10 must-know design classics in Copenhagen
You’re a true design lover and off to Copenhagen to explore the Danes’ legendary take on the subject. You’ve heard about the Danes’ ability to effortl...
No matter your level of design knowledge, you’re bound to run into Danish design power in every part of Copenhagen. Unmissable examples and experiences to look out for on a design-fuelled city break – from the hot and iconic stuff to the must-sees, and the locals-only favourites.
Arriving by air at Copenhagen Airport, start by taking a comfy seat in Danish architect Arne Jacobsen’s iconic Series 7 chairs in area C (long-haul arrivals) and walking through the airport’s myriad of attractive eateries and shops, you’re likely to be drawn to an impressive selection of Danish Designer items even before hitting the baggage claim.
The Danish Architecture Center (DAC) is another local star attraction pertinent for everyone who wants to experience and understand more about how architecture and design intertwine and create the framework for our lives. DAC offers a wealth of exciting exhibitions, a great design shop and guided tours around the city. It is situated in the heart of Copenhagen by the inner harbour in the spectacular building BLOX, which also functions as a local and international gathering point for people and businesses particularly engaged in architecture, design, and sustainable urban development.
Designmuseum Danmark is a must-visit for any design lover in town and has reopened this June after a major makeover. Through permanent and special exhibitions, it offers a brilliant introduction to design destination Denmark and is a key knowledge hub for Danish and international industrial, furniture, and crafts design. The venue is housed in one of Copenhagen’s finest rococo buildings, the former Royal Frederik’s Hospital, and at the end of the exclusive Bredgade street, housing flagship stores and showrooms of some of Denmark’s most famous furniture design brands, auction houses, and art galleries. In the 1920s, the building's transformation into a design museum was headed by Danish architects Ivar Bentsen and Kaare Klint. The latter put a firm mark on it and choose everything from its marble floors to the wall colours, created its wooden exhibition stands, its iconic ‘fruit’ lamps, etc. - all of which are carefully preserved in the new version of the museum.
Off the beaten track in Copenhagen’s north-western city district Bispebjerg, lies the sublime architectural marvel Grundtvigskirken, one of the most distinctive buildings in the city with a soaring facade that evokes the shape of a church organ. The church was designed and constructed by Danish architect P. W. Jensen Klint in honour of N.F.S Grundtvig, a recognized 19th-century Danish philosopher, poet, historian, and reformist. It took 19 years to build, everything was created by hand, and every detail was overseen by the architect who mixed Danish simplicity with gothic drama. When he died in 1930 his son, Kaare Klint, the originator of Danish Modern, took over the church’s completion and designed his now-famous Kirkestolen (a church chair made of beech wood with a wickerwork seat) and many other interior objects. Kaare Klint’s own son, Esben Klint, helped complete the church which was inaugurated in 1940.
From museums and attractions to urban design, the bicycle bridge, nicknamed The Bicycle Snake and created by Dissing & Weitling (Arne Jacobsen’s past design studio), is a great example of why Copenhagen also belongs to one of the world’s best bicycle cities. Its slender design, and the experience it offers to cyclists, stand out as a perfect contrast to the buildings and concrete it passes. And bringing together form and function in classic Danish style, the bridge makes it easier and faster to get around.
Probably the most stunning bridge in Copenhagen, The Circle Bridge, is another of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s creations. The bridge recalls the shape of ships from years gone by, and with its five circles, it encourages bicycles and pedestrians to reduce speed and take a small break to enjoy the views of The Black Diamond (the Royal Danish Library) on the other side of the canal, the latter of which also features unique design items made in Denmark, old and new.
Situated on the Copenhagen waterfront and just opposite Amalienborg Castle (residence of the Danish Royal Family), The Opera House is designed by Henning Larsen Architects. With its 14 floors, of which 5 are below ground, and a roof equivalent to the size of three full-size football fields, the opera is an impressive landmark and a perfect example of intertwined Danish design and architecture. Not to be missed is the opera foyer with three giant light installations encompassing 8000 mirrors and 300 lamps and, yet again, designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
A visit to Tivoli Gardens can be many things depending on your interests, but without a doubt, it is an important destination for design lovers too. Here, the iconic Poul Henningsen acted as Head Architect in the 1940s and strolling through Tivoli today, you’ll find some fine examples of the heritage he left behind, including the little fountains in the Parterre Garden and the unique spiral lamps by the lake. He also created the Glass Hall Theatre when rebuilt after a fire in 1944. Spending time at Tivoli at night, you’ll notice the light installation Little Sun Light Swarm, by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson hovering mesmerizingly in the trees along Tivoli Lake. Pass the Glass Hall Theatre and the iconic Nimb building and perhaps bring home a little Tivoli magic in the shape of a tiny lighthouse resembling Tivoli’s main entrance by Danish ceramics brand Kähler.
Copenhagen is divided into different, but equally loveable neighbourhoods - each with its own distinct vibes and looks. Dive into some of the city’s local hoods with a design angle, and geek out or get inspired below.
