Split by lakes and surrounded by sea, an energetic and hip waterside vibe permeates Copenhagen (København), one of Europe’s most user-friendly (and trendy) capitals. It’s a welcoming, compact city with a centre largely given over to pedestrians (and cyclists). There’s an emphasis on café culture and top-notch museums by day, and a thumping live music, bar and club scene by night. Festivals like Distortion (June) and the Jazz Festival (July) show the city off at its coolest and most inventive.
The best reference point for first-timers is the historic core of Slotsholmen, a canal-encircled complex home to Christiansborg Palace*, seat of the Danish parliament, and the site of the 12th-century castle from where the city spread. The main thing to take in across the water to the southeast is Christianshavn’s Freetown Christiania, a brightly bedecked former barracks settled by hippies and full of unusual workshops, restaurants, galleries and houses.
Located on three islands, surrounded by lush gardens and a large lake, Frederiksborg Castle is a perfect day-trip destination while visiting Copenhagen. The castle is also home to the Museum of National History, which traces 500 years of Danish history through art, furniture, sculptures, and more.