Copenhagen, Denmark’s happy capital (guide and tips)

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Copenhagen may be one of the most beautiful and balanced capitals in Europe: it’s not too big, but it’s big enough to spend three days like my visit, walking (or cycling). It is diverse in that its neighborhoods range from the most elegant, to the colorful and charming old port, or the alternative and unique area of Christiania. It is a quiet city with little traffic, and its people seem happy, relaxed (in a country that usually tops the rankings of “happiest countries” on the planet). Copenhagen is ideal for family visits, with children, because it is absolutely friendly with its visitors, or because among other attractions it has one of the most easily accessible amusement parks in Europe (and one of the oldest in the world).

Images (*) Matías Callone

My visit to Copenhagen.

I remember my three-day stay in Copenhagen as a “stopover” prior to travelling to the Faroe Islands belonging to the Kingdom of Denmark (a nine-day trip that you can see as a guide in this post with tips for the Faroe Islands). In those three days, you can enjoy walking many of the city’s corners, visiting its main neighborhoods and attractions: from the famous Little Mermaid (which I find a little disconcerting as the main symbol of the city), to its old port, in my opinion one of the most charming spots in Copenhagen. It is a beautiful city, peaceful to walk, shop, or enjoy its outdoor walks along the canals. In this post you will see a lot of my photos in Copenhagen during those days, those walks and walks for hours, under that intense rain (in one of the days in the city), or under the intense sunlight in an unforgettable sunset.

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You will also see the charming corners that I discovered, and of course everything recommended to enjoy both within the city and its surroundings.

Contrary to what we might think (a Nordic city wrapped in a grey climate) Copenhagen is full of colour, life and people enjoying all that colour. And thanks to the canals, its port, its open spaces and squares, it is a luminous city in spite of its cold and grey climate most of the year:

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By the way, another point to highlight is its architecture. It is an elegant city of palaces and remarkable buildings, with public spaces filled with sculptures and striking statues.

How many days will it take to visit Copenhagen?

The minimum number of days recommended, for a relaxed visit, with a diversity of activities, and above all with the option of doing some excursion to the surroundings, in my opinion would be about four nights and three full days. There’s a lot to walk, get to know and walk around the city. In addition, there are many interesting options for excursions around Copenhagen (detailed below), which are well worth adding up base days from Copenhagen. Therefore my recommendation is to think of at least three or four full days (and more to explore the surroundings where there are castles, cities with a lot of heritage, or even the option of getting to know a nearby city in Sweden).

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Curiosities of Copenhagen

Copenhagen was born as a Viking fishing village about a thousand years ago. In the seventeenth century was the capital of Denmark and Norway, and from those times keeps much of its weight and splendor. It is a city of canals and piers, connected to the world through ships and commerce for centuries. It is a city of bicycles, in which its inhabitants love this way of moving, and also, an extremely friendly city with the pedestrian, ideal to visit in family. Among the most curious to see, Copenhagen has the largest dome in Scandinavia (in the marble church), or in the surrounding area, the world’s oldest amusement park, plus the largest castle in northern Europe (you can see these tips on what to see below).

How to get to Copenhagen.

By plane. Unless we are in nearby European cities to connect by train, there will be nothing more practical and quicker than a connection by air. From Madrid or Barcelona in Spain there are daily direct flights to Copenhagen. It is a city that is very well connected by plane with the rest of Europe.

By train. From southern Europe, the best train connections to Copenhagen and Denmark pass through Germany. There are three direct trains a day, especially from Hamburg.

From the airport to the centre of Copenhagen by train, bus and metro. To get to the center there are connections by various public transportation options.

Stay in Copenhagen (neighbourhoods and areas).

There are not too many limitations in terms of areas to stay: either near the old town, where we will be at hand for everything to go walking. But also, in more remote neighborhoods it is very easy to connect with the center because there is a very good public transport system, agile, and quiet (do not forget that this is not a huge city). On the other hand, if it is worth knowing that staying in Copenhagen, one of the most expensive countries in Europe, is not exactly an easy task if we are looking for low prices. Many of the more central neighborhoods, as well as the hotels in the urban heart, are the most expensive. For example, the most expensive neighborhoods would be the area of Tivoli (around the amusement park), but this area is also the most beautiful, elegant and lively. So if the budget allows it, do not hesitate to stay in this area. The neighbourhood with the most balanced prices would be that of Vesterbro, which is a stone’s throw from the Central Train Station. The neighbourhoods closest to the centre, as well as the most remote areas, as I said, are always well connected by transport (bus or metro), so distances are not to be feared so much. In my case I was staying in an airbnb about 20 minutes from the center by train, and I assure you, beyond that time, I had nothing to regret about being a little further away.

