Copenhagen is a melting pot of sorts. It is modern yet traditional, innovative, and culturally rich. Though it can be expensive to travel to, there are still lots of free sights you can admire and enjoy. Copenhagen is so diverse that your thirst for picturesque scenes, your desire to soak up culture, and your indulgence in local food, would all surely be satisfied. Here are some of the best things to see and do when in Denmark’s capital city of Copenhagen:
One of the most popular photos you will see of Copenhagen is Nyhavn. It is an entertainment district that dates back to the 17th century, when it was built by King Christian V. It was primarily built as a port to help transport cargo coming in and out of Kongens Nytorv. As such, it used to be notorious for hosting activities that suit sailors such as prostitution and beer, but now it has been transformed into a bustling center filled with restaurants and shops catering mostly to foreign tourists.
Among the most iconic sights you will see here are the colorful brick townhouses that line the waterway’s northern side. The oldest among these buildings was built around 1681.
Tivoli Gardens is more than just your average park. It is actually an amusement park, and the second oldest amusement park in the world built back in 1843. To date, it remains one of the most-visited amusement parks in the world and among its most popular attractions is its wooden roller coaster which is also the world’s oldest operating roller coaster.
Aside from the rides, there are also lots of performance art shows that you can enjoy in Tivoli Gardens. It also has an on-site hotel to make it easier for you to fully explore the entire area together with kids.
Address: Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København, Denmark
Opening hours: Sundays to Thursdays, 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM. On Fridays and Saturdays, park hours are until 12 midnight.
Copenhagen: Tivoli Gardens Admission Ticket
3. Rosenborg Castle
One of the things most people look forward to when visiting the Scandinavian region is visiting a castle. And of course, here in Denmark, among the castles you should not miss is the Rosenborg. This renaissance-style castle was originally built as a summer house in 1606 and was among the architectural structures credited to Christian IV.
It eventually became a castle and was used by regents around 1707. After that, the Rosenborg also became an emergency residence during a fire and during the British War. Today, the castle has been opened to public as a state property, where guests can marvel at the crown jewels and Danish Crown Regalia on display.
Address: Øster Voldgade 4A, 1350 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily
4. Paleis Christiansborg
Another palace that you should drop by and visit in Copenhagen is the Paleis Christiansborg, open from 10:00 AM ‘til 5:00 PM daily. Whether you decide to go inside and explore the palace or just walk around admiring the entirety of its architecture, you will surely find lots of picturesque sites during your visit here. Today, the palace also serves as a government building in Copenhagen.
There is plenty to see while here. Inside, you can explore the Royal Reception rooms, the Parliament Room, even the chapel. You can also go up the tower, take a fantastic panoramic photo of the city, and explore the deck for free.
Address: Prins Jørgens Gård 1, 1218 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily
5. Botanical Gardens
If you love flora and fauna, then a visit to the Botanical Gardens inside the University of Copenhagen should be part of your to-do list. The place has a total of twenty-seven glasshouses, taking care of endemic and other popular plant life being cultivated in Denmark. You will also be left wondering how old some of the plant residents are since the entire complex was constructed way back in 1874.
There is also a museum inside and a seed bank that are both worth a visit. You may also explore the surrounding buildings as well as checking out the sculptures accenting the place.
Address: download map for details
April 1 - September 30: 8.30 AM to 6.00 PM daily
October 1 - March 31: 8.30 AM to 4.00 PM
6. Frederiks Kirke
This church, designed in 1740 by Nicolai Eigtved, was constructed to celebrate the 300-year jubilee of the first coronation from the House of Oldenburg. It is considered to have the largest dome in Scandinavia, and drew its inspiration from Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. It is also known as the Marble Church and serves as the focal point of interest in Frederiksstaden.
Not only does Frederiks Kirke look stunning from the outside, but inside you will also find intricate carvings adorning its walls, ceilings, and the interior of the dome. Angels are showcased amongst its stained-glass windows. The entire Frederiks Kirke dome spans thirty-one meters (101.7 feet) and rests on a total of twelve columns.
