Why you shouldn’t underestimate Copenhagen’s art and design scene

photo_by: Anders Sune Berg

In Copenhagen, creativity is everywhere. From the crafty shops and galleries filling the local streets, to the inviting urban space, to the modern and historic masterpieces decorating the grand halls of the city’s magnificent museums.

The many creatives of Copenhagen never cease to amaze with their multitude of original and well-designed solutions making the city an even more exciting and inspiring place to live and visit.

Functionality and aesthetics are two of the main ingredients in the DNA of Danish Design both traditionally and today – whether it is seen in furniture, clothing or new city squares. On the art scene, new, cool exhibition spaces are popping up across the city showing that art is not just something to be seen in the wide halls of traditional museums.

photo:Kira Brandt

Standing on the shoulders of modernist masters

Denmark has quite a legacy when it some to design. In the 20th century, Danish design became synonymous with the functional classic made by the likes of Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl and Kaare Klint.

If you are looking to bring back a bit of Copenhagen’s design heritage, passionate Copenhageners are doing their best to preserve and present the classic design in shops like KLASSIK COPENHAGEN, while the traditional design companies like Fredericia Furniture are showing the classic designs all the love they deserve. Till this day, the modernist heritage is shining through the works of Copenhagen’s many designers and craftsmen who continue to create sleek, minimal and functional designs that add to the much-adored Scandinavian design aesthetic.

A new generation of artists and designers

In the side streets of neighbourhoods like Nørrebro and Vesterbro, little design shops are filled with new and innovative takes on both the rare curiosities and the things we use every single day. This is where you go when you want to be inspired and find those quirky objects that are miles ahead of traditional souvenirs when it comes to adding soul and personality. Shop handcrafted jewellery at Handcraftedcph, ceramics at Studio Arhoj and tailormade hats from Wilgart.

The ceramics at Studio Arhøj beautifully combine the Scandinavian and Japanese design aesthetics and craftsmanship. photo:Thomas Høyrup Christensen

Shopping in Copenhagen is not just about the talented craftsmen and designers, but also about the locals who curate immaculate shops and showrooms making the shopping experience so much more special. Pop by the stylish menswear shop Goods on Østerbrogade which Monocle recently ranked as one of the 100 best stores in the world or visit YUME in the neighbourhood Nordhavn where sustainability and aesthetics go hand in hand.

Art in new surroundings

Also when it comes to art, cool spaces and locations are key. Here, Copenhagen has really stepped up its game in recent years with out-of-the-ordinary exhibition spaces like Copenhagen Contemporary housed in a vast 7.000 m2 former industrial hall on Refshaleøen, the old church Nikolaj Kunsthal and not least the old water reservoirs The Cisterns turned spectacular underground art venue.

The Cisterns art space in Frederiksberg

Brace yourself for an art experience out of the ordinary at The Cisterns deep under the green grass of Søndermarken park in Copenhagen's Frederiksberg neighbourhood.photo:Thomas Høyrup Christensen

In Denmark, the state even offers financial support for the establishment of new exhibition spaces, and it really shows on the art scene, where smaller artists have chance to bloom. Copenhagen’s neighbourhoods are flourishing with new galleries showing impressive selections of Danish and international art, and gallery-hopping is a perfect way to experience new parts of the city. Take on the Meatpacking District with a visit to V1 and Galleri Poulsen or explore Nordhavn with Faurschou Foundation. With the new initiative Kunstsalonen, the art exhibitions are even moving into the homes of the locals. Here, you can experience the meeting between a carefully curated art exhibition and the interior of the Copenhagener’s home.  

The artistic spirit is also very much alive on the streets of Copenhagen. Imposing murals are decorating the gables of areas like Nørrebro and Nordvest.

Experience the Danish icons at close hand

If you are looking for gold, grandeur and world-famous works of art, Copenhagen and the surrounding regions have quite an impressive selection to offer. At Glyptoteket, you can see art from a period spanning an impressive 6,000 years – from traditional, Greek sculpture to French impressionist masterpieces – and relax in the beautiful indoor palm garden. Head north of the city to visit the renaissance-castle-turned-portrait-gallery, Frederiksborg Castle.

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in the heart of Copenhagen displays ancient and modern art in truly unique surroundings.photo:Daniel Rasmussen

The Danish art history is filled with names of admired artists like Hammershøi, Eckersberg and Thorvaldsen and in Copenhagen, you can visit them all at the grand museums SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark and Thorvaldsen’s Museum. However, in Copenhagen, the classic exhibition tour is only the beginning. All over the city, new and innovative takes on the museum visit are launched making the art works more engaging and inspiring than ever. You can even have the iconic art served with drinks, films, talks and expert interpretations at recurring after-hours events.

Design is everywhere

Copenhagen’s creative spirit is not reserved for design workshops and galleries.

Actually, you can hardly turn a corner in Copenhagen without being amazed by the number of creative solutions that exist in the border regions between art, design, architecture and urban planning

Consider the three-part urban park Superkilen in Nørrebro, where the vision of the Danish artist collective Superflex has come alive and invites to everything from a picnic to sports to a game of chess. Or think about Konditaget Lüders in Nordhavn, where JAJA Architects have created an open-air urban gym and playground on top of a parking garage

Konditaget Lüders is the coolest playground and work-out spot in town and a playbook example of creating public spaces that bring joy to the people. photo:Giuseppe Liverino

The possibilities are endless when it comes to art and design in Copenhagen. If you are thirsting for more inspiration, check out our guides to the city’s best design shops or top galleries, before you head out to explore. And why not check out our event calendar to see, if one of the many inspiring art and design festivals happen to be on during your visit.