Inconveniently for short stay visitors, two of Copenhagen’s ‘big three’ art museums are not in Copenhagen itself. While the Statens Museum for Kunst is quite central the city centre, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and the Arken Museum of Modern Art, both ground-breaking in their architecture and collections, are situated along the coast, north and south of the city respectively.
Located in a park a short walk from the city centre, the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Art Museum) traces 700 years of art from the early Renaissance to today. The museum’s permanent collection includes Renaissance masterpieces, French art from the early 1900s, Scandinavian works and an extensive 20th century collection. Artists range from Titian and Rembrandt to Matisse and Picasso as well as masters from the Golden Age of Danish painting. The building itself is worth a closer look. The white modernist extension is harmoniously linked with the 1896 museum building by a spacious, glass-roofed ‘sculpture street’. www.smk.dk/smk
In the southern suburb of Ishoj, a 15-minute train ride, south, the iconic building of the Arken Museum of Modern Art sits ship-shaped right on the beach. A permanent collection of work by Danish, Scandinavian and international artists, predominantly from 1990 onwards, is augmented by changing exhibitions. www.arken.dk
On the coastal road north of Copenhagen, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is housed in a villa with modern wings linked by glass corridors. The most visited museum in Denmark, it has an extensive permanent collection of post-WWII art, a sculpture park and a restaurant with sea views. For city break visitors, it is at least a half-day excursion. And the name? Turns out the original owner of the villa had three ex-wives – all called Louise. www.louisiana.dk
The Glyptotek, or to give it its full name, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, was founded in 1899 by the brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen, who created one of the largest private art collections of his era. One of Denmark’s most beautiful museum buildings, it has one of the largest collections of ancient art in northern Europe and a major collection of Danish and European art, notably French Impressionism. It is named ‘glyptotek’ after the Greek word for a sculpture repository. www.glyptoteket.dk
One of Copenhagen’s best independent art groups, the Kunstforeningen Gammel Strand (the name means ‘Gammel Strand art association’) can be traced back to 1825. Its light-filled galleries in an its attractive 18th century building overlooking Copenhagen’s canals host changing exhibitions ranging from group shows of Danish artists to international retrospectives in all media, from painting to video art. In 2010 the museum expanded into the neighbouring premises with room for a canalside cafe and bookshop. www.glstrand.dk
True to the Scandinavian tradition of architectural innovation, Copenhagen has seen a flood of new construction in recent years, including the metro system, a striking opera house and the world’s most acoustically innovative music venue, the Konzerthuset (Concert Hall). Danish architects are winning international competitions with ‘holistic’ building designs aimed at creating sustainable, environmentally-friendly buildings. If you’ve ever wondered what the cities of the future could look like, a visit to the Danish Architecture Centre might provide a few clues with 3D visualisations, models and photos illustrating Denmark’s architectural flair. Architects lead visitors on Sunday guided tours. www.dac.dk
In the Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, you can find fine examples of some of Denmark’s iconic crafts. The flagship store of Royal Copenhagen porcelain has three floors of what has been a Scandinavian ‘must have’ since 1775 (www.royalcopenhagen.com). Right next door are exquisitely crafted Danish silver designs by George Jensen (www.georgjensen.com), the interior designer Illums Bolighus, where you can spot the latest trends in kitchenware, textiles and furniture (www.illumsbolighus.dk), and Holmegaard Glass, where just the way these masterpiece glass objects are lit and displayed is worth the visit (www.holmegaard.com).