This star fortress was once an important defense base in Denmark. Within its walls are various military buildings although it is also well-known for its church and windmill. Today, the Kastellet is a historical park open to public viewing day and night.
Among the buildings you will find inside the Kastellet is the Commander’s House and the Rows. The Rows is a row of red barracks where soldiers stay. It also has a Powder House, which the military used to store black powder in, as well as a prison building and a central guard house. Today, the Kastellet remains an important military base in Copenhagen, although the addition of museums has allowed it to be a historical spot for tourists as well.
Address: Gl. Hovedvagt, Kastellet 1, 2100 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily
The Citadel is one of the popular places to visit inside the Kastellet. If you find yourself pressed for time, you might as well include is as one of the places you must visit on the star fort’s grounds. It was historically created as a garrison for Christian IV, and was made very noticeable and recognizable by its King’s Gate, which stands to this day. Inside, there are several rows of barracks constructed for the king’s officers and soldiers.
As you get inside the citadel you will also find a chapel and prison building. These are worth seeing as they have rich political histories for Denmark, and the whole of Kastellet as a fortress park.
Historically, Christianshavn was built by Christian IV as part of his plan to fortify Copenhagen. Eventually, it became a bohemian neighborhood in the seventies and today it is mostly a middle-class residential area. It is known to be one of the most well-preserved fortifications in Denmark, most notable for its canals that are now used as ports for some yacht owners.
Christianshavn is also known in popular culture and also among musical arts. There are lots of references to its bridges and colorful rows of buildings. Christianshavn also has many of the prime tourist spots in Copenhagen. It would actually be a smart idea to choose to stay here when touring Copenhagen.
10. Little Mermaid
One of the most iconic things to see in Copenhagen is the popular Little Mermaid statue displayed on a rock at the Langelinie Promenade. It was created in reference to Hans Christian Andersen’s the Little Mermaid. Created by Edvard Eriksen, he used an actual ballerina as his mermaid model. Through the years, the sculpture has been subject to vandalism in the name of both personal and political causes.
Because the place gets very crowded with fellow tourists, it is advisable to view the Little Mermaid sculpture via a city tour or a boat tour. You can also get up close and personal to take a photo, but it is best to time your visit for the early morning or late afternoon to get closer to her.
Address: Langelinie, 2100 København Ø, Denmark
11. Church of Our Savior
This Baroque church is popular for its helix design. Not only can you see this design from outside, but you can also experience it from the inside. How? You can actually climb to the top of the church via a winding staircase that leads you to an open area with a fantastic view overlooking Copenhagen.
Inside the church itself, you can also marvel at some old architectural details that are still on display. The old church organ and Tessin’s altarpiece are also popular sights to see. The church is also famous for having its own carillon–a musical instrument made up of bells.
Address: Sankt Annæ Gade 29, 1416 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 11:00 AM until 3:30 PM.
12. Grundtvig’s Church
Aside from the classical architecture you will find in Copenhagen, there are also rare modernist gems like Grundtvig’s Church in Bisperbjerg. It is an expressionist church, completed in 1927, and is one of the most famous churches in Copenhagen.
The church was named after Danish philosopher N.F.S. Grundtvig and its design was done by Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint. His design was inspired by the blending of Brick Expressionism with Gothic architecture, the latter which is noticeable in the interior design of Grundtvig’s Church. Today, it remains a well-preserved historical hotspot, which also includes the great Marcussen organ used for church services.
Address: På Bjerget 14B, 2400 København NV, Denmark
Opening hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Thursdays
Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower, is an iconic astronomical observatory in Copenhagen. Built in 1707 as one of the many architectural projects credited to Christian IV, this tower is revered for its spiral ramp, which was also an equestrian staircase. This means that you can use this ramp to ascend to the top of the tower while riding a horse! There are no other ways to reach the top of the Round Tower other than this ramp.
It still serves as an astronomical observatory today, as well as a prestigious historical spot and sometimes concert hall.
