Known for its charming, bicycle-filled streets, carefree hygge lifestyles, architecture, history, and so much more. Copenhagen, Denmark is one of the most welcoming European capitals you will ever visit with many sights to see. So say goodbye to crowded streets, frustrated locals, and inconvenient transportation; you may want to extend your stay in Copenhagen to soak in the rare combination of a laid-back pace of living with a rich, vibrant arts, culture scene, and many sights to see.
Whether Copenhagen is your leading destination or if you’re passing through, you’ll want to devote some time to seeing the city, checking out a few museums, and enjoying traditional Danish food. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip to Copenhagen!
About Copenhagen, Denmark
As the capital of Denmark, Copenhagen is the center of Danish culture and history. The Danish monarchy is the oldest standing monarchy in Europe and traces its roots back to Viking rulers in the 9th century. Because of their rich history, Danish art, culture, food, and other exports have flourished.
Denmark consistently ranks in the top 5 happiest countries in the world (this year second behind Finland), a widely credited statistic to Danish quality of life. You will see the quality of life reflected on Copenhagen’s streets–most notably in the lack of traffic accessibility of transport. Copenhagen has the most bicycles in any city its size in the world, and this cheap, environmentally friendly way of getting around is popular with everyone, from tourists to locals.
Copenhagen is also the birthplace of hygge, a Danish word usually translated as “cozy” or “comfortable conviviality,” which permeates Danish lifestyles with a sense of comfortability and community. Copenhagen’s own Happiness Institute has studied the idea of hygge in Danish culture. Yes, the Danes are such happy people that they created an institute to study how happy they are. Goals.
Traveling to Copenhagen
Arriving by Air
Copenhagen Airport (CPH) is the main international hub for Denmark, and you can fly directly in from international destinations. Direct flights to CPH, however, tend to be pretty expensive, so you may want to check out flights into another major EU hub like Munich and then hop over to Denmark on a shorter inter-EU flight. From the airport to the city center it is about 15 minutes by train, or you can rent a car, which will take around the same time.
Arriving by Train
Denmark is part of the EU, so the inter-EU train system runs efficiently and relatively cheaply in Copenhagen. Copenhagen Central Station is the largest train station in Denmark and an excellent arrival point for any trip further out into Denmark. Trains will take you straight into the city center, walking distance from most tourist attractions.
Transportation in Copenhagen is incredibly accessible so that you can customize your trip to your needs. The metro will take you to most neighborhoods and runs 24/7, so there is no need to worry about getting stranded on a night out. If you want to rent a car, we recommend keeping it at your hotel and using public transportation to get around.
Parking can be scarce in Copenhagen because of the abundance of bike lanes, and car traffic in parts of the city is disrupted by the canals running through the harbor areas of Copenhagen. So leave the car at home or the hotel, and head out on foot or grab a bicycle to see the city the way the locals do.
Things to Do
Copenhagen has tons to do, including a great mix of exceptional restaurants, trendy nightlife, historical sites, art galleries, museums, and more. But, of course, the best thing to do in Copenhagen is to take your time, explore, and be open to meeting fellow travelers and friendly locals along the way.
Take a Canal Tour
Canals run through much of Copenhagen, and they are a great way to see the city, get your bearings, and learn about Copenhagen’s fascinating history. Canal tours will show you the different parts of the city and what they are known for and give you an idea of where you might want to explore next. You can also rent a kayak or a canoe if you’re going to head through the canals at your own pace.
The most iconic view in Copenhagen, Nyhavn, is home to the charming, bright-colored buildings found in most postcards of Copenhagen. The beautifully maintained buildings and sidewalks along the harbor are just as idyllic as they look in pictures and worth a visit. You should get on a bike while you’re in Copenhagen, and Nyhavn is a great place to explore by bike, following the canals and seeing the shops and restaurants lining the harbor.
Take a Ride at Tivoli Gardens
The original inspiration for Disneyland, Tivoli Gardens, is the second oldest running amusement park in Europe (the oldest, Bakken, is also located in Copenhagen). Tivoli gardens is an unbelievable trip through time, and it is still just as fun as it was in the 19th century.
Tivoli Gardens has 30 rides, including one of only seven wooden roller coasters in the world to have a brakeman on every car, and the Star Flyer carousel, which hikes riders up 80 meters above the ground. If rides are not your thing, be sure to visit the fascinating gardens at Tivoli and stop by the shops and restaurants for a glass of lemonade in the summer or mulled wine in the winter.
See the Little Mermaid
The symbol of Copenhagen, the sculpture of The Little Mermaid, sits on the Langelinie promenade, just 15 minutes from Nyhavn. Carl Jacobsen commissioned the Little Mermaid in honor of Hans Christian Anderson, author of the Little Mermaid fairytale. This iconic stop in Copenhagen is quite popular. We recommend coming early, getting your picture, and moving on to explore the canals.
Take a Tour of Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace is the government building that houses the Danish parliament, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Danish Supreme Court. This site of the palace on the islet of Slotsholmen in Copenhagen has been home to royal residences. These palaces have been here since the 12th century, re-built, and added to since the 1700s.
In Christiansborg (referred to by locals as the Borg), you will see the modern workings of Denmark’s parliamentary government. You will also see the history of notable kings and queens throughout time, and stunning artwork and architecture. On your tour, climb Christiansborg Tower to get a spectacular view of the city from 106 meters high.
Denmark’s National Museum is found in Copenhagen. The museum is home to a wealth of artifacts from throughout Danish history, stretching back to the Vikings. You can get lost here learning about the rich history of Denmark but make sure to catch a few highlights. For example, the Trundholm Sun Chariot is a stunning piece of Bronze Age culture from 1400 BC. The chariot represents the sun from Norse mythology. It was believed to travel the sky in a chariot pulled by a divine horse. Viking history is also a big selling point of Nationalmuseet. It is where you can learn where they lived, their traditions, significant battles, and their effect on modern Danish culture.
Take a stroll through Strøget
The longest pedestrian street in Copenhagen, Strøget has everything you could imagine for shopping, cafés, restaurants, galleries, and more. While browsing the couture racks at the high-end designers’ shops is fun, if you’re looking for something more local (and slightly more wallet-friendly), check out the side streets that branch off Strøget for highly specialized boutiques and local finds.
Denmark is known for its castles, and there are so many to choose from. If you make it to any castle, make sure it’s Rosenborg Castle. Home to the Crown Jewels and a stunning collection of Venetian glass, Rosenborg Castle is located in the center of Copenhagen in King’s Garden. The castle and grounds are some of the most spectacular surroundings in Europe, and the beautifully maintained gardens are popular for tourists and locals alike to take a run through, have a picnic, or explo
Eat and Drink Around Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a mecca for great food, with many choices around the city. Start by exploring the street food at Copenhagen’s open-air markets, then head to the vibrant Vesterbro neighborhood to check out breweries, local foodie tours, and trendy lunch places. For dinner, Copenhagen is home to 23 Michelin stars and many off-the-beaten-path choices, from nightlife and late-night eats.
If you are looking for another amazing European city to visit, check out our travel guide to Paris. It is a must-visit city.