Living in Copenhagen
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A comprehensive guide about living well in Copenhagen
Life in Copenhagen is largely characterized by diversity, social equality, and overall excitement. In our Relocation Guide, you can learn all about Copenhagen’s city districts, the housing search, healthcare, and education to get ready for living in Copenhagen!
Life in Copenhagen
- Denmark is a democratic country with a monarchy. Although there has been a recent rise in popularity for right-wing parties, the country is politically stable.
- Accommodation can be expensive and hard to find in Copenhagen, but make use of all the available sources and you’ll be well on the way to building a new home abroad.
- You need to register your address and get a CPR number in Copenhagen — without this number, you can’t open a bank account or get access to the public healthcare system.
Copenhagen is becoming increasingly popular among both expats and Danes, as the metropolis has a reputation for being one of the most cosmopolitan and exciting cities in Northern Europe. While its food, its culture, and its art scenes are among the many reasons locals choose a life in Copenhagen, this big city with its small-town flair attracts many an expat as well.
Political Stability in the Democratic Capital
The head of government in Denmark is the prime minister, and the parliament obviously plays an essential role in the political life in Copenhagen and Denmark. Nevertheless, the Danish monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II, still functions as the official head of state, and laws are not enacted until signed by her. Overall, expats living in Copenhagen experience political stability as well as freedom of speech. It is a democratic rule that has its roots in the age of the Vikings.
The single-chamber parliament (Folketinget) with its 179 members is based at Christiansborg Palace. The Liberal Party (Venstre) and the Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokratiet) have always been the most influential parties in Denmark’s political system and since 1982, no political party has reached an absolute majority in parliament. In the 2015 elections, however, the Danes saw a rise in support for the Danish People’s Party, known for its Eurosceptic and anti-immigration policies. While the Social Democratic Party remains the biggest in parliament, the DPP claimed the second largest number of seats. It is the Liberal Party Venstre, though, that forms the current minority government.
Understanding Copenhagen’s Districts
Expats who plan on living in Copenhagen have many different districts to choose from. They each have their individual flair and features, which is precisely what makes Copenhagen as diverse as it is. Below, you will find an introduction to the most notable ones.
Copenhagen’s inner city is the heart of the Danish capital, with its canals and its harbor. Both the medieval city and Christianshavn are located here. The city’s oldest neighborhood is well known for its small and narrow streets, crooked houses as well as its abundance of shopping opportunities, cozy cafés, and green areas.
The area captivates people living in Copenhagen, young and old, with the beautiful canals and the modern waterfront. Strøget is the main pedestrian street and runs from the City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv. Of course, you shouldn’t miss out on the exciting side streets of Copenhagen either.
Not all expats living in Copenhagen, however, settle in the city center, and many turn to Amager instead. South of Inner Copenhagen, Amager offers lots of new residential areas and flats, for example in Ørestad, Bella Center, and Islands Brygge.
While students like to settle here as well, the majority of Amager’s population is made up of people with an above-average income. The district is home to the Copenhagen IT University as well as Denmark’s radio (DR). The area offers many jobs in the service industry as well as the social and healthcare sector.
Østerbro and Vesterbro
Those living in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro area have settled in the city’s former red light district, which has grown into one of the most popular areas today. Located within walking distance from the city center, it is considered one of the most fashionable places to spend your life in Copenhagen. In this district, you find lots of bars, restaurants, and designer stores. At the same time, however, Vesterbro is a lot less posh than Østerbro.
Living in Copenhagen’s Østerbro is mostly for the rich and the beautiful. The district is the most attractive, but also most expensive living area in the Danish capital. But, while Østerbro is a quiet district with privileged citizens, it also has its hectic sides with vibrant business areas and a thriving commercial life.
Copenhagen’s Valby district is characterized by creativity and heritage. Originally an independent village, it grew into a bit of an industrial location. Today, the area has been turned into creative working spaces, clubs, and bars.
Living in Valby offers quite a pleasant life for both expats and locals. The district offers a wide choice of housing space with regard to size, type, price, etc. Here, the feeling of living in a small town meets the vibe of life in Copenhagen’s urban center. In a sense, Valby is truly a city within a city!
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Creating a Home in Copenhagen
Accommodation in the Capital: Pricey and Hard to Find
In a city as popular as Copenhagen, it is not always easy to find a place to live. This may hold even truer for expats, who often face a serious language barrier and do not have an overview of the local real estate market.
Many Copenhageners sublet their apartments, which is why it could be a great option for you to look for temporary housing at first. You can also activate your expat network and see if one of your expat friends is about to leave Copenhagen and is looking for someone to take over their lease.
Before you get into the apartment search, you should be aware that living in Copenhagen can be rather costly. You should certainly set a budget to get an idea of how much you can afford to spend on rent. At the same time, the location of your future home is also fairly important. After all, you want to feel at home there and have a reasonably short commute to work.
