Are you planning a trip to Copenhagen and searching for the best things to do in the capital of Denmark? Then continue reading, as I’ve compiled a list of the main tourist attractions in Copenhagen, along with some offbeat tips that you’re unlikely to find in other travel articles!
I know this claim is bold, but I believe you’ll find everything you need here to organize your trip to Copenhagen and enjoy everything the city, known for having the third highest number of architects per capita in Europe, has to offer.
Denmark is the smallest of the Nordic nations, with 5.8 million inhabitants. Almost half of the Danes live on the islands of Funen and Zealand, and about a quarter of the Danes live in the capital, Copenhagen!
In addition to the Jutland Peninsula, Denmark has over a thousand islands, and its influence extends to the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
King Frederik X is currently on the throne, after his mother, Queen Margrethe II, abdicated following 52 years of reign. Their ancestry traces back to the Viking kings of the 10th century! It’s incredible!
Another feature that impressed me in Denmark was its connection to architecture; it’s, in fact, the third country with the most architects per capita in Europe!
Regarding the best places to visit in Copenhagen, you’ve probably heard of the Little Mermaid, Tivoli Gardens, and Christiania, but there are many amazing places in Copenhagen that I want to share with you.
For example, the Marble Church, the wooden giants, and the Little Mermaid’s younger sister, which interestingly, few travelers are acquainted with…
Best Things To Do In Copenhagen (Must-see attractions)
Exploring the Historic Center of Copenhagen
Almost every itinerary starts this way, doesn’t it? Getting to know the historic center of Copenhagen is an excellent way to discover the capital of Denmark.
Rådhuspladsen, or City Hall Square, is where the City Hall is located and is one of the main entrances to the historic center of Copenhagen.
It’s a vast square, often with some street vendors, and it’s close to one of the entrances to Tivoli Gardens, the one with a statue of Hans Christian Andersen.
Discovering the Colorful Houses of Nyhavn’s Historic Harbor
Nyhavn is one of the most touristy spots in Copenhagen, but there are good reasons for that!
In the iconic 17th-century harbor, you’ll find the famous colorful houses, one of the most photographed postcards of Denmark.
Due to being such a popular tourist attraction, the docks, along with the old warehouses and fisherman’s houses, have transformed into restaurants and terraces bustling with tourists.
In other words, it’s a sought-after spot for visitors to have dinner or enjoy a drink in one of the many restaurants and bars in the area.
Despite its touristy nature, I must say it was amusing to notice that many of the century-old houses adapted into restaurants still retain their historic charm.
One of the most famous residents of Nyhavn’s Harbor was Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish author of fairy tales and creator of the Little Mermaid, who lived in houses numbered 18, 20, and 67.
As for the oldest house in Nyhavn, it’s number 9 and dates back to 1681.
Witnessing the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg, Den Kongelige Livgarde (The Royal Guard of Denmark)
The Amalienborg Palace, built in the mid-18th century in Rococo style, is a grand complex occupying an entire city block in the heart of Copenhagen.
It serves as the official residence of King Frederik X and the main royal residence in Copenhagen.
The Danish Royal Guard is an elite regiment of the Danish Army tasked with protecting the Royal Family.
The Changing of the Guard ceremony in Copenhagen takes place every day at 12:00 PM, a tradition spanning over 100 years.
Usually, around 38 soldiers, accompanied by the regiment’s drums, leave the Rosenborg Palace barracks at precisely 11:27 AM, making a 2 km march to Amalienborg Palace.
They traverse the old city, passing through Kongens Nytorv, the central square of the capital, before the grand arrival at the Palace.
The octagonal square of Amalienborg fills with tourists eager to witness the flag-handover ceremony, signifying the responsibility of the newly arrived group of soldiers to guard the King.
Right in front of this palace stands the Frederik’s Church (Frederiks Kirke), also known as the Marble Church of Copenhagen.
Explore Frederik’s Church (Frederiks Kirke)
Frederiks Kirke, or Frederik’s Church, is an admirable architectural gem!
Not only is it constructed from marble, but it also boasts a dome that stands out among the remarkable buildings of the capital. And mind you, Copenhagen has impressive structures!
After all, Copenhagen’s Marble Church has the largest dome in Scandinavia (31 meters in diameter), reminiscent of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Visiting Christiansborg Palace
Denmark has been a constitutional monarchy since 1849, with the Danish Crown enjoying the support of over 3/4 of the population, despite governmental powers residing in the Parliament, based in Christiansborg Palace, located in the heart of Copenhagen.
