Denmark’s capital Copenhagen, aka the City of Fairytales, is perhaps the most relaxed city in Scandinavia, and features highly on many a traveler’s bucket list.
Picturesque, youthful, historic, and oozing with friendly vibes, there’s so many unique elements here that you’ll hardly find anywhere else – a bicycle-centric city, the world’s oldest (and second oldest) amusement parks, a harbour lined with bold and colourful townhouses, and a unique cafe culture, that’ll make you want to come back.
There’s magnificent royal palaces and museums bursting with Viking treasures, cutting-edge Michelin-starred restaurants and the Nordic food revolution began here.
In this post I list the most famous landmarks and spots in the city as well as best things to see, do and eat on a budget, and some hidden gems that not many are familiar with.
Scroll on to read my Top 15 Things to See and Do in Copenhagen: Attractions and Hidden Gems
Table of Contents
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Copenhagen Attractions Map
Copenhagen Essentials Checklist:
- A warm winter coat or jacket (trust me, it’s freezing in the autumn and winter months)
- A decent pair of walking shoes (there’s a lot of walking in this city)
- A hoodie or warm sweater (for summer months, or to wear under your jacket)
- A good quality compact camera (for taking great pics)
Top 15 Things To Do In Copenhagen: Attractions & Hidden Gems (2022 Edition)
1: Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square)
Situated in the heart of the city, Rådhuspladsen (aka the Town Hall Square) is an ideal place to start exploring Copenhagen, being right next to the main train station. Here you’ll find the Copenhagen City Hall and the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, as well as a few other notable places worth checking out: Museum of Copenhagen, National Museet, and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum.
Location: 1550 Copenhagen
How to get there: Less than 10 mins walk from Copenhagen Central Station (past Tivoli Gardens) to the City Hall
2: Stroll down Strøget
Right off the Town Hall Square is the pedestrian street known as Strøget, one of the largest pedestrian malls in the world with everything from international brands to hip boutiques. Follow down the street to discover independent shops in the Old City, and turn into the narrow alleys.
I recommend the 2-hour walking tour.
Location: Copenhagen city centre, Denmark
How to get there: Strøget starts right outside Rådhuspladsen metro station
3: Go up the Rundetårn (Round Tower)
On the corner of Købmagerade is the Rundetårn (Round Tower), a 36-metre high observatory tower built in 1642. Inside you can walk up the spiral ramp that leads to the viewing platform at the top, offering magnificent panoramic views across the city. There’s also a glass floor hovering 25 metres above the ground, a new attraction where you can peer down into the tower’s core.
Those who are fans of Hans Christian Andersen will be interested to know that the tower features one of his beloved stories The Tinderbox.
How to get there: from Rådhuspladsen station, its 10 minutes walk to the Rundetårn. Location: Købmagergade 52A, Copenhagen
Admission: 40DKK (adults), 10DKK (children)
4: Tour the city on Bike
Not only is Copenhagen one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, almost every resident of the city rides regularly. In fact, more than 50% of Copenhagers commute to work by bike every day.
The city is truly marvellous to discover on bike. The terrain is naturally flat, and there’s a fantastic network of broad cycle lanes. Cycling is encouraged here, and with fewer cars on the road it’s very safe, and many people don’t even wear helmets.
Be sure to ride across the new Lille Langebro Bridge and the stunning Circle Bridge as well as the Inderhavnsbroen, aka the Kissing Bridge.
5: Try the Smørrebrød
A trip to Copenhagen would be amiss without sampling the iconic Smørrebrød, a traditional meal widely eaten in Denmark and across Scandinavia.
Translated as “butter and bread” the platter is way more exciting than the name entails, featuring anything from cold-cuts, eggs, cheese, fish, seafood, and pickled vegetables, topped with interesting seasoning and garnishes.
Copenhagen is also famous for the new Nordic cuisine where culinary geniuses have developed molecular processes that emphasise the quality of locally-sourced ingredients. The city boasts impressive eateries and numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. You can even take a Nordic cuisine tour.
There’s also a Nordic cuisine tour available.
