Though I didn’t have the best time on my first visit, there are actually quite a few things to do in Copenhagen and I feel that I really need to give the lovely capital of Denmark another try.
It could have been the cold weather, or maybe just two days isn’t enough to get a good feel for the city, but I’m not a quitter so I definitely want to head back during the summer or fall and explore Copenhagen again one more time.
Denmark was the first stop on my Scandinavia trip this past winter and I think it’s a great place to start for anyone else hoping to explore the region.
Reaching Copenhagen was really easy, affordable, and there are plenty of daily connections from Hamburg that provide a much more enjoyable experience compared to flying.
From here it’s also easy to make your way onward to Oslo or Stockholm and continue exploring the rest of Scandinavia.
In this post I want to help answer any questions you might have about what to do in Copenhagen so that you can make the most of your time in the city.
Things to do in Copenhagen
When you think of Copenhagen and you’re reminded of those bright, colored houses right along the waterfront, it’s the district of Nyhavn that you’re actually thinking of.
This is a beautiful, picturesque area right in the heart of the city and it’s more or less the main tourist stop where you can get some great photos and start catching a feel for what the city has to offer.
It’s incredible scenic, with a row of gorgeous houses lining both sides of the canal, and I actually wish that there were places in Scandinavia where the entire city looked just like Nyhavn.
The houses are actually townhouses from the 17th and 18th century, or newer, and throughout the year a handful of different boats fill up the canal out front.
There are even some neat restaurants you can eat at on these boats.
One interesting fact is that Hans Christian Anderson, a famous fairytale author, actually lived in Nyhavn in one of the houses right on the canal.
These days, basically every house has been completely restored and updated but they still retain their historic charm for visitors to enjoy.
If you’re visiting on a budget you might want to avoid spending money here, since everything is going to be overpriced, but if not then Nyhavn is a great place to grab a coffee and relax while watching everyone walk by.
The Little Mermaid
A trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete without visiting the Little Mermaid statue at the edge of the city center.
In my opinion, this small monument is extremely underwhelming and there isn’t much going on in the area, but it’s still worth visiting just to see it for yourself and form your own opinion about it.
Many of the locals even don’t understand why so many people head over to get a selfie in front of it, and I myself was surprised to learn that it’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in Copenhagen.
The statue was inspired by the famous Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.
In case you haven’t heard of the story, it’s about a young mermaid that fell in love with a young prince who lived on the land, while the mermaid was stuck in the water.
She used to climb up onto the rocks and sit while waiting to see the prince, and so began the famous love story.
In 2013 the statue celebrated its 100th anniversary and these days a trip to Copenhagen isn’t complete without getting your selfie in front of the bronze and granite monuments.
If you’re wondering how to get to the Little Mermaid statue, it’s about a 20-30 minute walk from the city centre and I recommend walking along the waterfront for an even more enjoyable experience.
The Round Tower
To take in the best view of Copenhagen from above you’re going to want to make your way to the top of the Round Tower.
This building is actually the oldest functioning observatory in all of Europe and has been standing since the 17th century, making it quite a historic landmark as well.
The tower itself is just 36 metres tall, but rather than stairs there is a ramp that goes around the outside that is more than 200 metres in length to get you to the top.
The views from the top are simply spectacular and you’ll get a commanding view over the Old Town of the city as well as the beautiful waterfront area.
Also inside the tower is the library hall, and this is where once the entire book collection of the Copenhagen University was stored.
Try to visit on a clear day and you’ll be able to see Malmo far into the distance if you get lucky with the weather.
Strøget: The Pedestrian City Center
Right in the very heart of the city centre is Strøget, and this is known to be the longest pedestrian shopping street in the world.
I really liked it here because you can spend your time walking around and window shopping without having to worry about cars driving by or hearing the sounds of traffic.
There are many people that claim that this is also the oldest pedestrian street, although I’m not sure about the accuracy of those statements but I just wanted to let you know anyways.
For those of you that want to get some shopping done, you have plenty of options here including well known stores such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Zara, Disney, and some more local stores such as the Royal Copenhagen Flagship Store another unique options.
