What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Copenhagen
- Jürgen Hofmeister
The various InterNations activities for expats in Copenhagen made me feel welcome immediately.
Relocating to Copenhagen
- Denmark’s capital has a rich history and is a thriving business hub with great connections to surrounding countries.
- Acquiring a residency permit for Copenhagen can be tricky, but there are certain ways to make your transition easier, for example, looking at current labor shortages.
- Copenhagen’s public transportation network is vast and efficient with the metro lines running 24 hours, seven days a week.
Moving to Copenhagen can be an incredible experience for expats who love to live the urban, European life. Denmark’s capital is by far the biggest city in the country and also the most populous urban area. Of Denmark’s 5.6 million citizens, about 1.26 million live in Copenhagen. Still, the city of Copenhagen has preserved its small-town flair.
A Chilly Winter in the Danish Business Hub
Copenhagen is located in the southeast of Denmark, on the island of Zealand (Sjælland). Expats moving to Copenhagen will be glad to find that this makes it an important business location within Europe. From Copenhagen you have access to the Øresund region, consisting of Zealand, Lolland-Falster, and Bornholm on the Danish side of the sound. At the same time, its close proximity to Sweden allows you to explore Europe on a shoestring via the Øresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen with Malmö.
Upon moving to Copenhagen, you will encounter a moderate climate. The Atlantic Gulf Stream brings warm, and at times humid, weather throughout the summer months. In the winter months, rain is more common than snow in Copenhagen, and temperatures usually fluctuate around the freezing point.
Princes and Palaces: Denmark’s City of Royalty
In Copenhagen, chances are you frequently come across royal statues and monuments or experience various events celebrating the monarchy and the royal family. After all, Denmark’s monarchy is one of the oldest in the world.
If you visit Amalienborg Palace after moving to Copenhagen, you might just catch a glimpse of Queen Margrethe II. The Danish Royal Guard patrols the palace grounds all day long, and is quite the tourist attraction. Specifically, if you find yourself at Amalienborg Palace at 12:00 of any day, you can witness the changing of the guards.
Naturally, a move to Copenhagen will not solely get you in touch with the city’s historical heritage. Denmark’s government also has its home here: Christiansborg Palace, for instance, serves as the seat of the Danish parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of State. The Royal Reception Rooms are reserved for the Royal Family and the Prime Minister of Denmark, who uses these rooms for state visits.
Challenging Language in the City with a Heart for Great Food
Danish has a bit of a reputation as a difficult language to grasp, and deservedly so. While you definitely should learn some of the local tongue before moving to Copenhagen, you will soon learn that many Copenhageners, and Danes in general, also speak English fluently.
The language itself is closely related to Swedish and Norwegian. If you are familiar with either of these Scandinavian languages, learning Danish may come a little, if not a lot, easier to you.
Another prevalent aspect you can enjoy after your move to Copenhagen is the Danish food culture. Whether it is typical Danish hotdogs or Nordic high cuisine, Copenhagen boasts an abundance of eateries. The city does indeed have a heart for great food. If you’re moving to Copenhagen, you should not miss out on smørrebrød (open-face sandwiches) or, if your budget allows, one of the sixteen Michelin-starred restaurants.
Visas for Denmark: Know the Rules
For expats moving to Copenhagen and Denmark, there are a few different types of visas, each of which applies to different situations. Before you move to the Danish capital, you need to find out which visa applies to your needs and make sure you obtain the right one.
For a Flying Visit: Short-Term Visas
Non-EU/EEA citizens who plan on traveling to Copenhagen for a short-term visit need to apply for a Schengen visa. This allows you to travel to Copenhagen and stay for up to 90 days. Note, however, that you are not allowed to take up employment with a Schengen visa. You are merely eligible to carry out work-related activities, such as business meetings or negotiations.
Nationals from member countries of the EU/EEA, from Nordic countries (Finland, Norway, and Sweden), and from Switzerland are exempt from needing a visa.
Many expats choose to go to Denmark for short fact-finding trips, and the Schengen visa is the way to go about this. Refer to the Danish Immigration Service for more information, including a list of all countrieswhose citizens are obligated to secure a visa for short-term visits.
In It for the Long Haul: Work Permits and Residency
Contrary to the short-term Schengen visa, work permits do allow for long-term residency and full-time employment in Denmark. As is the case for the short-term visa, however, citizens of Switzerland, Nordic countries, and EU/EEA countries do not need to secure a work permit in order to settle in Copenhagen or elsewhere in Denmark.
Note that some minor restrictions do apply to EU/EEA nationals, though. Unlike Nordic citizens and the Swiss, they need to apply for a registration certificate or a residence card within three months after their move to Copenhagen. In general, though, expats from Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the EU face very few bureaucratic obstacles.
