I am quite confident when I say that Copenhagen is my favourite city I’ve visited. The Danes are said to be the happiest people in the world. Given that Denmark is usually very cold – I did wonder why. I’m a big fan of the concept of hygge, so of course I couldn’t miss the chance to visit the home of hygge; Copenhagen.
Even though I did a lot of research beforehand, I still didn’t really know what to expect from Copenhagen. We were there for three days which I’d packed solid, but we still didn’t get to do everything I’d planned. Copenhagen really took me by surprise, and next time I will definitely be staying for longer.
So, if you’re thinking of visiting this beautiful underrated city, here are 16 things you must see in the city of Copenhagen.
Nyhavn harbour is definitely the most recognised area of Copenhagen. I walked up and down Nyhavn every single day I was there. I just couldn’t get enough of it. This bustling area is the perfect spot for dinner by the water, cocktails, boat trips, and the odd instagram photo or ten. The water is actually clean enough to swim in, and many people do just that to cool off in the warmer months. Nyhavn is also the home to the world’s oldest tattoo parlour, in case you’re wanting a more permanent souvenir.
To get to Nyhavn, you can either take the metro or the bus (we took the No.26 bus) to Kongens Nytorv. Nyhavn is just around the corner from both stations.
More than anything, I just wanted to see the Stork Fountain to photograph it. Unfortunately the fountain wasn’t on but it was still a lovely place to visit. The fountain is on Strøget, which is the main shopping street in Copenhagen. From here it’s nice to have a wander down the streets and explore, or do some shopping.
There isn’t a metro station particularly close to this spot. The closest ones would be either Kongens Nytorv or Nørrebro. The No.26 bus stops outside Christiansborg Palace, which is just down the street from here.
Although I always love looking round castles and palaces, I do sometimes feel that if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen most of them. What was different about Rosenborg Castle though, is that it houses the Crown Jewels and the coronation chairs. The grounds are stunning and it’s right in the centre of Copenhagen. Definitely worth a visit if you enjoy history and architecture.
Rosenborg Castle is just a short walk from Nørrebro metro station.
Rundetaarn (Round Tower)
The Round Tower in Copenhagen is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Even though my knees had been hurting all day every day, this was not something I was going to miss. After seeing two gorgeous sunsets in Copenhagen, we decided to view our last sunset from the top of the Rundetaarn.
There are no stairs in this tower (until you get to the top). Instead, it is a gradual slope which is much easier on the legs. It won’t take you long to reach the top.
Entry is only 25 DKK each but is free with the Copenhagen Card, which we had. (More on that later). Open everyday from 10am – 6pm, except on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when they close at 9pm. The closest metro station to the Round Tower is Nørrebro.
The Little Mermaid
The statue of the Little Mermaid is definitely one of the most popular attractions in Copenhagen. She was originally a gift to the city of Copenhagen by Danish brewer Carl Jacobson, who was inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.
Admittedly, we did cheat a little bit with this one, as we saw her via a boat tour. She’s not particularly close to any bus or metro lines as far as I know, so she’s a little way out of the city. I think the closest station is Østerport, which is still around a 10 minute walk to the statue.
As there were many other things we wanted to do during our limited time, we gave the statue a miss. If we’d had more time we probably would’ve gone to see her, but we were satisfied with just seeing the back of her.
One thing to note is that many of the attractions in Copenhagen are closed on Mondays. This wasn’t ideal for us, considering we actually arrived on a Monday. However, there were still boat trips running out of Nyhavn harbour, and the grand boat tour was covered by the Copenhagen Card. This was a great start to our trip as it helped us get our bearings on the city and it gave us some ideas of what there was to do.
This particular tour is around an hour-long, and it goes out onto the main water to see the Little Mermaid statue, then through Christianshavn, around Christiansborg Palace, then back to Nyhavn.
Amalienborg Palace is the home of the Danish royal family, and the Queen’s winter residence. The square is made up of four identical buildings. You have Christian VII’s Palace (used as guest residence), Frederik VIII’s Palace (home of the Crown Prince family), Christian IX’s Palace (home of the Queen), and Christian VIII’s Palace (used as a guest palace).
There is a museum, and most days you can go inside a few of the rooms in the Palace. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to look around so we just stopped inside the square to take a look. If you arrive there at 12 noon you can watch the changing of the guard. It’s easily walkable from Nyhavn.
As far as I’m aware, admission is covered by the Copenhagen Card.
Get Lost in the Streets
Copenhagen is home to so many beautiful streets, it’s impossible to see them all in just a short city break. The best way to explore Copenhagen is to put your map or GPS away and just get lost.
I wouldn’t say the Botanical Garden was disappointing, but I think it was a little underwhelming due to the time of year we visited. At the end of February the gardens were still recovering from the harsh winter, but I could absolutely see the potential beauty it is no doubt capable of.
I really wanted to go inside the Palm House. But even though we arrived at 10am when it was advertised to open, it never did. Again, I’m not sure if that was due to the time of year, but I’ve heard that the Palm House is definitely worth seeing.
The Botanical Garden is just a short walk from Nørrebro metro station. It’s situated directly opposite Rosenborg Palace.
