There are many reasons that make Copenhagen a city that should not be missing from any traveler’s itinerary. Not only because it is the capital of Denmark, one of the happiest countries in the world according to the UN, but also because it is a beautiful city to visit, tour and enjoy. Copenhagen is a city that lives to the rhythm of the bicycle and enjoys hygge life. Its colorful streets, its buildings, the port, the cafes and fundamentally its cozy atmosphere do not disappoint anyone. So that you can make the most of your visit, i detail 15 activities to see and do in Copenhagen.
1. What to see in Copenhagen: Stroll through the Nyhavn neighborhood.
Without any doubt, if you search for the word Copenhagen in Google, the first thing that appears is the image of the Nyhavn channel with its colorful houses. And is not for less. Nyhavn is a very nice postcard-worthy promenade where you will find many restaurants and cafes surrounded by an incredible atmosphere.
This new port (for its Danish meaning) is actually around 350 years old. It was sent to build by King Christian V in 1670 as a gateway for ships to the ancient city. The movement in the port brought as a consequence that sailors, workers and temporary visitors frequented the place. The intention was to look for pubs and bars where to get food, beer and “female company”. Since then Nyhavn, in addition to being a port, has also become Copenhagen’s red light district.
However, as merchant ships grew larger, and the development of land transportation grew, Nyhavn lost relevance and movement. For this reason, in the 1960s, the Nyhavn Society dedicated to the revitalization of the place was created. Together with the help of the mayor’s office, the red zone moved from the place. Finally in 1977 the mayor reopened Nyhavn as a museum port.
Today it is a very popular tour for tourists and locals, but with a relaxed atmosphere. You can enjoy good places to eat, drink coffee and listen to live music (usually in summer). You can even visit some of the ships that have became museums, such as the XVII Gedser Rea. And if your in the mood, you can also take a boat tour on the canal.
Nyhavn really with its old colorful houses, the boats resting on the canal and its variety of restaurants, make it an essential place to see in Copenhagen. Of course, you have to be prepared to spend a lot if you decide to consume something.
2. What to see in Copenhagen: Rådhuspladsen Square.
It is one of the main squares in Copenhagen where there is always movement. It is the place where everyone meets for celebrations, events or even demonstrations. Formerly it was the square where the hay market was located, and one of the entrance doors to the city.
An interesting fact about the square, in the Monopoly game, the most expensive place is Rådhuspladsen.
Today, in the square you can see the monument to Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish writer of various children’s fables such as The Little Mermaid or The Ugly Duckling, and who is considered to be the prodigal son of Denmark. There is also the Copenhagen City Hall. Building that was inaugurated in 1905, after being rebuilt due to a large fire in the city that destroyed the old building. The town hall can be visited, and you can even climb its clock tower.
Another particular building that you can enjoy in Rådhuspladsen is the one located on the corner of H. C. Andersen Blvd. with Vesterbrogade. This building has the Rishshuset tower that serves as a giant thermometer. Yes yes, giant thermometer, since it indicates by lights the temperature in Copenhagen. But the most striking is “the weather girl”, the Vejrpigerne. Two sculptures of the same girl, one riding a bicycle and the other with an umbrella. Depending on the weather forecast you can see one or the other.
Therefore, being in Copenhagen, Rådhuspladsen Square can be a good place to start touring the city. In fact, the Strøget pedestrian starts from this point as well as most of the free walking tours.
3. What to see in Copenhagen: Strøget. Stroll along the longest pedestrian street in Europe.
From Rådhuspladsen Square to Kongens Nytorv Square, Strøget Street holds the title of being the longest pedestrian street in all of Europe.
In principle, Strøget was a busy street for cars, however, in 1962 it was closed to traffic for Christmas and remained so until today. So much was the success that some of the surrounding streets, Frederiksberggade, Østergade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv, were also annexed as pedestrian. Today it is calculated that in summer approximately 250,000 people circulate per day, and in winter about 120,000.