Its wide-ranging diversity, strong community spirit, and myriad of small independent stores, are all great clues as to why Time Out Magazine named Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district the coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2021.
Nørrebro is a great hunting spot for scouting design and vintage shops, but just as perfect for grabbing lunch, visiting the local brewery, or just hanging out with the locals. Start by strolling down the street Jægersborggade, a small cobblestoned street that in recent times has transformed from trashy to super trendy. Inhale the local atmosphere and grab a coffee at Coffee Collective, and visit ceramist Inge Vincents studio to admire her signature ultra-thin white porcelain homeware. Learn about circular design at A Circular Design Studio while marvelling at their colourful trays in 100 percent recycled plastic, and visit the designers at Designkollektivet a bit further down the street. In Stefansgade, connecting to Jægersborggade, lies another design collective, Knast, with locally produced ceramics, glassware, furniture, and print.
Also worth checking out is LLLP by Nicholas Rose on nearby Fælledvej and known for creating timeless and versatile furniture in accordance with classic Danish design tradition - functionality, aesthetics, and simplicity. And on Nørrebrogade, at Nova Møbler, the majority of the wooden and steel furniture is locally produced and displayed along with other Danish and international design brands.
While in the area, consider also exploring Scandinavia’s largest open-air art gallery in the Nordvest area, consisting of 16 huge state-of-the-art graffitis by Danish and international artists and to be found on the buildings at Mønten, Rentemestervej, Mesterstien, Sokkelundvej, and Smedetoften. It is also where to explore great design by Lucie Kaas and for a quick break to take in the public Library building created by COBE and Transform.
Check out Claydies and other ceramic workshops on Bygmestervej and Design by Us and Reflections Copenhagen also on Rentemestervej. The latter is a great hotspot for Danish design on tap. Finish off with a visit to Mater Design on Glentevej for some sustainable furniture design with an international appeal before you take in Superkilen, the acclaimed urban open space, connecting the Nordvest with other parts of Nørrebro.
To go all in on Danish design from the classic Danish Modern period, the inner-city area Frederiksstaden is bound to make you gasp with excitement. This is where to visit countless Danish furniture flagship stores focused on, among others, iconic mid-century furniture as well as the Designmuseum Denmark.
Streets not to be missed include Bredgade with its high-quality antique stores, auction houses, art galleries, and Danish Modern furniture shops – all of which happen to be located a stone’s throw from the historic square Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn, the city’s scenic 17-century canal district. Visit, for instance, Klassik one of the world’s leading stores within refurbished Danish vintage furniture classics from the 20th century, or further down the street, the flagship stores of Carl Hansen & Søn, Montana Furniture, Wendelbo, Brdr. Krüger, ATBO, and Frama Studio.
On Store Kongensgade, running in parallel to Bredgade also lies the store of one of the Danish mid-century pioneers within democratic design; FDB Møbler. Founded in 1942 under the Danish Consumers' Co-operative Society, and with renowned designer and architect Børge Mogensen heading up the studio, FDB embodied the idea of democratic, well-made, everyday furniture with the functional refinement that encapsulates the era. FDB closed its factory in 1980, but in 2013 the Danish Coop re-launched FDB Møbler and started re-releasing some of the most iconic and beloved products in the history of Danish design. Today, FDB Møbler also creates new furniture inspired by the old collections.
If you’re in another part of the inner city, on Frederiksborggade at Nørreport, the Stilleben flagship store with its carefully curated mix of handmade Danish ceramics and glassware, one of a kind-products, textiles, furniture and prints – all handpicked by the founders, is also worth a visit.
Copenhagen’s multi-ethnic city district Vesterbro is brimming with life – and design. Once the red-light district of Copenhagen, but today one of its coolest and most authentic neighbourhoods - mixing family living with hip nightlife, fashion boutiques, sex shops, and old-school gritty vibes - this is where to explore design shops and more.
A Door in Istedgade embraces and celebrates slow living and is where to find a collection of beautiful quality products made to last and thoughtfully crafted by skilled local artists and designers. The same street is also home to curated collections of furniture, interiors & ceramics from Denmark and the world beyond at Dansk made for rooms.
Nordic Nesting on Vesterbrogade is another design store offering a large selection of Danish and Scandinavian design classics as well as newer design and applied art; from Kay Bojesen’s iconic wooden animals to gorgeous contemporary Nordic posters, and more. Contemporary design hub Designer Zoo, also on Vesterbrogade, is another gem for anyone with a penchant for Danish design furniture, jewellery, and ceramics, and a great place to experience the designers at work, as the space doubles as open workshops too.
Not too far off, lies the lovely shop DORA on Værnedamsvej, an interior and design store specializing in carefully selected products from the international design scene as well as beautiful vintage goods. Værnedamsvej is a small, busy shopping street connecting the city districts of Vesterbro and Frederiksberg.
