Danes know how to party. A good night means a late night, and on warm weekends, hundreds of rowdy revelers crowd Strøget until sunrise. Merrymaking in Copenhagen is not just for the younger crowd; jazz clubs, traditional beer houses, and wine cellars are routinely packed with people of all ages. Of course, the city has a more highbrow cultural side as well, exemplified by excellent theaters, operas, ballets, and one of the best circuses in Europe.
To find out what's happening at the time of your visit, pick up a free copy of Copenhagen This Week at the tourist information center. The section marked "Events Calendar" has a week-by-week roundup of the "hottest" entertainment and sightseeing events in the Danish capital.
In the center of the gardens, the large open-air stage books vaudeville acts (tumbling clowns, acrobats, aerialists) who give performances every Friday night at 10pm, and on an arbitrary, oft-changing schedule that varies from week to week and summer to summer. Spectators must enter through the turnstiles for seats, but there's an unobstructed view from outside if you prefer to stand. Jazz and folkloric groups also perform here during the season. Admission is free.
The 150-year-old outdoor Pantomime Theater, with its Chinese stage and peacock curtain, is near the Tivoli's Vesterbrogade 3 entrance and presents shows Tuesday to Thursday at 6:15 and 8:15pm; Friday at 7:30 and 9pm; Saturday at 8:15 and 9:30pm; and Sunday at 4:30 and 6:30pm. The repertoire consists of 16 different commedia dell'arte productions featuring the entertaining trio Pierrot, Columbine, and Harlequin -- these are authentic pantomimes that have been performed continuously in Copenhagen since 1844. Admission is free.
The modern Tivolis Koncertsal (concert hall) is a great place to hear top artists and orchestras, led by equally famous conductors. Opened in 1956, the concert hall can seat 2,000, and its season -- which begins in late April and lasts for more than 5 months -- has been called "the most extensive music festival in the world." Performances of everything from symphony to opera are presented Monday to Saturday at 7:30pm, and sometimes at 8pm, depending on the event. Good seats are available at prices ranging from DKK275 to DKK800 ($47-$136/£28-£80) when major artists are performing -- but most performances are free. You can buy tickets at the main booking office on Vesterbrogade 3 (tel. 33-15-10-10 or 45-70-15-65) or on the Web at www.billetnet.dk.
Tivoli Glassalen (tel. 33-15-10-12) is housed in a century-old octagonal gazebolike building with a glass, gilt-capped canopy. Shows are often comedic/satirical performances by Danish comedians in Danish, and these usually don't interest non-Danish audiences. A noteworthy exception to this are the annual Christmas programs, presented in November and December, in English. There are also musical reviews, with a minimum of any spoken language, presented throughout the year. Tickets range from DKK250 to DKK475 ($43-$81/£25-£48).
The Performing Arts
For tickets to most of the musical, cultural, and sports-themed entertainment venues of Denmark, check out Billetnet, a local branch of Ticketmaster. You can purchase tickets through www.billetnet.dk or by calling tel. 45/70-15-65-65.
For discount seats (sometimes as much as 50% off), go in person to a ticket kiosk at the corner of Fiolstræde and Nørre Voldgade, across from the Nørreport train station. Discount tickets are sold the day of the performance and may be purchased Monday to Friday noon to 5pm and Saturday noon to 3pm.
Nighttime Experiences for Free (Well, Almost)
You don't have to go to clubs or attend cultural presentations to experience Copenhagen nightlife. If you want to have a good time and save money too, consider doing as the Danes do: Walk about and enjoy the city and its glittering lights for free, perhaps stopping at a lovely square to have a drink and watch the world pass by.
Copenhagen's elegant spires and tangle of cobbled one-way streets are best viewed at night, when they take on the aura of the Hans Christian Andersen era. The old buildings have been well preserved, and at night they're floodlit. The city's network of drawbridges and small bridges is also particularly charming at night.
One of the best places for a walk is Nyhavn (New Harbor), which, until about 25 years ago, was the haunt of sailors and some of the roughest dives in Copenhagen. Today it's gone upmarket and is the site of numerous restaurants and bars. In summer, you can sit out at one of the cafe tables watching life along the canal and throngs of people from around the world passing by -- all for the price of your Carlsberg. Along the quay you can also see a fleet of old-time sailing ships. Hans Christian Andersen lived at three different addresses along Nyhavn: nos. 18, 20, and 67.
Another neighborhood that takes on special magic at night is Christianshavn, whose principal landmark is Christiansborg Slot (castle), a massive granite pile surrounded by canals on three sides. The ramparts of Christianshavn are edged with walking paths, which are lit at light. This neighborhood, which glows under the soft, forgiving light of antique street lamps, is the closest Copenhagen comes to the charm of the Left Bank in Paris. You can wander for hours through its cobbled streets and 18th-century buildings. The area also abounds with cafes, bars, and restaurants. Originally the section was built by King Christian IV to provide housing for workers in the shipbuilding industry, but in the past decades real estate prices here have soared.
For a more offbeat adventure -- although it's not the safest place at night -- you can head for the commune of Christiania, a few blocks to the east of Vor Frelsers Kirke. This area once housed Danish soldiers in barracks. When the soldiers moved out, the free spirits of Copenhagen moved in, occupying the little village, even though -- technically speaking -- they are squatters and in violation of the law. They declared the area a "free city" on September 24, 1971. Copenhagen authorities have not moved in to oust them in all this time, fearing a full-scale riot. The area is a refuge for petty criminals and drug dealers. But there has been success in the community as well, evoking the communes of the 1960s. For example, the villagers have helped hundreds of addicts kick heroin habits.
At night, adventurous visitors enter Christiania to eat at one of the neighborhood's little restaurants, many of which are surprisingly good. Prices here are the cheapest in Copenhagen, because the restaurant managers refuse to pay taxes. You can also wander through some of the shops selling handmade crafts. Because most establishments are small and personal, you can also invite yourself in, perhaps to listen to innovative music or see some cultural presentation. Currently your best bet for dining is Spiseloppen. Later you can visit the jazz club Loppen, where you'll hear some of the best jazz in the city. If you're a vegetarian, as are many members of the commune, head for the vegetarian restaurant Morgensted. (These two restaurants and the club don't have addresses, but they're easy to spot.)
The heady "boogie nights" of the '70s, when pornography aficionados flocked to Copenhagen to purchase X-rated materials, are long gone. Copenhagen is no longer the capital of sex, having long ago lost out to Hamburg and Amsterdam, but many city residents can quote the year when a landmark ruling from Denmark's supreme court made printed pornography legal (1967). Despite the fact that pornographic Copenhagen is not as cutting edge or raunchy as it was (and we're all somewhat more jaded these days), it's still possible to take a walk here on the wild side any night of the week. Two of the densest concentrations of porno and the sex industry still lie on Istedgade and Helgolandsgade, both of them near the rail terminus in the center of the city. Ironically, the sex shops peddling magazines and X-rated films stand virtually adjacent to decent and well-recommended family hotels. Mothers can often be seen hustling their sons past the window displays.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.