Here’s a map of the 10 best budget-friendly restaurants in Copenhagen (according to Tripadvisor):
6: Christiansborg Palace
Situated on the Islet of Slotsholmen, Christiansborg Palace consists of one of the residences of the Danish Royal Family as well as the Prime Minister’s office, the Danish Parliament and Denmark’s Supreme Court.
A tour around the Palace also features a Riding School overlooking a gallery as well as a little court theatre. Ornate reception rooms host formal events and receive heads of state from around the world, with the Great Hall being the highlight of the visit.
Book your tickets here:
Location: Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København
How to get there: From the Rundetarn its 9 minutes walk and from Strøget, 5 minutes.
Admission: Combo tickets 160DKK (adults), Free (kids)
Opening times: 10am til 4pm (closed on Mondays)
7: Nyhavn Harbour
Easily the most iconic landmark in Copenhagen, Nyhavn is a picturesque 17th century harbour lined with tall, multi-coloured townhouses, seafood restaurants, cosy cafes and lively bars, while ships and boats both modern and old, moor the waters.
Meaning ‘New Harbour’ in English, Nyhavn is an historic waterfront bustling with traders, locals and tourists alike. The townhouses date back to the 17th century as does the canal. Interestingly, this part of town was for most of its existence a very seedy area, however its now one of the best places to stroll and relax for a coffee or beer in summer.
Opening times: 24 hours
8: Amalienborg Palace Square
The official residence of Queen Margrethe II, the four palaces facing onto the square used to host the Danish nobility, but were taken over by the Royal Family after a fire broke out at Christiansborg in 1794.
On the grounds you can spot the soldiers of the Royal Guard, with their distinctive bearskin hats and blue ceremonial uniforms, they’re a unique symbol of the city.
Opening times: 10am til 5pm
9: Hygge Moments in Cosy Cafes
Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah) is a unique term that defines cosy social gatherings and intimate get-togethers between family and friends. The term goes far in illuminating the Danish soul, expressing the feeling of wellbeing and warm atmospheres.
Get your hygge on with a delicious cup of coffee and a Danish pastry from one of these cute coffee shops. Copenhagen is famed for its high quality coffee.
Below is a map of the 10 best cafes in Copenhagen according to Tripadvisor (based on affordability):
10: The Little Mermaid Statue
Perhaps the most famous landmark (after Nyhavn), the statue of The Little Mermaid is instantly recognisable sitting on a rock beside the Langelinie promenade.
Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s eponymous fairytale, sculptor Edvard Eriksen created the statue in 1913 as a tribute to the author. Upon arrival at the statue you’ll be surprised by how small it actually is, though it’s still worth taking a photo of the iconic landmark for the Gram.
11: Stroll around Kastellet
One of Europe’s best-preserved city fortresses, the centrepiece of Kastellet is the beautifully preserved windmill. Built in 1847, it replaced an earlier windmill that was destroyed in a storm.
The sprawling complex was built by Christian IV of Denmark, and now belongs to the Danish Ministry of Defense.
Opening times: 6am til 10pm
12: Rosenborg Castle
The majestic Rosenborg Castle was built as a royal summer house by one of the most famous Scandinavian kings, Christian IV, in 1606.
Offering a glimpse into Copenhagen’s regal history, the lavish castle is home to some of Denmark’s greatest cultural treasures and works of art. Inside you’ll discover impressive tapestries charting the conflicts between Denmark and Sweden, coronation thrones in the Knights’ Hall, and an impressive 17th century Venetian glass collection. You can also see the king’s chambers, take a look at his bathroom and check out his private writing cabinet.
You can book a walking city tour here with Rosenborg Castle
Admission: 125DKK (adults), Free (kids)
Opening times: 11am til 4pm (closed on Mondays)
13: Visit Copenhagen’s Free Museums
Copenhagen is a notoriously expensive destination, and with most of this list consisting of outdoor activities, what if you want to warm up in a cold Scandinavian city?
Fortunately there are several, totally free museums around Copenhagen that might be worth your while. Here’s a list of free museums in Copenhagen:
Tip: Sign up for a Copenhagen Card to get free or discounted entrance to numerous more museums.