The Strøget pedestrian is full of shops for all tastes, and for all budgets. From the most important ones such as Louis Vuitton, Armani, Gucci or the famous Royal Copenhagen Porcelain to souvenir shops where you can buy any type of souvenir. But it is not only a place for shops, you will also find a wide variety of restaurants, bars and cafes that both in summer and winter generate a constant movement of people.
If you are in Copenhagen, it is difficult for us not to pass through Strøget more than once. It is the heart of the city, where the vibe and atmosphere is extremely welcoming and invites you to explore it from end to end.
Copenhagen is one of the most prepared cities in the world for cycling. I recommend a city tour with a guide riding a bicycle. Reserve your place by clicking here.
4. What to see in Copenhagen: Enjoy the city from the heights of Rundetårn.
Very close to the pedestrian Strøget, turning north on Købmagergade street, you will find the Rundetårn or the Round Tower.
In the 17th century, Christian IV sent to build a tower that would be used as an astronomical observatory and would form part of the Trinitatis Complex. A series of three buildings, including a library and a church for university students.
There are two issues that are striking about the Rundetårn. First, it holds the title of oldest astronomical observatory in Europe. And second, that to climb to the top you have to walk a 209-meter spiral ramp that turns seven and a half times until you reach a small final staircase.
The tower is 35 meters high. It really isn’t much, but since Copenhagen is flat and the buildings in the center are low, then you can get very nice 360˚ views of the entire city.
Legend has it that on the opening day of the tower, King Christian climbed to the top of the tower riding his horse. However, the reality is that the tower has such an architecture to facilitate the transfer of astrological materials to the top by carts.
Among other things, in the same tower you can find a large telescope, an exhibition gallery and a small tower museum.
Entering the tower is worth between 5DKK and 25DKK depending on age. With the Copenhagen Card admission is free.
5. What to see in Copenhagen: Try typical Danish food. Eat a smørrebrød and a øllebrød in Torvehallerne.
The reality is that the Danes are not characterized by having a great variety of typical foods. However, if you wander what to eat in Copenhagen, you cannot leave Copenhagen without trying the smørrebrød or the traditional øllebrød.
The smørrebrød consist of a slice of bread, usually black, spread in butter, and with a variety of cold products on top. It can be meat, chicken, fish, vegetables, cold cuts or an infinity of other possibilities. As for øllebrød, it is a gacha or polenta made from pieces of rye bread and boiled in beer. Formerly this food was very typical in Danish families, where in each house there was a large pot in which the remains of bread were placed together with the beer and it was cooked for several hours.
To test them, there is a market very close to the round tower, just a few meters from Nørreport station, which is called Torvehallerne Copenhagen. It is a very pleasant environment where you can stroll through two large galleries full of food shops for all tastes. It can be said that there are more than 60 businesses with very fresh products of all varieties such as wineries, chocolate shops, oil, tea, spice, fruit, and vegetable businesses and even bakeries.
But there are not only businesses to buy food, there are also a variety of places to buy ready-to-eat and enjoy food, or even to eat at the same bar as the local. The possibilities are many, Italian, Mexican, Argentine food, and of course, local food where you can eat the typical smørrebrød.
6. What to see in Copenhagen: The statue of The Little Mermaid.
The monument to The Little Mermaid, a character in one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fables, is a bronze statue not more than a meter high that perches on a large rock facing the sea. Many times people come with high expectations and end up feeling a little disappointed. But the truth is that the statue has the title of being the most visited monument in all of Denmark and an icon of the city. For this reason it becomes an essential to see in Copenhagen and thus be able to decide for ourselves what we think.
The statue was created at the beginning of the 20th century by the sculptor Edvard Eriksen but it was the object of many acts of vandalism (it was mutilated, disguised, painted, etc.), so it is not the original since it had to be renovated several times. The first Little Mermaid was donated by another of Copenhagen’s prodigal sons, the businessman and creator of Carlsberg Beer, J.C. Jacobsen.
The statue is always full of tourists, posing and taking pictures. The most recommended is to visit it in the early hours of the morning and thus be calmer. Then you can continue the tour of other attractions near the Little Mermaid.