There are also plenty of different cafes and restaurants in this pedestrian zone and if you’re looking for some cheap eats in Copenhagen then I would recommend grabbing a hot dog from one of the many stands along the street.
Papiroen (Paper Island)
Right across from Nyhavn is an island known as Papiroen, or Paper Island.
I actually didn’t get a chance to visit this area but it’s a very popular place for hipsters and for those people looking for some of the more off the beaten path things to do in Copenhagen.
Apparently there are some great options for cheap eats on the island and I’ve heard that the choices are great when it comes to street food and food truck selection.
There is a relatively new pedestrian bridge that you can take from the waterfront at Nyhavn right to the island and from the island you will also get some awesome views of the city centre area.
Historically, Paper Island was a manufacturing zone in the city where they made paper, among other industrial activities.
Rather than letting it waste away the smart city officials in Copenhagen decided to repurpose the island and it turned into what you see there today.
Tivoli Gardens is the Scandinavian version of Disneyland and it’s worth it to visit whether you have kids or you’re just travelling alone and want to experience something truly unique.
The Gardens were opened all the way back in 1843 and although there are quite a few modern amusement park rides, it has still been able to maintain its old world charming atmosphere.
At night the grounds turn into a completely different animal and all of the lights and light shows really help to add another dimension to the experience that you’re going to have at Tivoli.
From the city centre it’s only about a 5 or 10 minute walk to reach the amusement park and these days is the second most popular seasonal amusement park in all of Europe, Disneyland Paris squeezing it out by just a little bit.
The grounds of the Gardens are very well kept, picturesque, and you get to choose between spending your time on rollercoasters and attractions or enjoying some of the performing arts depending on what you’re looking to do.
It is closed during the winter, so make sure to visit during the warmer months if this is one of those things to do in Copenhagen in the summer that you want to do.
The Amalienborg Palace is home to the Danish Royal Family and it’s a beautiful palace complex right in the heart of the city.
I do believe that most tourists are checking out the palace to see the changing of the royal guard and while this is definitely something interesting to see, the inside is equally interesting and worth a visit if you like museums or you’re a fan of history.
The Amalienborg Palace offers a unique insight into the lives of the most recent members of Danish royalty and if you are visiting for the changing of the guards you’re going to want to make sure that you arrive here just before noon.
There is a square in the centre of the palaces and standing here you get an incredible view of the King Frederick V statue, the founder behind the Amalienborg Palace.
The different buildings were built during the 1700s and the palace is a prime example of Danish Rococo architecture.
The Christiansbourg Palace is another beautiful palace in central Copenhagen.
This palace was once home to the Danish monarchs, though they were moved to a different residence in 1794 after the fire destroyed much of the building.
These days the Christiansbourg Palace is where the Danish Parliament is held and it’s also home to a 106 metre tall tower that offers another one of the best views of Copenhagen from the highest tower in the city.
It’s possible to go for a tour throughout the inside of the different palace buildings and many people argue that Christiansbourg is much more beautiful than the Amalienborg Palace in the city centre.
If you head up to the top of the tower, make sure to check out the Tower restaurant where you can get a good look at classic Danish cuisine while enjoying the view down below.
You might also want to consider checking out the Royal Stables if you like horses or if you’re travelling with kids, and there’s also the ruins of the old Copenhagen Castle that you can find underneath the palace.
Copenhagen National Museum
For museum lovers wondering what to do in Copenhagen, you’re definitely going to want to head to the National Museum if you have a few hours to kill and you’re interested in learning more about the history of Denmark.
This is a huge museum full of different historical artifacts and exhibits from many of the different eras of Danish history.
The highlight of the museum is the famous Trundholm Sun Chariot, and this item dates back to the Bronze Age and depicts a horse pulling a gold disc that represents the sun.
This is an important monument in Norse mythology and it’s pretty cool to see with your own eyes if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
There are also plenty of other exhibits regarding the Vikings and the National Museum in Copenhagen is a great place to visit if you’re a history or museum lover or if you’re just looking for somewhere to spend a rainy day in the city.
