Situated on the eastern edge of Denmark across the water from Sweden, Copenhagen seems like a very small blip in the vast expanse of Scandinavia. But if we are talking design, Copenhagen is the heavyweight in this region, home to its fair share of “great” Danes that have paved the way for modern design around the world.
Among the icons of that region are Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton (just to name a few), but thanks to their contributions, we now have brands like Gubi, Muuto and Vita Copenhagen dominating the scene with New Nordic style. According to Nina Bruun, the project manager for Muuto, “It has a lot to do with our long history of architecture and design. I think we Copenhageners (and Danes) feel like we have a lot to live up to—it makes the wheels run.”
With that said, Copenhagen is constantly adding to its landscape with boutique hotels, bars and restaurants popping up in every neighborhood. Thanks to its relaxed and progressive residents, Copenhagen is a friendly city booming with creativity…making it the perfect destination for indulging your inner design nerd.
We have hand-picked our favorite spots in Copenhagen that embody the Scandinavian spirit, and will make any design enthusiast turn instant globetrotter.
Danes put a lot of stock in the way their interiors look. And there’s a reason for that—there are only a few temperate months when the weather permits outdoor activities. According to one Copenhagen resident, “We are very much inside in the winter months being hygge (“cozy” in Danish) and thus we put a lot of effort into making our homes look great.”
Lucky for us, this hygge mentality applies to tourist lodgings as well. And the options are plenty if you want to experience great design!
Stay in a Hostel or Boutique Hotel
Staying at this hostel will put you right in the center of the city’s design universe. It also helps that it was designed from a project headed by Philippe Starck. In these two pictures alone, you can see many iconic pieces in its well curated décor.
Or if you are feeling a little fancier, opt for a boutique hotel like the First Hotel Skt Petri, located in the Latin Quarter. The price tag is a little higher than a hostel, but you still get a great sense of interior design with a little more sophistication.
Live Like a Dane
To get the full experience, why not temporarily rent an apartment in Copenhagen? Not only will you be more comfortable, but chances are you will come across a design icon in the process. Case in point: a PH Lamp from Louis Poulsen casually hangs in this bright and airy apartment.
If you want to feel like a kid again, Tivoli Gardens is the perfect place. What’s even cooler about it is that it was envisioned by our favorite designer, Poul Henningsen, who created the PH Lamp (shown above). The gardens first opened in 1843, making it one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. They even have a special firework show that starts at 11:45 p.m. That might seem late…but it’s oh so fun!
This is the classic image of Copenhagen. Nyhavn isn’t exactly off the beaten path, but no matter where you wander on your design tour, you are bound to run in to this colorful row of houses. This 17th century waterfront is the perfect place to snap some pictures, and absorb some knowledge on color theory.
I’m a firm believer that anytime you visit a new city, you should go to at least one museum. For the design enthusiast, there happens to be one museum tailor-made for you.
Danish Museum of Art & Design
The outside may look like a neo-classical palace, but the inside stands in direct contrast. Exhibits celebrate contemporary design from all corners of the world, but of course there is a special corner reserved for Scandinavian giants of design. For example:
Go on a Free Walking Tour
To get a 360 degree view of the city without spending a dime, free walking tours meet every day at various historical landmarks throughout the city. Not only are these great for travelers on a budget, but they take you through parts of the city that a guide book might not tell you about.
Most tours end around the waterfront, and Papiroen is a spot you should definitely check out.
Danish for “Paper Island”, Papiroen is an artistic venture that took over the old paper storage buildings across from the city center. The industrial buildings were left completely empty, and now they are filled with an indoor street food marketplace and art exhibition space.
Of course if you are more of a spontaneous traveler, I guarantee just wandering around the streets will take you to the design destinations of your dreams.