Copenhagen

7 Mistakes Tourists Make in Copenhagen

August 30, 2017
Frederiksberg

Copenhagen is generally very easy to be a tourist in. Everyone speaks English, we have some of the best food in the world, it’s easy to get around wherever you want to go… the list can go on. Danish tourism is constantly setting new records and people from all over the world come here to get a taste of the Scandinavian lifestyle. However, there are some mistakes you want to avoid as a tourist in order to get the best possible experience.

Here are some of the most common mistakes tourists make in Copenhagen and how you can avoid them:

  1. Shop on the main street Strøget
    Strøget is the main shopping street that runs all the way from Rådhuspladsen (main city square) down to Kongens Nytorv. The street is filled with the most common stores you’ll find in any big city: H&M, Zara, some Scandinavian chains etc. and it’s great if you need something from any of these places. However, if you want to find small second-hand shops, specialized shops or unique, small boutiques, you’ll need to go beyond Strøget. There are many streets both in the city center and in the neighborhoods Vesterbro, Nørrebro, and Østerbro (and Frederiksberg). Instead, check out Pilestræde, Larsbjørnsstræde, and Studiestræde in Copenhagen K (city center), Elmegade, Nørrebrogade, and Blågårdsgade in Copenhagen N (Nørrebro), Værnedamsvej, Istedgade and Vesterbrogade in Copenhagen V (Vesterbro), among others.

    DSC_0694_C

    Købmagergade, a side street to Strøget, from above.

  2. Eat at fast food chains
    Copenhagen is a foodie heaven. Not only is it home to 15 (!) Michelin-starred restaurants, it has so many other nice places to eat – from cozy cafés to healthy salad bars and street food bonanza on Papirøen, there’s really something for everyone. Yes, even veg*ns (check out my guide to vegan and vegetarian places in Copenhagen). So skip McDonald’s, and while you’re at it, skip those tourist trap restaurants around Strøget and Rådhuspladsen as well. Take advantage of the fact that you’re in foodie heaven and eat good food for all meals of the day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive either!
  3. Don’t bike around
    Many tourists who come here aren’t aware of the fact that Copenhagen is the most bike-friendly city on the planet. Everyone bikes everywhere here, and in any weather. You’ll see school children biking to school, men in suits biking to work, and yes, even dogs riding along with their humans on the way to the park. Frankly, biking is the easiest and cheapest way to get around Copenhagen. There are bikes for rent everywhere and high-quality bicycle lanes are on the sides of most of the roads here. It’s great to bike around because you can really explore the city from your saddle, stop anywhere you like and get around the city in no-time. But don’t forget a helmet!

    Biking around in Copenhagen is easy… Just remember to use hand signals! (Photo: Mikael Colville-Andersen)

  4. Don’t use hand signals when biking around
    The Danes are generally very friendly and calm people – until you fail to use the proper hand signals when biking around. Nothing will make them angrier – believe me, I experienced it first-hand when I moved here! Because there are so many bikes in the city, using hand signals is essential for avoiding collisions with pedestrians, other bikes, and cars. They’re easy to do, so you really don’t have to worry about it. You’ll need to signal if you’re turning left or right, or if you intend to stop (unless there’s a red light in which case everyone expects you to stop). Put your left arm straight out to the side if you intend to turn left and vice versa for right. Check with the place where you rent your bike and avoid angry Danes swearing at you in the middle of the street.
  5. Come here in the winter
    Yes, Copenhagen is nice in the winter too but frankly, it’s best during spring, summer or early fall. Winters here are cold, dark, and boring. Everyone’s hiding from the cold inside their homes. Biking around is a wet and cold endeavor. During the warmer months of the year, the Danes are socializing much more and there is so much more to do and to see. If you can plan it, I definitely recommend coming here from April-September.
  6. Stay in the center
    There’s a lot more to Copenhagen than the city center and it’s a big mistake to not explore more of Copenhagen while you’re here. Sure, the area in the center is lovely but you should definitely check out the other areas too! I’ve mentioned some of the streets where you can go shopping above (#1) but there’s more than that too! Check out Vesterbro for cafés, art galleries, and bars. Head on over to Frederiksberg for a bit of calm and greenery in the city or explore Nørrebro for bars, nightclubs, and second-hand shops. Østerbro is perfect for families and design-lovers. Get up on the saddle and explore!
  7. Get a fine in the metro
    Copenhagen’s metro is fairly new, compared to other big cities in Europe and it only has two lines (more are opening up in 2018). But getting the right ticket can be tricky. Copenhagen is divided into zones which decide how much you pay for your ticket. If you don’t have a valid ticket, you risk being fined. If you plan on riding the metro and buses a lot, I’d recommend buying a City Pass which includes trips in the center Copenhagen and to and from the airport. Otherwise, make sure to ask someone for help if you’re just buying tickets on the go. Many people get it wrong when they’re traveling back to the airport from the center and buy a ticket with fewer zones than they need (for Copenhagen center you’ll need 2 zones, to the airport you’ll need
    Photo “Copenhagen Signals” by Mikael Corville-Andersen used under the license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
    Photo “Copenhagen Metro” by Stig Nyygard used under the license CC BY 2.0
    All other photos are taken by me and may not be used without my permission.