If you are looking for a smaller apartment, note that prices tend to rise in the fall when new students arrive in Copenhagen. Due to this high demand, small furnished apartments can the hard to find. In terms of rent, two-room apartments come anywhere from 3,000 to 18,000 DKK (approx. 455 to 2,700 USD) a month, depending on size and location, of course.
Finding a House: Use Your Contacts
There are different ways of going about the apartment hunt, and among expats, the online search is probably the most popular. You may, however, also like to take out an ad or browse the local newspapers for the classified sections. Many expats contact friends and co-workers for information. Your expat network in Copenhagen might be of great help in this endeavor as well.
Before you respond to an ad, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Regarding online ads, scams do unfortunately occur. You should never pay the deposit or any of the rent up front without having seen the apartment first. If you do get cheated, it is almost impossible to get the money back. For this very reason, you should look at the apartment you are going to rent and read the rental contract carefully. At the end of the day, a place that seems too good to be true usually is.
You can rent accommodation privately, for instance, from the person or company owning it. Many real estate agencies have specialized in finding private rentals for their customers, too. However, if you prefer to avoid real estate agents, simply search the internet for “lejeboliger” (accommodation to let) and “København.” For one, Boligportalen is used by many Danes to look for either places to live or tenants. This would be a good place to create an ad.
Remember to Register!
Once you have found your future home and completed your move to Copenhagen, you are nearly done. The last thing you need to do is to register your residency, which you must do at a Citizen Service Center (Borgerservice). You should bring the following paperwork:
- valid registration certificate or your residence permit, unless you are a national of an EU/EAA member country, a Nordic country (Finland, Iceland, Norway, or Sweden), or Switzerland
- your passport or personal ID
- your employment contract
- proof of your address in Copenhagen, such as your rental contract
- if applicable, birth certificates of your children and your marriage certificate
In Copenhagen, the Citizen Service Center is at Nyropsgade 1. Keep in mind that you only have to register for a CPR number if you plan to stay in Copenhagen for more than three months. Once your registration is complete, you will receive your CPR number in the mail.
The CPR number is incredibly important, as it is your personal identification number, used in relation to salary payments, bank transactions, and in countless other contexts. Also, you are automatically included in the Danish public health insurance scheme once registered.
Healthcare and Education in Copenhagen
Free Healthcare, but Research Your Options
Denmark’s healthcare system is excellent and offers an abundance of medical facilities and services to all citizens. In the spirit of the welfare state, all residents indeed enjoy equal access to healthcare services. Specific services and health insurance schemes are organized by municipalities, while hospitals are run by one of the country’s five regions.
Your CPR number and yellow insurance card automatically qualify you for public health services. While the public health system is of high quality, public health insurance may not always cover everything. Dental care, for instance, is not included, and you could consider taking out additional insurance for this. Make sure to bring your insurance card whenever you go to the doctor’s.
Hospitals in Copenhagen
Rigshospitalet is the biggest hospital in Copenhagen and offers the most information in English. There are, however, a number of other hospitals in the greater Copenhagen region:
- Amager Hospital
- Bispebjerg Hospital
- Bornholms Hospital
- Frederiksberg Hospital
- Gentofte Hospital
- Glostrup Hospital
- Herley Hospital
- Hvidovre Hospital
- Nordsjællands Hospital
In an Emergency…
You can receive emergency medical care in Copenhagen in a few different ways. In absolute emergencies, for instance if someone is badly injured or falls unconscious, you should call 112 and explain your situation as calmly as possible. You will be asked where you are, and an ambulance will be sent to your location. Under 112, you will also reach the police and fire department.
Sometimes, you can be ill and feel you need medical attention by a doctor, without it being an emergency. In such cases, you can simply call your general practitioner, whose number is on your yellow insurance card, and schedule a time to be examined.
If it’s outside opening hours (usually 8:00 to 16:00) or on holidays, you should instead dial 1813 to get a hold of a doctor on call. A doctor will then answer your call and either give you a consultation over the phone, ask you to visit one of the emergency service centers for consultation, or send someone to visit you at home. Home visits are usually only an option if you are too sick to visit an emergency service center yourself.
Additionally, there are a number of pharmacies open 24 hours a day, such as the Steno Apotek close by the central station, and the following hospitals offer 24-7 emergency care:
- Amager Hospital
- Bispebjerg Hospital
- Frederiksberg Hospital
Education Options: Keep the Cost Down and Go Public…
Expats who live in Copenhagen with their family have different options in terms of their children’s education. Public schooling begins at the age of six and is free of charge. Before enrolling in the public school system, expat children up to the age of 16 even have the option of attending a “reception class” to get an introduction to the Danish language and the overall school system in their new home.
Copenhagen is divided into different school districts, and children attend schools and reception classes in their particular district. Once you have picked a school, you should contact their admissions office for more information.
…or Pay to Go International
Like in many other countries and cities, some expats decide to send their children to an international school. To some, this kind of educational environment better helps the children overcome culture shock and avoid the obvious language barrier. Although, you should note that, while international schools are a great choice for expat families who plan to stay in Copenhagen for only a short period, they also make it harder for children to get fully immersed in the local culture. International schools in and around Copenhagen include: