Copenhagen is an incredibly beautiful city, with a wealth of history and countless beautiful museums and palaces to visit. It also has a real foodie scene and is great for shopping! You could easily spend much longer than a weekend here and not be short of things to do, but if a weekend is all you have (like I did) then here are some ideas to get you started!
First of all, I would highly recommend getting your hands on a Copenhagen City Card. These can be purchased in advance or bought at many outlets once you arrive. This saved us a lot of money on public transport and entry to various attractions. The public transport in Copenhagen is absolutely amazing, clean and extremely efficient, so I would really recommend using it – especially if you're a little strapped for time like we were!
As I said, there's a lot to see in Copenhagen, and a lot of the attractions are just that – to see. A lot of the attractions in Copenhagen are beautiful buildings, statues and streets which can be easily seen on a walk around the city. Many of these do have options to enter and see more, if you are inclined, but the architecture alone is something to marvel at.
Before we arrived, I had made a list of everything I wanted to see and had a look at where they were on a map so I could make sure we could see as much as possible each day. Like I have said, the public transport was brilliant and our airbnb was a little outside of the centre, so we started by catching a bus into the central area. We decided to start at Rosenborg Castle as this is slightly outside of the main central hub, so we could work our way in. We chose not to go into the castle but it was lovely to walk around and is beautiful from every angle. We also spent some time wandering the grounds which would be lovely for a picnic (had the weather been a little warmer!)
From here, we walked down towards the harbour where the famous Lille Havfrue (Little Mermaid) statue is located. The statue itself was rather underwhelming but the surrounding area was worth the walk in itself. The statue is located just a stones throw from Kastellet, which is a star shaped military fortress you can cross a bridge to. Just around the corner you will also find a beautiful garden area which houses the Gefion Fountain.
As with all of Copenhagen, there is a lot to see but it will not take a great deal of time as there is not too much to do. Which was how we managed to see so much in just a couple of days.
After leaving the harbour area we began heading towards the central shopping area and main square. On our way, we stopped off to marvel at the beautiful Amalienborg palace. Again, you can enter the palace if you wish but we were content to view it from the outside. This is the royal seat of Denmark and the royal family still reside inside the palace!
From Amalienborg, we walked down Strøget (Copenhagen's main shopping street) to reach the famous Nyhavn harbour – home to the lovely colourful houses Copenhagen is so famous for. It really was beautiful here and we sat by the harbour to enjoy a waffle on a stick – because why not! Again, there is not much to actually do here but it makes for a great photo opportunity and really is a must in Copenhagen.
Just after Nyhavn, we had a quick detour to visit Charlottenborg Castle – which we obviously had to do just because I shared its name! There was an art exhibition on inside which would be worth a visit if you enjoy art.
We then headed out to the round tower, which was a really interesting building and one of our favourite bits about Copenhagen. This was free with the Copenhagen card but normally costs 40 DKK which is only about £5, so I would say it would still definitely be worth paying entry. The round tower was built as an observatory in the 17th Century, making it the oldest one still working in Europe, and is still sometimes used by amateur astronomists today. It had a really interesting architecture style, and at the top you have some lovely views over the city. There was also a free exhibition in the tower when we visited and there are also a few permanent installations.
We then headed back to the main square or City Hall Square, where we enjoyed a lunch of sausage baguettes from a food stand whilst we marvelled at the surrounding buildings. On one side of the square you can visit the Hans Christian Anderson museum, which is also free with the Copenhagen card, and is a storytelling exhibition showing some of his works. This was a rather accidentally sinister experience due to the mildly disturbing nature of his original stories but was interesting all the same. Although I probably wouldn't pay to go back here again!
On the other side of the square you can find a statue of the man himself looking onto our next attraction – the stunning Tivoli gardens. Again, entry to Tivoli was included with the Copenhagen card which saved us the equivalent of about £18, which is the normal cost. Even though this seems a bit pricey just to get in, I urge you to do so as part of your visit because this is a truly magical place! Tivoli gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world and opened in 1843. Today, you can ride the wooden roller coaster (open since 1914), experience a virtual reality flight through ancient China or experience panoramic views of the city on the skyflyer. As it was winter, there was still a somewhat christmassy feel, although there was a nod to valentines day as we were there in February. We didn't partake in any rides but we spend a happy hour or two wandering the park and popping in and out of the shops. We topped it all off with a Gluhwein before heading back to our Airbnb for a home-cooked tea.
Just to note, the rides within the park are an extra cost per ride but you can purchase a multi-ride ticket for around £35 which includes your entry.
Yes, we had a full day of sightseeing yesterday, but there were still a few more things to see. Although our second day was more quality than quantity as we did not visit as many sights but we spent more time at each. We started the day off with a visit to Torvehallerne market – which is a covered market selling all manner of food and drink. We grabbed some breakfast here before heading to our first main attraction of the day – Freetown Christiania.
Freetown Christiania is an incredibly interesting place. It was originally a community formed by a group of homeless people on a former military area in the 70s. It is now home to a ‘Free' community who are not governed by the Danish government and have their own set of rules. It is a beautifully decorated area which is famous for its art exhibitions, food outlets, and environmental ideals. It is not permitted to take photos in this area so don't go armed with a camera or you may not be admitted. You can find photos of the area online but these were all taken by individuals with explicit permission from the community. You can find lots more information about Christiania here.
Following an interesting couple of hours pottering around Freetown Christiania, we had worked up an appetite for lunch so headed to the trendy Kødbyen district to find a place to eat. Formerly the city's meatpacking district, Kødbyen has now transformed into one of the trendiest neighbourhoods for eating and drinking. There are many cocktail bars which are popular in this area as well as eateries and art galleries. We enjoyed a rather sumptuous beer and burger in one of the many stylish cafes.
After lunch, we headed to the place in Copenhagen which many of you will have on your minds – The Carlsberg Brewery. The brewery tour was included with the Copenhagen card and included a beer and souvenir at the end of the self-guided tour. At present (October 2020) the tour is closed for renovations but when it is back up and running I would definitely recommend a visit. The tour itself can be as long or short as you like as it is self-guided and there are various areas which are an optional. We really enjoyed the tour and visited all the available areas, probably spending a couple of hours in total here. Once again, the architecture surrounding the site is worth a visit in itself, particularly the famous Carlsberg elephants!
As I said, we were quite limited for time in Copenhagen and definitely feel we could have spent more time here. Another sticking point for us was that we went on quite a tight budget and Denmark, as with much of Scandinavia, is rather pricey. This is why we opted to cook dinners in our apartment for the most part and only treated ourselves to one meal out.
If we were return to Copenhagen, I would definitely want to have a little more to spend and experience Kødbyen in the evening. The only other experience I felt we really missed out on, was crossing the Malmo bridge and popping into Sweden!