Travel guide: Copenhagen
We walked the streets of Copenhagen to select what we consider must-see examples of the Danish capital's recent architecture focusing on the iconic buildings by the waterfront, innovative housing residencies in the new urban area Ørestad - and a few small extras for swimmers, skateboarders and animal lovers.
The Danish Capital Copenhagen is well known for combining sustainable high tech solutions with good design and livable urban spaces. This makes swimming in the harbor a natural activity for the citizens of Copenhagen, while bicycles are their most popular means of transport. Since 2000 Copenhagen has seen a massive boom in modern architecture with notable contributions both by leading international architects and a wave of successful, new Danish architects.
SEB Bank & Pension HQ
The SEB Bank & Pension Headquarters by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects was completed in 2010, adding both remarkable shape and color to the Copenhagen waterfront. The complex consists of nine towers, enveloped by two geometrically challenging ten-story buildings. The two buildings are connected by a public square, laid out as a sloping landscape, which in some places rises seven meters above street level. The urban landscape, inspired by Swedish mountain scenery with trees, grasses and mosses, is designed by SLA and conceals a car park below. The terraced urban landscape has become quite a popular spot for skating kids practicing their moves on the board.
More information on SLA's website
Location: Bernstorffsgade 50, 1577 Copenhagen V
The Harbor Bath
The Harbor Bath opened in 2002 and was designed by PLOT (Bjarke Ingels' and
Julian de Smedt's former architectural practice). The Harbor Bath
is extremely popular in summer time and even has a dedicated
association of winter swimmers. BIG has made a design
suggestion for extending the Harbor Bath to include facilities for
all year bathing such as saunas.
Learn more about the revitalization of the waterfront on Sustainable Cities' website.
Find more images and information on Copenhagen X Gallery
Location: Islands Brygge 14, 2300 København S
The Royal Danish Library - "The Black Diamond"
With its glittering polished surface of African granite, the Royal Danish
Library has become one of the Copenhagen waterfront's
architectural landmarks. The building was designed by schmidt hammer lassen architects and
was inaugurated in 1999 as an addition to The Royal Library's older
building complex. The massive black building is divided in the
middle by a horizontal glass section, providing a fabulous view
over the harbor from the foyer within. The ground floor contains a
café, bookshop, concert hall, lecture hall and exhibition
More information about current exhibitions and opening hours on the Royal Library's website
More about the project on schmidt hammer lassen architects' website
Location: Søren Kierkegaards Plads 1, Copenhagen
The Copenhagen Opera House
In 2005 Denmark inaugurated its first Opera House, located
prominently on the Copenhagen waterfront. The Opera
House was designed by Henning Larsen Architects and funded
by the A.P. Møller and Chastine McKinney Møller Foundation. The
Opera House is built on a direct axis across from the Marble
Church, through the Amalienborg Palace and the Amaliehaven gardens,
across the Fairway, and in through the glass facade, stopping in
the center of the main auditorium. Everything in the auditorium,
from seat upholstery to the shape and size of the openings in the
back wall, was carefully chosen to create optimal acoustics. The
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Elisasson designed the chandeliers
in the foyer.
More information about whats on the Opera
Location: Ekvipagemestervej 10, 1438 Copenhagen
The Royal Danish Theatre's new Playhouse
The new Royal Playhouse in Copenhagen, designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects,
was inaugurated in 2008. Approached from the city center, the
Playhouse seems almost modestly placed in harmony with the
surrounding buildings. But viewed more closely or from the opposite
site of Copenhagen Harbor, the building reveals its magnificence.
Part of the building is juts out into the harbor, inviting visitors
to arrive along a promenade of gently sloping ramps, which offer
panoramic views of the waterfront. The Playhouse contains three
different-sized stages. The exterior is dominated by a continuous
glass-encased top story, giving ample light to the offices and
actors' facilities. With integrated thermoactive structures,
seawater cooling and demand-controlled ventilation, the Royal
Playhouse is proud of its status as a sustainable, energy-friendly
More information about whats on at The Royal Playhouse
More information about the building on Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects' website
Location: Sankt Annæ Plads 36, 1250 Copenhagen
The Tietgen Students' Residence
The characteristically circular Tietgen Students' Residence by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects is perhaps one of Copenhagen's most outstanding recent buildings. The building was inaugurated in 2006 and contains 360 one-room studio apartments. The ground floor houses the common facilities: a café, auditorium, study and computer rooms, workshops, laundry, music and meeting rooms, and bicycle parking. The apartments are located on the other 6 stories. All rooms face outwards and have views of the surrounding area. Entering the courtyard, one sees that all the common facilities (kitchens, lounges, terraces etc.) face out on to the central courtyard, thus creating a sense of community for the building's residents.
Also check out the DR Concert Hall (designed by Jean
Nouvel) and The IT-University (designed by Henning
Larsen Architects), both of which are close by the Tietgen
Read more about the Tietgen Students' Residence on Copenhagen X Gallery
Location: Rued Langgaards Vej 10, 2300 Copenhagen
The 8 House is located in Ørestad South, and is one of many significant architectural works in this ever-evolving area of Copenhagen. The 8 House was completed in 2010 by BIG. It is Denmark's largest ever, private development. This bowtie-shaped building allows its residents to bike all the way from the street up to its 10th-level penthouses. The unusual combination of a traditional Copenhagen housing block with an urban mountain village, overlooking Amager Common's vast natural landscape, makes the architecture of the 8 House a unique experience. The ground floor contains offices and commercial facilities, while the upper floors house dwellings of various sizes. The 8 House is designed to accommodate people at all stages of life. Therefore, it contains various different types of housing unit: duplex townhouses with courtyards; apartments with balconies; penthouses with roof terraces; and small apartments.
The 8 House has received several international awards and commendations, including the World's Best Residential Building (at the 2011 World Architecture Festival in Barcelona) and the 2012 American Institute of Architects' Honor Award for Architecture.
Interested in urban outdoor sports like roller skating or parkour? Then make sure to take a short detour between the 8 House and the Metro to see the new evolving activity park Plug n Play.
Read more about the 8 House on BIG's website
Location: Richard Mortensens Vej 81, 2300 Copenhagen
Elephant House at Copenhagen Zoo
An elephant house designed by Norman Foster & Partners has to
be a must-see attraction for both architecture fans and animal
Elephant House at Copenhagen Zoo has two large domes in the
roof and is partially submerged in the ground. Visitors can stroll
across the roof and look down onto the elephants' indoor quarters,
which receive daylight through the domes. The Elephant House
represents part of an overall effort to blur the boundary between
the Zoo and the surrounding public park (Frederiksberg Gardens). So
one can also enjoy watching the elephants and their house from the
Frederiksberg Gardens. The areas surrounding the elephant house
were designed and executed by the Danish landscape architect Stig
More information on Norman Foster & Partners' website
Visitors information on Copenhagen Zoo's website
Location: Roskildevej 32, 2000 Frederiksberg
More inspiration to experience architecture in Copenhagen:
Find and select architectural works for your own guided tour of Copenhagen on Danish Architecture Guide
Find projects of new architecture in Copenhagen and projects about to be build in the Copenhagen X Gallery
Coming to Copenhagen as a group? Book a tour with one of The Danish Architecture Centre's guides
Last updated: February 08, 2013