Upon setting foot in Copenhagen, it’s easy to see why Scandinavians are some of the happiest people in the world. The houses are colorful, its host to some of the best restaurants in the world (more on that later), and unlike Zurich, Prague, or even Paris, there is an easy accessibility to anywhere in the city from the presence of bicycles. Amsterdam is supposed to be the most bike-friendly city in the world, but Copenhagen is a worthy rival.
Copenhagen/Købnhavn is a small city pretending to be a big city (sound familiar, San Francisco?). With a population under a million people, the city is sprawling but not dense. Residents divide themselves into the various neighborhoods, all an easy train, bike ride, or even walk away.
Speaking of walk, the best way to start your trip is with a walking tour of the city. Within a few hours, you’ll get to know the layout and set the stage for how you want to spend the rest of your days there. Below were the main sights I’d recommend, some more touristy than others. Use the map as your guide!
Other helpful links:
- Copenhagen Free Walking Tours: These guys were the best – super familiar with the city and detail-oriented about the city’s history.
- Running Copenhagen: If you’re a fitness freak like me, this is the best way to see the city while also getting in a workout. I did a 15k, but you can choose from 5k or 10k as well. You also get a cool shirt.
Nikolaj Plads: The town square. Basically the start of my day everyday since I stayed right next to it. It’s got the big clock tower, a few places to grab food, and marks the beginning of Strøller, the shopping streets.
Nyhavn (pronounced NEW-HOWN): The touristy yet picture perfect harbor of the city. The harbor is an artificial creation, built by Swedish war captives and prisoners; it’s probably worth mentioning that the Danes don’t really like the Swedes.
Amalienborg: The palace (and homes) to the Danish royal family. It’s crazy how little security there is around a royal home. Compare this to the White House that is covered in secret service and gates. The only barrier here are the traditional beefeater-type guards who patrol the doors. Come at noon and you can watch the changing of the guards as well.
Rosenborg Castle and Gardens: For being such a small city, there are a lot of palaces in Copenhagen. This one houses the crown jewels, and has significantly more security than Amalienborg. The gardens are perfect for a picnic or nap and remind me a lot of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris!
Tivoli: Although really meant for kids, it’s a good way to kill an hour walking around and buying random trinkets. Plus, it was the inspiration for Walt Disney when building Disneyland, and you can see some very obvious parallels.
Rundetaarn: I’m always on the hunt for the best view of the city, so of course it makes sense that the observatory tower would be the place to go. There are no stairs inside the building – just a long road going all the way up. Apparently they once filmed a car commercial inside!
Christiania: This is the Haight-Ashbury of CPH, complete with overrun gardens, random hippie shops, and a Green Light District where weed is sold and smoked freely. The art is awesome to explore, but make sure to only take photos in the designated areas – Christiania is not actually legal, but it’s tolerated as long as nobody does anything stupid. That includes running – then they think the police is coming.
The Little Mermaid: The most overrated part of the city but still one of those things you “have” to see once (like the Mona Lisa). I came around 7:30am on my running tour, so I had the chance to see it sans tourist, a rare occurrence.