Copenhagen ()

“She turns into sea mist?” My daughter is taken aback. “No wonder she looks so sad.”

The statue of the Little Mermaid may be a bit melancholy, but the rest of Copenhagen looms large. The capital of Denmark is home to the longest continual line of monarchs in Europe, and the home to Queen Margrethe II. Founded in 1167 as a fortified fishing town, it flourished in trade and became the royal seat of power in the 14th century. Take a few days to get to know this walkable, fun city.

Day 1: Get to Know the Danes

Start at the NationalMuseet where lots of hands-on and interactive exhibits walk visitors through Danish prehistory, Viking expansion, Middle Ages and modern times. Wander toward Amalienborg castle to watch the changing of the guard at noon, and then take a tour inside Amalienborg for a peak at how the monarchy lives.

Time to get a view from the water. Book ahead for a popular Stromma canal tour, rent your own Go Boat for self-exploration or take a budget ‘tour’ on the eco-friendly Harbor Bus by walking to Nordre Tolbod and taking the boat back to Nyhavn.

Spend the evening soaking up the atmosphere in one, or more, of the bars and restaurants that line the scenic Nyhavn canal. Try Nyhavnskroen or Cap Horn for traditional Danish cuisine or grab an outdoor table and drinks for some people watching.

Day 2: Live Like a Local

Begin with a trek up the unique spiral-ramped Rundetaarn (tower) for a view over the city. At the base of the tower, snag a quintessential Copenhagen treat: a dressed-up hot dog from an outdoor stand. Visit Rosenborg Castle (book online). If you can tour only one of the four castles within Copenhagen, this is the one to choose with its turrets, Renaissance charm, and a glimpse at the dazzling crown jewels. Surrounding the castle is a sprawling city park. The giant botanical garden on the west side is free and ideal for a cold day, while the east side has formal gardens and playgrounds. Head south to the Torvehallerne indoor food market for some lunch at the local produce and gourmet food stalls.

Bundle up and spend the afternoon on the most typical of Danish transports: a bicycle! Grab a Bycyklen rental easily with a credit card at the nearby city bike rental dock or download the app for a Donkey Bike rental. For those with kids in tow, numerous bike shops like beCopenhagen have kid bikes and family cargo bikes to rent. Pedal out to the Kastellet – a star-shaped 17th-century fortress that is now a city park and worth exploration. Along the eastern waterfont you can check out the small somber Little Mermaid statue. For a longer ride, enjoy the bike trails and bridges over the harbor.

Day 3: Time for Attractions

For your last day, focus on what interests you. The Statens Museums for Kunst is a world-class art museum with works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Picasso. For royal history, visit the reception rooms, royal stables and 800-year-old ruins of the castle below Christainsborg Palace. Den Blå Planet, the National Aquarium of Denmark and the largest in northern Europe is easily reachable by the M12 metro. At Halloween and Christmas, Tivoli Gardens is a favorite and is known for its fun rides and stage shows.

For an afternoon of shopping, hit the upscale Strøget shopping street for all the big names, or head to Larsbjørnsstræde for an earthy, vintage and thrifty experience. Then there is Freetown Christiana, a unique collective established in 1971 within a former military barracks where graffiti, art and social activism are the rule. The area is known for its illegal cannabis subculture, so follow the posted rules: have fun, don’t run, and don’t take pictures of people. Opt for one of the daily local-led tours that begin near the entrance at 3 p.m. and run 60 Dkr cash per person.


Getting into Copenhagen is easy. From the airport, trains depart for Copenhagen Central Station every ten minutes. If you’ve driven a car, parking downtown can be expensive. Book a spot in a parking deck ahead of time or park and ride from a suburban station like Åmarken. For an interesting approach to the city, make the journey part of the destination by taking the Snälltåget overnight train from Berlin or Hamburg (both easily reached via ICE) to Copenhagen.

For lodging, you can’t go wrong with anything in the downtown zone between the waterways. There are numerous hostels throughout the city, and the area around the train station has some great local budget stays but avoid the red light district on Istedgade in Vesterbro Central. Copenhagen is a very walkable city, but it's handy to take the M3 metro line as it loops around downtown.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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