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How to Visit Copenhagen in One Day
Copenhagen is an alluring city that has perfected the art of mixing old world charm with cutting-edge cool. This eclectic city is large enough to house world-class attractions, architecture, and museums yet compact enough for the capital of Denmark to be the perfect 24 hour destination.
With our one day Copenhagen itinerary, you’ll explore the famous waterside attractions in the city whilst dipping into world-class museums and palaces, and soaking up the lively yet laid-back atmosphere of the Danish capital.
In our Copenhagen travel guide, we’ll share an itinerary for one day in Copenhagen, highlighting the top attractions and hidden gems that you won’t want to miss. You’ll find information, tips, and recommendations with an interactive map, organized to make the best use of your one day in Copenhagen.
Are you planning your trip to Copenhagen last minute?
Be sure to book your accommodation and tours in Copenhagen ahead of time to ensure availability! Here are our top picks!
- Luxury: 71 Nyhavn Hotel (right on the water and gorgeous!)
- Mid-Range: Copenhagen Admiral Hotel (great location, our fave!)
- Budget: citizenM Radhuspladsen (Scandi decor in a central spot)
- Hostel: Next House Hostel (top hostel at a great price)
- For all the best things to see in Copenhagen grab this city highlights tour
- See the city by bike on this guided bicycle tour of Copenhagen
- Ride Copenhagen’s iconic canals with this bestselling canal cruise
- For an easy visit, grab the hop-on hop-off bus tour and sight-see in comfort
- Enjoy the food of Denmark on this Copenhagen culinary experience tour
When to Visit Copenhagen
The best time to visit Copenhagen is from March to September, you’ll enjoy mild weather and good deals on flights and hotels. Be aware that late spring and early fall can see the city full of visitors, and prices heading upwards.
The summer has the best weather, longest days, and plenty of events, but Copenhagen will be rammed to the point where even wandering down Nyhavn becomes impossible.
Visit in the winter months for the best travel deals, quieter streets, bags of hygge, and cozy roaring fires in your accommodation. It can be very cold at this time of year, with wind whistling of the Baltic Sea, and snow likely, so make sure to take lots of layers and winter-appropriate clothing.
Getting to Copenhagen
When you fly to Copenhagen you will land at Copenhagen Kastrup International Airport. There are several ways to get to the city from the Copenhagen Airport using public transportation.
Why not get free public transport throughout the city, and to and from the airport, with the Copenhagen Card? The card offers free metros, buses, and trains plus free entry to 80+ Copenhagen attractions.
The Metro station is located in Terminal 3. Trains on the M2 line go into the city run every 4-6 minutes and take about 15 minutes to Nørreport Station in the central Copenhagen Indre By district.
You can also catch the 802 and 804 buses from Terminal 3, which leave every 15 minutes and take 20 minutes to arrive at Nørreport Station. Tickets for both Metro and bus can be bought at station ticket machines using coins and credit or debit cards.
For a great way to start your Copenhagen trip book a private transfer from the airport with Intui directly to your accommodation in the city center – it’s more cost-effective than you think! Intui works with a large range of local operators to bring the best options and prices for your transfer.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
71 Nyhavn is a gorgeous hotel in a beautiful building on the sunny side of Nyhavn, one of Copenhagen’s most famous spots, and a perfect starting point for the main attractions on our itinerary! With a good dose of original features and elegant Scandinavian decor, this is one of the best hotels in Copenhagen.
Another waterside hotel in the old district, the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel has an excellent range of simple and stylish rooms in a converted warehouse building, with stunning views across Hønsebroløbet to the Copenhagen Opera House. Just a short walk from everything you’ll want to see and with great public transport connections, this is our favorite hotel in Copenhagen.
In another great central location, citizenM offers modern decor, huge super-comfortable beds, and smart touches like jungle-like power showers, superfast free WiFi, and blackout blinds.
