While Copenhagen remains a go-to weekend destination for Europeans, many Americans are now making their way to the historical and hipster capital city of Denmark. As international flights on airlines such as Norwegian and Scandinavian are becoming more affordable, a fun getaway to an international destination is now within reach! We actually visited Copenhagen for a few days as part of a long layover in an effort to find cheap airfare to Ireland. (It was cheaper for us to fly into Copenhagen and then hop on a budget airline to Dublin.) As a result of our wonderful stay, we wanted to share with you some of the best things to do in Copenhagen!
It’s important to remember that while it may be relatively cheap to get to Copenhagen, it isn’t exactly easy on the wallet once you arrive, as is the case with most Scandinavian countries! But, if you’re thinking about making your way to Copenhagen any time soon, we wanted to put together this little guide to help make your planning a little easier!
Best Things to Do in Copenhagen
The city of Copenhagen has an endless selection of things to do, including amusement rides, museums, gardens, galleries, royal residences, performance halls, and plenty of places to enjoy a delicious Carlsberg beer, including the brewery itself! Seeing as we only spent a few days there ourselves, we are certainly no experts on everything there is to do in this bustling city, but we can recommend a few of its highlights.
Making its way onto virtually every postcard rack in the city, the iconic imagery of this 17th century harbor is what most people picture when they think of Copenhagen. Stretching just over two city blocks, this is the perfect spot for you to capture your own postcard-worthy images of vibrantly colorful buildings and nautical vessels. It’s also a great place to enjoy a meal or drink and watch the people and boats go by in the summer months. This is one of the more expensive areas of the city, so if you’re on a budget, you might want to dine elsewhere!
The Little Mermaid Statue
After reading a handful of negative reviews about the statue that has become the symbol of Copenhagen, we still decided to make the trek to the water’s edge to lay eyes upon this bronze beauty. Some of the reviews mention that the statue is too far out of the way and that it’s smaller than they expected. Who cares?! We enjoyed the off-the-beaten-path quest that took us into a part of the city we probably wouldn’t have explored otherwise. Partner a visit to this iconic landmark with a stop by the royal palace (Amalienborg) and it really isn’t too far out of the way. Just be prepared to share your experience with others once you arrive, as the trek obviously hasn’t deterred too many people (and tour buses) from visiting.
Changing of the Guards at Amalienborg Palace
It may not possess as much pomp and circumstance as the ceremony at Buckingham Palace (London), but we quite enjoyed watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace, the winter home of the Danish Royal Family (September to April). Every day at 11:30 am the Danish Royal Guard depart from Rosenborg Castle and make their way through the streets of Copenhagen, arriving at Amalienborg Palace at high noon. If the Queen is in residence, the guard is accompanied by the Royal Guards music band. Unfortunately, the Queen was not in residence on the particular day we visited. Regardless of whether or not the royal family is in, there is a variation of the changing of the guard ceremony at noon every day throughout the year. The ceremony lasts about 30 minutes.
Museums, Palaces, & Castles
Besides Amalienborg Palace, there are countless other palaces, castles, and museums to explore. There is certainly no shortage of history to uncover in Copenhagen! And whether you’re into crowned jewels, ancient or modern art, relics and artifacts, there is most definitely a place of interest for you to discover! Check out the official Visit Copenhagen website for more information about attractions around town.
Rundetaarn (The Round Tower)
This 17th century tower is not only a great location for 360-degree views over Copenhagen, but it also serves as Europe’s oldest functioning astronomy observatory. For a small fee, visitors can follow the spiral ramp (and a few stairs at the top) to the observation deck for panoramic views over the city. The observatory atop the tower is used regularly by amateur astronomers and others who wish to explore the skies. Entrance Fee: Adult: 25 DKK / Children (5 -15 years) 5 DKK
Rosenborg Castle & The King’s Gardens
Couple your visit to the Round Tower with a stroll through the nearby King’s Gardens at Rosenborg Castle. Unfortunately for us, the gardens were a little underwhelming during our winter visit, but we can only imagine how gorgeous they appear in the spring and summer months! Pop in to the castle to experience 400 years of splendor and royal art treasures, including the Crown Jewels. Entrance Fee: Adult: 105 DKK / Children under 18: Free (Free entrance included in the Copenhagen Card)
Though the brewery isn’t exactly centrally located, it’s still worth a visit if you’re interested in learning about how this world-famous beer came to be what it is today. Take a guided tour, wander through exhibits showcasing the history of Carlsberg, see the world’s largest bottle collection, and of course, sample the freshest Carlsberg on tap in the Jacobsen Brewhouse and Bar. Entrance Fee: Adults (age 18+) 85 DKK / Young people (age 6-17) 60 DKK / Children (age 0-5) Free (Free entrance included in the Copenhagen Card)
Other Attractions in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is definitely a city where you can put down the map and just wander. There’s plenty to see just by meandering through the main thoroughfares and cobblestone alleys. Here are a few more of the best things to do in Copenhagen…
If you’re into shopping, check out Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street (1.1 km). This car-free shopping area has plenty of designer and flagship stores to choose from. This is also where you will find many musicians and street performers in the evening hours.
