When you think of cities with literary connections, Copenhagen probably isn’t anywhere near the top of your list. However, on my recent trip to the Danish capital, I realised that there is an abundance of things to do in Copenhagen for book lovers. From book cafes to beautiful libraries to literary museums, this small European city is actually the perfect destination for book lovers.
Here’s my guide to Copenhagen for book lovers:
The Royal Library
The first thing I did when I arrived in Copenhagen, was head to The Royal Library, or the Black Diamond library. I’d seen pictures of this before and I had to see the amazing old library with my own eyes! It’s one of the largest libraries in the world and contains copies of every Danish work published since the 17th century and many from before that too.
It’s a curious library because the outside that looks out over the water is a hulking black diamond shape that is very modern and futuristic. This contrasts greatly with beautiful classic architecture found at the back of the library, which was part of the original Royal Danish Library.
You could go in and wander around by yourself but if you want to learn about the fascinating architecture of the library and how the old and new library came to be as one then you’ll need to book a guided tour. What’s more you won’t be able to see the amazing old library without a tour and that in itself makes it well worth booking!
Private tours are available (for a hefty sum) or you can join the weekly tour at 3pm on Mondays. The guided tour costs 60DKK per adult and you can either book online or just rock up at the ticket kiosk a little before 3pm on Monday. This is the National Library of Denmark but also Copenhagen University Library so there’ll be lots of students milling around or studying at the desks throughout your tour.
The library houses the works of many of Denmark’s most famous writers including Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard’s manuscripts. You’ll also be able to look at the original paper records they kept for each and every book inside the library. When they digitalised these records a few years ago it cost them a whopping €8 per record, since each record needed to be looked at by a handwriting specialist.
Address: Black Diamond, Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1, 1221 København K, Denmark
Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale House
Copenhagen was once home to the most famous Dane of all time – Hans Christian Andersen. This fairytale writer from the nineteenth century is still the most celebrated person from Denmark and he helped put this small country on the map. There are tributes to Hans Christian Andersen all over the city but the place to start is obviously the Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale House.
Here you can learn all about H C Andersen’s life growing up in Odense and his move to Copenhagen. He actually has a fascinating backstory and moved to the capital of Denmark to pursue his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. However, it turned out that he was actually rather rubbish at dancing so nothing ever came of this. He was briefly part of the choir for the Danish Royal Theatre but his voice soon broke and his sweet soprano voice was gone.
It was only then that he embarked on his journey to becoming one of the world’s most famous fairytale authors and the most famous Danish person. All this and more can be discovered at Hans Christian Andersen Fairytale House where they use wax models to depict the scenes from his life.
Address: H C Andersen Fairytale House, Rådhuspladsen 57, 1550 København V
Price: Adults, 60 DKK; Children, 40 DKK
Church of Our Saviour
The Church of Our Saviour is one of the most unique things to see in Copenhagen because of the staircase which runs outside of the helix spire of this baroque church. Visitors can actually climb this external winding staircase (if you dare) and from the top you’ll be rewarded which views over Copenhagen.
It’s 400 steps from the bottom up and the last 150 of those are outside. Perhaps best not to go on a windy day though as it can be a rather frightening experience…
If you’re familiar with Jules Verne’s works then you may recognise this church as it features in his novel A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Axel is forced to climb the spire for 5 whole days before they go into the volcano. I wouldn’t recommend trying to re-enact Axel’s journey but a quick trip up for the views is worth it. Just don’t look down.
Address: Church of Our Saviour, Sankt Annæ Gade 29, 1416 København
The Little Mermaid Statue
The Little Mermaid Statue is one of the top things to do in Copenhagen. But did you know that it’s also one of the most disappointing monuments in Europe? In fact, it’s the second most disappointing, narrowly defeated by the statue of the Little Boy Peeing in Brussels!
Nevertheless, you kinda have to see it if you’re in Copenhagen. I’m just trying to manage your expectations before you see it. It’s tiny.
The Little Mermaid statue was installed in August 1913 to honour Hans Christian Andersen’s iconic character, The Little Mermaid. Since then, it has become the symbol of Copenhagen and it receives more than a million visitors a year! It is also thought to be photographed more than 5 million times a year. Not bad for one of the most disappointing monuments…
Unfortunately I cannot include a photo of The Little Mermaid as the statue is fiercely protected by the sculptor’s family. Seriously, even Danish news outlets daren’t use photos of it anymore lest they be hit with more large fines! Maybe it’s because they too know that it is disappointing but they don’t want people to be dissuaded before visiting 😂
Address: Langelinie, 2100 København Ø
Tivoli Gardens should be top of your list of things to do in Copenhagen, no matter when you are visiting. In the summer months, this is a beautiful green oasis filled with amusement park rides. In the winter months it transforms into a sort of winter wonderland with Christmas stalls and gløgg (mulled wine).
For book lovers, you’ll want to head to the ride called The Flying Trunk. This is a ride inspired by H C Andersen and you’ll journey through 32 of his most popular fairytales. You sit in pairs in a large trunk as you’re taken through different scenes from Andersen’s stories.
The scenes are depicted using beautiful wooden dolls and there’s a voice over in both English and Danish to describe the scene in front of you. However, they don’t tell you the names of the story so you’ll have to guess as you go through!
Don’t miss the statute of HC Andersen outside on your visit to Tivoli either! Opposite the side of the road to the iconic Tivoli sign you’ll see a large statue of a man sitting down and staring wistfully at the park. That’s H C Andersen!
