Copenhagen is a city where everyone finds something to please them. It is fragrant with cardamon buns, coffee, and the sea. It is famed for its starred restaurants, minimalist design and architecture, as well as its museums with impressive art collections from around the world. It is also a city designed for people: it has bike paths, beaches right downtown, and network of picturesque canals. All this makes Copenhagen is special place, always ready to be rediscovered.
The Copenhagen Contemporary
The Copenhagen Contemporary program focuses on installations, performance and video art by the biggest names (James Turrell, Bruce Nauman, Anish Kapoor, Anselm Kiefer, Yoko Ono) and rising talents from the art world. You’ll see something new every time, because the CC has no permanent exhibitions. It is housed in 7,000 m2 of the old Burmeister&Wain welding shipyard hall in the industrial district of Refshaleøen on the island of Amager. Today it is also one of the most fashionable parts of town. It’s worth coming on the weekend, because the CC has workshops for children, and in the hall next door there’s an antique market, where you can hunt for some pearls of Scandinavian design. During the week, the island also boasts Reffen Copenhagen Street Food, where you can sample cuisine from all around the world in nearly fifty different restaurant containers.
Open after two years’ renovations, Designmuseum Denmark is the perfect example of how to join old and new. Its history goes back to the late nineteenth century, and it has been in its present location, in Denmark’s first public hospital building, since 1926. The Rococo structure makes the perfect backdrop for decorative art and crafts exhibits from around the world, from the Middle Ages to the present. The temporary exhibitions are a new idea for presenting design, addressing today’s most pressing subjects. After visiting the DD, make a point of popping in to the courtyard’s Grønnegården, the perfect place to kick back in the heart of the city.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
From downtown Copenhagen, a trip to Humlebæk in North Zealand, where the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is found, will take about forty minutes. The modernist architecture and its seaside location, set amid the foliage, will already make you want to come back. The Louisiana has one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Scandinavia (over 4,000 works), which is why the exhibition is always rotating. The only constants are the Alberto Giacometti room, the Asger Jorn room, and the Yayoi Kusama installation. The park is fascinating in itself, with its nearly sixty sculptures (including those by Max Ernst, Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Jean Miro, and Alicja Kwade). Apart from its permanent collection, the Louisiana draws viewers with its temporary exhibitions, presenting modern art and architecture. Take a break with lunch in the museum restaurant or pack it with you and have a picnic on the grass, with an incredible view of the Øresund strait.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Right in the heart of town, alongside the famous Tivoli amusement park, in an incredible Classicist building where brewer Carl Jacobsen set up a gallery in 1888, you’ll discover the Carlsberg collection. Apart from the impressive collection of medieval art, the nineteenth-century Danish and French painting and sculpture collection is remarkable (it includes Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and August Rodin). The Glyptotheque also holds brilliant temporary exhibitions. After taking in all the displays, stop in for a drink on the terrace overlooking the city and the Tivoli, take a breather with lunch in the fairy-tale winter garden on the ground floor. On Thursdays, the permanent exhibition is free.
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
The ARKEN building in Ishøj, in the south of Copenhagen, designed by architect Søren Robert Lund, is shaped like a ship. Here you’ll find works of art by Danish, Scandinavian, and international contemporary artists (including Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Elmgreen&Dragset, and Jeppe Hein), created after 1990. You’ll also find one of Europe’s greatest collections of British artist Damien Hirst and German artist Anselm Reyle, both on show in the permanent exhibition. Make sure to have a coffee in the museum cafe, which is “hanging” off the side of the building like a lifeboat, taking in the view of Køge Bay; then go for a stroll down the beach.
Here’s a place for those who love architecture and design. Ordrupgaard, just outside of Copenhagen itself (in Charlottenlund), is made up of a few structures that were built in 1918. In the main building and its later extensions, designed by Zaha Hadid and the famed Snøhetta architectural studio, you’ll find a dazzling collection of Danish and French works, from Romanticism to Realism and Impressionism. In Ordrupgaard Park there are dozens of sculptures and site-specific installations inspired by nature, most of which invite you to interact. On the Ordrupgaard grounds you’ll also find the home of Danish furniture designer and architect Finn Juhl. Designed and completed in 1942, the building is thought to be one of the most functional single-family homes in Denmark. It is a place where architecture, design, and art combine to make a harmonious whole.
Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst)
Mantegna, Nolde, Derain, Rubens, Matisse, Munch, Abramović—you’ll find all of these artists at the Danish National Gallery. SMK holds incredible collections of European art, from the Renaissance to the present day. You’ll also find one of the world’s finest collections of Matisse. The country’s largest collection of art, now made of 260,000 pieces, once belonged to the Danish monarchs, but in 1849, when Denmark became a democracy, it became national property. While at the Danish Gallery, you should also visit the cafe, designed by artist Dahn Vo; you’ll be delighted by the interiors, but also by their specially-made baked goods.
The Most Beautiful Architecture in Copenhagen
Apart from those mentioned above, Copenhagen has other places worth visiting for their architecture. CopenHill, a garbage incinerator and ski slope in one, will grab you with its futuristic shape and approach to sustainable development. For fans of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, I recommend taking a stroll or a bike ride to the Cirkelbroen bridge, whose form alludes to the city’s history of ships and sailing. The Copenhagen Opera House, in turn, has fourteen floors, five of which are underground! Designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen, it is presently one of the most expensive and modern opera houses in the world, and Danish Queen Margrethe II has her private balcony here. Further on, in the Bispebjerg district, you’ll find the Grundtvig Church, an architectural “must,” as it is a rare example of Expressionism in church architecture. And if you’re still hungry for more, make sure you head for the Danish Architecture Center (DAC). This is a place for researching architecture, city planning development, and design. The DAC holds fascinating exhibitions on Danish architecture and its history. You’ll also find the DAC Slide, a forty-meter, four-story spiral slide!
Commercial Art Galleries That Are Worth a Visit
If you happen to be in Copenhagen in late August, drop by the Enter Art Fair, featuring galleries from all over the world. At other times, don’t miss three commercial galleries. The most well known is V1 Gallery, Scandinavia’s first to show the world pioneers of street art (Banksy, Eine, Futura 2000, Shepard Fairey). V1 goes beyond the framework of the commercial gallery, working as a platform to show international artists working in any media, whose works address society and encourage dialogue. Gether Contemporary, in turn, mainly supports young artists with radical, unconventional approaches to art. Nor should you miss the Martin Asbæk Gallery; though it is most famed for its photography, it displays artists working in a variety of media from all over the world, both rising and already acknowledged.
Other places worth seeing: Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Nikolaj Kunsthall, Kunstforeningen GL STRAND, Thorvaldsens Museum.
Author: Kaja Werbanowska