We had two and a half days to explore Copenhagen, and the one thing we learned was that we wanted more! There's a lot of things to do in Copenhagen, and we made sure to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time we had in Denmark's capital city.
Our tour of Scandinavia with Go Ahead Tours gave us the opportunity to stop in all the great capital cities of the region. Copenhagen was definitely our favourite. We barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do, but it wasn't for lack of trying. From early morning 'til late at night, we stayed out so that we could make the most of Copenhagen. Want to know what to do in Copenhagen? Read on!
Things to do in Copenhagen
1. Visit Nyhavn
Nyhavn is probably the most scenic cityscape in all of the Scandinavian cities we visited. This waterfront canal is a must see when visiting Copenhagen. 17th century townhouses line the canal filled with historic sail boats. What makes these townhouses so special is the fact that they are painted in bright colours.
Hans Christian Anderson lived in Nyhavn where he wrote The Princess and the Pea and other famous fairytales. Today, the houses have been restored and renovated to their original beauty, housing restaurants and cafes. There's nothing better than people watching while enjoying a pint at one of the outdoor bars. Or grab an ice cream cone and go for a walk along the water towards the waterfront.
You can even cross the new pedestrian bridge to grab some cheap eats and street food at one of the many food trucks at Papiroen (Paper Island) right across the channel.
Looking for cheap eats in Copenhagen? Read Virtual Wayfarer's Where to Eat for Less Than 100DKK
Watch the video!
3. Tivoli Gardens
Our number two choice for things to do in Copenhagen is to go to Tivoli Gardens. We honestly nearly skipped this attraction and I am so glad that we didn't. Tivoli is the most magical gardens we've ever visited. The United States has Disneyland but Scandinavia has Tivoli.
Tivoli Gardens was opened in 1843 and has kept its old world charm while still adding new and modern amusement park rides. They have some of the most heart pounding thrill rides we've ever seen! Make sure to go at night to see the gardens lit up with lanterns and light shows.
Read all about our time at Tivoli Gardens here.
4. Take a Canal Tour
The best way to see the city is by boat. Our boat guide told us that King Christian IV was a fan of Holland and wanted to model the city after Amsterdam. He created channels to have the look and feel of Amsterdam, but it also had a practical reason – to protect the Royal Danish Navy fleet. Today it is a beautiful way to get around to explore all the different islands and areas.
Starting with a canal tour is an excellent way to get your bearings and see the highlights of the city before setting off to explore all the things to do in Copenhagen by foot.
Hot tip: Get the Copenhagen Card that gives you access to more than 75 attractions and unlimited public transit. We bought our card at our hotel's front desk.
5. Christiansbourg Palace
We've never been overly impressed by palaces. Often times we find touring them quite boring. But Christiansbourg Palace was anything but boring. There are so many exhibits to see and it is absolutely beautiful. Everything is preserved to perfection and you can easily imagine royalty roaming these halls.
Enjoying all the things to do in Copenhagen? Visit The Best of Bergen, Norway
5.1 Queens Tapestries
One of our favourite rooms in the palace was filled with tapestries. Little did we know that it is considered an exhibit in its own right. In 1990 the Danish business community gifted Queen Margrethe II, eleven tapestries for her 50 birthday. The tapestry series depicts 1000 years of Danish history.
6. The Tower
It's the tallest tower in Copenhagen and gives a bird's eye view of the city. Unlike other towers in many palaces, this one has an elevator. They limit the amount of people up the tower at one time, so you can be sure to get an optimal view of Copenhagen. There's a restaurant half way up where you switch elevators as well.
7. Amalienborg Palace
Amalienborg Palace is worth a visit if for nothing else but to see the changing of the royal guard. It is still used as residences and guest quarters by the popular royal family. Standing in the centre of the square gives you the chance to see the four identical palaces surrounding the equestrian statue of Amalienborg's founder, King Frederick V.
8. The Round Tower
Even though we already saw Scandinavia from above at Christiansborg, you cannot miss going to the top of the Round Tower. Walking up the 268 meter long ramp that takes you to the top of the tower. It sounds like a tougher walk than it is. Don't worry, the tower is only 209 meters high, the walk is so long because the ramp circles around the outer core of the building.
Before reaching the top, you can stop at the old library which today houses an art, culture, history and science museum. Once you reach the top, you can walk around the top of the observatory that was once used as an observatory.
9. Shopping Street
Strøget is the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street and when you visit Copenhagen, you must go shopping here. This street is also considered the oldest pedestrian street in the world. It's filled with the usual suspects like Disney, Victoria's Secret, and Louis Vuitton, but there are also other unique names like the Royal Copenhagen Flagship Store, formerly The Royal Porcelain Factory, the Illums Bolighus, and Danish designer Mads Nørgaard's boutique.
Really, we just liked walking down for people watching.
10. Go for a Bike Ride
You haven't seen cycling in a city until you've been to Copenhagen. There are 390 km of dedicated cycling lanes and visitors can rent bikes to get around the city. But be prepared. Cyclists are everywhere and they are aggressive. You'd better know what you're doing as you join the throngs of commuters riding their bikes to and from the metro.
Our Go Ahead guide told us that most people have a bicycle that they ride from home to the train and then another that they ride from the train station to work. It's amazing to see just how many people ride bikes in Copenhagen.
11. Gefion Fountain
A popular stop for bus tours. Our bus tour stopped there, but truthfully we aren't quite sure why. We were busy trying to snap photographs around the mobs of people. While Go Ahead Tours does give us whispers where we can hear our guide explain what we are seeing, for some reason, I didn't hear a thing. I ran to the fountain to get some photos and that was that. I had to look this one up on Wikipedia (by the way I donated my $5 to Wikipedia while doing so to give some props to their good work).
There's a lot to explain so I'm just going to link to the Wikepedia page here.
12. The Little Mermaid
Our friend Alex Berger of Virtual Wayfarer is going to hate me for including this but I have to. Alex lives in Copenhagen and if you want to learn more about Copenhagen, Denmark and other travel adventures check out his blog. He is frustrated with the mass of people visiting The Little Mermaid and we agree, it is very underwhelming.
However, it is the most visited attraction in all of Copenhagen and we always say, you can't go to a place without seeing it's most famous display. Hans Christian Anderson was the pride of Denmark and this is his tribute. It's a small statue of a mermaid depicting his story “The Little Mermaid”.
This story isn't your Walt Disney version, The Little Mermaid has a tragic ending.
But our ending in Copenhagen wasn't tragic. We loved our time in the city and will definitely go back. There are so many museums to explore, there's Kronb0rg Castle where many of our fellow Go Ahead passengers visited on a day trip and told us is was fantastic. And don't forget the Carlsberg Brewery. We do love visiting a Brewery. So what's your favourite thing to do in Copenhagen? We'd love to hear so we can plan our next trip back to Denmark!
Our trip to Copenhagen was made possible by Go Ahead Tours. As usual, all our opinions are our own. With more than 150 guided tours across all 7 continents, Go Ahead Tours has dedicated travel sites for both U.S. and Canadian travellers.