Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful cities in Scandinavia. The home to great food, beautiful architecture, Hans Christian Anderson and the now world-famous hygge it is no wonder that Denmark has been ranked the happiest country in the world by the UN.
Copenhagen is the perfect destination for a quick weekend getaway. These are my suggestions for the best things to see and do in Denmark’s capital city!
WHAT TO SEE IN COPENHAGEN
Freetown Christiana is a self-proclaimed autonomous community in the middle of Copenhagen. A group of hippies set up camp in the unoccupied military barracks in 1971 and created their own society. The green and car-free neighborhood has 850 residents covering 34 hectares and are known as a very artsy community. You can’t buy a house here, you apply to live here and if accepted get given a home to live in.
We visited on a grey Monday morning after what I imagine was a big weekend of festivities so the place was looking quite grim and dishevelled and people were passed out all over the place but many people love visiting Freetown Christiana so perhaps a nice sunny weekend is your best bet to really see it in all its glory.
Just before you reach Christiansborg slot you will pass the picturesque Frederiksholms Canal.
The Danish Royal Families official residence is Amalienborg Palace, which can be found in the heart of Copenhagen. The palace consists of four identical buildings all facing the centre of an octagonal courtyard and the statue of King Frederik V. What I found amazing about this palace is how open it is. There are no fences or walls and you could literally walk straight up and touch the building if you wish. So very different to other palaces in the world, like Buckingham Palace, which are guarded with large walls and fences. You can watch the changing of the guard here each day at midday.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
One of the most famous attractions in Copenhagen is that of the Little Mermaid statue at Langelinje Pier. It was gifted to the city of Copenhagen by brewer Carl Jacobsen over a hundred years ago after he fell in love with Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale ‘The Little Mermaid’ (and the ballet performance of the story). Whilst it was cool to see it in person it was much less impressive than I was hoping, it is also far smaller than pictures would lead you to believe.
This 17th-century canal was once a busy commercial port filled with sailors and busy pubs. Today it is one of the most visited areas in Copenhagen by tourists and locals alike. The colourful waterfront is filled with fancy restaurants and, in the Christmas time, Christmas markets. With the beautiful and colourful architecture, Nyhavn is surely the most photographed place in Denmark. Look out for #9, the oldest building on the canal which dates back to 1681, as well as #20 where Hans Christian Anderson lived whilst writing some of his most famous fairy tales.
Built in the 17th century Rosenborg Castle is one of the most beautiful renaissance castles in Scandinavia. You can tour inside the castle to see the coronation thrones, the crown jewels and take a peek inside the former kings private wing for 105DKK. Definitely leave some time aside to wander around the palace gardens, the oldest and most visited in all of Copenhagen.
Be sure to check opening hours before visiting, whilst we were there it closed as early as 2pm.
The Rundetaarn, or round tower, is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. This is the place to go for sweeping views over Copenhagen. There are no stairs inside so whilst the tower is only 35 metres tall you walk over 200 metres around a spiral ramp to reach the outdoor viewing platform. The bridge you can see in the distance takes you to Sweden. The entrance fee costs 25DKK.
If you dream of watching the ballet or seeing an opera but can’t ever justify the outrageous prices that go with it perhaps you should consider doing these activities in Copenhagen? The Royal Danish Theatre sell tickets to famous shows like Giselle or La Boheme from less than £10 a couple of days before the shows. Not only is it a bargain but a great (and culturally rich) way to stay indoors during a cold winters night.
If you are wanting to hit up the shops look no further than Strøget, the shopping district of Copenhagen. The 1.1km pedestrian only street is one of the longest in all of Europe. Every brand you can think of can be found here (including the largest H&M store I have ever seen, seriously it was HUGE).
WHERE TO STAY IN COPENHAGEN
Whilst I found Copenhagen to be far more reasonably priced than I was expecting, accommodation prices are still ridiculously high. For both of us to sleep in a hostel dorm we would have only saved about $5 each (and would have to rent sheets as well). We booked pretty last minute but stayed at Hotel Copenhagen (what a name, right?!) We had an enjoyable stay. Our room was very basic but the showers were very hot and the beds were ridiculously comfortable (if seeing the sights of Copenhagen wasn’t so exciting I could have stayed in bed all day). No free wi-fi was a little bit frustrating though, it’s the first place I have stayed in years and years without it. The location was also pretty good, everywhere was within walking distance, though I feel most of Copenhagen probably is. I would stay again.
WHERE TO EAT IN COPENHAGEN
To keep your expenses down I always recommend a stop to the local bakery for breakfast, a chocolate croissant always goes down well! For other meals I recommend visiting these two food markets:
This afternoon food market has over 60 stalls of fresh meat, fish, bakeries, chocolate, wine bars and everything in between. It’s the perfect place to try a few samples, enjoy a cheese platter or have dinner. I highly recommend the chicken and sweet potato sandwich (called Kyling) at Smag, it was genuinely the best sandwich of my life!
Another fantastic food market to check out whilst in Copenhagen is Papirøen Island. A massive hall filled with colourful food trucks selling cuisines from all over the world- this is the trendy place to be. The island, which is centrally located in the city, is a popular place to eat and socialise any day of the week (we visited on a Monday and were surprised with how busy it still was). With an outdoor area overlooking the water, I imagine it would be a lovely place to go on a summer’s day too. We tried to sample as much food as we could whilst visiting but our highlight was the pulled duck burger from the ‘Duck It‘ food truck. It is open from midday till late.
HOW TO GET AROUND COPENHAGEN
Copenhagen is super easy to get around. If you like a leisurely walk everything is within walking distance. The best option, however, is to rent a public bike. I am not a very confident bike rider, not because I’m not any good but because I get really nervous about riding on roads with cars, buses and trucks etc. But let me tell you, riding a bike in Copenhagen was the most enjoyable experience. Copenhagen has 350km of cycle paths and lanes around the city and they are raised from the road, making it one of the safest cities to ride a bike in the world. You can also rent a City Bike for 25kk an hour and the bikes have built-in GPS and a motorised motor. Truly, I can’t praise the bike system in Copenhagen enough!
IS DENMARK EXPENSIVE?
I had read so many times that Copenhagen was crazy expensive, so I was braced for the worst. To be honest I was quite surprised with what I found. Sure, compared to other countries you would definitely say Denmark is pricey but it really wasn’t as extortionate as people had me expecting. Besides accommodation I found the prices to be equal of that in London, if not a bit cheaper (but don’t get me wrong, London is an expensive city by any means). Just be aware of your spending and don’t spend more time than necessary in the country and you should be fine.
HOW LONG DO YOU NEED IN COPENHAGEN?
I think a weekend is the perfect amount of time to really see all that Copenhagen has to offer. It is not the cheapest destination in Europe so it isn’t the type of place you would want to spend weeks and weeks but I found two days to be more than sufficient. I imagine in the summer when daylight is almost constant you could see it all in even less time if you really wanted the challenge.
Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. I absolutely loved my time there, with its relaxed yet rich culture it’s a place I could even see myself living in. I cannot wait to return again one day.