In a country renowned for its minimalistic Scandinavian design, it’s no surprise that many of the best museums in Copenhagen focus on contemporary art, innovative architecture, and forward-thinking creativity.
Nevertheless, with more than 50 museums to discover in Denmark’s capital alone, you’ll find a diverse array of world-class exhibition spaces across the city. From the National Museum highlighting the nation’s Viking history to galleries of classic masterpieces and ancient artifacts, there’s plenty to keep you entertained and informed.
Whether you’re looking for a slice of culture on a rainy day or to take a deeper dive into Denmark’s design scene, here are the best museums in Copenhagen to visit.
Set right in the heart of Copenhagen, moments from the Christiansborg Palace, the mustard-colored Thorvaldsen Museum is a homage to the works of Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770–1844). In fact, his body was laid to rest here, buried under the museum’s inner courtyard.
As both an avid art collector and one of Denmark’s most famous neoclassical sculptors, Thorvaldsen spent much of his life in Italy, returning to his hometown of Copenhagen shortly before his death. Many of his finest works followed him, now adorning the ornate halls and corridors of the building.
His highly-detailed pieces, mainly crafted from marble, depict a multitude of subjects, from Greek gods to royal busts, while temporary exhibitions often present other artists’ sculptures alongside his own.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Since its inauguration in 1907, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek has been considered one of the very best museums in Copenhagen, which still rings true today.
Displaying some of the 10,000-piece private collection of Carl Jacobsen, as the museum’s name suggests, there is a beer connection, his father being the founder of Carlsberg brewery.
As an avid collector of Danish sculptures, French fine art, and ancient antiques, the exhibitions are highly diverse. From ancient Egyptian mummies to Greek marble masterpieces and canvases by the likes of Van Gogh, the visit will take you on a journey through civilization.
Natural light plays a massive role in keeping the space airy and bright, as the museum was initially constructed to be illuminated only by the windows.
Whether you’re relaxing in the dome-capped Winter Garden shaded by palms or marveling at the Roman-inspired marble colonnade of the Central Hall, the architecture is as impressive as the collection.
Be sure to visit the roof terrace for fantastic panoramic views across Copenhagen’s beautiful skyline, dotted with spires, towers, and domes.
SMK – National Gallery of Denmark
Home to the most extensive art collection in the country, The SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst) is indisputably the best museum in Copenhagen to start discovering Denmark’s artistic scene.
Having served as the national gallery since 1896, the since-expanded Renaissance-style building is a treasure trove of Danish and international artworks.
With more than 250,000 pieces in the collection, you’ll want to yourself enough time to wander the halls and appreciate both the nation’s most prominent and lesser-known artists.
Particularly impressive is the permanent exhibition dedicated to Danish and Nordic paintings from the mid-18th century.
Seen as something of a breakthrough era for Danish art, this 400-strong collection is displayed across multiple rooms, highlighting portraits from Jens Juel and the dreamy landscapes of Christen Købke, among others.
With a collection reaching beyond the country’s borders, rarely exhibited paintings from famous international artists also make quite the impression. The works focused on the revolutionary style of the early 20th century, painted by renowned masters such as Picasso and Matisse, are worth seeking out.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Located in Humlebæk, a small town to the north of Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum is a world-class modern art gallery worthy of the 45-minute train journey from the city.
The modernist architecture that houses the collection remains respectful to the natural setting, with low horizontal lines and expansive glass windows framing the verdant environment.
Since its opening in 1958, the original architects Jørgen Bo and Vilhelm Wohlert have overseen many expansions, and nowadays, the vast space holds some 4,000 works.
With a focus on modern art from 1945, contemporary pieces, paintings and sculptures are at the forefront of the collection. With an ever-changing program of local and international greats, from Warhol’s pop art to Yayoi Kusama’s interactive light-reflecting installation, the space is as stimulating as it is serene.
Outside, the gardens adorned with sculptures offer impeccable views over the waters of the Nivå Bugt bay towards Sweden, providing a tranquil backdrop to the contemporary pieces.
The Treasury Museum at Rosenborg Castle
Rosenborg Castle, a Renaissance-era royal summer house, dominates the green heart of the city. Inside, some of the best museums in Copenhagen focused on the royal family can be found, including the Treasury Museum, home of the Crown Jewels.
Located in the castle’s basement, regalia and priceless artifacts are presented in glass chambers. Across the three rooms, countless treasures can be seen, from Christian III’s 16th-century State Sword adorned with diamonds to golden tableware and dazzling coronation pieces.
The most remarkable of the collection’s items are the copiously bejeweled crowns. Dating from 1596, Christian IV’s headpiece, crafted from gold, pearls, and precious stones, is perhaps the most impressive.
The sapphire-adorned crown of Christian V is another magnificent heirloom. Rounding off the collection are emerald-encrusted necklaces, golden brooches, and diamond earrings—a true banquet of riches and wealth.
National Museum of Denmark
Copenhagen, as the nation’s capital, proudly hosts many of the country’s national collections, and none is more culturally significant than the National Museum of Denmark.
Housed inside the former Prince’s Palace, the space is a place of legends and legacies. From the country’s prehistoric history to a preserved late-Victorian era home, you’ll want to allow a couple of hours to fully uncover Denmark’s history.
Most interesting is the permanent exhibition dedicated to the Vikings, whose seafaring history shaped both Denmark and the continent of Europe.
Here, you’ll be transported to bygone days of expeditions and pillaging through a catalog of Viking Era archaeological finds and the massive Viking ship, Roskilde 6, dating from 1025.