In fact, Christiansborg Palace served as the residence of the Danish monarchy until 1974 and is currently open for tours.
This palace features five attractions: The Royal Reception Rooms, the Royal Kitchen, the Ruins and the Royal Stables, and the Palace Chapel.
In other words, you can explore the rooms where monarchs received state figures and other important areas of the palace.
The highlight of the visit is often the ascent to the tower of Christiansborg Palace, offering a panoramic view of the entire city.
Visiting Rosenborg Castle (Rosenborg Slot)
Rosenborg Castle is a Renaissance palace and, in terms of size, is smaller than the other palaces in Copenhagen.
Entrance to the castle is paid, and there is usually a queue, so it’s a good idea to buy tickets in advance.
The main highlights of Rosenborg are the throne room and the collection of Danish Crown Jewels.
If you prefer not to pay for admission, you can freely explore the gardens and witness the changing of the guards daily at 11:38 AM, heading towards Amalienborg Palace.
Location: Øster Voldgade 4A, 1350 København, Denmark.
Seeing Copenhagen Cathedral (Vor Frue Kirke)
Copenhagen Cathedral, also known as Our Lady’s Cathedral or Vor Frue Kirke, follows a Protestant-Lutheran tradition.
There’s so much to say about this cathedral! The neoclassical exterior, featuring six giant columns inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, commands respect.
Inside, the simplicity of the decoration is taken to the extreme, with light colors on the walls and ceiling, prompting visitors to gaze upward. The exception is the shining marble statues, standing like sentinels watching over the faithful.
There’s plenty of space inside the cathedral, as it can accommodate around 1100 seated individuals! The cathedral measures 83 meters in length and 33 meters in width, with the nave reaching 60 meters in length and over 25 meters from floor to ceiling.
As you can imagine, it’s easy to feel small in such a vast space.
At the top of the 60-meter tower are the church’s four bells, with two deserving special mention:
- Stormklokken, the largest bell in Denmark, weighing 4 tons.
- The smallest bell in the tower is the oldest bell in the country, dating back to 1490.
Location: Nørregade 8, 1165 København, Denmark.
Strolling in the historic amusement park of Tivoli Gardens
Roller coaster in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen. Tivoli Gardens is the third oldest amusement park in the world, delighting both children and adults since 1843.
In other words, several generations of Copenhagen residents have grown up playing here.
One of the highlights is the Star Flyer tower, standing at 80 meters, visible from any point in the city, as well as roller coasters and carousels.
There’s also a large lake and pathways to explore its shores! Tivoli Gardens operates during the following periods:
- Summer 2024: March 22nd to September 22nd;
- Halloween 2024: October 10th to November 3rd;
- Christmas 2024: November 15th to January 5th, 2025 (closed on December 24th).
Stroll along one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Strøget
If you consider that Strøget includes 5 interconnected streets, all bustling with shops, cafes, and restaurants, you’ll understand why this area is super lively and a paradise for those who can’t resist shopping while traveling.
There are plenty of shops, but also museums, such as the Guinness World Records Museum!
And mind you, just the main street of Strøget is 1.1 km long, so be prepared to walk a lot and bring a well-stocked wallet!
Rundetaarn, the oldest functioning observatory in Europe
Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower of Copenhagen, dates back to the 17th century and is the oldest operating observatory in Europe.
To ascend the tower, you must climb a ramp that winds around seven and a half times. In other words, there are no stairs to climb but rather a giant ramp! You might feel a bit queasy if you go up too quickly.
Admission is paid (40 DKK; approximately 5.30 €), and you can purchase tickets upon arrival.
See the Little Mermaid on the shores of the Baltic Sea
The Little Mermaid statue, created by Edvard Eriksen, represents a character from one of the fairy tales of Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen.
This famous bronze statue is often considered one of the symbols of the city of Copenhagen and is located in Langelinie, along the shores of the Baltic Sea.
The sculpture stands at 125 centimeters, and there is often some surprise regarding its size, as it appears small in person.
Take the opportunity to visit Kastellet, a well-preserved 17th-century fortress located next to the Little Mermaid.
Explore the museums of Copenhagen
I enjoy visiting museums during my travels, so I was pleased to discover that Copenhagen has a variety of interesting museums!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit them all, but to help you plan your trip, here’s a list of the main museums in Copenhagen.
