Copenhagen is a city that I have dreamed to visit ever since I was a child. I had no specific reason for that, but something in the Danish history and Viking culture has always intrigued me. As I grew up and read more about Denmark, my curiosity about this place grew with me. Seeing Denmark or Copenhagen ranked high or even first in the best city in the world to live in, or the happiest nation in the world, and similar, just made me wonder more about the magic of this city. I knew I had to be there and check it out.
Luckily, when I needed to plan my wedding, Denmark was our best option, so traveling to Denmark was double the fun. I was able to combine the excitement of the ceremony with a mini honeymoon in Copenhagen, and this city will always have a warm place in my heart. After all, it is the first capital that I walked into as a married man.
So, what is so exciting about Copenhagen? It is the peaceful streets and the kindness of the people that made me feel welcomed from the first moment. Even though Copenhagen today is very diverse, somehow like other big European cities, its legacy is still strongly kept, and you can feel it in the architecture, the language, and the history.
Here are the top 10 things to do in Copenhagen:
Walk along the famous harbor of Nyhavn
The picturesque old port of Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful I have seen, and it is one of the landmarks of the city. Nyhavn is the name of the district and the canal, which is eventually connected with the Baltic sea. It was established in the 17th century, and when you walk here today you feel like you are still at that time. Together with the beautiful colored townhouses, the water is filled with old wooden boats to give a complete 17th-century style.
In the 19th century, the famous author Hans Christian Andersen lived here. First in no. 67 (identify by the memorial plaque), and then in 18, where the Hans Christian Andersen Souvenir shop is now at.
Nowadays, the harbor is lined with restaurants and cafes, which are the best way to spend one or two hours here and enjoy the beauty around you. They are touristic, which means expensive for what they offer, but it’s worth it. Grab a meal or a drink, relax, and enjoy.
Visit the Little Mermaid
Probably the most known landmark of Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid statue is part of the city view for 100 years. It was unveiled in 1913 and was given to the city as a gift by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of Carlsberg beer. He watched a ballet about the fairytale of Hans Christian Andersen, fell in love with the character, and even got the ballerina to model the face for the statue.
Today the Little Mermaid is sitting on its rock at Langelinie, 20 minutes walk from the Nyhavn Harbor. You can also rent a bicycle, and explore the city on wheels, just like the locals do.
Take a ride in Tivoli Gardens
Unlike the famous gardens and Villa from Italy, Tivoli Gardens of Copenhagen is actually an amusement park. And not just an amusing park – it is the fifth most-visited theme park in Europe, and the second-oldest park in the world, that is still open and operating.
Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843 in order to keep the people of Copenhagen amused and deal less with politics. Not sure about the latter, but the park definitely keeps you amused as soon as you walk in. It is big and wide, colorful, happy, and decorated Danish-Style, especially around the main stage.
The Tivoli Gardens are located in the center of Copenhagen and it’s really easy to get there. On one side it has the City hall square and on the other side København H, the central train station of the city.
Tip: Even if you are not a big fan of roller coasters, there’s magic in the air when you walk into Tivoli Gardens – you don’t want to miss it.
Dine at the Meat Packing District
What used to be the main area for the meat businesses of Copenhagen, is now the place to wine, dine, and to spend a chilling night. Just like the meatpacking district of New York City, this area of Vesterbro, also called Kødbyen, has been gentrified and changed its style to a chic hot spot. It means that in between the restaurant and bars you can also find designers boutique stores and modern art galleries.
We arrived in Copenhagen on a cold October night and our first dinner in the city was here. Nothing planned in advance, and we were staying in the area, so we just went to explore the neighborhood. The meatpacking district definitely gave us a warm welcome.
Tip: Unfortunately, there are not many vegan restaurants here. However in some places, like mother, you might be able to get a vegan meal. Just ask the waiters.
Visit Rosenborg Castle
The Rosenborg Castle is a Copenhagen must see. It’s the place to jump back 400 years and see the classic design and life of the Danish royalty. King Christian IV built the castle in 1606 as his summerhouse. It was built in a fancy Dutch renaissance style and the tour inside reveals how luxurious it was. The art, the furniture, and even the floors are all classic and impressive. The kings who came after Christian IV didn’t like the style and turned it into a safe storage and display of the royal collection. In the 19th century, it became a public museum.
The highlight of the museum is the royal treasures and the Crown Jewels, stored in the basement of the castle. Here you can see the jewelry, crowns, swords, and even mini-soldiers to plan army strategies – all made of or with pure shiny gold. This is what royal families were made of in the past. However, since 1848 most of these jewels are not being used by the royal families of Denmark.
Tip: To avoid lines in the entrance, order your ticket online through the official Rosenborg Castle website.
Climb up the Round Tower – Rundetårn
If you like to watch cities skylines from above, then climbing up Rundetårn (pronounced Rundetaarn) is a must do in Copenhagen for you. The tower was originally built as an astronomical observatory by King Cristian IV. This is why it was built with a unique wide spiral ramp instead of stairs – so it will be easy to carry the equipment all the way to the top. I have climbed towers before, but this was one of the cool ways to go up.
