There is something about Copenhagen that has me longing to make a return visit. It’s a city of great juxtapositions – I could label it quaint but vibrant can describe the city as well; a burgeoning food scene and a thriving design scene.
Just a few hours from most European cities, Copenhagen is the perfect city to consider when planning a last minute break; with plenty of things to see and do right in the heart of the city. Here are my suggestions for one perfect day in the Danish capital.
Spend the morning enjoying your hotel with a sleep in or make the most of a traditional Danish breakfast. Pass on the cereal and enjoy rye bread, white bread or rolls with cheese and jam. Raw vegetables, herring, boiled eggs and salmon are also commonly seen. Wash this down with tea, coffee, orange juice or a glass of Danish bitters.
Forget cars, rent a bicycle and see the city. Bicycle culture is a big deal in Copenhagen with bikes available to rent throughout the city.
Grab a map because many of the popular city sites are accessible by biking – the bronze statue of Hans Christian Anderson’s beloved Little Mermaid statue, Amalienborg Palace – the royal residence since 1751 and Nyhavn, famous for the colourful wooden schooners lining the canal.
If you’re near Amalienborg Palace watch the changing of the guard which happens at noon, and then head out for lunch. Try open-faced smørrebrød sandwiches – a Scandinavian speciality. Slices of cold meat, sausage or hard-boiled eggs are placed on open rye-bread to create filling sandwiches.
To get a more traditional taste of Danish smørrebrød be sure to try leverpostej (liver pate), smoked salmon or salted beef varieties.
Head back towards the city centre and take a stop at Rundertaarn – the Round Tower for views across the city. Built between 1637 and 1642 means that it isn’t the tallest building, but the architecture, history, and steep spiral walk to the top – 114 feet off the ground.
Take a trip down Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street – Strøget! At — in length, it’s a nice street to take your time and window shop or to bike down the thoroughfare to the Town Hall Square (Radhauspladsen).
Some of Denmark’s most famous designers have shops on this street. Be sure to stop at Illums Bolighus, which features Danish design, as well as famed silver jewellery design, Georg Jensen‘s flagship store.
From here the Tivoli Gardens is a short ride along Vesterbrogade, or head towards Christiania – the self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood – a bohemian area with plenty of artists and musicians to see.
Copenhagen is the gastronomical capital of Scandinavia. Home to famed Michelin star restaurants such as two Michelin star restaurant Noma and the only Thai restaurant outside of Thailand with a Michelin star, Kiin Kiin, great food can be found which won’t need you booking months in advance.
Danish newspaper Politiken recently had readers vote on their favourite Copenhagen eatery and the award went to a hotdog stand. Den Økologiske Pølsemand (the organic hotdog man), or Døp for short, near the Round Tower serves grilled pork and beef sausages. If you want a more Swedish taste, swap the bread for potato and parsnip mash.
Other top suggestions are Rex Republic is famed for its Danish sirloin and rump steaks, Vespa for really good Italian food, or The Rice Market – the sister restaurant to Michelin starred Kiin Kiin.
Be sure to check out the Copenhagen visitors board for more inexpensive restaurant ideas
After a busy day why not relax with the beer, Danish style. Try a Tuborg beer (Carlsberg), visit the meatpacking district has several funky bars including local artist designed Karriere Bar, for cocktails head back to Nyhvn or check out Mikkeller a small but funky microbrewery two blocks away on Viktoriagade. Be sure to ask to see the squirrel bottle if you visit!
How would you spend one perfect day in Copenhagen?
How to get to Copenhagen:
There are a number of ways to reach Copenhagen from across Europe. The city can be reached by road through Germany and Sweden, daily ferries from Oslo, Norway and is a hub for DBS railway.
The cities main international airport is Copenhagen Airport, located just outside the Danish capital and servicing both the city and Malmo, Sweden.
The airport is the hub for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) and Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norwegian) and also have the most daily flights; but is serviced by airlines from Europe, North America, Asia and beyond.
I’ve travelled to Copenhagen by a number of routes. The first time I was set to take the train from Copenhagen to London, via. Munich and Amsterdam. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience due to the length of passage when I should have broken my journey into more manageable pieces. I lasted until Amsterdam where I instead chose to fly the rest of the way to London.
By far the most convenient, and my favoured option, is flying. I’ve flown with – and would fly again – SAS, Norwegian and easyJet to Copenhagen.
Getting to/from Copenhagen Airport:
Copenhagen Airport is about a 15-minute drive from Copenhagen’s city centre.
By far the easiest option to get into central Copenhagen is by the Copenhagen Metro. The Metro departs every 4-6 minutes and can find the station above the underground rail station in Terminal 3 (above the underground station) and travels along elevated tracks for much of the journey.
The airport is also serviced by the DSB Øresund which run to Copenhagen’s city centre and beyond to Sweden. The airport station also has InterCity and InterCityExpress trains that run to Danish cities like Aarhus and Aalborg.
The train stations are found in Terminal 3. To get to Terminal 3 from other terminals, the airport operates a free bus every 15 minutes.
For more information on how to get to Copenhagen Airport, check their website.
Where to stay in Copenhagen:
In Copenhagen, I highly recommend staying at Ibsens Hotel. A boutique hotel located near Tivoli Gardens and the waterfront. It’s a short distance to the city centres most popular sites, perfect for walking or cycling from.
The modern hotel is decorated with bold black and white with pops of colour in just the right places. The rooms are a good size (not claustrophobic!) but minalist and functional, in true Scandinavian design style.
While the Ibsens Hotel is the cool artistic younger member of the family, their sister property, Hotel Kong Arthur, is a more refined dame. I highly recommend spending an evening at their Jazz Bar!
If you are looking for a budget option, I’ve stayed at both the Generator Copenhagen and Sleep in Heaven.
Sleep in Heaven offers guests a relaxed neighbourhood experience in the very cool Norrebro, while the Generator Copenhagen is the eclectic party animal in the city centre. I’d recommend both depending what you were looking for.