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(This post about things to do in Copenhagen was updated in April 2019)
Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen!
I love Scandinavia and in particular Denmark and have visited a number of times over the past 30 years. If you are intending to visit Denmark you may have lots of questions about what there is to do in Copenhagen – What to see? How to get around the city? Where to stay?Where to eat? (and what to eat!) Which places to visit in Copenhagen should you add to your itinerary?
To help you plan your visit to the Danish capital here are a few of my favourite things to do in Copenhagen. I have included a map of the various attractions at the end of the post as well as some great tips to know before you visit.
- The Little Mermaid
- Paper Island replacement Reffen
- Strøget (including the Round Tower and Torvehallerne Market)
- Tivoli Gardens
- The Black Diamond (Royal Library)
- Amalienborg Palace
- How to travel to Malmo from Copenhagen
- Accommodation in Copenhagen
- The Copenhagen Card
- Books to read before visiting Denmark
- Top tips for visiting Copenhagen
- Map of Copenhagen’s main attractions
Things to do in Copenhagen – Nyhavn
If you have seen photographs of Copenhagen then I am sure you will be familiar with Nyhavn and its brightly coloured houses and harbour setting.
Nyhavn is the waterfront and canal district constructed in the late 1600’s. It was a busy port area but is now a haven for both tourists and locals alike. There are bars and restaurants aplenty and it is a pretty place to wander.
The colourful houses along the canal make this a fantastic place to get that iconic photo!
Tracy’s Travel Tip – Nyhavn is the place to go for boat trips. The boats are specially designed to fit under all the low bridges that span the canals and a trip is a great way to get your bearings.
Book your tours of Nyhavn and canals
See the sights of Copenhagen on a 1-hour boat tour along the main harbour and adjoining canals. Depart from Ved Stranden or Nyhavn and see lovely houses, ancient castles, and beautiful churches along the way.
The Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy stories including the Ugly Duckling, the Little Mermaid. and the Little Matchstick Girl are well known all over the world. He was a famous and popular writer during his life time (1805-1875) and spent many years living in Nyhavn. There is a HC Anderson Fairy-Tale House with exhibitions about the man and his fairy stories which you can visit to find out more.
The Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrau in Danish) was of course made into a popular Disney film and the statue is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Copenhagen. The statue is only 1.25 metres tall and is made of bronze. It was made by Edvard Eriksen and unveiled in 1913.
The statue is about a 10 minute stroll from Nyhavn. If you prefer not to walk there are hop-on hop-off buses available. Most of the cruises also pass by the statue but you will only get a view of the statue from behind.
Tracy’s Top Tip – if you are visiting in winter I strongly suggest you wrap up warmly! It was minus 7 the day we visited the mermaid and we were glad of the hand warmers, hat, scarf, gloves etc we were wearing (and still froze!) Read my recommended packing list for visiting Europe in winter to ensure you have everything you need.
READ MORE ABOUT HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSON
If you are interested in re-acquainting yourself with his fairy tales this beautifully illustrated book features a collection of fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen retold for younger readers. It includes ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘The Princess and the Pea’ and other classic stories, as well as a short biography of Hans Christian Andersen.
If you are travelling to Copenhagen with family here is a great guide to things to do in Copenhagen with small children to get the most out of your stay.
Paper Island is closed! Reffen is open!
The best place to eat in Copenhagen was Paper Island. It was also the cheapest. Denmark, like the rest of Scandinavia, is very expensive and much as I would love to have eaten in Noma (the 3 Michelin starred world famous restaurant in Copenhagen) our budget simply wouldn’t stretch.
The street food market was housed inside big industrial halls which were previously used for paper storage. Paper Island had a great atmosphere and we ate here every day (a good breakfast at the hotel kept us going until late afternoon and as the food halls were on the way to our hotel we made good use of the food venue)
Paper Island was situated in the opposite side of the harbour to the Little Mermaid and Nyhavn but there is a pedestrian (and cyclist) bridge across from Nyhavn. The Opera House and the Royal Playhouse are in the same area (as is Noma if you are feeling flush)
So NOW WHAT?
Well in May 2018 a new street food mecca opened in Copenhagen. Reffen is the largest street food market in the Nordic countries and is located on Refshalevej (see map below) It is operated by the same people that ran Paper Island and occupies a site 3 times as big! So although I am a little sad that Paper Island is no more I can’t wait to visit Reffen!
Strøget – Visit the Round Tower and Torvehallerne Market
Strøget is the main pedestrianised shopping street in Copenhagen and one of Europe’s longest. Wander up it and off its side streets and stop for coffee/hot chocolate/tea and cake!