I leave you two recommendations to find accommodation in Copenhagen:

Primero >> from this link you can compare more than 1000 accommodation options in Copenhagen (this includes everything from hotels, apartments to bed and breakfast). My recommendation in expensive cities like Copenhagen is to search in advance, if possible two months in advance to find better prices and even discounts.

Segunda opción >> Stay on an Airbnb in Copenhagen. Another option may be to stay in apartments (or rooms) through websites such as Airbnb. If you register for the first time with AIRBNB you can take advantage of this discount of up to 31 euros for your first booking.

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How to travel and move in Copenhagen.

Just as you can use the public transport service (medium distance trains, metro and buses), there are also tailor-made options for a sightseeing tour:

Use the Copenhagen tourist bus. The characteristic tourist buses that tour the main attractions in each European capital are also present in Copenhagen, with 26 stops along the way (and including the Royal Palace of Amaliengorg, or the Town Hall Square). For its cost of 32 euros is valid to use for 72 hours (you can see details and book it from the blog always without any additional cost), so I recommend it if we go at least those three days to the city. If we only go for a day, even walking we will reach the main attractions that are possible to see in a day.

Use the Copenhagen card. This tourist card is recommended especially if you will be in the city for several days (at least three) in order to take advantage of free access to public transport as well as a pass to 79 museums and monuments, including many of the essential walks (canal boat trips, Tivoli Gardens, Palaces such as Amalienborg or Frederiksborg Castle). You can see all the details or book the Copenhagen card from this link.

Next photos: walking, cycling, and few cars, which characterizes the center of Copenhagen:

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Navigate the channels. Copenhagen is also a city of canals. And just as the locals travel their canals in private boats, it is possible to make a tour on a tourist boat. This boat is the equivalent of tourist buses, has a stop at seven docks and using it we can get on and off as many times as we need within 48 hours that our ticket is valid. You can book the tourist boat from this link (has a cost of 14.10 euros and like everything we recommend from the blog, there is no extra cost to do so from our links).

Tour Copenhagen on a free tour. In addition to walking for free, it is an option to do the free tour in Spanish (works with the modality “a la gorra”) touring the historic center of the city in almost three hours.

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What to do and what to see in Copenhagen (10 must-see).

The Little Mermaid. We talk about the most famous symbol and tourist attraction of the city (?). This sculpture of a bronze mermaid of only 1.25 meters is located in the bay of the Port of Copenhagen, and is near the Royal Palace of Amalienborg. It was installed in 1913 as a tribute to the Danish dancer Ellen Price, star of the Royal Ballet depicting the story The Little Mermaid by the children’s story author Hans Christina Andersen. Over time, this statue became consolidated as a symbol of the city and Danish culture. And even though it is a beautiful and unusual statue, the tourist fervor for this attraction photographed by dozens of tourists at the same time did not cease to call my attention.

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A day in the Gardens of Tivoli (amusement park). I don’t usually visit amusement parks on my travels. However, this park deserves a mention because it is nothing less than the opportunity to witness living history among the world’s amusement parks. The Tivoli Gardens opened as an amusement park in 1843 (and I love these curiosities with a certain retro air). Although at the time the gardens of Tivoli were on the outskirts of the city, with the growth of Copenhagen it remained in full center, and a step away from the commercial and historical heart. With its roller coasters, trains, classic attractions as well as activities such as concerts especially programmed in good weather season, it is ideal to spend a full day in pure fun and family. At no extra cost you can buy the entrance ticket to the Jardines de Tivoli from this link. (at EUR 17,40). With four million visitors a year, it is Denmark’s most visited attraction. (Open from April to September, and free with the Copenhagen Card.

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Visit the alternative district of Christiania (Christianshavn). All my free visit to this neighborhood I explain in detail in this post. This neighborhood is self-recognized as a free community within the city of Copenhagen itself, and is born inspired by the counter-cultural and provo anarchist movement. It is therefore a kind of social experiment that works on what were former military terrains almost 50 years ago in disuse. Christiania is an alternative neighbourhood, where its inhabitants try to have their own rules often in conflict with the Danish authorities. It is an area free of motor traffic (i.e. a huge pedestrian and bicycle area), a neighborhood of rehabilitated buildings (especially old sheds), graffiti art and murals, totaling 34 hectares. On how to visit it, is an open neighborhood and free visit, you can walk with total freedom. However, there is also the option of doing a free guided tour with the modality of the cap (and in Spanish).

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Visit the old port (Nyhavn). This area of the old port is one of the postcards of the city, it is like an open-air port museum. And in addition to the colourful, there is no shortage of bars, restaurants and open-air tables for tasting seafood. In this post in the blog you can see more about my photos and I go through Nyhavn.

