My First Impression of Copenhagen

Copenhagen, for some it conjures images of of old world architecture and sleek Nordic design; for others it’s Hans Christian Andersen and a certain ocean-dwelling maiden. Food and the new Nordic cuisine draws others to Danish capital. Cozy and cool, traditional and free-thinking, reserved and welcoming; Copenhagen is a city of contrasts that blend perfectly. After visiting Copenhagen for the first time, here are a few of my first impressions.

My first impressions of Copenhagen


Bikes. They’re everywhere.

I knew that Copenhagen is one of the world’s most bike friendly cities but I wasn’t fully prepared for how much bikes are woven into the fabric of daily life. My first expose to Copenhagen’s bike culture was early one moring as I stumbled out of the train station after a red eye flight. I was met by legions of cyclists,mostly clad in black, on their daily commute to work. It was clear that that for them this was no Sunday ride through the park, they meant business.Even as someone who regularly bikes to work in the U.S., I was a bit intimidated.

As my trip lasted into the weekend, the bike traffic, and the city in general, relaxed considerably. One thing that really impressed me was that almost no one locked their bike up. Out of the hundreds of bikes I saw most were left out in the open when not in use- that alone speaks volumes about Danish society.

Now that I know my way around Copenhagen a bit I’ll definitely hop on two wheels the next time I’m there.

My first impressions of Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a city tied to the water.

Like most people I’d seen pictures of Nyhaven, Copenhagen’s most famous canal lined with crayon box colored houses and sailboats. What I found was a city laced with canals and lakes and framed by the Oresund, which separates Denmark from neighboring Sweden.Explore Copenhagen’s waterways by harbor bus, canal cruise or kayak to get a different view of the city or head on over to the Christianhaven neighborhood to stroll around this charming neighborhood’s canals.

My first impressions of Copenhagen

It’s windy.

Move over Chicago, Copenhagen is the real “Windy City”. The thing is, they put it to good use. Flying in to Copenhagen you quickly notice the dozens of wind turbines dotting the water surrounding the city and it’s easy to see that being green is a priority for the city. Currently 20% of Copenhagen’s energy comes from wind power and  the city has a goal to become C02 neutral by 2025.

Wind power is a priority in Copenhagen


You’ll find Copenhagen at the top of a lot of World’s Best Lists when it comes to quality of life, health and happiness. The Danish people know they have a good thing going but rather than be ostentatious or showy they tend more towards subtlety. The Danish concept of hyyge is described on the Visit Denmark site as” creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people”.This was evident in just about every interaction I had in Copenhagen, from hours spent preparing and eating a meal in someone’s home to asking for directions; everyone was welcoming and truly interested in how I was experiencing their city.

My first impressions of Copenhagen

Copenhagen has mastered the art of being casually chic.

I was immediately taken by the fashion in Copenhagen. Jeans and comfortable shoes were the rule rather than the exception, and yet everyone looked smart and well put together. In general Copenhagen had a very relaxed, welcoming vibe which extended throughout the all aspects of the culture. Even at Noma, consistently ranked as one of the world’s best restaurants, service was relaxed and welcoming rather than stiff and formal.

A summer stroll through Copenhagen's Botanical Garden

Go for the food.

Exploring the food scene was what initially drew me to Copenhagen.The rise of New Nordic cuisine, helmed by the aforementioned Noma takes a fresh look at traditional Danish ingredients with delicious result. Seafood, along with pork, bread and dairy, feature prominently on Danish menus.  Greens, herbs and flowers, often foraged; offer up vegetal and floral notes. Smoke and vinegars, once necessary preservation methods are now common accent flavors. Copenhagen’s cuisine is highly seasonal and is truly reflective of what’s available at the moment. All of this combines to produce food that is surprisingly light and fresh while still being hearty.A great way to learn about Copenhagen’s food culture is with Mia of CPH Good Food, she encourages hands on learning and offers a fantastic introduction to Danish cuisine.

Oh, another thing? There seems to be a national obsession with rhubarb. Featured in juices, sodas, ice cream and a myriad of desserts I quickly discovered this ruby jewel of a veggie’s potential goes far beyond jams and pies.

Experience the best of New Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid.

Now you’ve seen it. Please go explore the rest of what this wonderful city has to offer.
The Little Mermaid is a popular tourist stop in Copenhagen

This was my first visit to the Danish capital but it certainly won’t be my last. Copenhagen’s mix of royal grandeur, modern design, world class food and welcoming nature made it an easy city to love. Have you fallen for Copenhagen’s Nordic charms?