Full disclosure, I wasn’t fussed with seeing the zoo. My husband always tries to see the zoo wherever he goes, but I preferred to see the things that only Copenhagen has to offer.
As my husband was happy to go by himself, he used his Copenhagen Card to look around the zoo while I stayed at the hotel and rested during a fibromyalgia flare-up. It would be a great place to visit with kids, but there’s nothing about it which makes it vastly different to many other zoos. It does have a tower which would make a great viewpoint to look out over the city, but it was closed at the time.
As fate would have it, we booked to arrive in Copenhagen one day after Tivoli Gardens closed after their winter season. My first tip would be to make sure Tivoli is open before you book your trip!
Tivoli Gardens is Copenhagen’s famous amusement park, and it is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney.
Tivoli offers rides, beautiful architecture and scenery, gorgeous food, and live music. Even though I’m not a fan of rides I still wanted to have a look around – maybe next time!
The closest metro station to Tivoli is København H. The No.26 bus also stops right outside.
Den Blå Planet
On our final morning in Copenhagen we had to choose between visiting Den Bla Planet or Christiansborg Palace. We chose Den Blå Planet. After visiting the aquarium, I wish we’d chosen to visit Christiansborg Palace instead.
Den Blå Planet is northern Europe’s largest aquarium. If you’re really into aquariums and sea life I think you’d enjoy it. But honestly, I didn’t think it was much different to other aquariums I’ve visited. If you’ve got a couple of hours to kill before you catch your flight then it would be a decent way to spend it, but it’s not something I’d visit twice, personally. Den Blå Planet is located close to the airport, near Kastrup station. Entry is free with the Copenhagen Card.
Christiansborg Palace is located on the tiny island of Slotsholmen right in the middle of the city. It contains the Danish Parliament Folketinget, the Supreme Court, and the Ministry of State. Parts of the Palace are used by the Royal Family for functions and events. You can visit the Royal Reception rooms, including The Oval Throne Room where foreign ambassadors to Denmark are received by The Queen, and The Tower Room which gives access to the balcony where Danish monarchs are proclaimed. You can also go to The Great Hall which contains many of the Queen’s tapestries.
I’m so annoyed that we chose to visit the aquarium over Christiansborg Palace. But next time we’re in Copenhagen I will definitely make sure I see it. There are no metro stations immediately close to Christiansborg Palace, but the No.26 bus stops right outside the entrance. Entry is free with the Copenhagen Card.
Christiania wasn’t particularly high on my to-do list in Copenhagen, but I know for many people it will be a must-see, so I included it on this list. It’s located in Christianshavn, and it is a Freetown. It was claimed by a group of squatters in 1971 after originally being an abandoned military area. They claimed the area as a free city, free of taxes and run by their own laws.
If you do decide to visit, be aware that there is a list of do’s and don’ts at the entrance. It’s for this reason that you won’t see many photos of Christiania, as they forbid photography due to the amount of drug sellers in the town.
Meet the Danes
If you’re looking for an authentic Danish dining experience – I’d definitely recommend the Meet the Danes program. Basically, you can visit a Danish family at their home (for a fee of course), and they will cook dinner for you and entertain you for the evening. I think this is a great way of experience true Danish food and hygge culture, and had our budget catered for this, it would have definitely been something I’d like to have done.
A spa experience like no other! With Copenhot, you can either sail around the canals in a hot tub spa boat, or chill out (figuratively) in a sauna at the harbour. They also have an ice-cold barrel shower (…not for me).
I would have absolutely loved to do this. Unfortunately it isn’t covered with the Copenhagen Card, and it’s not particularly cheap so it’s probably one to do on my next trip.
Other tips & advice
I’ve mentioned the Copenhagen Card regularly throughout this post, and for good reason. It’s an all-inclusive city card, so you get free public transport on all metro, trains, and buses, free entry to many of Copenhagen’s attractions, and discounts at selected restaurants and cafes. There is also a Copenhagen Card app so you can view the relevant attractions on the go, as well as being able to view the metro and bus maps. It was a huge money saver as Copenhagen isn’t particularly cheap.
There are four different cards available; 24hr, 48hr, 72hr, and 120hr. We went for the 72 hour card which was perfect for the amount of time we were there. You can either order it online, or collect/purchase it at various locations in Copenhagen. We paid for ours online and collected it at the service information desk in Copenhagen airport.
This card made our trip so much more affordable and it’s something I’d definitely recommend to anyone visiting Copenhagen.
Another great tool for visiting Copenhagen is the CityMapper app. I actually found Copenhagen’s metro system to be the most confusing one I’ve used. It’s not as well signposted as other city metro systems, so we ended up using the buses more than the metro, and CityMapper was great for showing the bus routes throughout the city. Although, since writing this post they’ve built a lot of new metro stations, so hopefully it might now be easier to navigate.
For more information, prices, and opening dates and times for all of the things I’ve mentioned throughout this post, go to Visit Copenhagen.
Click here to check out my guide to finding great vegan food in Copenhagen, and if you want to see more footage of my trip to Copenhagen, you can watch my vlog below:
Have you been to Copenhagen?