There are two floors on the way before you reach the top. The first was an old library and the second hosts a few objects from the history of the tower. The upper level is where the observatory is, and the views are amazing. You can see the entire city and the red roofs are simply beautiful. For me, it was one of the best places to visit in Copenhagen. It combines history, unique architecture, and magnificent views.
Tip: Don’t miss the old toilet of the tower, next to the entrance of the second floor. You can sit on it, take a picture, but don’t worry – if you need a real toilet to use, a private one is also there.
Eat at Reffen Food Market
The Reffen food market is not just a market – It’s a festival. It’s fun, it’s vivid, it’s tasty, and it’s the largest food market in the Nordics. Unlike other food markets I have been to, the Reffen food market is open every day, so whenever you visit Copenhagen you can check it out. The food stalls cover the full range of cuisines from the US, to a Caribbean, French, Middle Eastern, Thai, and more. There is also a touch of Nordic cuisine. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are also to be found in some of the places, as well as some bars that are open until late.
How to get there?
Reffen is located in Refshaleøen, across the river from the other sites mentioned here. However, getting there is not a problem.
Address: Refshalevej 167A, 1432 København K
Bike – renting a bike is easy in Copenhagen and will take you there in about 15 minutes ride from Nyhaven.
Bus – 2A from the Central station, about 25 minutes.
Harbor bus (ferry) – 991/992 from Nyhavn, about 30 minutes.
For more information about hours of operation, events, reservation, and payments check out the Reffen website.
Visit Frederik’s Church
The beautiful Frederik’s Church is an impressive building, located in the Frederiksstaden district, west of Amalienborg Palace. It is made with Scandinavian marble and the locals call it The Marble Church. The dome is the biggest in Scandinavia, with a span of 102 ft (31m), and it was inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican, Rome.
The church opened in the late 19th century, even though the foundation stone was set 150 years before that. Financial issues have delayed the constructions, but eventually, the outcome is marvelous.
Tip: You can get a beautiful view of the city from the top of the dome, however the way up is on specific days and hours only. Check the church’s website before your visit so you can plan better.
Stroll on Stroget Street
With the luxurious title The Longest Pedestrian Street in the World, you can’t miss the opportunity to stroll on Stroget street. The street begins at Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall square, where you can see the impressive City Hall building and the statue of Hans Christian Andersen right next to it. From there it goes about 1 km (0.6 miles) all the way to Kongens Nytorv. In between, you can find the best shopping and entertainment experience in Copenhagen.
Shopping lovers will find here luxury brands like Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as designer stores, department stores, and retailers. Besides shopping, there are plenty of dining options, from street food to fine dining. You can watch Street performers; and in the squares along the street, you can just take a seat and watch the people go by. I also loved The Guinness World Records Museum, which is always an entertaining experience.
Visit Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace is the house of the Danish parliament, the prime minister office, the Supreme Court, and used to be the royal family’s residence. It is still used by the queen but mostly for special occasions only. The palace has 800 years of history, and the ruins of the castle that stood here in the 12th century can be seen when you tour the palace.
The Palace has five main attractions: The Royal Reception Rooms with The Great Hall and The Tapestries, The Royal Stables, The Royal Kitchen, Christiansborg Palace Chapel, and the ruins under the palace. You can buy a ticket for each of them separately or a combined one with a discount. The tower of the palace is the highest tower in Copenhagen and you can go up for free.
Copenhagen card is the best way to travel around the city. Copenhagen card gives you free public transportation and free entrance to the main sites and museums, including the ones I mentioned in this post. It also gives other discounts for activities, restaurants, and bars. You can buy the card online or at the different sales points around the city.
Copenhagen is not a cheap city, and it was probably the most expensive I have experienced in all my travels. I was able to find a decent price accommodation through Airbnb, but regarding foods and daily expenses – plan well your budget.
Bicycles are everywhere in Copenhagen. In fact, there are more bicycles than cars on the roads of the city. Renting a bike is easy, and city bike stations are spread all over. It’s easy, fast, and safe. Keeping simple biking rules is expected from everyone, so make sure to respect others, stay on bike lanes, and drive safely. If you want to turn the bike ride to an experience, bike tours are also available.
Day trips from Copenhagen
Denmark is the homeland of LEGO, and Legoland is a fun destination for a day trip. It is a 3 hours train ride from Copenhagen to the park, but id you want to avoid many hours of traveling in one day, you can combine it with a night at the beautiful town of Kolding (which I liked as well).
Another option for a day trip is going to Malmo, Sweden. From Copenhagen Central Station, take a train (45 minutes) or a bus ( 1 hour and 15 minutes), and you can see the 600 years old castle of Malmo.
Copenhagen is not like most of the European capitals I have visited. It is rich with culture and history, but it’s also easy-going with cool vibes. Also, the fact that they don’t use the Euro as their currency, makes it feel like you are not really in Europe. I recommend 4-5 days for the city, or 1-2 more if you plan some day trips outside. be sure to plan well your budget, and you will have lots of fun here!
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