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A neighbourhood guide to pick your favourite district in the city
Copenhagen is a small city, but like any town, there are some areas that seem to resonate with travellers. Each neighbourhood has its own look and feel, its own appeal to the locals and the visitors as well. Some people just seem to be “Vesterbro folks”, while for others Nørrebro is the essence of Copenhagen. Here is a small neighbourhood guide so that you can find the area that best suits your interests.
If you plan on only spending time in the city centre, you will be able to say that you have seen all the famous places. Everything is there: From the Christiansborg & Amalienborg Palaces, the cute Nyhavn Harbour, to the always inspiring Strøget pedestrian area and the famous Tivoli. These are all must-sees. Plus, this might still be the best area for shopping, with the famous, classic department and design stores that do not shy away from a comparison to the competition in Paris and London. And of course, you have a dozen or so top-notch gourmet restaurants in this area, each famous and some legendary. And then you also have multicultural and exciting areas around the Nørreport which is as urbana as it gets here in Scandinavia.
In a word, if you do not plan on riding a bike or using public transport (forget the taxis), this is the neighbourhood you want to book a room in. You are going to be here most of the time anyway.
Don’t expect any great tourist sites in Vesterbro – no waterside, no big museums or huge mansions. This used to be a rather washed-out part of town, the former meatpacking district. Working class. But of course, a little gentrification changed all that years ago. The quarter has become chic again as a hangout for Hipsters of all sorts – the Copenhagen equivalent of Kreuzberg. And yet it has remained what it always was: laid-back and full of nice people.
The meatpacking area is still active. You can find some remains of the old red light district, too, but now it’s surrounded by creative hubs and the usual “infrastructure” that follows: Nice lunch places, cool bars and young designer shops. And there is still a refreshing number of cool spaces for open-air art exhibits at Sønder Boulevard and everyone’s favourite flea market in Halmtorvet Square. And in a city full of extraordinary restaurants, Vesterbro has emerged as the epicentre of that trend, hosting more than 250 restaurants in rather tight quarters.
The cool thing about this neighbourhood is that you can always choose between a Michelin-star-decorated fine dining restaurant or a great Turkish kebab shop; They mix and neither of the two does not fit here.
Nørrebro has certainly become the most popular district in Copenhagen. And for very good reasons. Nørrebro is a must-visit, with its vibrant and cosy streets and its wonderful green oasis which is the Assistens Cemetery. It borders the lakes: a perfect place to escape the (not so) hectic city life for a bit.
One of the highlights is the former market-hall Torvehallerne, which was turned into a marvellous food hall with a remarkable vibe. It’ll leave you well-fed and loaded with Instagrammable food pics. Other than that, the Nørrebro streets are filled with some of the best restaurants in Europe, with the Michelin-starred Restaurant, Relae, being the highlight.
For most people, Nørrebro is best known for trendy shopping in popular Jægersborggade, antique hunting in the Ravnsborggade and the cool second-hand shops all along the way.
When staying in the area, you get a close look at how the Nørrebro locals live and why it is such a popular quarter for all Copenhagen locals. The easy, undemanding atmosphere makes you want to hang out there, with all the outside seating, the day-drinking and the numerous recreational facilities where everybody seems to do something fun: play football, climb, skateboard or sit along the divine Dronning Louises Bro (Queen Louise’s Bridge).
If you are looking for a more relaxed neighbourhood with less crowded streets and more space to actually breathe, than Østerbro is the best choice. The streets are broader, you can feel the sea breeze from the waterfront and luckily the shopping and the culinary offerings are incredible.
Østerbro is much more grown-up; you see a lot of families here and it is easy to understand why this is the most sought after residential area in Denmark. Life is lush with all the green parks and the reduced tempo on the streets. It seems that even the bikes slow down when they enter Østerbro.
Spend half a day in Copenhagen’s best park, the Fælledparken, or visit the Svanemølle Beach and sit on the pier, then maybe enjoy a visit to the lesser-known but still very enjoyable museums or sit in a boulevard café and become an expert in people watching.
And if you want more excitement in the evening, just take that 10-minute bike ride headed south and you will be right in the midst of all the action again.