At the heart of Denmark is the capital of Copenhagen, a city filled with royal palaces, colorful harbors, and youthful energy. A boat tour around the city harbor is a kaleidoscopic affair that reveals a rainbow of 17th-century homes, classic wooden ships, and water so clean locals are known to jump in come summertime.

Aside from its iconic harbor and Little Mermaid statue, Copenhagen also has a plethora of design and deliciousness attributed to its reputation. The award-winning Mountain Dwellings complex, Superkilen Park, and the 8 Tallet mixed-use development are just a few of the many fascinating feats of architecture in this city.

Then of course there is the food. New Nordic Cuisine has recently taken the culinary scene by storm with restaurants like Noma paving the way for the Scandinavian tradition of simple, seasonal dishes. A gourmet discovery of Copenhagen’s West End allows you to sample some of these delicacies emerging from the modern Nordic kitchen. The old meatpacking district of Kødbyen has become the fastest developing foodie area in town, with its derelict factories being transformed into some of the most interesting, edgy restaurants in the city.

Kødbyen is just one example of the innovation and progressive change in Copenhagen. The lesser visited Nørrebro neighborhood—once a working class neighborhood—is now the most vibrant region in the city. Its youthful chic personality is seen in its mix of high-end boutique stores next to shawarma kitchens, libraries, and bars.

For an immersion into the royal history of Denmark, escape the city for a day trip to nearby North Zealand, where some of the country’s most impressive castles reside. Resting just beyond the beautiful forests north of Copenhagen, Frederiksborg Castle houses a splendid collection of antiques, art, and treasures dating back to the Renaissance, as well as a chapel still used for royal marriages. The royal summer residence of Fredensborg is also in close proximity and showcases a distinct 18th-century Italian style alongside magnificent parks. Finally, there is Kronborg Castle, perhaps most well known as the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is decked out in tapestries, ceiling paintings, carved ebony doors, and magnificent halls that bring to life the rich court life of the Danish Renaissance kings. Not to be outdone, the creepy crypts and catacombs of the castle reveal legends of lords ready to defend Denmark from their rocky thrones.