14: Explore Freetown Christiania
One of the more unique attractions in Copenhagen is the neighbourhood known as ‘Freetown’ in the Christiania district. Originally the site of old military land on Christianshavn, Freetown is a commune founded in 1971 on the back of a counter-culture movement – and was meant to be a social experiment.
Half a century later, Freetown continues to thrive, despite there being some struggles between the residents and the Danish government over more autonomy.
Nevertheless, you’ll find plenty of interesting things to see and do in this peaceful park packed with historic army warehouses and barracks that have been converted into everything from restaurants to organic shops, and artist studios to music venues. Plus there’s impressive insta-worthy graffiti art murals everywhere.
Opening times: 24/7
15: Tivoli Gardens
The famous Tivoli Gardens is a combination of beautiful gardens and thrilling rollercoasters right in the heart of Copenhagen. The second-oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli Gardens first opened its gates in 1843.
Visit at night time for a truly magical experience when thousands of twinkling lights make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
Indeed, Hans Christian Andersen found his fairy tale inspirations from this park, and if it wasn’t for a visit here by Walt Disney in the 1950s, we wouldn’t have any DisneyWorlds.
Admission: 145DKK (Age 8+), 65DKK (ages 3-7), Free (under 3 years) Book your tickets here:
Opening times: Reopening 8th April 2022
General Information about Copenhagen
- Area: 179.8km squared
- Weather: 0C / 32F (winter), 22C / 72F (summer)
- Population: 602,481 (1st in Denmark)
- Founded: 1167 AD
- International Airport: Copenhagen (CPH)
- Famous Residents: Lars Mikkelsen (actor), Kasper Schmeichel (footballer), Sandi Toksvig (comedian)
Hidden Gems & Other Worthy Recommendations:
Church Of Our Saviour
This stunning Baroque church is most famous for its helix spire and an external staircase that winds to the top, allowing visitors to climb all the way up for the best panoramic views over the city.
Admission: 65DKK (adults), 20DKK (children)
Opening times: 9am until 8pm
The Cisterns (aka Cisternerne) is a fascinating place that was originally Copenhagen’s water supply system before it transformed into a museum of modern glass art and finally into a cool underground art exhibition venue.
Perfect for those seeking a unique museum attraction, the sights are spectacular and reminiscent of something out of a Harry Potter movie.
Relax in a Steaming hot Sauna
What could be more Nordic than relaxing in a steaming hot outdoor sauna in the middle of winter?
CopenHot celebrates this Scandinavian tradition wholeheartedly, with countless options on offer including scenic spas with panoramic views on the water, giant wooden tubs of hot water, and sailing spas with heaters, yes – literal boats full of spas, floating on the open waters.
To relax and unwind in a hot sauna is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Copenhagen after spending your trip walking (or cycling) around the city in chilly weather.
One of the newer hidden gems situated on the outskirts of Copenhagen is this architectural wonder: an utra-modern waste-to-energy plant, that also doubles as an outdoor activity centre.
Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, CopenHill amongst its appealing features are an outdoor climbing wall and an artificial ski slope on the roof.
Even if you don’t fancy doing the activities, its worth seeing the peculiar building and at least, stop by the cafe for a beer or coffee.
Don’t forget to book travel insurance
It goes without saying really that when you travel in Europe and beyond, travel insurance is super important.
I never always bothered though. For years I travelled without insurance as I thought, “what could happen?”
Well, I once got my bag stolen in Vietnam and I had an electric shock in a hostel bathroom in Mexico. What if you’re cycling in the street and your appendix suddenly bursts, leaving you in excruciating pain and requiring emergency treatment? Anything could happen.
I use World Nomads for comprehensive cover and convenience at great prices on all my travels, and I never set out without it. You can get an instant quote below.
Copenhagen Interactive Map
Check out the interactive map below to see all the highlights of Copenhagen, in green markers.
So that’s it – the Top 15 things to see and do in Copenhagen (plus hidden gems and other recommendations).
Copenhagen is truly the city of fairy tales that deserves its place on ultimate travel bucket lists. It flexibility and small size makes it the perfect European city break, a magical weekend away, or even just a day trip.