Rent a Bike in Copenhagen
All across the city are more than 400 Kilometres of dedicated bicycle lanes and it’s one of the best cities in Europe to explore by bike.
Copenhagen is a very flat city and there is plenty that you’ll be able to see if you rent a bicycle that you otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see if you’re on foot.
There are plenty of bicycle rental options located throughout the city centre and it’s possible that your hotel might even be able to arrange something for you before you arrive.
All of the the bicycle lanes make it really easy to get around and you can really head into some off the beaten path neighbourhoods that tourists don’t typically get visit.
This is definitely one of the best ways to explore the city during the spring, summer, or fall, and I would definitely recommend looking into a Copenhagen bike rental if that sounds like something you might be up for trying out.
For bike rentals, check out:
The Botanical Gardens
Believe it or not, right in the centre of the city is a beautiful botanical gardens that provides a great opportunity for escaping the tourist crowds and enjoying some beautiful scenery.
At the gardens you’ll be able to enjoy more than 13,000 different plant species while walking along an intricate series of well manicured and easy to follow pathways.
The highlight of the botanical gardens are the glass houses that date all the way back to the 1870s and right in the centre is a beautiful conservatory complex that was erected in 1874.
There are some plants pieces here that are more than 200 years old and another one of the interesting things to check out here is the Arctic house, where you can admire some of the different arctic species of plant life that they have here.
One of the more unique things to do in Copenhagen the commune of Christiania.
This commune was established on the site of some old military land in the neighborhood of Christianshavn back in 1971 and it’s a prime example of the counterculture movement in Europe.
It’s basically a self-proclaimed and autonomous neighborhood just outside of the city centre and the people living here value personal freedom and illiberal lifestyle rather than having to rely on the government for everything.
There are a surprising number of people that live here and despite having a rough history, it’s a very safe and interesting place to visit.
Keep in mind that you really shouldn’t be taking any photographs when you visit Christiania and it’s best to explore the area by bike or by going on a guided tour so you can learn more about it and get a better idea of what’s really going on.
The Carlsberg Brewery
In Copenhagen you can pay a visit to the first brewery for the Carlsberg brewing company.
Carlsberg is a Danish company and started brewing beer all the way back in 1847.
Apart from going on a nice tour, you’re also able to admire the brewery buildings themselves, which take on an inspiring architectural appearance.
The tour will take you through the brewery where you can learn more about the history of beer in Denmark and of Carlsberg itself, and you can also explore the largest beer bottle collection in the world.
Of course, you’re not going to want to miss the beer tasting and before heading back into the city you can spend some time walking around the sculpture garden and getting some fresh air.
Go on a Canal Tour
One of the best ways to explore Copenhagen is to go on a canal tour and admire the city from the waterfront.
All across the city are a network of channels and canals and there are also a wide range of different islands and other areas that are better to see if you’re on a boat.
The reason for this is quite historical, and it’s said that King Christian IV actually wanted to design the city after Amsterdam for a better look and also to help protect the fleet of the Royal Danish Navy.
A canal tour really helps to give you a different perspective of Copenhagen and it’s great to relax on the boat while drinking some beer and taking in all of the different city sights rather than having to just walk everywhere.
There are a few different canal tour companies and I recommend checking out the different reviews of them to see which one you prefer the most.
Boat tours to check out:
Church of our Saviour
The Church of our Saviour is somewhere else you’re going to want to visit if you’re looking for another option for the best view in Copenhagen.
The building was built during the middle of the 18th century and it takes on a baroque architectural style.
What makes it so unique is the unusual spire and you’ll quickly notice that the dark tower is wrapped by a ribbon of gold that spirals along the outside all the way to the top of the spire.
This ribbon of gold is actually the handrail for the staircase that leads up to the viewing platform.
There are more than 400 steps to get to the top and nearly the last half of it you have to walk outside if you want to enjoy the view.
The view from the top is simply incredible and you can see across the entire city.
If the weather is good you’ll even be able to see the harbour, where you can spend some time watching the ships making their way across the water.
This is a little bit off the beaten path and it’s a great place to check out if you want to avoid some of the busier tourist crowds.