Other magnificent items on display include The Sun Chariot, a Bronze Age statue, a vast collection of aged coins, Danish Renaissance paintings, and items from beyond Denmark’s borders, including Egyptian mummies.
Read: Best Museums in Europe
For something a little different, venture to The Cisterns, an immersive art space housed in Copenhagen’s old water reservoirs, just a stone’s throw from Frederiksberg Palace.
Hidden in plain sight, an underground world of weathered stone awaits at the bottom of the staircase. While this space once would have held the capital’s drinking water—more than four million gallons—nowadays it hosts temporary art installations which take over the unique space.
Working on an “invitation model”, all of the works exhibited here are purposefully designed to make the most of the environment. Whether it’s light and imagery projected on the columns or a labyrinth-like exploration of the earth’s elements, it’s well worth peeking in to see which international artist is currently curating the space.
Opened to much fanfare in 2016, this forward-thinking art center has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best museums in Copenhagen for contemporary art.
The gallery, set inside a decommissioned welding factory, is a broad space that naturally lends itself to an array of audio-visual works from up-and-coming artists. Keen to compel a conversation and draw you into the installations, many of the temporary exhibits are a sensory overload.
With a program that can span from thought-provoking projections and innovative sculpture works to experimental audio creations, the curators aren’t shy of commissioning the abstract, making it ideal if you’re curious for the unknown.
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
Away from the city center, the architecture of ARKEN delivers a stark contrast to the beach-backed location, providing a taste of the forward-thinking exhibitions you’ll find inside.
Contemporary and modern art installations from local and international creatives are on display here, and the program is often as playful as it is engaging. Temporary exhibitions are continually changing, highlighting established and promising artists, while the outdoor sculpture park will allow you to connect with the nature reserve setting.
After a morning visit, the museum’s minimalist restaurant with expansive window views of Ishøj Beach is the perfect place to sample a typical Danish lunch.
Amalienborg Palace Museum
If you’re seeking a more classical experience, take a tour of the 18th-century Amalienborg Palace, the Royal Family’s Copenhagen residence.
While you won’t have behind-the-scenes access to the Queen’s private chambers, you can visit her grand reference library and marvel at the opulent Gala Hall, a space still used to host lavish events.
However, the most dazzling items are inside the Fabergé Chamber, where over 100 flamboyant Russian jewelry pieces highlight the historical links between the two countries.
The Museum of Danish Resistance
The Frihedsmuseet is one of the best museums in Copenhagen to understand the recent history of Copenhagen and how the German occupation during World War Two affected the local population.
As you enter the underground space, an audio tour transports you to this dark period in Denmark’s past through the stories of five main characters.
Not only will you learn about the resistance movement and the collaborators, but you’ll also gain a greater understanding of day-to-day life trying to defend the population through interactive activities.
From decoding secret messages to preparing prohibited publications, the immersive nature of the museum is thought-provoking and emotional.
Danish Architecture Center
Denmark’s contribution to the now world-famous Scandinavian design movement takes center stage in this glass-fronted and forward-thinking building overlooking Københavns Havn port.
The structure, known as BLOX, is the brainchild of the Dutch architectural company OMA, but the works found inside predominantly focus on Danish design.
As the museum itself only occupies a small space to the rear of the building, temporary exhibitions are regularly changing, covering anything from women in architecture to the use of recyclable materials in construction.
M/S Maritime Museum of Denmark
For a deep dive into Danish seafaring history, take the 40-minute journey north of Copenhagen to the M/S Maritime Museum.
As with many of Denmark’s best museums, the architecture of the M/S Maritime is striking. Sunken below ground and shaped like a vessel, the modern building occupies an old dry dock, a fitting repurposing of the space.
Inside, you’ll find a permanent exhibition focused on Bjarke Ingels’ architectural feat, alongside exhibitions on maritime practices.
With model ships from centuries gone by, stories of celebrated sailors, and displays dedicated to seafaring trade from tea to modern shipping techniques, the varied exhibitions are well presented and informative.
Beyond the unassuming exterior of Denmark’s Designmuseum, housed inside a former hospital, you’ll find a space dedicated to Scandinavian and Western design, alongside some East Asian pieces, with a particular focus on furniture and textiles.
Don’t expect all clean lines and white walls, though, as the museum also embraces the more colorful and eclectic side of Scandinavian design.
With thought-provoking exhibits linking the objects we use to humanity itself, the Designmuseum prides itself on being a place where conservation extends beyond the collections.
Read: Best Museums in the World
Completely reborn as a contemporary art space, the late-Gothic St. Nicholas Church is deceptive from the outside.
Stepping through the doorway at the base of the imposing 16th-century tower–the only part not damaged in a fire–you’ll be whisked into a carefully curated exhibition that makes the most of the three-nave space.
With an emphasis on Danish contemporary art, eccentric installations of colorful, creative, and sometimes slightly confusing mixed-media take over the space. It’s also known for regularly hosting performances and cultural events.
Open Air Museum
On the city’s outskirts, just 20 minutes by car, the Frilandsmuseet (Open Air Museum) is one of the best museums in Copenhagen, if not the whole country.
In fact, Frilandsmuseet is one of the largest and oldest open-air museums in the world, and a visit here will feel like touring a long-lost Denmark. Original farm buildings and houses from centuries past have been preserved here after being relocated and rebuilt to conserve their heritage.
As you walk between aged barns, windmills, and wooden-clad homes, horse-drawn carriages and costumed characters add to the magic—a truly interactive insight into age-old Nordic traditions.
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