68 Comments on “My First Impression of Copenhagen

  1. I spent two weeks in Copenhagen this April and really enjoyed this trip more than the other times. CPH has changed a good deal since my first visit. The biggest change has been the food scene. I didn’t get to Noma but had one of the very best meals ever at Amass. And totally agree about the mermaid, take a picture and move on there’s so much more to see and do.

    PS. I can’t believe they still have rhubarb. I’m out in LA and can’t find any.
    Judy at My Well Seasoned Life recently posted…Photo Challenge: Roy G. BivMy Profile

    • I ate at Amass as well, the food was spectacular. I had some amazing meals at all price points on this trip.

    • Thanks Morgan! I really do hope you make it to Copenhagen, its a gem of a city 🙂

  2. I haven’t been to Copenhagen yet, but have heard raves about its charms. I’m excited to see more cities dedicated to the environment and I’m glad to see Copenhagen contributing by using wind power and riding bikes. I recently read an article in Afar about the dedication to biking and how a writer joined the movement. I would be apprehensive at first, but it sounds like a great idea. Thanks for all of your suggestions beyond The Little Mermaid statue–I always appreciate it when people recommend things beyond the tourist options.
    Brooke recently posted…Plenty In PortlandMy Profile

    • For me the best thing about Copenhagen was the vibe, unpretentious and welcoming.

    • There are hot dog stands and great thai takeaway all over the city. On weekends there is a pop up food scene and each vendor is in their own shipping container.

  3. How funny that you posted about Copenhagen at the same time I just visited Solvang (the Danish capitol of the U.S.)! I was surprised at how small the mermaid replica was there and also surprised to see how small the original is in Copenhagen. Had the same surprise when I saw Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. The best parts of a city are rarely those odd icons that attract the crowds of tourists with cameras!
    Tami recently posted…From Solvang to San DiegoMy Profile

    • My brother spent some time in Solvang, he became addicted to ebelskeivers.

  4. c02 neutral by 2025 is impressive! But then with all those bikes I guess there are much fewer cars! The Netherlands and Scandinavia have got their heads screwed on when it comes to eco-friendliness not only in their policies but they seem to have a lot of green hotels etc..

    • I agree and its quite refreshing to see. Hopefully more countries follow their lead.

    • I didn’t see many Mongolian places but there were a ton of thai restaurants.

  5. Wow food and bikes – I’m in!! You’ve painted a lovely picture of Copenhagen, it sounds awesome! I love rhubarb.

    • Thanks Janeen, Copenhagen is a city I can definitely see myself returning to.

  6. I love reading other people’s good experiences with Denmark. I remember on my first trip there also being somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of bikes that are used daily. Hygge is also super important 🙂 I’m glad you were able to experience it!
    Amber recently posted…Five Pros of Solo TravelMy Profile

  7. I love the casual chic aspect and the friendliness of Noma, I hate stuffy restaurants! Copenhagen has been a location I have wanted to visit for awhile, and I definitely want to go for the food. Didn’t know about their obsession with rhubarb, but I am thrilled, I love rhubarb!

    • Andi, you would love Copenhagen! It’s not just Noma but most of the Michelin star restaurants here are more relaxed in general, its great.

  8. Copenhagen sounds wonderful! Except for the wind but I’m sure that can be manageable. We just returned from our first trip to Europe and there were a few times that I was caught walking inside the bike paths by accident. That’s going to take some getting used to.
    Christa recently posted…25 Essential Songs for an Irish Road TripMy Profile

    • The best part about Copenhagen is the relaxed, welcoming vibe.

  9. Lovely first impressions of Copenhagen. Funny I never went to check out the Little Mermaid at all. I totally loved all your thoughts about the culture and lifestyle there and agree, it is a great space and also the city has some wonderful green spaces to relax and enjoy the good life there.
    noel recently posted…15 Instagram tips for better photos and compositionsMy Profile

    • I didn’t seek out the Little Mermaid, we just happened to pass it on a canal cruise.

  10. So glad to hear you enjoyed your time in Copenhagen – we were also very taken by the city when we first arrived. Had to laugh that your first in this list were the bikes – OMG yes! Just as many bikes here as in the Netherlands – talk about an active and energy clean city!!