Price: 60DKK per ticket or 100DKK for two tickets. You also need to pay 120DKK to enter Tivoli Gardens.
Address: Tivoli Gardens, Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København V
A visit to Paludan Bogcafe (Pauldan book cafe) is a must for any book lover in Copenhagen. Come here for breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea or coffee – it’s open from 9am – 10pm and it’s the perfect place to curl up for a day of reading, working or studying.
The breakfast menu offers everything from porridge to a full English; for lunch you can enjoy a hot soup or sandwiches, and for dinner there are larger plates like pasta, burgers and chilli con carne. I’d definitely recommend the sandwiches or burgers, which come with a mountain of fried potatoes and chilli mayo for dipping!
The cafe is enormous and there are several different seatings areas with different types of desks and chairs available. The downstairs area has a restaurant feel as there are lots of small tables gathered in the space beneath a balcony of books which surround the space.
But then you go upstairs and feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to an old gentleman’s home. There are chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, long red curtains, and, of course, more bookshelves lining the wall.
For those that are here to study and and want to make more noise, there’s a slightly more modern room with large tables, which are perfect for group gatherings. There really is something for everyone here! This is a popular cafe for students in Copenhagen who love to come here to study, which is no surprise given the gorgeous decor and abundance of good food and coffee.
This book cafe also doubles up as a bookshop and if you head down some stairs opposite the entryway you can browse the books they have on offer. It really is a haven for book lovers!
Address: Pauldan Bogcafe, Fiolstræde 10, 1171 København
A little way out of the centre of Copenhagen is Assistens Cemetery where many notable Danes are buried. Here you’ll find the graves of notable authors such as Hans Christian Andersen and Sorrel Kierkgard.
It may seem odd, but many cemeteries in Copenhagen are seen as great green spaces by the people that live there and they’re a popular place to go for an afternoon stroll.
Inside the cemetery you’ll find lots of impressive stonework, tall trees to rest under and grassy spaces to sit. If the weather’s good this could be a good place to curl up with a book by Andersen or Kierkgard.
Address: Assistens Cemetery, Kapelvej 4, 2200 København N
For book shopping in Copenhagen, you should head to Politikens Boghal. It’s close to both Tivoli Gardens and Hans Christian Andersen Museum so you can combine a visit to these three for a literary day in Copenhagen.
Politikiens Boghal is usually top of the list when speaking about the best bookshops in Copenhagen. It’s a one of the largest bookstores in Copenhagen with books spread out over two floors. The shop also boasts an enormous and beautiful glass staircase and they regularly hold literary events here in Copenhagen. You can shop for new books in both Danish and English here, including English translations of Danish novels!
Address: Politikens Boghal, Rådhuspladsen 37, Copenhagen
The Booktrader is located down under the street level of Copenhagen so it’d be easy to miss but I stumbled upon it by accident and what a find! It’s like an underground maze of bookshelves down here with books arranged according to genre. I’m confident you could while away an entire afternoon here perusing the shelves and floors of The Book Trader! You won’t find economics books here though as the owner doesn’t stock anything that bores him.
The owner, Mr Rasmussen, is the loveliest bookshop owner you’ll ever come across and also one of the most eccentric. He boasts a collection of books beginning with single letters e.g. A by Andy Warhol, B by Eva Figues, which he continues to build upon.
The Book Trader is a place to buy, sell or trade books. It’s also a great place to shop for English books in Copenhagen as they have a huge selection of English paperbacks in all genres. In fact, about half the books here are in English! Prices are very reasonable too and you can pick up a good book for 20 – 40 DKK (~£2-5).
Address: The Booktrader, Skindergade 23, 1159 København
The Danish National Art Library
Charlottenborg Palace is a fine stately home that is now where you’ll find The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and many contemporary art exhibitions. But inside Charlottenborg Palace, is an absolute magnificent hidden gem in Copenhagen.
The Danish National Art Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in Copenhagen and it’s well worth peeking into. The design is simple but classic, and it’s a peaceful place to study and work.
The balcony which goes round the entire reading room reminds me of Christ Church library in Oxford and the views from this level are stunning!
Address: Charlottenborg Palace, Nyhavn 2, 1051 København
The Library Bar, Copenhagen Plaza
After a long day of exploring Copenhagen, you book lovers will be in need of rest and maybe a cheeky cocktail. The Library Bar, which is part of Copenhagen Plaza hotel, is where you should head for literary cocktails to end your evening. The bar is open to everyone, even if you’re not staying in the hotel, and is one of the most popular bars in Copenhagen.
Here you can lounge in a large Chesterfield armchair and pretend you’ve been whisked away to a different century. The walls are lined with rows and rows of classic books and there are also numerous stately portraits to keep you company too.
On the menu you’ll find a number of cocktails inspired by authors and you can enjoy a Shakespearian, Dickens or Hemingway Daiquiri. The drinks certainly aren’t cheap with cocktails costing between 130 and 140 DKK (~£15-17) so I suggest you make yours last!
Although the decor and setting are rather lavish, there is no formal dress code. You can head here after a long day of exploring Copenhagen or finish the night here after a nice meal. If you’re in the area on a Saturday evening then that’s even better – they have live jazz music playing in The Library Bar every Saturday night.
Address: The Library Bar, Bernstorffsgade 4, 1577 København
So there you have 11 things to in Copenhagen for book lovers. Happy book browsing, book shopping and library hopping! I’ve created a map to help you on your way:
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