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10 secret spots in Copenhagen
– just because 37 would seem exaggerated
’10 secret spots in Copenhagen’ is a response to this question I stumpled upon on Quora.com: What are some of Copenhagen’s best kept secrets?
Great question, so I sat down and started answering and just couldn’t stop.
The result is this never ending list and map as an answer and a resource for anyone to use. The list and very short descriptions are personal but don’t have an architectural focus. However I think this kind of unknown, peculiar places make up a part of the mentality of a city anyway.
Beautiful or horrible, but unexpected.
Full map (you may turn off other map layers in the top right menu)
Only rarely I come upon most of these places on my tours, because only few are architectural sites par se.
The order is completely random, as they came to my mind, so there’s no priority. Which would also make no sense, because the places are so different.
Although a lot longer than I sat out for, I’m pretty sure it’s not at all comprehensive. So I hope fellow Copenhagen explorers will leave a comment to supplement the list, and I’ll try and update accordingly. The criterion is broad but accessibility by bike is almost a must.
- A-House (Stay apartment hotel) green rooftop
- A-huset features a huge, landscaped green rooftop, that is usually accessible if you politely ask in the reception of Stay Hotel. A great place for a picnic on a not too windy day. Great view of the harbour.
- In this hard to find spot between Holmen (former navy area) and Refshaleøen (former shipyard), you’ll find a very informal settlement of houseboats in a lush, green corner.
- Crypt under the Cathedral
- The historic item on the list. Not mentioning the interesting aspects of the (present) church, it’s a bit of a spooky find to descend the spiraling stairs behind the big Jesus (by Thorvaldsen). You’ll find the brick foundation of the former church that burned down as a result of the English assault in 1807. A restroom, a handful of old tombstones and surely a few ghosts. You might need to ask for access or go through the museum two levels up.
- Skater park in Fælledparken
- In a corner of the big, lush park North of the central city, you can find the biggest (it was at least) skateboard and rollerskate facility in Northern Europe, street lines, bowl, transfers, halfpipe, stairs handrails – the works for beginners and champions! Go for it or spend some time watching true artistry.
- Take a look also at the neighboring water themed playground, mostly for smaller kids.
- Allotment garden H/F Strandlyst – green spot on the brink of the old moats
- Go here to sit and enjoy a picnic (another picnic, I know…). Surprisingle quiet and lush and beautiful. Go through the oldest allotment gardens in Denmark and think about the last people that was executed on the other side of the water. ‘Norddyssen’ was where nazi supporters were executed by shooting as late as 1950 (a notorious interrogator and leader of a Gestapo anti-resistance unit Ib Birkedal Hansen as the last one executed in Denmark).
- This Danish book about Ib Birkedal Hansen has my recommendations: https://oevig.net/birkedal-a-torturer-and-his-mistresses/
- Green spot in Østre Anlæg
- A super hidden bench, another green and lush place, not so much for a picnic, just a little hideout.
- Candy Factory (Bolsjefabrikken)
- Colorful, trashy, impressive grafitti, hippie atmosphere, alternative style and alternative events. Very photographable.
- City hospital courtyards
- Old hospital with spooky underground tunnels and a church (roofed by the dome). Now a part of Copenhagen university, appropriately for medical studies. Beautiful green court yards between beautiful brick buildings.
- ‘The Crew’ (Sjakket)
- Social club with activities aimed at the local immigrant community. Old industrial workshop redesigned by BIG to a cool place, usually open during workdays.
- ‘City garden’ (Byhaven)
- Charming informal gardens and plant boxes by a local activist community, only later accepted by the city. Right at the green path (Den Grønne Sti), a brilliant bike connection, that you should use to get there.
- ‘Under the Arch’ (Under Buen)
- Was a sad parking space in the shadow of a road flyover / overpass until locals started claiming the place for cultural events. Houses many diverse events, biggest I think is Bass Under he Arch, a recurring electronic music event.
- https://www.facebook.com/liv.under.buen (Danish)
- https://www.facebook.com/basunderbuen (Danish)
- ‘Hostrups Garden’ (Hostrups Have)
- Historically groundbreaking apartment complex with a small park for its residents, but accessible for the public.
- ‘The Shooting Range’ (Skydebanen)
- A former shooting range (surprise) with a strange castle style wall built as a bullet stop when the city formed at the end of the range. Now the wall shields a green park with a big playground from the surrounding streets.
- Chinese town or The Yellow Town (Kineserbyen)
- A small idyllic village surrounded by railway tracks and train garages and workshops. Originally built for the workers at DSB, The Danish Railways. Well hidden and surprising find.
- A hard to find tunnel under a lot of railway tracks, connecting Enghavevej with The Yellow Town. A bit creepy.
- GAME Streetmekka
- Old firestation garages converted to a super cool street sports and street culture center. Lots of activities going on. Next to a big indoor skate hall.
