This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here
Copenhagen is a city that travellers can’t stop talking about. I am naturally suspicious of hype so on a recent visit to the Danish capital I went armed with lowered expectations but a healthy desire to discover the famous Scandinavian city.
In the end, it wasn’t hard to fall in love with Copenhagen. It is a relaxed, pretty and compact city with a design edge and formidable food scene. What’s not to love?
Copenhagen was the last stop on our trip to Scandinavia. For the complete itinerary visit – Scandinavia itinerary: an eco friendly trip for city, nature and culture buffs
Best things to do in Copenhagen, Denmark
Here is my simple approach to falling in love with charming Copenhagen. I assure you that you will want to return again and again.
Stay in an interesting neighbourhood
After reviewing hotels and taking local advice we chose an apartment in an inner city residential area. Nørrebro is a creative bustling district with efficient transport links into the city.
We loved the innovative restaurants, great coffee and small boutiques we found along Jægersborggade and enjoyed our walk into the central district through serene Assistens Cemetery.
Don’t miss Copenhagen’s icons
You must visit the Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) at the Langelinie waterfront. The little bronze statue is very small and sits solemnly gazing into shore at a throng of selfie-snapping tourists. Though tiny, she is the icon of the city, immortalised by Hans Christian Andersen. You would regret missing seeing her.
From the Little Mermaid it is an easy walk around the harbour past the Kastellet fort, Gefion Fountain and St Alban’s Church to Amalienborg Palace, home to the Queen of Denmark. The 18th century palace is built around an octagonally shaped courtyard from where you view the imposing Frederik’s Kirke.
You can then walk along the seafront until you reach pretty Nyhavn lined with coloured buildings, restaurants, cafes and old schooners.
Lastly, don’t miss Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, best described as a vintage amusement park, gardens and concert venue. Right in the heart of the city, this is where the locals come to relax and enjoy the many entertainment options on offer.
If you would prefer to do a tour of Copenhagen by bike (and you really should!) check out my post – Copenhagen by bike – touring Denmark’s capital on two wheels
Follow your tastebuds
Home to some of the best restaurants in the world and the New Nordic cuisine movement, Copenhagen is a foodie paradise. The quality of food is outstanding – from Michelin stars to street food and in-between. I was impressed. I wrote extensively about New Nordic cuisine but some other highlights include
✪ an amazing duck burger at Papiroen the Copenhagen Street Food market
✪ the vast array of smorrebrod options at Torvehallerne market
✪ robust American barbecue flavours at Warpigs in the Meatpacking district
Wander and wander some more
Hiring a bike is the done thing in Copenhagen but we opted to walk and take in the sights. The city is compact and it is easy to wander from one beautiful palace or church to the next. We stopped in the grounds of St Alban’s church (pictured below) for a rest and enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere.
For a different perspective, stroll around Christiania, Copenhagen’s famous alternative lifestyle district and then walk around the Stadsgraven canal enjoying the nature trails and parkland. From here there is a wonderful view of the baroque Church of Our Saviour in Cristianshavn.
Take to the water
Despite being a very touristic thing to do, our boat tour of the city’s canals was a relaxing and interesting activity and I think one of the best things to do in Copenhagen.
The tour takes you on a round trip from Nyhavn past the Little Mermaid and modern Opera House. On the way, you might see the 1930s royal yacht the Dannebrog moored in the harbour. The tour continues into the canal system through Christiania, Christianshavn, Christiansborg Palace and The Old Stock Exchange.
If you prefer to steer your own boat you can enjoy Copenhagen’s harbourside charms by hiring a small solar-powered vessel called a Go Boat. When we visited we saw groups of friends and families picnicking on the 8 seater boats bobbing around the harbour. It looked like so much fun.
Picnic in the grounds of a castle
Rosenborg Castle is pretty as a picture. Located in the centre of the city it was the perfect spot to sit and take in Copenhagen’s festive summer atmosphere. Hundreds of Danes were picnicking and enjoying the sunshine in the shade of the 17th century Dutch Renaissance castle.
We loved our self-guided tour of the palace that includes some impressive crown jewels and a slightly strange but beautiful glass objects collection off the main throne room.
Shop Scandinavian style
If sleek, minimal Danish design is your preferred aesthetic make sure you have space in your luggage for some shopping in Copenhagen. Start at Magazine Du Nord where you will find Danish and Scandinavian clothing, accessories and homeware brands rarely seen outside of this part of the world.
Then make your way day down Strøget, the longest pedestrianised shopping precinct in the world. Stop at the beautifully designed flagship stores for Danish brands COS, Hay and Lego.
Notes on family travel in Copenhagen
I visited Copenhagen without our kids this time but was on the lookout for family friendly options for a return visit. The city is great for children with incredible parks, open spaces and transport options. Tivoli Gardens is the obvious choice for a respite in sightseeing activities. I also think my children would enjoy the boat tour, food markets and the Danish National Aquarium.
Tips from the locals
Tapping into local knowledge always pays dividends. Thanks to Caroline from Love Live Travel and author of the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Free Things to do in Copenhagen for showing us the food scene in Copenhagen and spotting Noma’s Rene Redzepi.
Erin from Oregon Girl Around the World encouraged us to visit the Meatpacking District one evening and we had so much fun. Do check out their blogs for more local insight into lovely Copenhagen.
Need more Denmark?
Discovering New Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen
Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in this post. This means that if you choose to make a purchase after clicking on one of the links I may receive a small commission and your purchase will help support this site. Read my full disclosure policy.