But in order not to leave anyone out, since 2012, The mermaid is not alone in the city. This mythical character has a partner in front of the Elsinore House of Culture and they baptized him “He”. It is a statue very similar to the Little Mermaid but much more modern that it even blinks every hour.
7. What to see in Copenhagen: Take a walk through the Kastellet.
After visiting The Little Mermaid, and on the way back to the center, you can enter the Kastellet (Danish citadel), one of the old fortifications of Copenhagen.
It is a small well-preserved 17th century fortified city, where you can see some of its old buildings. The baroque-style church, the old prison, or a beautiful Dutch-style windmill. And without a doubt, on sunny days, you can enjoy a beautiful green park.
8. What to see in Copenhagen: Visit the Opera House and take a nice photo of it.
Continuing along the riverside, after walking through the Kastellet, you can reach the Ameliahaven Park. From the park you will be able to see the beautiful and modern Copenhagen Opera House on the opposite bank.
It is a modern building since it was inaugurated in 2005, which is the home of the Royal Danish Opera. However, if you have already seen the opera house in Sydney, Australia, or the one in Oslo, Sweden, this one in Denmark will not dazzle us. Anyway, it is a very beautiful and impressive building, and you are on our way to the center.
9. What to see in Copenhagen: Visit the Amalienborg Palace and enjoy the changing of the guard.
The Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of the royal family and is quite unique. There are four buildings, distributed in a circular way around a large square, and in the center the monument to Frederik V is distinguished.
Originally the palace buildings were not built for royalty but belonged to families of the Danish aristocracy. The great fire in Copenhagen in 1794, which destroyed much of the city including the then Royal Palace, forced the royal family to move to a new location. The makeshift home chosen by the Danish kings was the Amalienborg Palace, although it has since become their final winter residence.
Of the four buildings, only two can be visited, the Christian VII Palace or Moltke Palace, and the Christian VIII Palace or Levetzau Palace where a museum of the history of the royal family is located. In another of the Palaces, called Christian IX or Schack Palace, the queen currently lives in winter. And finally in the fourth Palace, Frederik VIII or Brockdorff Palace, the heir to the throne lives.
The days and times to visit the palaces varies in winter and summer, so it is advisable to check the website first. And the value of the entry is from 65 DKK to 95 DKK depending on the age.
Changing of the guard.
As well as in other cities in the world such as London or Prague, another of the activities that can be done, and free, when visiting the Amalienborg Palace, is to enjoy the changing of the guard. There are different changes depending on which member of the royalty is in the Palace. You can witness the “royal guard”, the “lieutenant’s guard” or the “palace guard”.
Therefore, every day at 11:30, and whenever a member of royalty is in the palace, a group of soldiers marches from the Rosenborg Palace, dressed in their typical military uniform, to the Amalienborg Palace. Once there, they remain formed for a long time while the military band performs various songs.
To find out which member of the royalty is in the palace, you only need to look at the Brockdorff ceiling and observe which flag is the one that flies; the royal banner, the flag of the heir to the throne, the flag of the regent or the flag of the royal house.
Regardless of the changing of the guard that touches us, it is always a very pleasant and entertaining show to enjoy.
10. What to see in Copenhagen: The Marble Church in Copenhagen.
A few meters from the Amalienborg Palace is the Lutheran cult church Frederiks Kirke, or also known as the Marble Church. This 270-year-old church is one of the most beautiful to see and one of the most visited in the city of Copenhagen.
In 1749 King Frederick V sent the church to be built in commemoration of the three hundred years of reign of the Oldenburg family. However, construction was interrupted in 1770 due to the high costs involved in the original plans (which included two side towers that were never built). Furthermore, the new King Christian VIII did not wish to continue financing the costly project. Finally, a century later, the businessman Carl Frederik Tietgen provided the necessary capital to complete the work, but no longer according to the original idea. The church would end up adopting a Baroque style.
Frederiks Kirke is characterized by its huge 31m diameter dome (the largest in all of Scandinavia) inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The dome is supported by 12 marble columns (the original project was for the entire church to be made of marble) and therefore the name.