Address: Købmagergade 52A, 1150 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily
14. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Copenhagen is bursting with its own art scene, and one of the most popular places to experience it is at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. You can easily spend the day here marveling at its architecture, poring over its many different collections, spending time in the galleries, discovering antique sculptures from ancient cultures, and even watching cultural events or special concerts held in its auditorium.
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is a visual artist’s dream, with its extensive collection of Danish Golden Age, post-impressionist, and French-impressionist paintings. Make time to check out all of its three wings (Dahlerup, Kampmann, and Henning Larsen), and see how each of them is an architectural standout on its own.
Address: Dantes Plads 7, 1556 København, Denmark
Opening hours: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
15. National Museum of Denmark
Whether you consider yourself a culture vulture, or simply love traveling, it is always a good idea to visit a country’s national museum to get a concise understanding of its rich history. In the National Museum of Denmark, you get more than just an understanding of Denmark but also some valuable insights to the whole Scandinavian history.
The museum covers approximately 14,000 years of history, reaching as far back as the Ice Age. The museum also showcases some collections from the ancient cultures of Greece, Italy, and even Egypt. A lot of notable artifacts are also on display, among which is the Gundestrup cauldron that dates back to the first century BC.
Address: Prince’s Mansion, Ny Vestergade 10, 1471 København K, Denmark
Opening hours: Closed on Mondays, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesdays until Sundays
16. The David Collection
For a different kind of art, which you may think you would not find in Danish culture, check out The David Collection. The museum was spurned from the personal art collection of C.L. David, whose art collection was notable for its large volume of Islamic art created from the eighth to ninth century BC. The building itself also has its own history, since it used to be the actual home of C.L. David. During his time, he had already made some of the collections here available for public viewing.
Today, Danish and European collections are showcased in this museum, with furniture, porcelain, silverware, sculptures, and other ceramic arts. Painting enthusiasts can also marvel at the rich visual art on display.
Address: Kronprinsessegade 30, 1306 København K, Denmark
Opening hours: Closed on Mondays, 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Wednesdays, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Tuesdays - Fridays and weekends
Torvehallerne has a lot of cultural history behind it. Back in the day, it was part of an open square that also included a vegetable market frequented by locals. Today, Torvehallerne redefines the notion of a supermarket by being a grand market that has almost everything you can think of in a market place.
It is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in local Copenhagen life, as the market includes raw food items as well as food shops and restaurants that sell mostly Danish food, such as cheese, chocolates, fish, and wine, to name just a few. If you want to go on a local food trip in Copenhagen, Torvehallerne is your go-to place.
Address: Frederiksborggade 21, 1360 København K, Denmark
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 10 AM - 7 PM, Friday 10 AM - 8 PM, Saturday 10 AM - 6 PM, Sunday 11 AM - 5PM
18. Kongens Nytorv
Kongens Nytorv is a big public square that was historically built as the King’s Square. It is actually an important landmark that lets you see many of the important buildings within Copenhagen. So where exactly does shopping come in for Kongens Nytorv? When the square is not converted into an ice skating rink, there are several exhibits and bazaars that are held here. You might be able to chance upon a local flea market on one of your visits.
In English, Kronprinsensgade translates to “Crown Prince’s Street.” Aside from its special name, it is made extra special by the fact that it connects the old town of Copenhagen to the major shopping streets. It is also famous for the flatiron buildings that can be seen at its intersections.
20. The Latin Quarter
You will mostly find students frequenting what is known as Copenhagen’s Latin Quarter, which is near Copenhagen University. The central area earned its name because it used to be that Latin was the main language spoken here. The Latin Quater is bounded by three different streets: Vester Voldgade to the east, Nørre Voldgade to the north, and Vestergade to the south. Today, you will see that most shops here cater to the youth, and some even showcase creative products from students working as artists.
If you think night markets are only found in Asia, then it is time for you to visit Strøget. It is the longest pedestrian street market in Europe, and that means that absolutely no vehicles can be seen plying its streets. Strøget is made up of several connected pedestrian lanes that are flanked on both sides by different types of shop. It is the best place to experience strolling the streets of Copenhagen while being entertained by various street performers.
