muesum lovers' paradise
Copenhagen is a geek's dream. If you have an interest, chances are Copenhagen has a museum about it! I was lucky enough to cram a few into my whirlwind weekend and had a blast bopping from one to the next and feasting my eyes and ears on a huge variety of exhibitions. These were some exceptionally curated, dynamic museums that appealed from everyone from children to adults. I can't say enough good things!
A quick note: looking at the websites can give you some serious sticker shock. I did not pay the advertised price for all of these museums. The trick to cramming in all of these spectacular sights was to invest in a Copenhagen card before I left. Over 80 attractions and all public transportation are included in the price of the card and the card is good for 24, 48 or 72 hours. Anything you see and do during that time is fair game. I chose the 48 hour option and saved over 100 euros. Copenhagen may not be the most budget-friendly city, but there are certainly ways to make your wallet ache less.
Without further ado, here's the skinny on the museums I made it to.
The Danish National Museum
This museum can't be done in a day. It's that simple. The sheer scale of the museum means you could spend the better part of a week taking it all in. The parts I was most interested in were the Danish History and anthropological exhibits. The anthropological exhibit includes a massive collection of pieces that paint a picture of ancient nordic life. So thorough. So great.
The part that I thought was most powerful though, was in the Danish History exhibit. For a long time, Denmark was a colonizing machine and had many colonies all around the world. Now, we've established that colonization generally isn't great for the conquered nation from a human rights perspective. The museum had an exhibit all about the effects of colonization on the conquered peoples. You guys. This was a facts-based, unbiased, perspective on colonization that didn't strive to make Denmark look like a hero. It was gritty, it was heart-wrenching and it was honest. And it made me respect the decisions of the curators, researchers and government for choosing transparency.
The Thorvaldsen Museum
Truth time: I didn't look up this museum before I went, but knew it was supposed to be really great, so I showed up. Honestly, I thought this was a museum all about chairs. It was a really bizarre mix of chairs and old sculptures. I thought it was the strangest thing ever. Granted, I now know that Thorvald was an acclaimed sculpture and wish I would have spent more time appreciating the work. That being said, sculptures aren't really my thing. If they are for you, definitely go as the collection is huge. If you're really into furniture design, check to see what the current temporary exhibit is, since it was chairs this time. If neither of these sound like you, maybe fill your time with another part of Christiansborg, which is right next door and is SPECTACULAR!
The Danish Museum of Design
This museum was my favorite because it was so thoroughly Danish. Parts of it felt like walking through fashion magazines, super fancy IKEA, and an art nouveau time capsule. I loved learning about different elements of Danish design and their commitment to functionality, beauty and representation. For example, there is a whole exhibit on the bicycle, which is one of Denmark's most common forms of transportation. The philosophy behind bicycle design is that they have to be able to withstand daily use, be beautiful and instill a sense of freedom. They also had a similar unpacking of the chair, which, while seeming slightly ridiculous, made me so happy.
They also have some beautiful gardens in the courtyard that are open seasonally and plenty of photo opportunities. I would schedule one to two hours here to really soak it in
and get a coffee at the cafe on your way out the door. Be warned: you may want to run to the nearest home decor store and furnish an apartment, buy a bicycle and wrap up in some fancy textiles. Pro tip: skip this gift shop--everything is pretty, but expensive, and you can find most of the things elsewhere in the city at a much better price.
The National Art Museum
Art museums are the best cure for rainy days. On my last day in Copenhagen, I was able to go to the National Art Museum of Denmark. Much like the other national museums, the scale is intimidating, but inside, it was a well-oiled machine and I felt comfortable navigating each exhibit. They offer guided tours, however I feel like this museum is best experienced independently, as there is plenty of information about each piece and you can move at your own pace, according to your interests. I particularly loved the classical section and their large-scale portraits. Those bold, intricate pieces have always fascinated me and the Danish commitment to beautiful still life portraits is most heavily exhibited in this section. Be prepared to be blown away.
The works ranged from classical and baroque to extremely modern (to the point where you're given a literal novel in order to understand them). All are wonderful and this museum is super family-friendly. There's places for the littles to run around and blow off some steam. I was in the minority that I wasn't there with a family, so if your trip is a family affair, put this on your list!
There are approximately sixty five other museums that I didn't get to that include botanical gardens, natural history, vikings, and more. I can't wait to go back to Copenhagen to see more-- and to return to my favorites, because returning to a favorite museum, painting or exhibit can sometimes feel like coming home.