“Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen!” The capital city of the second-happiest nation in the world (officially!) and the perfect destination for a relaxing European city break.
We recently had the chance to explore the city before embarking on Royal Caribbean’s Scandinavia and Northern Europe Cruise and we loved every minute our our trip.
This feature is based on our own personal recommendations for some of the top things to see and do when visiting the Danish capital, but please leave a comment below with recommendations and tips we may have missed!
Note: All images used in this feature were taken by us!
Table of Contents
One of the first things you’ll notice when arriving in Copenhagen is how relaxed and laid back everything feels. Despite it being a capital city, and the most populous city in Scandinavia, the vibe in the city just feels quite unique.
Nobody seems rushed or hurried, everywhere looks clean and the atmosphere is great. It’s just a beautiful city to visit, and probably to live in!
THINGS TO SEE & DO
Copenhagen is home to so many great attractions and tourist hot spots that it is impossible to explore them all if you are just visiting for a few days, or for a long weekend.
To help though, we have rounded up a small selection of our favourite attractions and places that we visited on our recent trip.
One of the world’s oldest operating amusement parks, the magical Tivoli Gardens (or just Tivoli) is an enchanting place home to nostalgic rides, stunning gardens, unique dining experiences, exotic architecture, classic concert halls, and even a traditional pantomime theatre, making it an absolute must for anyone visiting Copenhagen!
First opened on 15 August 1843, Tivoli was regularly visited by Hans Christian Andersen, whose work has since inspired some of the rides and decor in the park, and was even said to have given Walt Disney the inspiration to create his own Disney World!
Tivoli really does have something for everyone, with a great variety of traditional family friendly rides and attractions – and white knuckle rides and rollercoasters – to suit all tastes.
Though if rides aren’t your thing then simply exploring Tivoli, walking through the beautiful gardens, taking a Dragon Boat out onto the lake, visiting the aquarium, watching a traditional open air concert or pantomime show, or simply relaxing on the lawn, makes for a brilliant day out.
Plus, as a seasonal amusement park and pleasure garden, the decor in the park and gardens is regularly updated to reflect the changing seasons, so each visit offers something a little different.
Best Rides: If you love rides then you can’t visit Tivoli without riding the park’s oldest and most popular ride, The Roller Coaster, one of the oldest running wooden roller coasters in the world (built in 1914 ) and one of only seven rollercoasters worldwide which have a brakeman on board every train!
If you really love rides then The Demon, a triple-looping white knuckle rollercoaster (lasting nearly 2 minutes!), and the exhilarating Aquila, which unleashes the centrifugal forces of 4G, are must-dos, however we preferred some of the more traditional rides which feel more in-keeping with the theme of the park.
The Ferris Wheel gives you an amazing view over Tivoli and the city in hot air balloon themed carriages, and The Milky Way Express, a new and improved version of the classic Odin Express, is a more palatable coaster on a 17-metre high flat track.
For families, The Flying Trunk is a real must and takes you on a journey through 32 scenes from Hans Christian Andersen’s best loved fairytales.
Location: Tivoli is located just across the road from the entrance to Copenhagen Central Train Station, making it very easy to get to!
P.s. Look out for the guinea fowls and peacocks that run freely throughout the gardens!!
Situated in the heart of the city in The King’s Garden (Kongens Have), the country’s oldest royal garden, the striking Rosenborg Castle was built in 1606 by King Christian IV as a country summerhouse and houses many of the nation’s most important royal treasures and artworks, including the heavily-guarded Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia.
Outside the Castle, The King’s Garden is a hugely popular picnic spot and has beautiful lawns, fountains, flower beds and rose gardens that are really lovely to walk around.
One of Copenhagen’s most iconic and photographed sights, famous for the brightly coloured 17th century townhouses, cafes and restaurants that line the canal front, the historic waterfront district of Nyhavn was once a busy commercial port teeming with sailors and alehouses and notorious for drinking, gambling and prostitution. Nowadays it is one of the city’s most popular and colourful districts and somewhere you absolutely have to visit if you’re in Copenhagen!
Nyhavn is also known for its association with Hans Christian Andersen who was a former resident. The red-fronted Nyhavn 20 was where Andersen lived when he wrote his first fairytales, including The Tinderbox and The Princess and the Pea, and he was also a lodger at Nyhavn 67 and at Nyhavn 18, which is where he lived until shortly before his death in 1875.
