With its large number of green spaces, organic food, superb public transport system and eco-friendly lifestyle, Copenhagen is considered to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world.
Awarded European Green Capital in 2014 – and aiming to become the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 – it's also one of Europe's most enticing tourist destinations.
Visitors to the capital of the happiest country in the world are encouraged to be green too – and, as we discover on a two-day visit, this is easy.
There are plenty of ways to be eco-friendly in Copenhagen – here are seven suggestions.
The waterways in Copenhagen offer some of the most beautiful vistas in Europe, and a fantastic scheme has been introduced in the city to help you enjoy them – for free!
It's easy being green in Copenhagen. Enjoy the capital of the happiest country in the world with these carbon-conscious activities.
Photographs by Izzy Bunting
7 ways to be eco-friendly in
You can kayak alongside the beautiful buildings of Nyhavn with GreenKayak
GreenKayak is an environmental NGO that aims to reduce the amount of waste in the aquatic environment, with 38 locations in Europe – including six in Copenhagen.
The GreenKayak scheme offers a free two-hour kayak hire in return for collecting litter from the water as you paddle. You're provided with a sturdy sit-on-top kayak for two people, life vests, and a bucket and litter-grabber for collecting trash.
It's a great, fun activity that's ideal for families – sit-on-top kayaks are easy to control, and are stable, and virtually unsinkable, so even beginners can feel confident on the water very quickly.
Our GreenKayak session turned into a kind of competitive treasure hunt, with us paddling frantically to collect the litter we had spotted before anyone else could reach it.
In fact, the canal was impressively clean overall – perhaps proof that the GreenKayak scheme is working – but we did manage to collect a number of plastic bottles, plastic bags, empty drinks cans, and two tennis balls.
On the kayaks we were able to get right into the heart of some of the city's most gorgeous areas – including stunning Nyhavn – and see the city from a completely different perspective.
We also had the satisfaction of knowing that we had helped reduce ocean plastic pollution – 23,688kg of trash has been collected since the scheme began in 2017.
And as an added bonus, because of all that energetic paddling, we managed to burn off enough calories to justify indulging in a Danish pastry or two!
Go on foot…
Public transport in the city is excellent: safe, reliable and clean. The metro system runs all day and all night, every day of the week, with only two to six minutes wait between trains.
Once in the centre, it's easy to get around by walking. There are pedestrianised, cobbled streets lined with fantastic shops and cafes – and on streets shared between pedestrians and traffic there is often a special lane for people to walk safely along.
Spending some time walking around the city is one of the best ways to soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the stunning architecture.
… or on a bike
Cycling is another great eco-friendly way to explore, and is often the chosen mode of transport for many of the city's residents – in fact there are now more bikes than cars in central Copenhagen.
With 375 kilometers of designated bike lanes, it's extremely safe to cycle in Copenhagen. (Although pedestrians do need to remember to look out for bikes as well as cars when crossing the road!) And cycling is fast, healthy, enjoyable, and cheap.
Many hotels provide bicycles for their guests, and in 1995 Copenhagen was one of the first cities in the world to launch free city bikes for its citizens and visitors – you can now also borrow an electric bike, complete with GPS.
Visit a park or garden
Copenhagen is full of green spaces where you can relax, enjoy the sunshine, and get a good dose of nature.
One of these is the Botanical Garden. It's famous for its historical glasshouses, dating from 1874 – but we really enjoyed simply wandering along the flower- and tree-lined paths, looking out for bees and butterflies.
We were also delighted to spot a red squirrel in the park – these endearing creatures are rare in the UK, so it was lovely to get a really close up view of one.
There are many other green spaces to enjoy in the city, including King's Garden, with huge flowerbeds that are spectacular in summer, and Assistens Cemetery – a green oasis in the Nørrebro area that's the final resting place of many famous Danes, including Hans Christian Andersen.
Have fun at the fair
Tivoli Gardens is one of the must-see attractions in the city, and is a fun place to visit whether or not you have kids in tow.
With some fantastic fairground rides, from a gentle, classic carousel to the vertigo-inducing Star Flyer – which, if you can bear to open your eyes, gives you spectacular views across the city – the vintage amusement park dates back to 1843 and is the second oldest in the world.
We particularly enjoyed The Flying Trunk – a gentle and charming ride that meanders through colourful scenes from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tales, with a brief retelling of the story at each scene. It was fun to spot the familiar tales, such as The Princess and the Pea, the Ugly Duckling, and the Little Mermaid.
But Tivoli is not just about the fun of the fair. It's also a beautiful, historic park that's packed with pollinator-friendly plants – we saw verbena, lavender and echinacea buzzing with bees and butterflies. There are also peacocks, ducks and other birds wandering through the gardens.
Alongside nectar-rich planting, there are several other ways that Tivoli focuses on sustainability. For example, thousands of Christmas lights have been changed to energy-saving LED lights. And a new on-site organic restaurant, Gemyse, has opened, with a focus on fresh, locally produced vegetables.
With thanks to Tivoli Gardens for helping us with this article by providing complimentary admission.
Enjoy organic food and ethical shopping
Many of the restaurants in Copenhagen feature organic ingredients – and there's a strong focus on sustainable, ethical and local food.
A fantastic example of this is Toldboden. This sustainable restaurant is located next to the water by the old ferry terminal, not far from the famous Little Mermaid statue.
The restaurant's interior has been created using recycled materials – including old wood from Danish harbours – and vegetables on the menu are produced at the restaurant's own farm.
Exploring the city's shopping streets by foot, you'll find dozens of small independent shops selling all kinds of goods, from Danish design to fashion to souvenirs.
Be A Wear (pictured above) – at Nørrebrogade 5 – is a sustainable and organic clothing and homewares store with a great selection of ethical fashion items. The shop also sells useful travel essentials and accessories including shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes and reusable water bottles and coffee cups.
Stay in a sustainable hotel
It's not hard to find an eco-friendly hotel in Denmark's capital: over 70 per cent of all the city's hotel rooms hold an official eco-certification.
But Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers is probably the most sustainable hotel in Denmark – if not Europe. With an exterior clad in solar panels, a unique ground water-based cooling and heating system, and a forest growing inside the hotel lobby, it's a great choice for eco-conscious travellers who also enjoy a little luxury.
Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers is in a great location too – just a 12-minute metro ride from the city centre.
Green Adventures October 2019