Where to stay is one of the first things I think of when visiting a new city. There are a lot of things to consider. Will I be in a fun place? A safe place? If I'm going for work or an event, how easily can I access where I need to be? I'm not going to give recommendations for specific places to sleep (i.e. hotels or apartments) since I've only stayed in a few myself, but I do want to point out things to consider when looking at where to stay in Copenhagen. In my last post I mapped out the main areas of the city and I'll frame this post using those guidelines. If you don't feel like reading the whys and whatnots, and you just want to know the gist of it all, I'd say that most visitors are best served staying in the city center (København K). If you want to have a little more insight and some specifics to play with in your decision, let me dive in.
This is an easy thing to cover in Copenhagen because it is a safe, comfortable city. It is still a good sized city and you always need to pay attention when traveling, but Copenhagen is regularly listed in the top world cities for safety and "woman-friendly" travel. The one area of Copenhagen that is probably known for some safety concerns is up in Nørrebro. There has been an increase in gang shootings in some areas for the last few years (basically since they closed Pusher Street in Christiana, but that is a whole other story for another post). That said, even that area is still safe in the big picture of worldwide city crime. It is statistically safer to wander anywhere in Copenhagen than in any US city of the same size and I've wandered Nørrebro (and many areas of CPH) with no problem or concern.
Stuff to do
Each neighborhood in the city offers "stuff to do," as I began to outline in the other post, but here is a quick list:
- Tourist heaven: København K
- Beaches: Amager or Østerbro
- Nightlife: Vesterbro
- Shopping: København K or Nørrebro
The main thing to keep in mind about this though is that getting from one place to another is very, very easy, so you can stay in the center and easily visit the Amager beaches with a 10-minute metro ride, which leads me to the next topic...
As a traveler I love metros (or subway, or underground, or whatever you call it where you're from). They provide easy access, clearly marked routes and stations, and I feel like I can sort them out much better than buses (that is, it is easier to know when to get off). The Copenhagen Metro has two lines which run through the center of the city from Amager (and the airport) to just outside Frederiksberg. Trains run 24 hours a day, constantly. So, basically outside of Amager, the Center, and Frederiksberg, you will need to use buses, bikes, or feet to get around. The bus system here is quite excellent as well so if you take a little time to get familiar with the routes you'll use, it is a great way to move around.
I'll do more posts on the specifics, but in terms of where to stay, if you don't feel comfortable using buses or walking long distances, then staying along the metro line will provide you the simplest way to move around. There are three metro stations in København K (Nørreport, Kongens Nytorv, and Christianshavn) and you are within 1000 meters (about half a mile) of at least one of them, no matter where you are in the center.
The eastern side of Vesterbro is where the central train station (Hovedbanegård) is. Note that this is for the regional and commuter trains – no metro line stops at the central train station. The commuter trains (S-Tog) run very regularly though (every 10-15 minutes normally), so you can use them for regular travel in the city as well. Just be aware that taking a train there doesn't put you anywhere near a metro station.
Speaking of Vesterbro and train stations, there is one little bit I should point out. East Vesterbro, right by the central train station, is Copenhagen's red light district (mostly running along Istedgade). For some, this may be a feature, but for others, something to consider carefully. There are many hotels in this area and is a common place for folks to stay. It isn't necessarily a "bad" place to stay. It is safe and you'll often find good room rates, but if you have kids and decide to go for a stroll you may need to explain things that you aren't prepared to do yet (lots of shop windows display "toys"). It is a relatively small area, and Vesterbro as a whole can be a fun place to stay. If you don't want to deal with "that stuff" then you should avoid Istedgade for several blocks out from the station. Staying up on the main road of Vesterbrogade or north is fine. Overall though, if you have kids, staying on the other side of the station, in København K, is probably a better idea.
If you are going to Copenhagen for a big conference or event (like maybe Drupalcon) chances are that you will be going to The Bella Center (Bella Centeret) which is the largest conference center in Scandinavia. It is located in Vestamager (West Amager), which is definitely not in downtown Copenhagen (it is off the bottom of my 'hood map, under the green Amager Fælled). It is a fine area, just totally dead really. There are places to stay right by the Bella Center and if you are planning to pretty much only attend the event and not go out to see much then that makes sense. If, however, you would also like to experience some of Copenhagen, I'd strongly advise staying more central and taking the metro (M1) out to the venue instead. There is a metro stop right at the Bella Center, so if you stay at a place that is in the city center you have a 10-minute metro ride down to Bella, and you get all of the benefits of staying in the middle of the city where all the fun stuff is. For folks that feel like Vesterbro is a better fit than the city center, there is a bus (the 30) that goes to the Bella Center station from the central train station as well.
Where will you stay?
So, in conclusion, given a number of factors, I come back to my main recommendation, which is to stay in the city center and strike out from there. For visiting Copenhagen, especially for a short period, it just makes the most sense. After the center, I'd say second choices are Vesterbro for nightlife and easier access to the train station, or north Amager for a quieter area than Vesterbro, closer to beaches and the airport. Keep in mind that Copenhagen is not a massive city, so staying anywhere in the main areas won't put you too far from fun things to do.