Copenhagen characteristics

Copenhagen - a bikeable city

Close your eyes and think of Copenhagen – chances are that your thoughts will centre on bikes and Copenhagen’s extensive bicycle infrastructure. 64% of locals and 44% of recent visitors list he city’s bike culture as the most distinctive characteristic of Copenhagen.

Copenhageners and visitors not only associate the city with bikes, they also navigate the city by bikes. Locals respect visitors attempt and effort to explore the city ‘the local way’, but have a less positive response when actually encountering visitors on bikes. As locals travel to and from work by bike, their patience for adventure-seeking visitors in holiday-mode is highly strained. Consequently, one of the top items on locals’ wish list for tourism initiatives is for better education for around bike culture for visitors.

Source: 'I samtale med København' and 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'

Transportation & local atmosphere is of great importance

Both locals, visitors and potential visitors agree that an efficient and easily accessible public transport system, together with the local atmosphere, are the most important aspects for making a city good to both live in and visit. Fortunately, Copenhagen possesses both these aspects in the eyes of visitors. When asked about the strengths of Copenhagen, they emphasise the local transportation system and atmosphere as part of the city’s main strengths as a destination.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'

An easily liveable & visitable city

Over 50% of locals and 1 out in 5 visitors perceive Copenhagen’s size as a key characteristic of the city. Both locals and visitors see Copenhagen as a big city on a small scale – making it perfectly walkable and easily bike-able. On top of this, Copenhagen is rated best in class by  visitors in terms of public transport accessibility in the Competitive Index across European cities. Locals and visitors both agree that an easily accessible and efficient public transportation system, together with the local atmosphere, is the most important aspect of making a city great – to live in and to visit.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer' and 'I samtale med København'

The (lack of) power of attractions

Visiting major attractions is a big part of travelling to new places. Not only visitors, but also the local citizens of Copenhagen find the city’s attractions to be a distinctive attribute – in fact, citizens more so than visitors. 42% of local citizens consider famous Copenhagen attractions as a main characteristic of the city, while only 17% of recent visitors rate attractions as a main characteristic.

While potential visitors rank Copenhagen’s famous attractions as the most appealing characteristic of Copenhagen, visitors, who have been to Copenhagen leave the city with an experience of the city’s many bicycles as the main characteristic of Copenhagen.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'

All in for atmosphere

Research shows that for 62% of international visitors to Copenhagen, one of the key motivations for travelling to Copenhagen is the local atmosphere. Moreover, 94% of Copenhagen’s international visitors, state that the local atmosphere is important, very important or essential for making a city appealing to visit. This indicates a mismatch between locals’ recommendations and the actual travel motivations of visitors. Local citizens often recommend acclaimed attractions like Tivoli, the Little Mermaid and areas around the city centre, these of course reflect the local atmosphere, but do not include the broader aspects of Copenhagen’s local experience.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer' and 'Storbyturister i København, VisitDenmark 2018'

DNA in the walls of Copenhagen

The architecture of Copenhagen is a major selling point. One third of locals and visitors rate the historic architecture as the most important characteristic of the city, while ‘Danish Architecture’ and ‘Danish Design’ is recognised by 1 out of 4 visitors as an important part of Copenhagen’s DNA.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'

An experience of urban nature

Approximately 30% of Copenhageners highlight the green and blue public spaces such as urban nature such as parks and harbour baths as an essential part of the city's DNA. When asked directly, visitors don’t point to these spots of urban nature, but in the research of visitors’ digital behaviour, urban nature forms a big part of their shared visual Copenhagen experience. Pictures of Stockholm that are shared on social media reflect the grand nature experiences of the forest and sea just outside the city. In comparison, pictures shared of Copenhagen depict experiences of urban nature such as the canals, lakes, beaches and green city centre areas.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer' and 'Den Digitale Samtale'


Environmental impact of tourism

In the minds of 38% of local Copenhageners, “environmentally conscious” describes the DNA of Copenhagen. At the same time, 29% of locals associate tourism with negative impacts on the environment.

The fact that not everyone thinks tourism and” environmental consciousness” goes hand in hand is also reflected in the locals’ disappointed expectations to visitors’ behaviour while in Copenhagen. Taking care of the environment is both locals’ top expectation to visitors’ behaviour and the behaviour visitors least live up to according to locals.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer' and 'Resident Sentiment Index'

Clean Copenhagen – a strength and a challenge

Both locals and visitors highlight Copenhagen as a clean city, which is also reflected in the Competitive Index analyses among business visitors and across all visitors. At the same time, from the locals’ perspective, tourism is perceived to negatively impact the cleanliness of Copenhagen. Among the 33% of locals, who experience tourism-related problems throughout the year, 46% consider tourism as having a negative impact on the issues of cleanliness and waste management. Making the issues of cleanliness and waste the third largest tourism-related problem from a local perspective. The biggest problem is traffic.

Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'; 'Competitive Index, All Visitors'; 'Competitive Index, MICE' and 'Resident Sentiment Index'

Strengths in the eyes of locals

City size
Almost 4 out of 10 locals emphasise the convenient size of Copenhagen, making it easy to get around the city.

Activities & attractions
More than 1/3 of locals highlight the city’s attractions and many activity choices, including the many cafes, bars etc., that are all part of creating a vibrant city life.

Areas of nature
Copenhagen’s green areas, sea side and harbour baths are of great joy to the city’s locals. Approximately 30% of locals consider the urban nature areas as a substantial strength of Copenhagen.

Cycling culture
The bicycle culture of Copenhagen is highlighted by 1/5 of locals as a strength - including the bikeable and easy accessibility of the city.

City aesthetics
Approximately 1/6 locals highlight Copenhagen as a beautiful city, both clean and with beautiful old architecture.



Based on open-ended answers from 1014 locals.
Question asked: In your opinion, what are the strengths of Copenhagen as a destination?

Strengths in the eyes of visitors

Easy to navigate
More than 1/5 of the recent visitors highlight the well-functioning public transportation as one of Copenhagen’s major strengths. In combination with the size and the simplicity of the city’s design, visitors experience the city as easy to navigate.

Activities & attractions
Almost 1/5 of recent visitors consider Copenhagen as a city of many possibilities and attractions with plenty to see and do.

Local behaviour
Almost 1/5 emphasise ‘the locals’ way’ as one of the city‘s strengths. Copenhagen locals are described as being very friendly and hospitable. Visitors also highlight the locals’ ability to speak English.

City atmosphere
In the eyes of approximately 1/6 of visitors, Copenhagen has a special atmosphere, among others described as lively, happy, relaxed and safe.

City aesthetics
Approximately 1/6 visitors highlight the city’s appearance, including the
beautiful buildings and architecture, open public space and the city’s cleanliness.

Based on open-ended answers from 1721 previous visitors.
Question asked: In your opinion, what are the 3 main strengths of Copenhagen compared to other cities?


Source: 'Københavns DNA og Fremtidige Potentialer'



Explore other topics

How Copenhagen competes

Copenhagen is a hard sell, when it comes to value for money across multiple parameters. At the same time, Copenhagen leaves visitors unimpressed by the city’s experiences, and though home to 22 Michelin Stars, Copenhagen’s quality of food is rated only slightly above average.

How Copenhageners experience tourism

67% of local residents in Copenhagen experience no problems with the city’s tourism and overall are positive about welcoming even more visitors to Copenhagen in the future.