other places.

Kay Xander Mellish who is an American Danish citizen, and runs a popular blog, says “In Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia, politeness comes down to not disturbing other people’s personal spheres.   According to Mellish, “It’s a virtue to be straightforward and direct, so as to not waste other people’s time. People in general will leave you alone unless you make it clear that they aren’t bothering you, but they’re actually very friendly and eager to help; all you have to do is ask.”

Being on time is highly valued in Denmark

A very important social quality in Denmark is being on time and being reliable. Mellish stresses that “If you agree to meet at eight o’clock, you’re there at eight. If you agree to meet on 4 April in three months’ time, you turn up.  Don’t cancel because something better turned up.  People in general trust each other and can rely on each other, and that also makes Copenhagen a very safe place to visit.”

Learn the rules of the road prior to cycling on the city’s bike paths

Cycling is the main mode of transportation in Copenhagen.  Both Mellish and Lunøe use bicycles to get around. But it is really important to abide by the rules when cycling in Copenhagen. Mellish stresses “You’d never stop to take a picture while driving, so don’t do it on a bike.”   Safety is of the upmost.  Lunøe emphasizes “Please, please wear a helmet and learn how to signal.  She also recommends avoiding the rush hour.  “Try a bike by all means, but not during rush hour” – at this time, Copenhagen’s bike lanes are busy with commuters, so it’s worth going for your first cycle in the city at a quieter time of day. And cycling isn’t the only way to see the city.  You can “Use boats, the newly expanded metro and walking to get around.”

Traditional Danish cuisine

Firstly, make sure you arrive on time if you are invited to a Danish home for dinner.  It is definitely worth exploring and finding delicious Danish cuisine in the many restaurants in Copenhagen. You can find traditional Danish pork dishes, herring and rye bread as well as the new Nordic cuisine introduced in the early 2000s. According to Mellish “Traditional dishes aren’t just a tourism thing here. Danes actually eat smørrebrød for lunch and frikadeller for dinner, and you should give them a try.”

Danes have a very relaxed attitude when it comes to swearing

The Danes are known to swear a lot. Some of the swearing is done in English, perhaps because they don’t have the same stigma in Danish.  On the Danish national broadcasting service DR, it is not unusual to hear English swear words and expletives.   However, according to Mellish this is not a sign that the Danes are unfriendly. Mellish goes on to say “I like the Danes a lot, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here.”


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