- ‘The Wave Field’ underwater urban farming (Bølgemarken Maritime Nyttehaver)
- Only a small poster reveals the underwater farming and harvesting of seaweed, oisters and blue muscles under ‘Kalvebod Waves’. Across from the remarkable harbour bath in the central harbour of Copenhagen. A super cool urban farming project.
- Carlsberg Bridge (Carlsbergbroen)
- Beautiful tall bike and pedestrian bridge connecting Carlsberg and the Valby neighborhood with a large cemetary over railway tracks and roads. Originally build for the executives of the Carlsberg brewery to connect with their villas on the other side.
- The Boat Habour (Bådehavnen)
- An old fishing harbour basin that has slowly evolved into an informal settlement. Now under ‘normalisation’.
- The Water Lock (Slusen)
- Built around 1900 to control the currents in the central harbour, the lock now is used as a bike connection and a fishing place. Behind the old the ‘lock operator house’ there is a small corner of houseboats.
- The runway grill (Flyvergrillen)
- A classic Danish burger joint that attracts a lot of plane spotters as it is right next to the runway of Copenhagen Airport. Fathers on a small outing with their kids are found there too. A local legend.
- Maritime Youth Club (Det Maritime Hus)
- Accommodating two very different functions: a sailing club and a youth centre, the wooden deck cover a polluted soil and the undulating roof serves to expand the outdoor space. An it looks incredibly cool. Designed by Plot (Bjarke Ingels and Julien de Smedt in before they split into BIG and JDS Architects).
- Kastrup Søbad
- Also an architectural piece, but just as much a beautiful sculpture against the horizon (or actually Sweden, but horizon sounds better). Designed by White Architects.
- Sportscenter looking… a little weird from outside but features great spaces inside – and you can use the restroom. A part of a social investment to accommodate (also) immigrants in the area. Designed by Dorte Mandrup.
- ‘Template roof’ (Skabelonloftet) / Halvandet / Blocs & Walls
- Old industrial shipyard gradually taken over by small creative businesses. Total bonus if you walk up the extreme staircase and the door is open. Small offices within the roof construction, where forms (templates?) were engineered for the construction of big container ships.
- Blocs & Walls, shipyard construction hall housing the biggest (I think) climbing wall in Europe. Look inside!
- Halvandet café, part beach club, part industrial style party club. Closed in the winter.
- Another industrial romantic harbour place, very photographable. The Paustian furniture exhibition is here, one of the too few buildings actually realised in Denmark by Jørn Utzon.
- Parking house
- The first parking roof in Denmark in a charming early modern style. Spectacular view if you are allowed to go up without actually parking there. Guards are controlling access to the parking spaces.
- Old botanical garden behind Charlottenborg
- Picturesque tight and lush oasis where sculptor students are working from the Royal Academy of Arts, housed in the old palace, Charlottenborg. Often open for exhibitions, otherwise try the gate on the backside (Heibergsgade).
- Balloon Park (Ballonparken)
- Odd little informal community housed in former military barracks. It was originally an artillery range, and the big wooden hall was a hangar, housing observation balloons related to the artillery, hence the name. Now a riding hall, but frequently closed because it’s almost collapsing.
- Green roof + bike ascend + strange platforms with a view
- Perhaps the biggest green roof in Europe roofing storage spaces of the National archive of Denmark. Go here via the ‘city mile’ (SLA landscape architects), the serpentine bike lane between the SEB bank office buildings (Lundgaard & Tranberg architects). Go past the playground of the Tivoli Hotel to the very end where you’ll have a terrific view of the railway approaching the main station, to the meat packing district, and to the waterfront. Weird place until it sometime in the future will connect to Dybbølsbro bridge and bike connections there.
- Metropolis water walkway
- Surprising narrow walkway hovering closely over normal water level. Bike on your own risk, since there is no fence.
- Green courtyard
- One of many green courtyards on Nørrebro with a big playground and benches. Private but accessible for all from Wesselsgade or Blågårdsgade.
- Skt. Petri passage
- Row of small courtyards forming a narrow passage.
- Guldbergsgade school playground
- School playground open for public use in evenings and weekends. The school building itself is typical for the time when public schools was still prestige projects for the young democratic state.
- Passage between Købmagergade and Pilestræde
- Row of small courtyards forming a narrow passage in an unnoticed place in the historic centre.
- Ørestad school
- The stairway on the side of building reaches a small playground and outside area on the roof, open for the public. Also connecting to the outside activity space of the high school on the rear side.
- Sundholm social activity centre
- Old compulsory labor institution for criminals, now a social hostelry for homeless. Take a tour in the area that features new street spaces and colorful street lamps and more.
- ‘Tutten’ at ‘Mellemfortet’ (Tutten på Mellemfortet)
- Super authentic 1970s style boat club house, serving lunch dishes and big Danish apple cake with lots of cream on top. A personal favorite!