You can enter the church for free as long as some religious service is not being celebrated. You can also go up to the dome and have good views of Copenhagen although the hours are not fixed and there is a daily limit of visitors. The entry price is 35DKK for adults and 20 DKK for children under 18 years.
11. What to see in Copenhagen: Enjoy the Rosenborg Castle and gardens.
Rosenborg Castle was built as the summer residence of King Christian IV in 1606 although it was not until 1624 that it was completely completed. However, after the king’s death, the castle was little used as a royal residence except on two occasions. The first when the fire of 1794 destroyed the original Christiansborg Palace, and the second when the British fleet attacked the city of Copenhagen in 1801.
The Castle is not one of the largest, particularly its shape is longer than it is wide, however it is very beautiful to see with its red bricks and green roofs. What stands out most about the castle are the gardens around it called the King’s Gardens. In fact, the gardens were the first to be designed before the Palace itself. They are really worth seeing.
Currently you can visit the inside of Rosenborg Castle and enjoy the museum. Exhibits include royal art collections, including Danish crown jewels. You can also visit several of the castle’s rooms, including the rooms of King Christian IV and the red room.
The entry fee is DKK 105 for adults and is free for children under 17 years. Students pay a reduced value of 70 DKK, and if you have the Copenhagen card, admission is free. There is also the possibility of combining the tickets to Amalienborg Palace and Rosenborg Castle for DKK 145.
12. What to see in Copenhagen: Enjoy the Tivoli Gardens as a child.
Unlike what can be understood by its name, the Tivoli Gardens are a very old amusement park. In fact it is one of the first in the world and the second in Denmark after the Bakken. The name comes from the Italian city Tivoli where one of the most beautiful gardens of the Renaissance is located.
The park first opened in 1843 with just a carousel and a roller coaster. It was inaugurated by Georg Carstensen who rented the land, at that time on the outskirts of the city, to King Christian VIII, convincing him that “a people who have fun do not think about politics”. Then, with the expansion of the city thanks to the construction of the Copenhagen City Hall and the Københavns Central Station, the park inadvertently remained located in the city center.
Inside the park you can find all kinds of attractions, from roller coasters, free fall games, wheelchairs, to a giant ferris wheel. There are also quieter games for those who prefer to stay level.
Another interesting aspect of the park are some of its attractions. For example the Valhalla Castle that allow us to discover a little more Norse mythology. Or you can also have fun with the fables of Hans Christian Andersen in the game of flying suitcases.
But that is not all, you can also enjoy shows, fairs, shops and restaurants, being able to choose between eating on a floating boat, in a Chinese pagoda, in an Arab Palace or simply in one of its food trucks. All with an aesthetic that has been maintained since its origins, such as its grand entrance, but that still does not cease to amaze everyone.
Visit the Tivoli.
Today the Tivoli Gardens is one of the biggest attractions and emblem of the city of Copenhagen with more than four million visitors a year. Even many Danes say that Walt Disney visited him and was inspired to create Disney World. It really is a park worth visiting and enjoying, for both children and adults alike.
The park can be visited in three seasons:
- April to September. Regular season.
- Mid-October to early November. Decorated in Halloween style.
- Mid November to end December. Christmas scenery.
The hours are from 11am to 11pm from Sundays to Thursdays and from 11am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, making it a very nice activity to end the day.
The Ticket Value is only from 100 DKK to 160 DKK depending on the day but to go to the attractions you have to pay separately. With the Copenhagen card, the entrance is free.
13. What to see in Copenhagen: the Parliament at Christiansborg Palace.
The Palace is located on the islet of Slotsholmen very close to the Tivoli Gardens, the City Hall and the National Museum. What stands out the most is its 106 m high tower from where you can get very nice views of the city of Copenhagen. It also has the particularity that it is the enclosure where the three powers of Denmark coexist, the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Something totally unique in the world.
The history of this palace is quite peculiar and tragic at the same time. The Palace was rebuilt three times in the same place throughout history.