By clicking on the museum’s name, you’ll be directed to its location on Google Maps, allowing you to save the location on your phone. In parentheses, you’ll find the museum’s name in Danish. I hope this information is helpful!
- Guinness World Records Museum
- National Gallery of Denmark (SMK – Statens Museum for Kunst)
- Museum of Copenhagen (Københavns Museum)
- Thorvaldsen Museum
- Design Museum Denmark (Designmuseum Denmark)
- The Happiness Museum (Lykkemuseet)
- Danish Jewish Museu (Dansk Jødisk Museum)
- Danish War Museum (Krigsmuseet)
Take a canal tour of the city
The boats that offer canal tours in Copenhagen depart from the Nyhavn harbor, and although it’s possible to buy tickets on-site, I recommend purchasing them online in advance.
This is because many people want to take the boat tour through the canals, and if you don’t have your ticket beforehand, you might risk not getting a spot on that day or have to wait for the next cruise.
In other words, purchase your ticket here: Canal Cruise Tour in Copenhagen.
Take a chilly dip in the Baltic Sea
There are 93 cold-water swimming clubs in Denmark, with ‘Caracol’ in Copenhagen being predominantly frequented by locals.
These swimming platforms offer the opportunity to engage in one of the Danes’ favorite sports – taking a plunge into icy waters!
So, if you’re feeling inspired for extreme and adrenaline-pumping activities, don’t miss out on this opportunity.
Ski or snowboard on the roof of a power plant (CopenHill)
CopenHill, opened in 2019, is a mountain resort located on the roof of a power plant in the heart of Copenhagen.
See the smoke coming out of the building in the photo? That’s it!
The ski slope is 450 meters long and can be used for both skiing and snowboarding. Additionally, it boasts the world’s tallest climbing wall.
If you prefer, you can simply walk, as there are trails for those less inclined towards adrenaline.
Explore Copenhagen’s architectural legacy
Copenhagen was the World Capital of Architecture in 2023.
The title ‘UNESCO-UIA – World Capital of Architecture’ underscores the city’s strong legacy in innovative urban development, along with a commitment to sustainability and improving housing conditions in cities.
Those who love modern architecture will feel like they’re in paradise in Copenhagen, as there are many examples of charismatic buildings to be seen.
You’ve probably heard of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), a group of architects, designers, and builders based in Copenhagen and New York, working in the fields of architecture, urbanism, research, and development.
However, there are other notable names in the field of architecture in Copenhagen. Henning Larsen Architects, Cobe, Gehl Architects, C.F. Møller, 3XN, Lendager Group, Dissing & Weitling, Lundgaard & Tranberg, Dorthe Mandrup are some examples to follow.
Explore Freetown Christiania
Freetown Christiania is a world of its own in Copenhagen!
The self-proclaimed Free City of Christiania has its own laws and does not pay taxes to the Danish government.
Many hippies around, as well as murals, street art, and some alternative activities. I think you know what I mean…
There are shops and cafes if you want to spend a couple of hours exploring the area.
Just remember that taking photos in Christiania is not allowed.
Copenhagenize: rent a bike and explore Copenhagen on two wheels
Cycling in Copenhagen is such a common activity that it has its own name: Copenhagenize!
So, ‘Copenhagenize’ is a term that refers to the process of making a city more suitable and safe for cyclists, modeling itself on the successful practices and infrastructure observed in Copenhagen.
You see, Copenhagen is considered an example of best practices when it comes to this two-wheeled transport!
This approach aims to promote cycling as an efficient and sustainable means of transportation by incorporating bike-friendly infrastructure, urban policies, and initiatives that encourage cycling as a viable option for urban mobility.
And this approach applies to both locals and tourists, so if you’re wondering whether it’s worth renting a bike in Copenhagen, the answer is yes!
In fact, Copenhagen is a city made for cycling, boasting an incredible network of bike lanes, clear signage, and a culture that loves bicycles.
Moreover, renting a bike, besides being environmentally friendly and good for your health, is the key to exploring the city in a unique and efficient way.
Rådhusstræde Cykler is one of the places where you can rent a bike in Copenhagen, but there are others in the city.
Visiting Malmö, Sweden
The city of Malmö is very close to Copenhagen; in fact, you only need to cross the Øresund Bridge to reach the neighboring country, Sweden.
You can travel by train or bus, with the former being faster and the latter more economical.
I took the Flixbus early in the morning, giving me a full day to explore Malmö, which seemed sufficient.
By the way, the trick to finding cheap bus tickets is to book as far in advance as possible!