And as this post shows, even travelers on a strict budget can do a Copenhagen trip at reasonable prices!
How to get there
As Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen serves international flights from all over the world.
Budget airlines that fly into Copenhagen are Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian Air.
How to get from Airport to City Centre
It takes just 15 minutes to arrive in the city centre from the airport on the metro or the train, with tickets costing approx. 38DKK (USD 5.80 / GBP4.30 / EUR 5). Get to Terminal 3 in the Airport for the train to Copenhagen Central Station, or the Metro to Nørreport, Kongens Nytorv.
Planning on staying in Copenhagen?
Click here for a list of excellent accommodation options at Booking.com
Commonly Asked Questions:
Copenhagen is known for its excellent cuisine, bike culture, canal network, Tivoli Gardens, beer breweries, and its community spirit known as ‘hygge’. The birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen is known as the city of fairy tales, and is reputed to be the world’s happiest city.
Here’s the top 10 things you should not miss in Copenhagen:
- Explore the city on bike
- Eat smørrebrød, traditional Scandinavian food
- Wander the magnificent gardens at Rosenborg Castle
- Go to the top of Rundetarn (The Round Tower) for stunning panoramic views of the city
- Shopping at outdoor malls and small independent shops on Strøget
- Tour the royal residencies of Christiansborg Palace and Amalienborg Palace
- Stroll down the iconic Nyhavn Harbour
- Enjoy a ‘hygge’ moment in cosy cafes
- Visit the unique Freetown Christiania
- Relax in a hot sauna at CopenHot
The perfect 3 days in Copenhagen guide:
Day 1: Tour the city on bike. Witness the best panoramic views of the city from the top of the Church of our Saviour. Visit the Town Hall Square (Radhusplasden), shopping malls on Strøget, the Rundetarn (Round Tower), Amalienborg Palace Square and Christiansborg Palace. Explore the iconic Nyhavn harbour and stop by one of its seafood restaurants or small cafes.
Day 2: Wander the magnificent gardens at Rosenborg Palace, followed by a visit to Kastellet and the famous Little Mermaid statue. Try the traditional smørrebrød. Visit the Tivoli Gardens, and check out the unique Freetown Christiania district.
Day 3: See the animals at Copenhagen Zoo, followed by a visit to the nearby Frederiksberg Palace and Gardens, and see the Elephant Gate. Complete the day by relaxing in a hot sauna at CopenHot.
Here’s the 10 best attractions in Copenhagen:
- Nyhavn Harbour – most famous place in Copenhagen with picturesque colourful houses
- Rosenborg Castle and magnificent gardens
- Church Of Our Saviour for best views of the city
- Amalienborg Palace Square – residence of the Danish Royal Family
- Kastellet and Little Mermaid statue – the city’s most iconic landmark
- Tivoli Gardens – the world’s second oldest amusement park
- Strøget – shopping malls, independent shops, and the Rundetarn
- Christiansborg Slot – complex of the Danish royalty and government
- CopenHot for open hot saunas on the city harbours
- Freetown Christiania – graffiti art, independent food stalls and artists studios
Copenhagen is known for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe to visit, with the average cost of food in the city at 361Kr per day (based on the spending habits of previous visitors). The average meal in Copenhagen costs around 144Kr per person, with breakfast usually cheaper than lunch and dinner. However, there are budget eateries and fast food, with pizza, hot dog stalls and kebab restaurants costing around 60-80Kr per meal.
Copenhagen Day Trips and Activities on Get Your Guide:
A guided tour and sightseeing events are some of the best ways to experience Copenhagen. Here’s some excellent deals for the most popular trips and activities around the city. (Remember, you can cancel your bookings at anytime!)
Book Your Trip to Denmark: Budget Tips & Tricks
I use Booking to find fantastic cheap stays with free cancellation options.
Travel insurance will protect you from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.
Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.
I hope you enjoyed reading my post: Top 15 Things To Do In Copenhagen, and feel inspired to see this city one day.
Let me know what you thought in the comments, thank you!