The first version was the “Castle of Absalom” in the 12th century, built by the powerful Bishop Absalom. However, in 1369, the Hansa League destroyed the Castle and a new castle called “Copenhagen Castle” was built on its ruins. This new fortress lived almost 350 years, although as far as is known, it was considered the poorest residence in all of Europe for a monarch. This “title” made King Christian VI decide to destroy it in 1728 and build the most luxurious palace in all of Denmark.
The new palace called “Christiansborg” was completed in 1740 although its life was short. The great fire in Copenhagen in 1794 completely destroyed the Palace, forcing royalty to adopt the Amalienborg Palace as a new residence. However, the stubbornness of the Danes led to the Christiansborg Palace being rebuilt on the same site.
This new version of the palace was also not spared from catastrophic events. A fire in 1884 destroyed part of the Palace giving rise to a new reconstruction. The final version of the Christiansborg Palace and that you can see today is from 1928, however, it was never again a royal residence.
What to see in the palace.
The Palace has many things to see. You can tour the interior and enjoy the different rooms, the throne room, the room of the knights, the royal stairs, the rooms of Christian IX and the very beautiful library of the queen. In addition you can visit the stables (survivors of the two fires), the Royal chapel and the ruins of the old castles. However, this not all. You can also enter the parliament room for free during parliamentary sessions.
Prices vary from DKK 50 to DKK 150 depending on the age and the areas you want to visit in the Palace, and can be combined between several. The hours also vary according to the time of the year that you are but in general it is from 10am to 5pm.
14. What to see in Copenhagen: Travel to another country within Denmark? The free city of Christiania.
Why travel to another country within Copenhagen? Because in the heart of the Danish capital there is the so-called “Christiania Free City”. It is a 34-hectare space located in the Christianshavn neighborhood where a self-governing community of around 1,000 inhabitants proclaims itself independent from Denmark.
Christiania attracts so much attention that it became one of the biggest attractions in Denmark, being one of the most visited places in the country competing with The Little Mermaid or the Tivoli Gardens. But what is it that attracts so much attention?
There are several reasons. In principle, the sale and consumption of soft drugs within Christiania is “allowed” (although since 2004 it is no longer legally). You can even see how people have their own gardens where they grow their plants. Second, their lifestyle is strongly marked by the hippie culture, where its inhabitants proclaim for a sustainable life. For this reason when walking through its streets you will find what would seem to us to be “junk” but in reality it is only material to recycle, being able to transform into pots, chairs, tables, or even materials to build your houses (such as the glass house).
How Christiania was born.
The history of the Christiania Free City is almost 50 years old. In 1971 a group of parents occupied abandoned military land with the aim of obtaining a space for their children to play. From that moment on, the anarchist political party Provo began to occupy the land with the aim of creating a community based on its pacifist principles, the fight against pollution and in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
Since then the relationship between the Christiania community with the Danish government has had several twists and turns. In 2004 they banned the sale and consumption of marijuana (until now it was legal in the city) due to its increasing traffic. In 2012 they allowed the inhabitants to buy the land and thus legalize the occupation (although in fact the land belongs to the community). And, to this day, the relationship continues in discord, even the police carry out some raids to control drug trafficking.
Visiting the city of Christiania is something you have to do if you are in Copenhagen. Not because you will be surprised with the “aesthetic or beautiful”, but because you will know something totally different, something that is interesting to understand how the people of the city live and think. In addition to its main street “Pusher” you will find several businesses (the products are cheaper because taxes are not paid), fairs, bars, cafes, exhibitions, and even in summer there are many events and recitals in its central square.
You can also do some guided tours of the city and learn more about Christiania and its people.
Finally, after walking for a few hours in Christiania, as his poster says when leaving, “you can return to Copenhagen and re-enter the European Union.”
15. What to see in Copenhagen: The option for rainy days. Get to know the National Museum of Denmark.
It is not unusual for it to rain in Copenhagen, but that is not a problem, for those days there are also activities to do in the city. A good option is to visit the National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet in Danish) and enjoy the country’s largest collection dedicated to Danish culture and history.
