Copenhagen often ranks as one of the most livable cities in the world, and you can experience part of what makes it so special on a visit. The city is quite compact, with nearly all Copenhagen attractions within walking or short biking distance. Further, a robust 24/7 public transit network further easily connects you to nearly anywhere you want to go. This top 10 list only scratches the surface of things to do in Copenhagen, but gives a diversity of experiences that ensures you can walk away understanding why Copenhagen is so universally beloved!
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A View From Above
Copenhagen is known as the “City of Spires,” as the low-rise city center skyline is pierced by a series of unique towers rising from churches, castles and public buildings. One of the best ways to orient yourself to the city is to find one of these spires and see the city from above. Our favorite is the Church of our Savior (Vor Frelsers Kirke), better known as the “spiral church” for its iconic gilded spiral tower above Christianhavn and offers views of the city center and across the Øresund to Sweden. Another option is Copenhagen City Hall (Københavns Rådhus), which offers a guided tour to the tower and an opportunity to see the beautiful murals inside the building. For families looking for an easier climb, the Round Tower (Rundtårn) is a 17th-century observation tower in the heart of the city that has a spiral ramp to an outdoor platform.
Street Food on the Harbor
Copenhagen has a well-earned culinary reputation as the center of New Nordic cuisine. But for a more diverse experience head out to Reffen, a street food mecca along the Copenhagen harbor. Located in the former industrial area known as Refshaleøen, Copenhagen Street Food has taken over an entire pier to offer more than 40 different stalls and food from more than 18 countries.
The area has picnic seating along the harbor, and offers spectacular sunsets over the Copenhagen skyline. Beer-lovers will also appreciate the Mikkeller Baghaven, a harbor-side bar from the famous Danish craft brewer that sits right next to Reffen. Both can be reached either from the 9A bus or the 991/992 harbor ferries to Refshaleøen.
Especially in the long-days of summer, Copenhagen’s harbor is filled with activity. One of the most unique areas is Havensgade, an area of the harbor front just below Nyhavn that used to be the main ferry terminals to Sweden, but today is filled with sidewalk trampolines. All ages will enjoy jumping on these trampolines while taking in views of the harbor, making for a delightful free experience that will be memorable (and perfect for an insta-story!)
Meet the Danes
Nearly every capital city is filled with museums that sing to the glories of the nation and its people, and Copenhagen is no different. The National Museum (Nationalmuseet) takes you on a journey through the history of Danes and Denmark, including treasures of the bronze age civilization, the rise of the Vikings and the subsequent Danish nation, and the development of the modern welfare state. The museum offers fun exhibits for children as well, including a replica Viking ship and other hands-on adventures. To get a true Danish experience, the museum also offers a guided tour called “Meet the Danes”, where the focus is less about historic artifacts and more about modern life and the Danish ethos.
Picnic with the Locals
Copenhagen is a notoriously expensive city, so one of the best ways to stretch your wallet is to enjoy picnics in some of the city’s beautiful public spaces. Very few areas of the city forbid food or alcohol, so feel free to stop in a supermarket, grab some wine and snacks, and head somewhere to enjoy a snack or meal outside! The Kings Garden (Kongens Have) is a public garden that is popular with locals and tourists for its public art and expansive lawns in the shadow of Rosenborg Castle. Islands Brygge is a former wharf along the harbor that now offers some lawns to enjoy the long summer days, and harbor baths where you can swim in the harbor (it is clean – but cold!). But our favorite way to picnic is to rent a GoBoat, which are electric boats that you can rent by the hour. Especially if you are traveling with a family or group, a two-hour rental will let you tour the city from the water, and enjoy a picnic as you go!
Experience a Scandinavian Sauna
One of the best ways to dive into Scandinanvian culture is to visit the saunas at CopenHot. It’s a great way to relax and pamper yourself in Copenhagen with wood-burning hot tubs, a cold water plunge and a sauna with a view.
Copenhot is located directly on Copenhagen Harbor. You can rent a spot to spend 90 minutes at the facilities. The best way to enjoy them is to first soak in the jacuzzi hot tubs. You can even enjoy a refreshment – soda, wine or beer. Next, you’ll want to go for a jump into the cold waters of the harbor or the cold water tub. Finally, relax in the steam and warmth of the sauna which is built over the harbor with sweeping views of the waterfront and city.
CopenHot is open year-round and even in the winter months you’ll love the authentic experience of a Scandinavian sauna.
See Copenhagen from the Water
The city of Copenhagen is gorgeous from every angle. Once you’ve explored it from above, and on the street level – take it to the water! While they’re not as famous as Amsterdam, the canals of Copenhagen are incredible. Taking a canal boat ride is a fantastic way to take in the attractions, architecture and other sights around town. The best canal tours are hosted by a live guide and give you a taste of the top sightseeing spots from the water in about 90 minutes. They provide a fantastic overview of the history of Copenhagen and the kingdom of Denmark. Best of all, a canal tour means that you can see the whole city without taking up your entire day and then you can decide which sections of the city to return to later. Make sure to include a canal tour on any Copenhagen itinerary!
Rosenborg Slot (Castle)
There are castles all over Denmark and Copenhagen is home to a few great ones that make you feel like you’re stepping back in time to the Golden Age of Denmark. You can explore Amalienborg Palace, the Royal Residence of Queen Margrethe of Denmark and her family, but the best castle to visit is Rosenborg.
Surrounded by the King’s Garden (Kongens Have), Rosenborg is the home of the Danish Crown Jewels and the trove of other artifacts. The stunning Renaissance castle is fully restored and displays priceless works of art, royal possessions and historical artifacts of Danish history. From the original crowns of Danish Kings that predate Christianity in the region to the modern day coronation thrones – you can see every era of Danish history inside of Rosenborg Castle.
One of the most visited places in Denmark is the iconic amusement park located in downtown Copenhagen – Tivoli Gardens. From the beautifully manicured landscaping to the central lake which is part of the city’s original moat, Tivoli is a sight to see! In fact, after visiting the grounds of Tivoli Gardens, Walt Disney was inspired to create his own amusement park in America. The rides are thrilling and the park is full of games, performers and even a nightly water and light show on the lakes. There are events all year round and the incredible decorations of the park change from summer to Halloween to Christmas and even a special winter design. Tivoli is a tremendous experience that you just have to see for yourself when you visit the Danish capital.
Ride a Bike Around the City
Copenhageners love to ride bikes and there are more bikes than people in the city. There’s a lot of reasons for this – Danes love to be outside, enjoy physical fitness and activities and have a preference for living a sustainable life. The city of Copenhagen has also invested heavily in bike infrastructure and the city is connected by ribbons of bike lanes and bike bridges that make it super safe and efficient to travel around by bicycle. As you might imagine, Copenhagen has a number of options for renting a bike in town and most hotels even offer bikes to their guests for a small deposit. Riding a bike is truly the best way to see the city of Copenhagen. Whether you sign up for a cycling tour or rent a bike and guide your own exploration, make sure to enjoy a bike ride in Copenhagen.
Guest Post: Derek Hartman and Mike Walsh are a couple from Philadelphia who have been living abroad in Copenhagen Denmark since 2017. They have been to over 40 countries combined and love sharing their travel experiences as much as they love visiting new destinations. Their move to Europe was even documented on the American television show, House Hunters International. Derek and Mike started their travel blog, Robe Trotting, to cover their life abroad as world travelers and started a destination website on their new hometown called Everything Copenhagen.
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My sis and her husband love Copenhagen. They took my niece a few years ago. Next time they go back (they have friends there) we want to join them.