    The only thing which disappointed me about Copenhagen was the littler mermaid – bit of a tourist trap if I’m being honest – but apart from that, also just totally fell in love with the vibe of the city and the really unique architecture 🙂 Thanks for the reminder and trip down memory lane!
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…Alaska Travel Essentials: Tips For Bear Safety + Our Favorite Photos of BearsMy Profile

  11. Stunning photographs! From everything that you’ve described, it looks like Copenhagen needs to be on my travel bucket list. You pretty much summed up what I look for in an ideal travel destination. Cycling around the city sounds amazing. It’s so crazy that most people don’t lock up their bikes, seems like there are very few places in the world where you can still do something like that.

    • It really does speak a lot about their culture doesn’t it?

    • Actually we do lock our bikes in Copenhagen. We have sorts of sturdy locks attached to the back of the bike frame, they lock directly on the rear wheel. Very discreet and easy. We can’t lock our bikes with huge chains to fixed points, there are so many bikes in town, it would be impossible to manage 🙂

      Strolling around by bike is one of the best way to enjoy Copenhagen!

    • I’m sure your daughter would also love visiting Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest amusement park in the world.

  12. Ha ha, the bit about the mermaid made me laugh, sometimes it does feel like you have to kind of tick those things off but there is usually so much more to see. We haven’t been to Scandinavia yet bit really do want to, I think a big factor is cost which is putting us off but hopefully we can visit soon, Copenhagen is right up there for me.
    Nic from Roaming Renegades recently posted…Reflections on my first time travelling soloMy Profile

    • Copenhagen is a bit spendy but no worse than London. There are plenty of things to do and see on a budget.

  13. What great pictures! We just left CPH and LOVED it so much. What a vibrant and fun city! I was wondering if I was the only one who was seriously ‘underwhelmed’ by The Little Mermaid? I was so excited to see her, but when we arrived I was…meh. I agree – take the picture (if you can with the other tourist hordes around her) and move on 🙂 Great impressions of this casually chic city!
    Lisa Chavis recently posted…The Bone Church of Prague – 40,000 BONES! #JayWayPragueMy Profile

    • Thanks Lisa, I had an amazing time and would go back in a heartbeat.

    • I thought it would be enjoyable but I was surprised how much I loved the city.

    • While we were there Distraction was going on- a week long party that popped up in different parts of the city.

    • I was surprised how much I loved Copenhagen, it’s one of the nicest cities I’ve been to.

  14. Glad you loved Copenhagen, I’ve lived here for a year and am still discovering new things every day! Not to disillusion you about the bikes, but they actually are locked up! Most have a clamp locked onto the back wheel to prevent theft (which does happen), but it’s true that most of them aren’t locked to anything.

  15. I’m just recently back from Copenhagen too – like you, it was my first visit.

    We absolutely loved our all too brief trip there! Lots of charm and the people are so friendly. Did you manage to get out of the city at all? We did a brief trip up to Helsingør (the town with ‘Hamlet’s Castle’) which is only around 40 mins away (we had Copenhagen Cards which covered both train and entrance) and we enjoyed there as well.

    The whole region has lots to offer. We’ve already had the ‘we must go back again but for longer’ chat – In fact I think we might have actually still been there when we did, hehe.
    Penny recently posted…Absalon Hotel in Copenhagen: A reviewMy Profile

    • I wish it were more bike friendly here in the States, I’d definitely do it myself.

  16. THANKYOU for saying go explore the rest of Copenhagen after having seen the Little Mermaid lol we visited recently, and this attraction is so overhyped in my humble opinion. Sadly way to many tourists huddling around a tiny little statue for my liking 😀

    Though we did enjoy Copenhagen and had many of the same first impressions as you did – didn’t really get a chance to try the food as we stayed in an apartment and did a lot of our own cooking, so will have to get back so we can sample the food scene!
    Megan Claire recently posted…A 3 Day Itinerary For Discovering the Arty Underworld of SydneyMy Profile

  17. I loved reading about your first impressions of my home capital, Brianna! Funny you comment on the wind, normally the windy part of Denmark is on the western coast, but no rule without exceptions :o). You mention the popularity of rhubarb, and I think it has to do with our love for fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables: When it’s rhubarb season, we all eat rhubarb; when it’s elderflower seasoin, we all drink elderflower lemonade; when it’s strawberry season, we all eat “rødgrød med fløde” (dessert). Greenland is another great place to visit in Scandinavia (and part of the Danish kingdom). If you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend it, especially in spring or summer. Breath-taking landscape. I haven’t written about it yet, but will gladly answ er any questions.

    • I absolutely loved my time in Copenhagen and would love to go back. Greenland is very high on my travel wish list, I’ll definitely be in touch!

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