For expats who need a work permit, it is not quite as simple, but they needn’t worry too much. The easiest way of obtaining a permit is by securing a job beforehand. Once you have found work in Copenhagen, you and your future employer have to prove that your stay is professionally justified. In general, this is the case if you were hired for a special type of work or if there were no available and qualified applicants already in Denmark to fill your prospective position.
Easy Ways to Get a Work Permit
To make it easier for expats to acquire a work permit, a number of work permit schemes have been designed. These include:
- The Positive List, on which you can find jobs and professions with a current labor shortage. If you are applying for or have already been hired for a position on this list, you should be able to directly apply for a work permit.
- The Pay Limit Scheme addresses expats whose gross yearly salary is at least 400,000 DKK (approx. 60,000 USD).
- The Corporate Scheme is tailored to foreign employees who transfer to a Danish branch office of their company.
- The Green Card Scheme, on the other hand, is just right for you if you move to Copenhagen for the job search. It allows you to take up employment and is valid for up to three years.
- Researcherswith a written job offer have their own scheme, making it easier for them to acquire a work permit as well.
Additional schemes address religious workers, self-employed expats, trainees, and athletes. Some professionals, such as diplomats, performing artists, or transportation personnel, are – under certain conditions – exempt from the application process entirely. You can read all about work permits and the full range of schemes on the website of the Danish Immigration Service.
Getting Around in Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s public transportation system is exceptionally efficient and reliable, allowing you to explore the city largely without a car. The transportation network is constantly being improved and developed, thus ensuring a high degree of mobility for the city’s citizens. Copenhagen is divided into nine different zones, which determine the fare for your trip. You can buy your ticket at a ticket office or a vending machine at train stations or on the bus from the driver.
For those who would like to travel outside of Copenhagen via train, Copenhagen Central Station (Københavns Hovedbanegård) is the place to go. Located near Vesterbro, in the heart of the city, the Central Station is the main stop for buses and taxis as well as the local S-trains and regional trains.
Travel Made Easy by World’s Greatest Metro
Copenhagen’s metro system was declared the world’s best metro in both 2008 and 2010. Indeed, the network allows for a safe and efficient commute on one of the two lines throughout Copenhagen. The green line, M1, runs from Vanløse Station to Ørestand and West Amager, while the yellow line, M2, takes you from Vanløse to Copenhagen Airport on East Amager. Both lines lead through the city center by way of Kongens Nytorv.
Copenhagen’s metro is driverless and runs automatically every four to six minutes throughout the day and every fifteen to twenty minutes at night. It is thus easy to get around town, be it during your daily commute or at night after leaving a party. On the Metro website, you can check the next couple of departures from each station.
One Ticket for All
As an alternative to the metro, you can also explore Copenhagen via normal trains. The ticket system is based on nine geographical zones of Greater Copenhagen, which, as mentioned, determine fares. Aside from single-journey tickets, you can also purchase a Rejsekort, a reloadable travel card you simply scan as soon as you get on the bus or the train.
A standard ticket allows for a one-hour journey by bus, train, metro, or S-train. S-trains in particular make it easy to get around Greater Copenhagen, and DSB (the Danish railway network) offers a comprehensive document for S-train timetables and a map.
Buses and trains in Copenhagen usually run between 05:00 and 00:30. There are a few exceptions, however; movia busses offer a year-round all-night service at the usual fare. You can find more information on movia online (Danish only). For information on regional trains and the S-trains, visit DSB.
Other Options: Cars, Taxis and Bicycles
There are lots of other ways to explore Copenhagen, of course. Some expats may prefer to travel by car, which is particularly advantageous for those living further outside the city center. However, as in most other cities, driving is usually not the most convenient way of getting around in Copenhagen. Parking spots are in high demand, and gasoline is rather expensive. For this reason, many expats prefer public transportation.
Taxis are available as well, and can be hailed on the street or found at various points around the city center especially. There are various independent taxi companies, and fares can, for example, start at DKK (4 USD) with each kilometer adding 15.25 DKK (approx. 2.30 USD). Of course, fares vary depending on the time of day. As a rule of thumb, they are higher on the weekends than during the week.
Expats who love spending time outdoors, and prefer cycling to going by car, train, or bus, will be happy to hear that the Danish capital is also well-equipped with bicycle paths. While it is indeed possible to explore almost all of Copenhagen by bike, you should keep in mind that you are not allowed to cycle through pedestrian-only areas, such as Strøget. Cycling maps and other bicycle-related information is available at the Cyklistforbund (Danish Cyclists’ Federation).
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- Jürgen Hofmeister
The various InterNations activities for expats in Copenhagen made me feel welcome immediately.
- Sarah Porter
InterNations expats let me see that there's much more to Copenhagen than clichés like The Little Mermaid and Tivoli...