From architecture and design to cutting-edge culinary feats, Copenhagen is bursting at the seams with Scandinavian chic and cosmopolitan allure. It’s a pricey city, but you get what you pay for: cobbled streets lined with Michelin-starred restaurants, a comfortably lux waterfront, striking inventive design, and of course, all of the charming facets you would expect from a centuries-old city. But you don’t have to hob nob with the tastemakers to enjoy what the city has to offer. For an authentic experience of Denmark’s capital Instead, rent a bike (Copenhagen hosts one of the very best bike lane networks in the world), and roll around the city’s network of islands to these fantastic spots.

Tivoli Gardens

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A storybook festival ground brought to life with a flourish of Danish charm, Tivoli Gardens is an entertainment complex like no other. Tradition reigns with open-air stage shows, proudly pillared pavilions, and a weekly fireworks display, topped off with a century-old roller coaster (impeccably renovated to ensure your safety, of course). The space really shines in the summer evenings, when the buildings are laced with twinkling lights and free concerts take place on the Plænen stage. The indoor venues include a grandiose concert hall, where you can catch a chart-topping band or a renowned ballet performance.

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Nationalmuseet (National Museum of Denmark)

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The National Museum of Denmark is the country’s seat of cultural history. There’s an astounding array of artefacts that together tell the tale of Danish civilization and development, from the Stone Age through the affluent and elegant cultural evolution that has led to modern Danish identity. Viking weapons sit alongside mystical stones, medieval jewels, recreated 18th century apartments, and a collection of antiquated doll houses. There are also fascinating exhibits from other cultures around the world, like the Inuit of Greenland, ancient Egypt, and the past civilizations of South America. In fact, the sheer variety of cultures and era represented makes this an entirely unique museum experience.

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Christianborg Palace

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This sprawling façade houses the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court – an appropriately stately collection for the traditional house of the Danish Kings. The site dates back to the 12th century, when the first castle was erected; the present palace is the third structure to be built, and showcases three distinct styles on the exterior. Inside, the walls are dripping with tapestries, and the ornately furnished rooms are a feast for the eyes. Royal visitors to Denmark are still entertained in the palace, which explains the pristine upkeep, and you can experience a bit of the pomp and glory yourself by taking a guided tour of the rooms. The ruins of the first two castles (built in 1167 and the late 14th century, respectively) were unearthed before the present palace was begun, and these underground relics are open to the public.

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Langelinie

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This “long line” of promenade and parkland juts out into the sea, and features a few delightful historical elements that continue to draw visitors from far and wide. Perhaps the most famous is the bronze Little Mermaid statue, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, which has sat on a rock by the water since 1913. The small statue is delicate and unimposing, but blends very nicely with the patina of the neighboring Ivar Huitfeldt Column, and the Norse-inspired Gefion Fountain. Regardless of your interest in monuments, the Langelinie Park along the pier is a beautiful area for a stroll in the sun.

 

Rundetårn (Round Tower)

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The monumental Round Tower is a big draw for visitors to Copenhagen. A long, gentle spiral of the wide equestrian staircase takes you up to the top of the observation deck, where you’ll be treated to a beautiful panoramic view of the city and beyond. The surrounding stone work and decoration is admirable, and the walk up and down isn’t difficult, so the whole family can enjoy the visit. The tower is also a public astronomical observatory, and a ramp leads to the Library Hall, where you can check out exhibitions and even some one-of-a-kind concerts.

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Rosenborg Slot

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Once a summer home for Danish Kings, today the fabulously ornate Rosenborg castle, with its sky-high turrets and Dutch Renaissance façade, is a top-notch museum. It was built between 1606 and 1633 by King Christian IV, and the 24 upper rooms contain the furnishings and portraits of the royal builder and every monarch who followed until Frederik VII. Make your way down to the basement Treasury, where the crown jewels are displayed, among other prestigious accessories; the Danish royal family still uses the museum as a treasury for their jewels, heirlooms, and rich adornments.

 

Cinemateket

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Copenhagen’s cinema center of the Danish Film Institute is a delight for film buffs, but equally fun for the casual movie-goer. The theater shows more than 60 films each month on three screens – some new titles, some Danish classics with subtitles – and treats visitors to a library of film literature. There’s a show, café and restaurant here, too, where you can share your thoughts with your fellow audience members. Although many of the screenings are in Danish (you’re most likely to catch the English-subtitled flicks on a Sunday), it’s worth a few minutes of your time, if only to browse the Danish movie memorabilia for a glimpse into an entirely different film culture.

Copenhagen is a compact city, which makes it easy to get around – if not cheap. Luckily, there are plenty of free sites, and some casual and tasty cafes to peruse instead of the top-shelf restaurants that the city has become known for. Opt for the Copenhagen Card, which will give you some great discounts, and consider an apartment rental for your group instead of boutique Inns or hotels rooms in the center. And even though Copenhagen can be pricey, it’s very kid-friendly, which makes it a very memorable family holiday destination.