Find the Round Tower or Rundetaarn. It is Europe’s oldest functioning observatory and was built in the 17th century. Walk up the spiral ramp to the top and enjoy panoramic views of the city. Admission costs DKK 25 and the tower is open daily between 10 am and 8 pm.
Once you have climbed the Round Tower head to another indoor food market called Torvehallerne. Food at this market is a little more expensive than on Paper Island but its a lovely market to visit with some beautiful Danish produce for sale.
The second oldest amusement park in the world Tivoli Gardens opened in 1843. As well as rides and other fairground attractions there are concerts and music performances regularly held in the gardens. Give yourself at least half a day to visit and do check out the website for seasonal events. I have heard that Christmas at Tivoli is particularly special!
Tracy’s Top Tip – Tivoli is not open all year around so do check the opening times and dates on the website (link below)
The Royal Library – Den Sorte Diamant
The Royal Library or Black Diamond is unmissable when you are on the Copenhagen waterfront. Inside there is a cafe, concert hall and bookshop.
Amalienborg Palace is a museum and present home of the Danish Royal Family. The daily changing of the Royal guard (Den Kongelige Livgarde) takes place at 12 pm every day and is not to be missed.
Christiania is an area of Copenhagen which is totally independent of the Danish government. It was established in 1971 by a group of hippies and is today still inhabited and is a mix of homes, art studios, eateries and music venues.
Why not pop over to Malmo in Sweden?
If you are staying in Copenhagen for a few days why not pop over to Sweden? Malmo is just across the water and can be reached by crossing the Oresund Bridge. If you are considering adding a trip to Malmo into your Danish itinerary take a look at my posts – “How to travel to Malmo from Copenhagen” and “Things to do in Malmo” to help plan your visit.
Accommodation in Copenhagen
We stayed at the Hotel Bella Sky which is a 4 * hotel situate near the airport. It is in a beautiful modern building and is only a short trip by train or bus into the city centre.
We found it very comfortable and would recommend it to families or couples looking for a boutique option near the airport. Don’t miss the views from the Sky Bar.
Alternatively there are lots of options available in Copenhagen from booking.com. With free cancellation on most bookings they are my preferred option when reserving accommodation.
The Copenhagen Card
Purchase a Copenhagen Card which gives an all access pass to public transportation in Copenhagen as well as free access to over 80 museums and tourist sights.
See the sights of Copenhagen at your own pace and enjoy free or discount entrance at more than 80 museums and attractions. Choose a card with validity suitable to you (24 to 120 hours), and save time and money in the Danish capital.
Best travel books to take when visiting Copenhagen
- Denmark is in the EU but they do not use the Euro. Make sure you have some Danish Krone with you though most places accept cards too.
- If you decide to pop over to Sweden take your passport and remember that Danish Krone is different to Swedish Krone.
- Be aware that there are bicycles everywhere. There are cycle lanes but bikes do seem to hurtle out of nowhere so you do need your wits about you to avoid being flattened.
- Copenhagen is a very walkable city so make sure to pack comfortable shoes.
- My top 10 things to do in Copenhagen – Nyhavn, Tivoli, the Little Mermaid, Paper Island (now Reffen), the Royal Library, the Round Tower, Christiania, Amalienborg Palace, Torvehallerne Market and the Strøget. Do all of these and you have seen the major sights of Copenhagen!
- The following websites will also help with planning
Map of things to see in Copenhagen
FURTHER INFORMATION FOR VISITING DENMARK
I have a number of posts focussing on travel to Denmark and other Scandinavian countries which may be of interest. Subscribe below so you don’t miss out on any new posts which are coming out soon about Scandinavia and other European travel destinations!
- Cities in the 1800’s – a selection of photographs of cities from around the world in the 19th century (including Copenhagen)
- Best books to read before you visit Denmark
- Best books to read before you visit Norway
- A guide to visiting Bergen in Norway
- 10 photographs that will inspire you to visit Norway
- Visiting the Norwegian fjords and the Flam railway
- Why you need to visit Laerdal in Norway
- Best books to read before you visit Iceland
PIN FOR LATER! Things to do in Copenhagen Denmark
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Over the last 50 years I have lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to many more. I enjoy exploring and learning about new places and meeting people on my travels. History, reading, photography, nature and wildlife are my interests and I am ALWAYS researching and planning my next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, I share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help YOU travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
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This post may contain compensated links. Please read our disclaimer for additional information.