The Opera House in Copenhagen is one of the most expensive opera houses ever built, at over $500 million in construction costs. Marvel at its exterior or take in a show in its impressive main auditorium adorned with 1.5 kilos of gold accents.
Frederick’s Church, more commonly known as The Marble Church, is hard to miss with its large green dome roof. Entrance into the church is free, but you have to pay a nominal fee (35 DKK) to experience the breathtaking 360-degree views from its rooftop. At 1 pm and 3 pm each day in the summer and only on weekends during the rest of the year, paying visitors are privy to these remarkable views.
Tivoli Gardens in the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world and one that, due to the timing of our visit, we were not able to enjoy. Tivoli is open summer (early April-late September), Halloween (mid October-early November), and Christmas (mid November-late December). Here you can enjoy carnival-style rides while taking in the unique architecture and surrounding gardens. Entrance Fee: 100-110 DKK (depending on the season) / Children under 8: Free (Amusement rides are additional)
Transportation in Copenhagen
Just like the country of Denmark, the city of Copenhagen is relatively small. It’s an easily walkable city, but there are other methods of transportation that make getting around fairly easy as well. Embrace the Dutch culture and hop on a bike to explore. Rentals are reasonably priced and easy to find! The city’s public transportation is punctual and reliable. Use trains, the metro, and buses (including water-buses) all with the same ticket. You just need to know what zones you will access during your stay. (Most of the city’s attractions are within Zone 1, but the airport is in Zone 4, for example.) If you plan on visiting several of Copenhagen’s attractions, you may want to to look into the Copenhagen Card as it offers admission to 70+ museums and attractions and includes free public transportation (train, metro, and bus). Finally, taking a canal tour isn’t necessarily a great way to get around (as it doesn’t stop), but it does showcase the city from a different perspective (and it’s included with the Copenhagen Card)!
Places to Eat in Copenhagen
For over 50 years, Andersen Bakery has upheld the tradition of fine Danish baking and has maintained its rank as one of the city’s top bakeries! You might be surprised to find out that the bakery is actually owned and operated by Japanese baker Shunsuke Takaki. With its central location in the Nimb building in Tivoli Gardens, just steps away from the central train station, it should be a definite stop during your visit to Copenhagen. Try some freshly baked bread or a famous Danish pastry or cake. Go for lunch to enjoy a sandwich or one of their famous gourmet hotdogs wrapped in brioche-bread. Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or a hankering for something more hearty, Andersen Bakery will satisfy your cravings!
Copenhagen Street Food
For a wide selection of international dishes, make your way to Copenhagen’s very own street food market. With over 30 food truck stalls to choose from, you can sample the flavors from countries like Korea, Mexico, India, Italy, and yes, even Denmark. Enjoy a craft beer with your meal as you cozy up inside the maritime themed hall or along the city’s waterfront just outside the venue. Each food truck offers at least one selection for 50 DKK, so there’s definitely something for everyone!