Nyhavn Veteran Ship and Museum Harbour now occupies the inner section of Nyhavn so look out for the historical wooden ships and boats that still line the canal.
Nyhavn has a great atmosphere and is a really nice place to just walk about and explore, plus there are lots of bars, restaurants and music venues to enjoy if you fancy stopping for a while.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
Perhaps the most famous of all Copenhagen’s main tourist attractions is The Little Mermaid, the relatively dainty bronze statue inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale which sits on a rock just by the waterfront on Langelinie Pier in the centre of the city.
The statue attracts large crowds and coach parties regularly throughout the day so try going early in the morning or at quieter off-peak times if you want to look and take pictures without the crowds!
Amalienborg Palace is the home of the Danish royal family, one of the world’s oldest monarchies, and is a must visit for anyone interested in royal history and amazing architecture.
Amalienborg is made up of four identical palace buildings surrounding an octagonal courtyard, including Christian IX’s Palace (Schack’s Palace), the residence of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Christian VIII’s Palace (Levetzau’s Palace), the residence of Crown Prince Joachim (heir apparent to the Danish throne) and Crown Princess Mary.
Levetzau’s Palace also houses the Amalienborg Museum which showcases 150 years of royal life, history and jewellery.
In the centre of the Amalienborg square is an equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederick V, first unveiled in 1771.
Amalienborg is guarded day and night by its royal guard, known as the Royal Life Guards, and you can watch the Changing of The Royal Guard ceremony every day at noon.
The ceremony takes place daily with the guard marching from their barracks near Rosenborg Castle at 11:30am to arrive at Amalienborg Palace for the ceremony at 12 noon. When the Queen is in residence the guard is accompanied by the Royal Guards music band.
A full ceremony takes place from September to April with a limited ceremony taking place for the remaining four months of the year.
THE ROUND TOWER
Part of what is known as the Trinitatis Complex, which also houses Trinitatis Church and the Copenhagen University Library, the 17th century Round Tower (Rundetaarn) is one of Copenhagen’s most iconic buildings and home to the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.
Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk up the wide, sloping spiral path (designed to allow a horse and carriage to reach the top and transport heavy objects to the observatory) to the top of the tower and enjoy some of the best panoramic views of Copenhagen and the Old Town from the observation deck.
You can also see the former Grand Library Hall, which gave Hans Christian Andersen the inspiration for many of his works, and is now an exhibition space.
Adjoining the Round Tower is the stunning Trinitatis Church (Trinity Church), which was inaugurated in 1656 and consecrated as a church for the professors and students of the University.
The church interior was badly damaged during the great Copenhagen Fire of 1728 which destroyed nearly 30% of the city, and was reconstructed in 1731.
The church is free to visit and beautiful to walk around so well worth a visit if you are passing.
There are also church services every Sunday at 10:30am.
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Copenhagen has so many amazing museums and galleries to explore if you get the chance but you really need to dedicate a few hours or so to each to really do them full justice.
Here are just a few of our recommendations:
SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark
Denmark’s largest art gallery is home to an impressive collection of Danish and international art dating from the 14th century to the modern day. The SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst) is famed for its collection of Danish Golden Age art, the country’s largest collection of Danish contemporary art, and also houses one of the world’s finest Matisse collections.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek was founded in 1888 by brewer Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries (hence the name), and was established to house his private collection of ancient and modern art, focusing on ancient, antique sculpture from around the Mediterranean. The centrepiece is the stunning winter garden surrounded by lush palm trees, fountains and high glass ceilings.
National Museum of Denmark
As Denmark’s largest museum of cultural history, the National Museum covers 14,000 years of Danish history and showcases everything from Ice Age artifacts and Viking treasures to the Bronze Age Egtved Girl coffin, the 3,000 year old Trundholm Sun Chariot, Egyptian mummies, and Renaissance art. The National Museum of Denmark is one of the most visited museums in Scandinavia and well worth a visit if you have the time to explore.