The train station in Malmö is a convenient 5-minute walk from the city center.
The Best Things To Do in Copenhagen For Free: Free Activities in Copenhagen
It’s true that Copenhagen is an expensive city, but there are some activities you can enjoy to keep your travel budget in check.
Both watching the Changing of the Guard, seeing the Little Mermaid, or exploring Nyhavn harbor are free activities in Copenhagen that are well worth your time.
Moreover, while some parts of Christiansborg Palace require paid admission, the Palace Chapel is free to enter, as well as the galleries of Parliament when it’s in session.
By the way, guided tours of Parliament are also free, so take advantage of that!
Accommodation in Copenhagen. Best Neighborhoods and Budget Accommodation
It may seem contradictory to talk about budget accommodation in Copenhagen, as I found the city to be quite expensive!
However, we have to make decisions with the data we have, and the truth is that it is possible to find reasonable accommodation in the city center at acceptable prices.
So, my choice was the budget-friendly Cabinn City (2 stars), near the Central Station, but I must say it was far from everything else.
Best Transportation in Copenhagen
Transportation in Copenhagen works well, but as the main tourist attractions are relatively close, I walked a lot.
In other words, I used the train to go from the airport to the center, the bus to go to Malmö, Sweden, and the rest of the time I walked.
I walked a lot, but for me, it’s the best way to get to know a city.
It’s worth mentioning that UBER doesn’t operate in Copenhagen, and bicycles are the most common way for people to get around.
All You Need to Know About Traveling to Copenhagen
Where is Copenhagen and how to get there?
Copenhagen is located in Denmark, in Northern Europe, in a region known as Scandinavia.
If you’re traveling from major cities in Europe or North America, the quickest way to reach Copenhagen is by plane.
Direct flights are available from various European cities, including major hubs like London, Paris, and Frankfurt. If you’re coming from North America, you can find direct flights from cities such as New York and Toronto.
The main airlines offering non-stop flights to Copenhagen include major carriers and international airlines, providing convenient options for travelers from different parts of the world.
How to get from Copenhagen Airport to the city center?
The fastest way to travel from the airport to the center of Copenhagen is by train, or the S-Tøg.
The train station is inside the airport, and there are automated machines to purchase tickets. If you find it a bit challenging to locate the name of the central station in Copenhagen, there is assistance available to guide you through the ticket vending machines.
To buy a ticket to the center of Copenhagen, look for the name of the Central Station, which is København H. This station is right in front of Tivoli Gardens.
Payment can be made by card, and the platform number is indicated on the ticket. There are two platforms, one in each direction, so make sure you catch the right train.
There are machines on the platforms to validate tickets, but they are only for those using a regular transportation card, meaning you don’t need to validate tickets from the machines.
From Copenhagen Airport to Central Station, it’s 3 stops, approximately a 15-minute journey.
Is there Uber in Copenhagen?
Uber does not operate in Copenhagen, and taxis can be expensive. Therefore, I chose to walk or use public transportation during my trip.
What is the currency in Copenhagen?
The official currency of Denmark is the Danish Krone (DKK), so it is not possible to make payments in euros.
However, card payments are widely accepted. I didn’t need to exchange or withdraw money from ATMs in Copenhagen. In all the places I visited, including street shops, cafes, restaurants, and street vendors, they all accepted card payments.
I always used my Revolut card, and it worked perfectly.
How many days are needed to visit Copenhagen?
A stay of three to four days is ideal to fully immerse yourself in the charm of the Danish capital.
This timeframe allows for a relaxed exploration of key attractions, such as the historic city center, Nyhavn’s colorful waterfront, the Little Mermaid statue, and the splendid Tivoli Gardens.
You’ll also have time to discover Copenhagen’s vibrant cultural scene, indulge in its culinary delights, and perhaps take a day trip to nearby destinations like Malmö in Sweden.
This balanced itinerary ensures you experience the essence of Copenhagen without feeling rushed.
Best time to visit Copenhagen?
When to travel to Copenhagen? Well, different times of the year correspond to distinct activities in the city.
In the summer, don’t miss the lively summer festivals, such as the Copenhagen Jazz Festival, Copenhagen Photo Festival, Copenhell, and the Copenhagen Opera Festival.
In the winter, besides the Christmas markets, when the lakes freeze, the Danes have fun skating and playing curling.
Moreover, they often say that spring and autumn are excellent times for those traveling to Copenhagen, as the days are mild, and hotel prices are more affordable.
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