Updated: May 11, 2020
Anyone that knows me or in fact reads this blog, knows I am a huge fan of Danish design, so it was only right that I took a little pilgrimage to Copenhagen to see for myself what makes this city a worldwide icon in design.
Here’s a whistle-stop guide for all you design lovers out there of Copenhagen.
SEE & DO
No visit to Copenhagen would be complete without taking a visit to Nyhavn, probably the most iconic area of the city. Nyhavn (translated in English to 'New Harbour) was constructed in the 17th Century as the trading port to the city, though its reputation in those days wasn’t as glossy as it is today. It was a haven for boozy sailors, raucous pubs and ladies of the night. Thankfully, today it is lined with beautiful restaurants and bars situated within the 17th Century brightly coloured town houses.
Christiansborg Palace contains the Danish Parliament, The Supreme Court and the Ministry of State alongside being a palace used by the Royal Family. The palace has changed throughout the centuries due to two significant fires that destroyed the original palace. The main part of the building that stands today was designed in a neo-baroque style completed in 1928.
If you visit, you have to go to the 'Royal Reception Rooms' which are frequently used by the Danish Royal family. These grand rooms feature art work and tapestries rescued from the previous two palaces and display pieces from famous Danish artists.
Housed within the first public hospital building in Denmark, the Designmuseum Danmark is one of Copenhagen’s finest rococo buildings. The building was renovated and adapted by the Danish architect and furniture designer, Kaare Klint who is commonly known as the father of modern Danish furniture design.
The museum’s main aim is to “communicate the idea of quality within design” and my favourite exhibit has to be ‘The Danish Chair – An International Affair’
This permanent exhibit tells the story of how Danish design became an international brand whilst explaining how important and influential the 'chair' is to interior design.
The chair is the piece of furniture that is closest to human beings. You can give it the personal touch. Hans J. Wegner
Each iconic chair is displayed like a piece of art in a framed box created by industrial designer Boris Berlin.
NATIONAL AQUARIUM DENMARK
An architectural landmark, the Den Blå Planet, is an impressive sight to see, inspired by a whirlpool and surrounded completely by water, you enter through the “vortex” of the building into the curved lobby area.
As Northern Europe’s largest aquarium it features 53 aquariums and installations, each stunningly impressive to the eye and designed by Danish architects 3XN.
Split into five main sections, the gigantic aquarium contains over seven million litres of water and is home to stingrays, hammerhead sharks and even Californian sea lions.
LOUISIANA MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
A short train journey from the centre of Copenhagen brings you to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. Originally a villa style home which was named after all three of the owners wives (yes, three wives were all called Louise) and then converted into an art museum by Knud W. Jensen in 1958.
Along with housing a wide range of contemporary and modern art pieces by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Pablo Picasso, the architecture and landscaping is a beautiful example of mid-century modern design at its best.
Architects Vilhelm Wohlert and Jørgen Bo, were approached to construct the new building for the museum back in the 1950’s. After spending months walking around the landscape of the property, which benefits from open views of the sea, they decided to construct three separate buildings connected by glass corridors, embracing the stunning setting and bringing the outdoors, indoors.
Situated north of Copenhagen in the pretty town of Hillerød is the 17th Century Frederiksborg Palace. Built in the late 1600’s in a Dutch Renaissance style, this impressive fairy-tale like castle stands proudly amongst the tiny chocolate box town beneath it.
Within the castle is 'The Museum of National History' which depicts the history of Denmark through am impressive collection of portraits, beautiful tapestries, furniture and decorative arts.
The huge high-end design store, Illums Bolighus, located on the main bustling shopping street of Amagertorv is right in the heart of Copenhagen. It has to be one of my all time favourite stores in the world. Described as a modern art museum in shop form, the beautiful department store is jammed packed with Danish and Scandinavian style furniture, home-ware, ceramics, lighting and much more.
Originally founded in 1925 under the name BO, it was revolutionary in store design by being the first to create “arranged and furnished interiors, where textiles, appointments, and furniture all interacted as art”
I spent hours in this store, not only is the selection of brands on sale mammoth, but the building itself is an understated elegant affair, celebrating great 1960’s Danish architecture.
So you can’t come to Denmark without being able to have the opportunity to purchase authentic vintage designer furniture, can you?
KLASSIK Moderne Møbelkunst in the Bredgade 3 area of the city, stocks a vast array of furniture from iconic Danish designers such as Poul Kjærholm, Arne Jacobsen and Hans J. Wegner. The store has been the leading used classic Danish furniture store in Denmark for over 20 years, with its store located just a short walk from the Amalienborg Palace.
Another long time favourite of mine is the Danish brand, HAY. Their flagship store, the 'HAY House' is located on the pedestrianised shopping street of Strøget in central Copenhagen.
Founded in 2002 with its ambition of “creating contemporary furniture with an eye for modern living” HAY has become a world-wide brand.
Although they have stockists around the world through other outlets, their stand alone store in Copenhagen is incredible, it showcases the largest selection of their products I have ever seen.
The building itself was as beautiful as the products on sale. Situated on the second floor of a grand building it was like going into a private apartment home. Huge glass windows looking onto the square below and a beautiful wooden staircase provided the focal point to the main room.
So much so, I would love it as my Danish home, complete with the HAY furniture.
Housed within the first department store building in Copenhagen, built in 1916, GUBI covers 400 sq mt of this beautiful ornate property.
Split over two floors and connected with the original spiral grand staircase at its heart, the Møntergade street store showcases the company’s original products. Typically Danish in design, minimalist and modern, GUBI add colour to their designs which is a hallmark to their look.
If the GUBI store isn’t enough to tickle your taste buds, the GUBI Showroom in Frihavnen is a 2000 sq mt design haven exhibiting all their latest offerings, which I might add can be seen in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.
No visit to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to Normann Copenhagen, another personal favourite of mine which unfortunately up until now, I had only been able to find in a small selection of stockists around the globe.
Here in Copenhagen however, their flagship store in the Ø