WHERE TO EAT
Home to some of Europe’s most acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants, including the likes of noma, Geranium and Alchemist, the New Nordic movement has transformed Copenhagen into something of a culinary Mecca over the last two decades, with tourists regularly flocking to the Danish capital just to eat!
The Michelin-starred restaurants are of course very pricey and you will need to book, probably well in advance, but Copenhagen just has so much to offer that any food lover will undoubtedly be spoiled for choice.
The city has a plethora of different restaurants and cafes where you can sample many signature dishes including the famous Danish pastries and the traditional smørrebrød, the classic ‘open faced’ rye bread sandwiches.
Whilst we were exploring the city we came across a place called Pincho Nation, a really cool circus-themed restaurant serving amazing tapas style food and cocktails in unique, individually themed rooms.
Pincho Nation is known as the mobile app restaurant and everything is done and ordered via the official app. It’s a really great, fun place to eat if you are looking for somewhere quirky and a little bit different. The menu has a great choice of options, inspired by all the cuisines of the world, and the cocktails are creative and delicious!
WHERE TO STAY
Copenhagen has such a huge variety of hotels to suit all styles and budgets, but we stayed at the four-star Andersen Hotel, a very relaxed and chilled boutique hotel just a short walk from Copenhagen Central Train Station and many of the best landmarks and attractions in the city, particularly Tivoli!
The hotel prides itself on being Copenhagen’s original boutique hotel and is consistently ranked amongst the best loved and top rated properties in the city. If you are looking for a stylish boutique stay, close to transport links and all the major city attractions, and with a modern and relaxed feel, then the Andersen Hotel is definitely one to consider!
If you are heading to Copenhagen for a long weekend or a city break then we highly recommend getting yourself a Copenhagen Card.
The Copenhagen Card is the most convenient and affordable way to experience the city and gives you access to 89 of the top attractions and museums – including canal boat trips – and unlimited travel on trains, buses, metro and harbour buses throughout the entire capital region.
Price-wise there are five different options available: 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 96 hours and 120 hours. The 72-hour card is the most popular and costs €108 for adults but obviously select the one that works best for you and the length of your stay. Different prices are available for juniors and kids. Each adult can bring up to two children between the ages of 0-11 free of charge.
You can either purchase a digital Copenhagen Card or a voucher for a physical card, which you can then pick up at one of four redemption locations in the Copenhagen city centre. We picked ours up at the Service Information Desk inside Copenhagen Airport (Terminal 3).
Please Note: Each card grants the user one visit per attraction and re-visits are not possible.
In typical Scandinavian fashion, public transport in Copenhagen is clean, reliable and very efficient. Plus, with the Copenhagen Card, the public transport system will get you anywhere you wish to go in the capital region free of charge!
However, in Copenhagen, the bicycle is King! Copenhagen ranks as the world’s best city for cycling and there are more than 250 miles of designated cycling lanes weaving throughout the city.
Copenhageners cycle an estimated 1.44 million kilometres (nearly 900,000 miles) daily – with half of all work and school commutes done by bike – and bicycles outnumber cars by more than five-to-one, with a total of 675,000 bicycles on the roads; an insane number given the population of Copenhagen is just over 800,000! Even the seats on the trains and metro have built in bike stands!
So, if you’re feeling brave, why not hire a bike and explore this amazing city on two wheels? The best way to explore it the locals would say!
For more information on cycling visit: https://www.visitcopenhagen.com/biking
HOW TO GET THERE
We flew from Manchester Airport (MAN) to Copenhagen Airport (CPH) with EasyJet which took around 1 hour and 50 minutes. We then took the train from Copenhagen Airport to Copenhagen Central Station (København H), Copenhagen’s main train station and the biggest railway station in Denmark, which took approximately 15-minutes direct. From Copenhagen Central Station it was just a 5 minute walk to the hotel.
Copenhagen Airport (CPH) is the second largest airport in the Nordic countries – after Oslo Airport, Gardermoen – and there are lots of regular direct (and cheap!) flights departing from the UK each day.
We really hope you found this feature useful and we would love to hear from you if it helped you with planning your trip to Copenhagen!
Also, as we mentioned at the top of the article, this feature is based on our own personal recommendations for some of the top things to see and do when visiting the city, but please leave a comment below with recommendations and tips we may have missed!
MAP OF COPENHAGEN
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