Our Favourite Photos of Copenhagen, Denmark

By alison - April 16, 2013 (Updated: November 18, 2014)

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series Euro Summer 2013.
Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen, Denmark

Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen, Denmark

Canals, bicycles and colour galore – these were my favourite photography subjects in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Copenhagen has long been on my list of places to visit in Europe. So when my friend Jenn gave me free-rein to plan our European travels, I was excited to fit it into our schedule. With Andrew in tow, we did our best to take in as many of the city’s highlights as possible.

With only a few short days in the Danish capital, we felt we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. Even so, it left quite an impression on me and I’m eager to return. Today I’d like to share some of my favourite photos from our city-break in Copenhagen.




1. Nyhavn Harbour

Nyhavn Harbour, Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s bright and bustling harbour, Nyhavn.

Nyhavn was (pardon the pun) one of our first ports of call in Copenhagen. This bustling, colourful waterfront is filled with lively shops and restaurants and is the starting point for many sight-seeing boat tours. Like Brussels’ own Grand Place, it suffers a bit from being crowded and touristy, but that doesn’t detract from its beauty.

In addition to the tourist boats, Nyhavn is lined with restored ships, owned by the Danish National Museum. There are also privately owned ships, and even a theatre boat. These old wooden ships give the harbour an air of authenticity and if you squint past the fanny-packs and tour groups, you can almost imagine Nyhavn during its heyday.

2. Christianshavn

Christianshavn, Copenhagen

Colourful Christianshavn, with it’s bikes and boutiques

Christianshavn is a neighbourhood named for Christian IV, who you may remember from our visit to Rosenborg Castle. Intended to be a new merchant town, beside Christian’s new fortress, Christianshavn was incorporated into Copenhagen, not long after its creation.

Christianshavn, Copenhagen

Canals are the heart of Christianshavn and one of the best ways to explore the neighbourhood is by boat.

It’s a series of artificial islands, separated by canals. In many ways, it brings to mind the historic centre of Amsterdam, with plenty of boats and bikes, lining the canal-sides. Once working-class, these days, Christianshavn is a trendy neighbourhood filled with boutiques, hipster hangouts and up-and-coming restaurants.

3. Church of Our Saviour

Church of Our Saviour, Copenhagen

The distinct spiral staircase of the Church of Our Saviour, is visible around Copenhagen.

The Church of Our Saviour, Vor Frelsers Kirke in Danish, is one of the main attractions of Christianshavn. It was also one of the main sights I wanted to see in Copenhagen, since I first saw it on the Amazing Race, a few seasons ago. What makes the church stand out is the spiral staircase, leading to the top of the steeple. This in itself is relatively common (Andrew and I certainly have a habit of climbing church towers.) This staircase however, is on the outside of the spire. Although we didn’t have the time (or energy) to climb it, we could see the distinct steeple from points all over Christianshavn and I’ve vowed to return and see the view from the top someday.

4. Freetown Christiania

Graffiti truck near Freetown Christiania

This painted truck eludes to the artistic nature of the nearby Freetown Christiania

Christianshavn’s other main attraction is the Freetown of Christiania. This 34 hectare neighbourhood declared itself independent from Copenhagen in the 1970s. It’s been mired in controversy since. What started as an abandoned barracks, settled by squatters, grew into a thriving community of artists, anarchists and collectivists. These days, Christiania boasts a yoga centre, theatre, gym and its own power generation plant.

It’s not all yoga and organic gardens though. Christiania is famous for its open selling of hash and other forms of marijuana. Although the town’s own laws forbid hard drugs such as cocaine, meth, ecstasy and heroin, Christiania, like the rest of society, has issues keeping these drugs out.

Photos are not permitted in most parts of Christiania, to protect the anonymity of its residents, however the artistic spirit is alive and well in the streets surrounding the Freetown.

5. Christiansborg Palace

Christiansborg Castle at sunset

The tower of Christiansborg Palace at sunset

Sometimes when I’m exploring a city, with my camera, I photograph interesting architecture without knowing what it is, until I’m back home at my computer. Such was the case with this photo of the tower of Christiansborg Palace. I loved the silhouette the setting sun was creating, so I took the photo. Apparently the palace is home to the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office and the Danish Supreme Court. Parts of it are also still used for Royal functions as well. And here I thought it was just a pretty tower.