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24 Comments

  • Reply Alex September 2, 2017 at 10:49

    Great post and tips! I would love to visit Copenhagen so saving for future reference!

  • Reply verushka September 2, 2017 at 10:50

    Great advice for a first time visitor.Never knew it had so many Michelin star eateries.

    • Reply Anja September 2, 2017 at 10:56

      Yes, it’s pretty amazing! They can be hard to book though ☺️

  • Reply Kristy September 2, 2017 at 10:53

    Some great tips I’ll be keeping in mind! Luckily I live in the Netherlands so I should already be ok with biking etiquette! It’s great to see more places that are so bike-friendly.

    • Reply Anja September 2, 2017 at 10:57

      Thanks! And yes you should be ok with biking etiquette here 😅 Would love to see the Netherlands soon!

  • Reply Lindsey Nicole September 2, 2017 at 10:56

    These are great tips. I have always wanted to visit Copenhagen so I will be sure to visit in the spring season when I do. I know northern countries stay pretty cool but does it get hot in the summer?

  • Reply Deea September 2, 2017 at 11:00

    Yaaay! Happy to see I didn’t do any of these, haha! 😆 But I have to admit I did my homework before visiting!
    Very good points made! Especially the biking one – I can’t imagine a better way to discover and enjoy Copenhagen!

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:29

      Thank you Deea! Glad to hear you did you homework and could fully enjoy this wonderful city ;P

  • Reply Corinne September 2, 2017 at 11:03

    The tip for the metro is great advice! I’m definitely taking notes. Ever since watching Borgen I dream of visiting Denmark!

  • Reply Soraya September 2, 2017 at 11:35

    Wow I had NO idea that Copenhagen is home to 15 Michelin-starred restaurants! What an amazing fact. Haha I have heard of a number of tourists visiting Copenhagen during the winter – it must be a much cheaper time of the year to visit…but I can imagine it’d be freezing!

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:30

      Yes, it is cheaper and so long as you don’t plan on walking around a lot, I think it can be wonderful too – it’s all about your expectations 🙂

  • Reply Lakshmi September 2, 2017 at 12:23

    Great tips..I just got back from Copenhagen and I agree with your tips..I loved it during summer..

  • Reply Tanya September 2, 2017 at 12:32

    It’s funny how the biking culture is different in so many places. I’ve been getting everywhere on my bike in Croatia. I wish they used hand signals here 🙂

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:40

      Haha yes, I definitely recognize that hand signals aren’t really a thing in Croatia and many people get around with their car. Hopefully more and more people will start using bikes instead – better for the planet, better for you 🙂

  • Reply Lina September 2, 2017 at 12:38

    I Love Copenhagen! We didn’t go around by bike but we walked a lot. Our highlights was visiting the shop Orkidé imperiet. Amazing staff who knows everything there is to know about orkids. And when visiting the botanical garden we got to se a Amorphophallus titanum flower, which usually only flowers every 15th year!

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:43

      Walking around is also a great way to explore the city. I always walk around on my travels. Haven’t even heard of Orkidé imperiet, sounds like a shop my mom would love 🙂

  • Reply Bernadette Jackson September 2, 2017 at 13:02

    Storing this away for future reference. I don’t think we actually got to do any shopping at all, save for Marimekko, which I drooled over for a while. We didn’t have time to do so many of the things on your list, so we’ll just have to force ourselves to go back…

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:41

      Yes, all the more reason to visit again! 🙂

  • Reply Sarah September 2, 2017 at 14:40

    Great tips! We visited Copenhagen in the winter and it was SO cold! Definitely want to come back during a more temperate time 🙂

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:44

      Completely understand you haha 😀 Hope you had a great time anyway!

  • Reply Ashlee September 2, 2017 at 17:17

    Ive been dying to go to Copenhagen! It looks beautiful. Thank you for sharing these tips, they will be helpful when I plan my trip 🙂

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:44

      Happy to help! 🙂 I hope you enjoy your trip here.

  • Reply Bri September 2, 2017 at 17:30

    I’m DYING to visit Copenhagen so I’ve bookmarked this post for future reference 🙂

    • Reply Anja September 4, 2017 at 07:45

      Hope you make it here, it’s a wonderful city 🙂

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