Danish design, a style characterized by its simplicity, excellent craftsmanship, and focus on function, has become known around the world for its seamless blend of tradition with contemporary aesthetics.
There’s no better place to dive into this important element of Scandinavian culture than the Danish capital city, Copenhagen. The city’s design ethos influences everything, from modern hotels to acclaimed restaurants and their New Nordic cuisine.
Icons like Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Børge Mogensen helped turn a Scandinavian trend into a global phenomenon known as ‘Danish Modern’. These designers are still celebrated, but today a new breed of designers are making their own statements on the streets of Copenhagen.
The same is true in the architecture world, as the curtain comes down on the city’s year in the spotlight as UNESCO World Capital of Architecture.
Explore the impressive architecture on foot, or spend your time hunting for a unique Danish souvenir crafted by emerging talent. However you choose to spend your time, it’s best to start a designed-themed tour of Copenhagen by visiting the museums, which will give context to what you see around the city.
Design Museum of Denmark
Now reopened following a comprehensive refurbishment, the Design Museum tells the story of Danish design better than ever before. A pivotal destination for design enthusiasts since 1926, the museum is still housed in the original 18th-century Rococo building, and hosts a series of temporary exhibitions.
Open throughout 2024, ‘The Future is Present’ explores society’s future diversity and community design, questioning human values and social behavior. It addresses designers’ radical, empathetic approaches to global challenges like the climate crisis, refugee flows, surveillance, and pandemics, encouraging reflection. While not cheap, the museum’s gift shop is a good first port of call for those looking for design-focused souvenirs.
While not a museum, iconic amusement park Tivoli Gardens is a must-visit destination on a design-focused itinerary in Copenhagen. This nearly 200-year-old pleasure gardens features restaurants, boutiques and amusement park rides amid vibrant flower displays and water features.
Dramatic architectural highlights include the striking Japanese pagoda (which looks even better when lit in the evenings), concert hall, glass hall theater, and one of the world’s oldest rollercoasters.
Design Stores In Copenhagen
Historic stores offering products with a timeless aesthetic, showrooms of world-leading furniture brands, and small boutiques of up-and-coming designers are the highlights of any shopping trip in Copenhagen. Many of the best are clustered on or around the street Strøget.
The flagship store of Birger Christensen stocks furs and fashion from the world’s leading brands, while nearby Royal Copenhagen is well known for continually reinventing its handmade and hand-painted blue and white porcelain.
For homewares, H. Skjalm P. on Nikolaj Plads, is a showroom that’s been visited by locals for generations. The 70-year-old store has become a well-regarded international design outlet offering high-quality interior design products and a range of kitchen and dining utensils. Next door, local fashion designer Jan Machenhauer’s boutique presents a Danish spin on popular international styles.
Be sure to wander down the street Bredgade, a little farther northeast and home to the Design Museum. Here you’ll find impressive mansions, boutiques of emerging furniture designers, and art galleries.
Farther north, Studio Oliver Gustav, located in a 1920s museum building, feels more like an exhibition than a furniture store, full of curious modern art pieces and fascinating antiques. Browse the web shop in advance to see if it’s worth the trip.
Modern Danish Architecture
Opened earlier this year, the Danish Architecture Center will be the legacy of Copenhagen’s year in the architectural spotlight. Explore the story of Danish architecture old and new at the center starting with the permanent exhibition So Danish.
The center runs guided tours of Ørestad, an emerging neighborhood with some of the most striking modern architecture in Denmark. With a focus on sustainable design and community values, the tour encompasses new apartments, daycare centers, schools, and an arena.
If you’re not in the city when the tours run, it’s easy enough to walk around the neighborhood on your own. Highlights include residential complex 8 House from renowned architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
Where To Stay In Copenhagen
To complete your design-themed trip, there are several accommodations worth considering. Set in the trendy Latin Quarter, Hotel SP34 offers light rooms with simple decor and thoughtful furniture.
Other accommodations worth a look include Hotel Sanders, spread over three 19th-century townhouses in a historic central location, and the Radisson Collection Royal Hotel, originally designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1960 and recently renovated by local design firm Space Copenhagen.