In the museum you can go through all the history of Denmark, starting in the stone age until reaching modernity, going through the Viking era. Collections include objects from up to 14,000 years old, from the stone age, Viking treasures, weapons and jewels from the Iron Age and even the oldest coin in Denmark.
But not only that, the museum also offers great exhibitions of other world cultures such as Oriental, Roman, Greek, and even Egyptian culture with its characteristic mummies.
And if you go with children, in the basement is the children’s museum with interactive exhibits and historical representations, such as the ancient Viking ships or even a small medieval castle.
Actually the museum is a very good option to do, rain in the city or not. It is very well located in the center of Copenhagen (Prince’s Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark) making it very easy to get to. The entry fee is DKK 75 for adults and free for children under 18 years. Admission is free with the Copenhagen Card.
If you still have time in Copenhagen, here are more activities to do in the city:
16. Cross the border and visit Malmö in one day.
There are not only places to see in the same city of Copenhagen. From here you can travel the city of Malmö (the third largest city in Sweden). You can travel by train or bus and cross the famous Øresund Bridge (which also goes under the water!!). It was this bridge that finished connecting all the countries of Europe by land.
The city of Malmö is small and can be easily explored on foot. You can visit its castle, the Kungsparken park and its main Stortorget square among other things.
17. Take an excursion to the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg and Roskilde.
If there’s one thing the Danes liked, it was making castles. There are two more castles that can be seen a little further from the center of Copenhagen. Frederiksborg Castle built on three islets in Slotssø and with a very beautiful garden. The second castle that can be seen is located very close to Copenhagen, in the Swedish city of Helsingborg. The castle is well known because Shakespeare used it as a stage to represent his well-known play Hamlet.
Finally, travel to the city of Roskilde and visit its cathedral. A church built in the early 12th century and declared a World Heritage Site.
18. Enjoy the Botanical Garden.
The Copenhagen Botanical Garden is part of the Denmark Natural History Museum. It is very well located just behind the Rosenborg Palace. Certainly, it is a nice walk to relax a little from the movement of the city. Another recommended place to see in Copenhagen.
19. Have fun in Bakken, the oldest amusement park in the world.
If after having fun in the Tivoli gardens you are left with more desire for amusement parks, what better is to visit the oldest amusement park in the world.
20. Have the best views of Copenhagen from the Church of San Salvador.
The Church of San Salvador is located in the Christianshavn neighborhood, very close to the city of Christiania. It is a very beautiful church from the end of the 17th century that stands out for its striking 90 m high tower. To climb to the top and see the city of Copenhagen from above, you must go through 400 steps, and the last 150 are outside the tower.
The entrance fee is 35 DKK to 40 DKK but with the Copenhagen card it is free.
Where to stay in Copenhagen?
The Indre By district in the center is the oldest and one of the most beautiful to stay in Copenhagen. This area is always full of movement as well as being excellent located for touring in Copenhagen.
Restaurants, cafes, bars, shops and of course places to sleep abound in this area. Although Copenhagen is already an expensive city, accommodation in this area is quite expensive.
Another option is the Vesterbro, very close to the train station, which is an advantage when you arrive or leave the city. It is also very well connected with other areas of Copenhagen with the wide range of means of transport.
It is an area with a great offer of accommodation because it is close to the station and at a slightly more reasonable price. Even this neighborhood has the best offer of bars and discos for all audiences and budgets. So, if the idea is to enjoy Danish nightlife too, I recommend to stay in this area of Copenhagen
My last stay was on the Wake up chain. A very nice and modern hotel / hostel in the Vesterbro neighborhood, about 10 minutes walk from the center. The room was quite small but for the price it is worth it.
If you are looking for a cheaper accommodation option, the Nørrebro neighborhood is one of the best alternatives. In this neighborhood, a large part of the inhabitants are bohemian artists and university students, but also a good part of the residents are of foreign origin.
This multicultural environment is ideal for exploring the less touristy side of Copenhagen. In Nørrebro’s district you will find a lot of shops along the its main street Nørrebrogade. However, it is advisable to avoid the station and Mimersparken area; Locals consider this area as the most conflictive.