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Are you ready to explore the vibrant, eclectic and sometimes controversial side of the Danish capital? Get ready to delve into the historic red light district of Copenhagen, where colorful characters and vibrant lights create a unique atmosphere unlike any other. 

But this is far from the seedy area you may expect. Instead, it’s located in Vesterbro, one of the coolest parts of Copenhagen with more bars, restaurants and shops than you’d ever expect.

It’s definitely worth a visit – if you keep in mind a few points about what to do, where to go and some safety considerations.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Vesterbro in Copenhagen?

My top pick: CPH Hotel – super well located, great Scandi decor and the pools are perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring the city.

Want something more luxurious? Check out the Grand Joanne Hotel for the height of classic chic.

On more of a budget? Wakeup Copenhagen is just what you need – comfortable, clean and close to everything.

Copenhagen red light district at night
Source: Anderz Lejczak (CC BY 2.0)

Does Copenhagen have a red light district?

Yes, Copenhagen does have a red light district, located in the Vesterbro neighborhood. The primary street for this activity is Istedgade, and there are also some spots on Vesterbrogade. However, compared to other red light districts in the world, Copenhagen’s is relatively low-key, much more so than Amsterdam’s. 

Copenhagen’s red light district has a rich history and is an interesting part of the city’s culture. It used to be located in Nyhavn, where sailors would go to, well, do what they did. 

Today, as mentioned, the red light district is located in the Vesterbro neighborhood and is centered around Istedgade and Vesterbrogade. While it’s much smaller now than it used to be, it still attracts visitors who are curious about this seedy side of the city.

rainbow in the sky of Copenhagen red light district
Source: Beathe (CC BY-NC 2.0)

And one of the biggest surprises of Copenhagen’s red light district is that it’s not just a seedy area. In fact, there are plenty of trendy and upscale bars, restaurants, and shops that are popular with locals and visitors alike. 

The Istedgade area is particularly known for its hip vibe, and it’s a great place to grab a drink, grab a bite to eat, or do some shopping.

Is Copenhagen’s red light district safe?

Overall, Copenhagen’s red light district is a safe area, especially compared to other similar districts around the world. Violent crime in the red light district is rare, and with the high level of foot traffic and the presence of a police station close to Istedgade, visitors can feel secure.

While the area around the main train station can feel slightly sketchy at night, this is typical for cities, and tourists shouldn’t feel intimidated. Solicitation for paid services may occur, but tourists who decline will not be bothered. 

While violent crime may not be a concern, petty crime such as pickpocketing can be more prevalent, especially around the red light district and train station. Tourists are advised to take precautions, such as avoiding flaunting valuables and securing their bicycles properly by double-locking them and tying them to a fixed object when possible. 

It’s also advisable to park bikes in quieter side streets to reduce the risk of theft.

a restaurant in Vesterbros
Source: Noise Grunt (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Despite these points, it’s still a safe place to visit, and many people find it fascinating to stroll through the streets and see what this area has to offer.

In fact, despite its reputation, Vesterbro is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the city, with real estate prices rising significantly in recent years. The area offers a range of bars and restaurants, making it a great place to visit even if you’re not looking for the adult activities on offer. 

However, if you do choose to hire a prostitute, it’s important to take necessary precautions and use protection.

Is prostitution legal in Denmark?

Yes, prostitution in Denmark was partially decriminalized in 1999, with the aim of making it easier to regulate and police. Despite the decriminalization, certain activities related to prostitution, such as brothel ownership and pimping, are still illegal, as is the prostitution of minors. 

Additionally, those engaged in prostitution in Denmark are not entitled to benefits or employment insurance – despite the fact that they pay tax. 

street in Copenhagen red light district at night
Source: Haydn Blackey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

However, a 2011 public opinion poll indicated that a majority of Danes (61%) believe that sex workers should have greater rights and recognition for their profession. 

In Denmark, only the person selling sexual services can profit from them, and it’s illegal to rent rooms for this purpose. As a result, while you may be expecting to see something similar to Amsterdam, where women stand in windows to entice potential customers, this isn’t a thing in Copenhagen’s red light district.

What to do in Copenhagen’s red light district

​​Copenhagen’s red light district, located in Vesterbro, offers much more than just adult entertainment. While there are strip clubs to visit on Istedgade, you’ll also find a huge array of bars, restaurants and great shopping, especially at Enghave Plads at the end of the street.

For example, for those seeking a night out, Vesterbro has plenty of options, especially the bustling Kødbyen (Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District), where you’ll find numerous drinking establishments serving anything from high end cocktails, to craft beers, to the budget-friendly Bodegas. 

The restaurants in the Meatpacking District are also incredible, with plenty to choose from before you continue your night at one of the amazing bars or nightclubs in the area.

a street in Copenhagen red light district
Source: Noise Grunt (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For shopping, Copenhagen’s red light district offers a wide range of options, from independent stores to larger chains and some seriously stylish Scandi brands. 

Denmark is known for its second-hand economy, and PRAG on Vesterbrogade is a great place to try it out, with a variety of clothing items for sale. 

I’ve listed just some of my favorite places to go in Istedgade and its immediate surroundings.

You may also be interested in: 9 Best Cities to Live in Denmark (For Your Best Life)

Go shopping in Kyoto

Step into Kyoto, a one-of-a-kind fashion store located in the heart of Vesterbro, Copenhagen. For over 20 years, Kyoto has been dressing the trendiest hipsters in the city and beyond, with a curated collection of the coolest fashion brands from around the world. 

From Scandi-chic labels like Acne, Wood Wood, Han Kjøbenhavn, Norse Projects and Ganni to contemporary designers from across the globe, Kyoto offers a fashion-forward mix that will leave you feeling inspired and stylish.