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Visit Rosenborg Castle. In my case I could visit it and see it from the outside, but if you wish you can make the visit to its interior. This is a castle-palace that is in the middle of town, and is from the year 1606 (then it was a summer cottage of the king, today it is a museum). It is of Dutch Renaissance style and is in an area of parks (The King’s Garden) not far from the Royal Palace. If we are lucky and we are in summer (which looks like spring) do not hesitate to take a walk in the park and have a picnic overlooking the castle.

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Visit the Amalienborg Palace and see the change of guard. Basically it’s the palace where the Danish kings live in the winter. It is actually a complex of palaces (four rococo buildings) built in the 18th century. The change of guard ends from the barracks, to reach the palace at 12.00.

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The church of Marble. Next to Amalienborg Palace is the Marble Church (although its name is Frederiks kirke, it is popularly known as Marble Church). It has the largest dome in Scandinavia and took more than a century to complete in 1894. Its dome is inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica.

Walk Strøget Street. Kind of like a shopping paradise in Copenhagen, and one of the longest shopping streets in Europe.

These photos below correspond to several shopping streets in downtown Copenhagen:

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Climb to the highest tower in Copenhagen (Christiansborg Palace). I always like to find good viewpoints in cities. In Copenhagen it could well be the tower of the Christianborg Palace (Danish Parliament). It has free tours, in addition to the option to climb free to its tower. (On the official website there is more info).

Go up to the Round Tower. Another viewpoint in the city can be the Rundetårn or “Round Tower”, built in the seventeenth century as an astronomical observatory in the heart of the city. You can go up paying a ticket.

Excursions around Copenhagen on the day.

If you still doubt if it is necessary to stay three days in the city, with these ideas of excursions to do in the day you can even increase the number of days of our stay to four, five or more days. From Copenhagen it is possible to visit different places on the same day, either as an organized tour or on your own. All these excursions are very easy to do by train, or we could even think of renting a car to explore all the surroundings:

Excursion to Roskilde (Viking Boat Museum). This Danish city is only 30 minutes by car from Copenhagen. But it can also be visited by train (in just 20 minutes from the Central Station). Among its main attractions are the Roskilde Gothic Cathedral, declared a World Heritage Site, as well as the Museum of Viking Ships (including the largest Viking ship in the world). With the Copenhagen Card is included the train transport to Roskilde in addition to the entrance to the museum. If we prefer to go in a guided way and in organized excursion we can also contract this excursion of four hours with guide in Spanish.

Excursion to Malmö (Sweden). From Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden is not a difficult excursion, far from it. All you have to do is cross the Øresund bridge that joins the two countries. And we can do this either by free (by rental car) or by train from Copenhagen Central Station to Malmö Central Station. This train takes us in about 40 minutes and has a cost of 14 euros round trip (you always have to carry your passport as it is a change of country). If you don’t want to do it on your own, there is the option in an organized tour where we don’t have to worry about everything (includes guide, transfer and activities in Malmó). You can see the details of the organized excursion to Malmö here.

Excursion to Frederiksborg (the largest castle in Scandinavia). The largest castle in Scandinavia is located in the Danish town of Hillerød. And as with every option, it is possible to go on your own, or on an organized tour. To go on your own, go again to Copenhagen Central Station, and from there continue by train to Hillerød, which will take us an hour. From the station, in fifteen minutes we will reach the castle of Frederiksborg, considered the “Versailles of Denmark”. In the castle operates the National Museum of History of Denmark, in addition to the remarkable gardens of its surroundings. There is also the option to go for an organized tour (here you can see the details of the organized excursion to Frederiksborg Castle).

Excursion to Kronborg Castle (the castle that inspired Hamlet). Again there is the option to do it by free train (one hour), from Copenhagen Central Station to Helsingør. From the station in this city, in 20 minutes we will be at Kronborg Castle, also recognized as a World Heritage Site. This is a 15th century fortress that inspired Shakespeare to set “Hamlet”. A place full of legends around the Danish prince turned into a character of universal literature. If you prefer, you can see details of the organized tour to Kronborg Castle from this link.

Visit the world’s oldest amusement park (Bakken). If the Tivoli Gardens are a jewel for their antiquity, this park is already an authentic world heritage of amusement parks. It is the oldest in the world and has been in continuous operation since 1583 (of course it has changed a lot since then, there would be less). It’s 10 kilometers north of the city near Klampenborg. (park info in English).

By the way, here are some of the main activities in Copenhagen:

In order to finish with images I leave photos that I did and that I believe that they illustrate even more the contrasts and diversity of Copenhagen (do not hesitate to leave me in comments your doubts or to comment your experience in the city).

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(*) All images belong to Matías Callone and are under Creative Commons license.

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