As is Tullinsgade, which is home to both Thorup Copenhagen, a Danish design studio specializing in contemporary furniture, lighting, and objects that emphasize longevity and utility as well as the Central Hotel – a one-room boutique design hotel with beautifully handcrafted details that’ll make even the pickiest design aficionado feel at home.
Frederiksberg is sophisticated, green and delicious – also when it comes to design. The well-groomed city district has its own municipality and is best known for its trademark tree-lined boulevards, green spaces and places, sidewalk cafés, gourmet spots, and shopping.
A short walk on will take you to the lovely Bistro PanPan at the 5-starred Copenhagen Zoo on Roskildevej. Here, Danish architects BIG created a stupendous house for the Zoo’s two Pandas (Norman Foster also created the Zoo’s Elephant House) - in combination with an amazing eatery. The venue’s interior is designed with custom joinery, a bespoke two-tone chair and almost hovering lighting.
The nearby Retro & Livsstil boutique on Hospitalsvej boasts hand-picked vintage furniture from all over Europe in high quality, whilst the Royal Copenhagen Factory Outlet on Søndre Fasanvej is where to rummage through for some high-quality 2nd-grade porcelain by the distinguished Danish brand Royal Copenhagen, renowned for its exclusive and immaculate design all of which is made and painted entirely by hand.
Nicolaj Bo in the district’s busy shopping street Gl. Kongevej on the other hand creates meticulous, function-oriented furniture designs and kitchens using honest craftsmanship and quality-conscious materials that last for many decades. And TEXTUR on Godthåbsvej offers a sustainable design store, carefully selected clothing designs, accessories, designer goods and unique vintage finds.
Carlsberg Byen is a rapidly developing new district in the old area of the world-famous Carlsberg Breweries. It is located on the outskirts of Vesterbro, Valby, and Frederiksberg, and definitely worth visiting from a design perspective too.
Hotel Ottilia is a boutique hotel acclaimed for its gentle conversion of parts of the iconic Carlsberg brewery buildings into a 4+ star deluxe hotel. Visit if you’re keen to learn more about how original elements and brewery history can be successfully combined with chic new interior and Danish design.
The nearby Japanese eatery Kōnā with an izakaya, a cocktail bar, and an omakase bar offers a striking interior designed by Danish architects and designers Archival Studies, whilst the new store concept Encoded, owned and operated by Trine Bøttger and Lone Husted, among other things houses a Danish-designed collection produced abroad and with sustainability at the core.
The classy Østerbro district is another treasure trove when it comes to great experiences, Danish design included.
Kartoteket in nearby Classensgade is where to experience high quality Danish design stationery, before you move on to Østerbrogade and e.g., men’s store Goods. Goods was rated the world’s best shop by Monocle a few years ago and its intimate shop interior is created by the Scandinavian interior-design firm OEO.
Heading towards the Copenhagen harbourfront and perhaps the adjacent Nordhavn district, consider a pit stop at Studio Oliver Gustav where the focus is on aesthetic development, art, interior and exterior design and the studio is located in a beautiful historical Museum Building on Kastelsvej. Finish off on Indiakaj at the showroom of Skagerak where one can ooze around the best of Danish high-quality garden furniture and other items that ages with grace and lasts for generations.
Impressive architecture, top-notch eating, and inventive design solutions are just part of what you’ll experience in the city’s brand-new urban area Nordhavn. Design enthusiast or not, you’re thus bound to stumble across some of the following places.
Visit HANDVÄRK representing Danish furniture & Design by Emil Thorup. With Nordic precision, Handvärk works with genuine marble, solid brass, and leather to embody the simplicity and applicability of their design.
Check out The Audo – an exciting hybrid space operating as a boutique hotel, restaurant, café, concept store, material library, work, and event space located in Copenhagen’s blooming industrial and residential district, Nordhavn. With only 10 refined suites the hotel is a real luxurious experience. The Audo also functions as the headquarter of Danish furniture brand MENU, and so it is behind the interior in both its rooms and all other spaces of the property too. Its concept shop sells all objects found throughout the property for sale, whether it be the Aiayu robes, Frama bath products or the ceramic pot on your coffee table.
The GUBI showroom on Orientkaj is another design hub in Nordhavn. GUBI is renowned for, among others, designing and developing daring and elegant furniture, lighting, and interior objects that resonate across the globe and are a must-see for any design enthusiast. Bonus tip: While there, enjoy the views of the impressive Copenhagen International School built by esteemed Danish architect C.F. Møller.
And finally, in another part of town, truly unique old-school craftsmanship - designed by new designers - is on display at A. Petersen on Kløvermarken, some 3km from the city centre and close to Copenhagen Airport. Here, furniture is crafted with the intention to renew the Danish design tradition and carry it into the 21st century. The company’s vision is to make furniture that can last a lifetime and longer, and it is made through love of the craft and developed in cooperation with the best designers and craftspeople. A. Petersen works with well-established living designers such as Chris L. Halstrøm and Line Depping, to name a few, and also operates as a workshop for craftsmen where visitors are most welcome to swing by and see the designers in action.