The Meat Packing District
What used to be home to Copenhagen’s meat industry businesses has morphed into a trendy corner of town where locals and visitors alike gather to enjoy a wide range of eclectic and high quality restaurants and nightlife establishments. Get ready for your wallet to moan, as these restaurants aren’t cheap and drinks will set you back quite a bit! We made a stop into Warpigs one evening, split a meal, and couldn’t even justify the cost of one beer. Having to stick to a strict daily budget (as we’re currently traveling full-time) prevented us from sampling one of their 22 tempting taps, but if you’ve got the means, they have plenty to choose from! This trendy district also hosts its own market (Kødbyens Mad & Marked) on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, hosting up to 70 food stalls.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
Andersen Boutique Hotel
What’s not to love about this award-winning ultra-chic boutique hotel, located in the heart of Vesterbro, one of Copenhagen’s hippest neighborhoods? Just two blocks from the central train station (and only a 15-minute journey from the airport), it’s location is perfect for arriving and exploring the city! From the moment you enter the lobby, you are greeted with friendly faces, along with trendy and colorful décor! Andersen Boutique Hotel provides two amazing perks we’ve never experienced at any other hotel, and we can only hope that other hotels take note! 1) Free wine is served to guests from 5-6 pm every evening in the lobby area. This is a great time for hotels guests to meet other travelers while relaxing after a long day of exploring the city. 2) Concept 24– The idea that the hotel room is yours for 24 hours regardless of when you check in. This means that if you don’t check in until 4 pm, the room is yours until 4 pm on the day you check out, if needed. This was a huge perk for us, as our flight to Ireland didn’t depart until 6 pm!
Each of their 73 rooms comes tastefully decorated and well equipped, including a mini-fridge, safe, and luxurious Molton Brown toiletries. Other hotel amenities include free WiFi, 24-hour reception, and bike rental. And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the incredible spread available at their breakfast buffet, which was included in the room rate. Chow down on freshly baked bread and pastries, spreads, meats, cheeses, yogurt, cereal, fruit, and a selection of hot breakfast options. Enjoy coffee, tea, or juice, which comes included, or treat yourself with a fancy latte or mocha beverage for an additional cost. It’s a great way to start the day in beautiful Copenhagen! Room rates start at just 1145 DKK.
All said and done, we had a wonderful time exploring the city of Copenhagen. It had the perfect mix of unique architecture, history, and culture, all while possessing a big city feel with a small town vibe. We hope this post inspires you to put Copenhagen on your list of places to visit, and we’ll leave you with a few final tips on how to make the most of your stay in Denmark’s capital city!
Things to Know About Copenhagen
- Many museums and other attractions are closed on Mondays, so be sure to do your research ahead of time regarding opening hours.
- Not all attractions are open year-round. One of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions, Tivoli Gardens, was closed during our late winter visit. Also, attractions may have different opening days/hours depending on the season, so again research ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
- Check the weather! Copenhagen can get very cold in the winter months. Thankfully, we were bundled appropriately!
- Denmark, like all other Scandinavian countries, is very expensive. A meal out with drinks can easily set you back no less than $40 USD.
- We recommend staying at a hotel that provides breakfast in the room rate. That way, at least one meal is covered!
Copenhagen on a Budget
- Find cheap airfare to Copenhagen from the US with budget airlines such as Norwegian Air and Scandinavian Airlines (Our tickets on Norwegian were less than $200/one-way from Los Angeles)
- Visit its many FREE attractions (Nyhavn, The Little Mermaid, Christiania, Changing of the Guard ceremony at Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace, The National Museum of Denmark, The Danish National Gallery, Botanical Gardens, etc.)
- Save on attractions and access FREE public transportation with the Copenhagen Card (check out what’s included)
- Adult* = 16 years old and older / Child = 10-15 years old
- *Two children under the age of 10 are included with each purchase of an adult card
- 24 hours (Adult: 48 Euros / Child: 25 Euros)
- 48 hours (Adult: 67 Euros / Child: 34 Euros)
- 72 hours (Adult: 79 Euros / Child: 40 Euros)
- 120 hours (Adult: 107 Euros / Child: 54 Euros)
- Take advantage of FREE museum days (Check museum websites, as these days are subject to change)
- Tuesday: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
- Wednesday: Royal Arsenal Museum, The Hirschsprung Collection, Royal Danish Naval Museum, and the Thorvaldsen Museum
- For FREE views over the city, access the tower at Christianborgs Palace (it’s the highest tower in all of Copenhagen)
- Join a FREE walking tour. Every day during the summer months, Sandemans offers a free three hour walking tour starting at the City Hall steps at 11.00 am. The tours are led by volunteers, so if you enjoyed your free tour, feel free to provide your guide with an appropriate tip.
Please note that all entrance fees and tickets prices are as of April 2016 and are subject to change since this post’s publication. Also, we’d like to thank Andersen Boutique Hotel who provided us with a discounted stay in exchange for our review. As always, all opinions are our own and our reviews include honest feedback about the experiences we had.