Time to get down with the non-touristy Copenhagen. Are you a second-time visitor in Copenhagen? Do you consider yourself a traveller and not a tourist? Would you like to blend in with the locals exploring a different side of the city? Say no more, read further for our creative itinerary – or simply book one of our running tours where we share and show our favourite must see and non-touristy spots.
We are all fond of the history of The Little Mermaid, the colours of Nyhavn and the vibe of Tivoli but Copenhagen has much more than that. The off-the-beaten-path can be challenging to find as it is usually left out of the travel guides. We accepted this challenge and created a list with a couple of must-see and do things offering their non-touristy alternatives.
Non-Touristy Copenhagen: Our recommendations
Touristy Copenhagen: The Little Mermaid
Alternative: the tomb of Hans Christian Anderson
The Little Mermaid is the most photographed statue in the world and as such, never gets old. All the Asian tourists flocking around The Little Mermaid must know that well. Why not skip the crowds instead and head to the Assistens Cemetery in Nørrebro (a vibrant district with a multi-cultural feel) to visit the grave of H.C. Anderson. The cemetery is also the final resting place of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and Nobel Prize recipient Niels Bohr among others. It has become widely popular among citizens of Copenhagen to sunbathe and hold picnics around the grave, so don’t be surprised if you spot a few bikinis during your cemetary visit.
Touristy Copenhagen: Pusher Street in Christiania
Alternative: walk around the moat at Christiania
Christiania is by all means one of the most magical and controversial places in Copenhagen. The self-governing “free town “is famous for Pusher Street and its Green Light District where Marijuana and Hash is openly sold. Do yourself a favor and don’t stop at the end of Pusher street! Venture into the residential area and discover the imaginative shapes, sizes and colours of the homes built by creative inhabitants. Our Christiania running tour takes you all around the lake exploring these unique houses, the secret new location of restaurant Noma and a hidden execution site from WW2. Read more about what else we see on the Christiania tour here.
Touristy Copenhagen: Boat cruise
Alternative: Get active
The canal tour is the most popular option of exploring the city’s waterfronts. If you’d rather go incognito, take the Copenhageners example and get active. There are plenty of opportunities the city has to offer. Whether signing up for a running tour, swimming in the canal, renting a kayak or a bike would suit you better, your expectations will be exceeded.
Touristy Copenhagen: Eating out at Nyhavn
Alternative: Copenhagen Street Food
The only few hundred-meter-long Nyhavn has become the symbol of not only Copenhagen but the entire Denmark. It is full of touristy restaurants that can be both crowded and overpriced. Throw away your tourist badge and treat your taste buds at the Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen (Paper Island) that offers quality, sustainable and delicious street food with the promising motto of “genuine, honest and aesthetic”. Altough you will be surrounded by a lot of tourists here, I still wanted to include Copenhagen Street Food in the non-touristy Copenhagen list. Why? It is both very Copenhagen-like in terms of quality and concept and international with street food from all the four corners of the world. Look in the mirror and ask yourself: isn’t delicious yet quality fast food what we all have been dreaming about?
Touristy Copenhagen: Hop-on hop-off bus
Alternative: Copenhagen from above
Being a tourist is tiring. Seeing Copenhagen from a hop-on hop-off bus does have its perk as it saves your legs for a running tour but why not take a virtual tour to discover the city as you have never seen it before: from above. Read more about our favourite viewpoints here.
Having said all the above, I have to admit something: after living in several major cities around Europe I was surprised to see, there is no firm division between what Copenhageners and tourists do. One difference I did discover – which also should be the take-away message of this post – is that Copenhageners take their time to “smell the roses” and enjoy little things about life. So instead of following a strict itinerary rushing through the city to thick everything off your must-see list, just sit down, watch people, enjoy a craft beer, a piece of pastry or wander the streets completely aimlessly. Getting lost and accidently finding hidden spots makes you realize what really sets apart Copenhagen from other cities and those memories will surely last a lifetime.
p.s.: For more local tips on how to experienc the non-touristy Copenhagen read our interviews with Running Guide Henrik, Signe, Janne, Jens, Anna and Alexandra.
p.p.s.: For even more local tips view Lena’s article about the Top 3 Local “must do’s” in Copenhagen.