6. The Royal Danish Playhouse

The Royal Danish Playhouse, Copenhagen

The lovely, modern, Royal Danish Playhouse, Copenhagen

With my love of modern architecture and being on the waterfront, it’s no wonder I was drawn to the Royal Danish Playhouse. This beautiful glass building sits at the end of Nyhavn and is a popular spot for a drink by the water. We weren’t able to enjoy dining al fresco, because of a sudden downpour, but we did have a lovely lunch inside. As we ate, we were able to watch the boat traffic pass by.

By the time we finished our lunch, the skies had cleared. Walking behind the playhouse, we stumbled upon the first ever Copenhagen International sand sculpture championship. I could do a photo post on the incredible works of sand art alone. This, however, was one of my favourites.

Sand Sculpture Competition, Copenhagen

Incredible sand art at Copenhagen’s first sand sculpture competition.

7. The Little Mermaid Statue

The Little Mermaid Statue, Copenhagen

The Little Mermaid and her adoring fans.

By far, Copenhagen’s most visited tourist attraction is the Little Mermaid statue. Like Belgium’s own Manneken Pis, the mermaid is small, bronze and swarmed by international visitors. I can say, with all honesty, I didn’t go out of my way to see this homage to Hans Christian Andersen’s most famous character. However, I was fascinated by the flood of tourists (pictured above) all trying to be photographed with the famous mermaid.

8. Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park

Tivoli Gardens, Amusement Park

Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s famous Amusement Park

We didn’t have time to visit Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s famous amusement park. We did pass by its striking entrance gate several times though, and I couldn’t help but take a few quick photos. Tivoli is the fourth most-visited theme park in Europe, and, dating from 1843, is the second oldest in the world.

In addition to the gardens eluded to in its name, Tivoli contains dozens of rides, including several roller coasters, theatres, concert halls, an aquarium, and even its own hotel. Exploring Tivoli is definitely on our to-do list for our next visit to Copenhagen.

9. Amalienborg

Amalienborg, the Danish Royal Winter Palace

Amalienborg, the Danish Royal Winter Palace

Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish Royal family and consists of four identical buildings laid out around an octagonal courtyard. In the centre is a statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V. Originally, the four buildings housed four different noble families. After a fire destroyed Christiansborg Palace, in 1794, the Royal family bought Amalienborg and it became their primary residence.

Royal Life Guard at Amalienborg, Copenhagen

A Royal Life Guard on duty at Amalienborg

Amalienborg is guarded round the clock by the Royal Life Guards. The guards can be spotted at each morning, leaving Rosenborg Castle and marching through Copenhagen’s streets to Amalienborg.

10. Nyboder

Nyboder Naval Housing in Copenhagen

Nyboder, my favourite photo of Copenhagen.

It was love at first sight when I saw this bicycle leaning against the bright yellow row house in Nyboder. Originally built as a naval barracks, these long rows of golden houses still house navy, army and air force personnel, but are also open to civilian renters. The colour has become so iconic; it’s referred to, by Danes, as ‘Nyboder Yellow.’

I hope these photos give you a taste of the beautiful city of Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s a great city-break destination from Belgium and one I hope to return to soon.

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Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
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  1. Comment by Eurotrip Tips

    Eurotrip Tips April 16, 2013 at 11:01

    Wow, wow, wow! My photos of the city aren’t nearly as good! I love the last one, great colours. My favorite part of Copenhagen was the Tivoli Gardens at night, truly magical!

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison April 18, 2013 at 10:55

      Oh thank you so much! It was definitely a fun place to photograph. We really had a great time just walking around and exploring. Hopefully we can visit again soon!

  2. Comment by Asger Høeg

    Asger Høeg April 20, 2013 at 11:44

    Thank you so much. It is a very nice description of our city: Wonderful Copenhagen. Yours truly, Asger Hoeg

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison April 20, 2013 at 12:26

      We’re glad you enjoyed it Asger. We can’t wait to return to your beautiful city!

  3. Comment by Rob Danforth

    Rob Danforth May 7, 2013 at 07:06

    Amazing Allison! These photos are simply incredible. Please don’t stop, whatever you do! Sharing this with my travel photog fans on Twitter!

    • Comment by Alison


      Alison May 7, 2013 at 10:00

      Thanks Rob! Glad you enjoy them.

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