Kyoto isn’t just a store though – it’s a cultural hub that captures the essence of Vesterbro’s trendy vibe. I have to say that, overall, customer service in Copenhagen isn’t great. But that’s really not the case at Kyoto where the friendly and knowledgeable staff, led by owner Kristian, handpick every piece from a wide variety of brands to bring you the latest in fashion.

Get a taste of the Nordic fashion scene (definitely one of the things that Denmark is famous for), learn about the inspirations behind each piece, and walk out a fully-fledged member of Copenhagen’s fashion forward elite.

Find out more about: 19 Best Danish Shoe Brands (for Nordic Elegance)

Get some food like JAGGER

Get ready for a fast food revolution at JAGGER on Istedgade. Say goodbye to greasy burgers and hello to gourmet goodness. 

This budget-friendly fast food joint, located in the bustling heart of Vesterbro, is serving up the best in high quality eats. From juicy cheeseburgers to crispy fried chicken, milkshakes to frozen cocktails, there’s something for everyone. 

And with a former Michelin chef, Rasmus Oubæk, at the helm, you can be sure that each bite will be a taste sensation.

Dine in the rustic but comfortable surroundings, order up your favorite menu items, and enjoy a canned beer or two while sitting outside at one of the buzzing tables on Istedgade. Jagger is the perfect cure for your hangovers or a late-night snack stop on your way home from a night out.

Related: Danish Bread (Rugbrød) and Pastries: The Ultimate Guide

Find the ultimate souvenir at Handcraftedcph

Nestled in the heart of the charming Sønder Boulevard in Vesterbro (just a few steps away from Istedgade), Handcraftedcph is a haven for anyone who loves contemporary jewelry and impeccable craftsmanship. 

This independent jewelry store offers both ready-made and custom-made pieces, all crafted with precision and care. From graphic designs to bespoke wedding and engagement rings, Handcraftedcph has something for everyone.

Founded by Anders Forup, who comes from a long line of goldsmiths, the store is deeply rooted in the proud traditions of Danish design and crafts. With a thoughtful mix of traditional craftsmanship and classic and graphic designs, Handcraftedcph creates clean and timeless pieces that will last a lifetime.

Embrace vintage fashion at PRAG

Get ready to up your fashion game with PRAG’s vintage and secondhand clothing! 

Located in the heart of Vesterbro, PRAG offers a carefully selected range of secondhand clothing for both men and women, with a larger selection for the ladies. 

Take advantage of Denmark’s thriving secondhand economy and head to PRAG to score stylish jackets, blazers and other clothing items at unbeatable prices.

And lest you forget that this is the middle of Copenhagen’s red light district, PRAG is located in a historic spot that was once home to the world’s oldest porn shop, Blue Movie, before it closed its doors in 2010. 

So, whether you’re getting ready for the weekend’s parties or just looking to brighten up a dull Monday, PRAG has got you covered.

Have a coffee at KAFFE

Wake up and smell the coffee! Visit KAFFE, located on the bustling Istedgade in Vesterbro, where you can enjoy a warm, cozy atmosphere and a delicious cup of coffee. 

Whether you’re grabbing a quick pick-me-up on-the-go or settling in for a chat with friends, KAFFE has you covered. Start your day off right with their DKK 50 breakfast (a price that’s almost unbeatable in this city), featuring a cup of coffee, croissant, and bun with cheese. 

But coffee isn’t all they have to offer – you can also indulge in tea, juice, or soda. 

And the best part? The entire coffee shop, from the furniture to the installations, is made from recycled wood, so you can feel good while feeling great.

Pizza night in Neighbourhood

Step into the heart of Vesterbro and experience an organic gourmet pizza and cocktail bar like no other. 

Welcome to Neighbourhood! This local hang-out is where good vibes, fresh tunes and community table seating all come together to create a unique atmosphere that’s impossible to resist.

Get ready for a completely different pizza experience, with lighter, crispier, greener, and more beautiful interpretations of the classic Italian pizza for just DKK 135. The toppings are a mix of fresh salads, marinated or pickled veggies, delicious cheeses, herbs, and various fresh, cured, smoked, or light roasted seafood and meats.

And the cocktails? Perfectly paired with the pizzas and salads, they’re made from organic fine spirits shaken with freshly squeezed organic fruits and veggies, and all for just DKK 85. 

In fact, at Neighbourhood, everything served is at least 90% organic and either made in-house or sourced from local organic farms, breweries, coffee-roasters, and wine producers. 

Enjoy a drink and some delicious food at the large long tables, where socializing with your neighbors is just part of the fun. So come on over and be a good neighbor – but, pro tip: be sure to come early and beat the crowds!

How to get to the red light district in Copenhagen

Istedgade, which is located in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen, is easily accessible by various modes of transportation. If you’re visiting the city, you can take a bus, walk from the central train station, or even go by bike.

If you choose to go by bike, you’ll find that it’s a great way to get around and explore the city. However, it’s important to be aware that bike theft is a common issue in Copenhagen, especially in busy areas like Istedgade. 

To prevent your bike from getting stolen, make sure to double-lock it and tie it to a sturdy object, such as a post. Parking your bike down a quieter side street can also help to reduce the risk of theft. Additionally, investing in a good quality lock can give you added peace of mind.

You can also walk from Copenhagen central train station by heading in the direction away from Tivoli. If you arrive by bus, take the steps down on Ingerslevsgade and keep walking until you reach Istedgade. 

It’s a straightforward walk and you’ll easily find the red light district by following these simple directions. Once you get to Istedgade, you’ll find a vibrant neighborhood filled with bars, restaurants, and other entertainment options. It’s definitely worth a visit.