How to fall in love with Copenhagen

boats moored in nyhavn copenhagen

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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

Madfreds and Assistens cemetery Norrebro

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.

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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.

Best things to do in Copenhagen - Little MermaidFrom 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.

Nyhavn - one of the best things to do in Copenhagen

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

READ:   Discovering New Nordic cuisine in Copenhagen

Torvehallerne market Copenhagen

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.

St Albans Church Copenhagen

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.

Click here for more info and prices for the Copenhagen boat tour

Danish Royal Yacht Dannebrog


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.

Rosenborg Castle Copenhagen

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

Tivoli Gardens 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

Copenhagen street food market - paper island

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

A bike tour of Copenhagen

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42 thoughts on “How to fall in love with Copenhagen

  1. Clare Thomson says:

    I still have to go to Copenhagen. We opted for Lisbon instead for our February trip, fearing Copenhagen would be too chilly and I’d prefer to see it when the palace and the Tivoli Gardens are open because the kids would love to visit those. I’m so sure I’d love the city – can’t wait to visit and try all your recommendations.

    • Katy says:

      You will love Copenhagen Clare. I am sure it is a fun city whatever the weather but especially lovely in summer. Hope you manage a trip there soon

  2. Mitchell Hyde says:

    Denmark has never been on my radar as a holiday destination. But it looks like a really cool and hip city to check out. Especially the Tivoli area, thats my kind of scene. As a foodie, this looks like a place to come and see!

    • Katy says:

      I dont say this lightly Mitchell.. you will love Copenhagen. So much food, great beer and general hanging out. It’s a great city

  3. jess says:

    Copenhagen looks like a quiet city. Was that canal tour by boat? I imagine it was, since I took a boat tour through Berlin. Just checking, so I don’t end up walking!! haha

  4. Amanda Williams says:

    Copenhagen looks awesome. I love the little mermaid statue, and would love to picnic in the grounds of the castle. Another place to add to the list! I am wondering how easy it is for vegetarians and vegans there though?

    • Katy says:

      Hi Amanda, the food scene is amazing and has a strong emphasis on vegetables and sustainable eating. I have no doubt you would be well catered for. Copenhagen has it all really!

    • Katy says:

      Thanks for your kind words Sophie. We would have liked to try riding bikes but the friend I travelled with was very pregnant and not confident about riding. Wandering was a fantastic compromise

  5. Lindsay says:

    I truly fell in love with Copenhagen. I didn’t know what to expect and I think it really took me by surprise. I loved visiting and honestly could see myself living there. It’s a wonderful city.

    Great round up of ideas in this post! #citytripping

  6. tots2travel says:

    Copenhagen is now definitely on our list for next year. Seen lots of solid blog posts on it which tempted me and I’ve got good friends there now, their second visit. Sounds v child friendly too. #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      You will love Copenhagen. We noticed many parents leave their babies in their prams outside while shopping. That’s how family friendly the city is. The transport is easy and amazing with children too

  7. Lolo says:

    Those are certainly new and different ways to fall in love with Copenhagen that I’ve never seen! I love unique reasons to visit! One day I will make it to Denmark…after all it’s not far from us. #CityTripping

    • Katy says:

      It’s such a lovely place. The Danish way of life is very attractive. Everyone seems so relaxed and enjoying life. Hope you manage a trip soon

  8. Vyjay says:

    It is so easy to fall in love with Charming Copenhagen. The place is so beautiful and picturesque. The Little Mermaid is indeed a fitting icon for this lovely city.

  9. Organized Wanderer says:

    Just last month my wife and I were in Copenhagen for almost a week. It was our first time and we loved the vibe of the city. Unfortunately, we stayed at a very central hotel on H.C. Andersens Boulevard – and as a result, while we were close to the “buzz”, we weren’t close to the authentic experience of living in Copenhagen that you probably enjoyed by staying in a neighborhood like Nørrebro. Next time we will definitely choose to stay in Nørrebro or Vesterbro or maybe even Frederiksberg. Loved the pictures you have added in your blog post – it brought such a big smile to my face as I relived the super time we had in Copenhagen!

    • Katy says:

      Glad to hear there will be a next time. I cannot wait to return there soon too. I felt we only experienced the tip of the iceberg and I am really very hungry for some of the amazing food on offer. Thanks for your lovely comment

    • Katy says:

      If I was a betting person (I’m not), I would be very confident that I would win big on you loving Copenhagen. Cant wait to hear what you think Tanja

    • Katy says:

      ooh I wonder what its up against.. somewhere a little sunnier perhaps? Anyway, it is a fantastically accessible city. Loved it

  10. Bumble Bee Mum says:

    I’m trying to convince my husband to bring the kids to Copenhagen to catch the Disney Cruise from there next summer. Shall take note of your tips for family travel if that happens! #CityTripping

  11. Cathy (MummyTravels) says:

    It’s such a lovely city, isn’t it – very understated but very easy to love. I’d really like to go back with my daughter now she’s a bit older as she was only about 16 months at the time, although also to go back alone and really enjoy the shops and some more of the food. Torvehallerne was one of my highlights though. And the Blue Planet Aquarium is amazing with kids too. #citytripping

  12. Elizabeth (Wander Mum) says:

    I loved our trip to Copenhagen! It’s a great city for all the reasons you have described. We had a great time on a boat tour and Tivoli was fab…amazing for kids! I would have liked to explore some of the other districts too – staying in one, like you did, is a good idea. Thanks for linking to #citytripping

    • Katy says:

      Yes, Copenhagen is hip. Great way to describe the city Lillian. So relaxed and easy going too. We loved our time there. Thanks for stopping by

  13. Paige Wunder says:

    I am dying to get to Copenhagen, but I just keep taking different trips instead… Isn’t that always how it goes? I love the idea to “follow your tastebuds”, I know mine love to explore new cities! Thanks for some great tips! Cheers!

  14. Mandy says:

    I love that you always link to a number of sources in your guides but also that you give a complete snapshot of what to do! I would definitely like to visit Copenhagen one day and now know to add culinary delights to my tour!

    • Katy says:

      Brilliant! Get yourself settled back into life in Copenhagen and we’ll talk. At this stage we are thinking heading your way in late May next year

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