For even more shopping, there is also Jægersborggade, which stretches for just 150 meters (492 feet) but houses so many hip and happening shops in Copenhagen. It used to be a dodgy part of a residential area but then managed to transform itself into one of the most popular local and tourist areas for some of the best eats in Copenhagen. It is worth trooping here to fill your bags with food souvenirs to take home with you.
If you want to explore Copenhagen like a local, then you have to take a bike tour. You can either do this with a private tour company or do it yourself. There are many bike rental companies within Copenhagen, as most Danish folk prefer to ride a bike as their own personal transport. The alleys and sidewalks of Copenhagen are also conveniently structured to make way for both pedestrians and cyclists. There are bike lanes everywhere, so you can spend a leisurely bike ride enjoying the captivating architecture of the city.
Copenhagen: Guided City Bike Tour
Duration: 2 hour
Couple your bike tour with a canal tour, as Copenhagen is also popular for its charming boat tours that ply the historical canals surrounding most of Christianshavn. You can join tourist favorites, like the open-top boat tours, or rent a private boat that would take you around the maritime area of Copenhagen at your own pace. Copenhagen also offers adventure tours whereby you get to experience it all in a kayak, or fishing trips for a taste of seafood life in this part of Denmark.
Copenhagen: Canal Cruise from Nyhavn
Duration: 1 hour
25. Danish pastries
Of course, how can you possibly forget the possibility of tasting authentic Danish pastries when you are already right where they were born? Enjoy all these traditional pastries to your heart’s content in the markets and bakeries that are staples around Copenhagen. Enjoy freshly-baked croissants, cinnamon rolls, and fruit Spandauer bread. Danish pastries are known for their thinly rolled yeast dough, rolled 27 times for that perfect buttery goodness.
The name itself means butter and bread in English, and you will see at as an open-faced sandwich with various toppings. It often uses rye bread and toppings are usually cold cuts, ranging from pieces of meat and fish, vegetables, and different types of cheese. Cold salmon and prawn are among the favorites for this authentic Danish open-faced sandwich.
27. New Nordic cuisines
Aside from Danish pastries and baked goods, you should also get into the New Nordic cuisines craze that is currently sweeping Denmark and the rest of the Scandinavian region. This idea was formed in 2004, and was mainly about using local produce to make authentic Nordic dishes. It has become such a hit in the food industry because chefs are given so much room to experiment and blend traditional cuisines with modern and unorthodox ingredients.
The “Deer Park’s Hill” is also known among locals as Bakken or “The Hill” and it is the world’s oldest operating amusement park. How old? Well, it has been in operation since 1583 and generations upon generations of Danish families have enjoyed the fun since that time up to now.
Most of the original rides, which were in the park from its beginnings, can still be seen and ridden to this day. The most popular among them is the Rutschebanen, a roller coaster made of wood. It is a classic that you definitely should try! It’s well-worth trooping to Dyrehavsbakken for!
Address: Dyrehavevej 62, 2930 Klampenborg, Denmark
Opening hours: See calendar for specific times
29. Original LEGOLAND®
If you are a fan of Lego then you should definitely take a trip from Copenhagen to Legoland Billund Resort. This is the original LEGOLAND® theme park, which was built in 1968 and served as the main inspiration for the other LEGOLAND® theme parks now built across the world. This park is built right next to Lego’s factory so not only can you and the kids enjoy the rides in the theme park, but you can also enjoy rare access to what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to building Lego blocks.
Address and opening hours: See official website for details
30. Djurs Sommerland
Another theme park that you must try is Djurs Sommerland. Get your thrill fill on the Pirate, Denmark’s fastest and highest roller coaster to date. The park is divided into seven different areas, plus a waterpark that you can also access using the same admission ticket.
Address: Randersvej 17, 8581 Nimtofte, Denmark
Opening hours: See website for details
Experience Scandinavia right from Copenhagen
Copenhagen is bursting at the seams with all great experiences. It has everything you could think of to satisfy tourists of all ages, and with varied interests. It is definitely a must for your European bucket list trip!
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