With a luxury offering, Next House Hostel has both dorms and private rooms, a gym, and holds regular events like game nights, live music, and DJs, and is just a stone’s throw from Copenhagen Central Train Station.
Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting Denmark. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.
What to See & Do in Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s main sights are all located within a relatively compact area so it is easy to walk or cycle from one to another and maybe add in a boat ride to reach a few outliers, making it very possible to see Copenhagen in a day.
You can often find beautiful squares, buildings, canals, streets, and parks along the way that don’t make it onto the must-see lists but are still very worthwhile. Walking in a city is where you can really get a feel for the flavor of the place.
If you like to have your day organized before arrival, book our recommended small group guided city highlights walking tour, which will take you to all the top attractions and a few lesser-known gems with a local guide to share the culture and history of the city as you walk.
The best way to see the city if you prefer not to walk or cycle is by taking a ride on the hop-on hop-off bus tour. You’ll see all the main sights and highlights of Copenhagen with audio commentary from an open-air double-decker bus!
Bikes in Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s bicycle culture is something to behold, and the city is brimming with clearly marked bike lanes and places to park your bike securely. Seemingly everybody rides a bike, from the youngest child to the oldest and grumpiest fisherman!
If you do want to get around by bike, make sure you have travel insurance, as accidents are uncommon in this bike-loving city, but not unheard of.
Sadly Bycyklen, Copenhagen’s inexpensive public bike rental scheme went bust, but a good alternative is Donkey Republic. They have the largest fleet of e-bikes in Copenhagen making finding and renting a bike easy with their app.
If you only have a short time in the city, you could tick off sightseeing and experiencing Copenhagen’s bike culture in one by taking this highly-rated guided bicycle tour of Copenhagen.
Copenhagen One Day Itinerary Interactive Map
How to use our self-guided walking tour map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.
Walk Along Nyhavn
One of the city’s highlights, Nyhavn means ‘New Harbor’. The 17th century street was originally a commercial port where ships from all over the world would dock, Nyhavn would have been busy with sailors visiting its alehouses and brothels in between stints sailing the cold Baltic and North Seas.
Today, Nyhavn is the most popular tourist area in Copenhagen; a sublime canal lined with brightly-colored historic buildings, boats of every type and description, about two dozen places to eat or drink your fill listen to live music, and the bustle of the city.
Nyhavn was home to Denmark’s most famous son, the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. He lived at various addresses along Nyhavn including No. 20 where he wrote the fairytales The Tinderbox, Little Claus and Big Claus, and The Princess and the Pea. He also lived at No. 67 and No. 18, so the whole street echoes with his footsteps.
You’re never far from the area’s maritime history and you can pick up harbor and canal tours here to visit the city’s other waterways.
Climb The Church of Our Saviour
Right next to Freetown Christiania is one of Denmark’s most famous churches. The Baroque Church of Our Savior was finished in 1752 and attracts 60,000 visitors a year, who come to climb the 400-step spiral staircase to the top of the steeple, which stands at 82 meters tall.
The tall dramatic spire actually has steps to the top on the outside, making this a climb with a difference. Head to the top if you dare for amazing panoramic views across Copenhagen and beyond.
Head to Freetown Christiania
On the group of small islands known as Christianshavn, this alternative neighborhood is a former hippie commune, now a collectively controlled village. Famous for Pusher Street, where you can buy hash and pot (but no hard drugs), Freetown Christiania is unlike anywhere else in Europe.
The ramshackle buildings, often self-built by members of the foundation who own the area, are wildly decorated with a wide variety of graffiti, from obscurely political to cleverly amusing to idiotically vulgar. One of the best was a creatively painted public urinal that makes it look like your head is on a cartoon body while you are using said facility.
It is an interesting place to wander through, but be aware that the locals do not want you to take any photos or videos. A private guided tour of colorful Christiania is a good way to explore the area and learn more about its history and culture.
As you cross the river from Christiania, look left for a good view of the Black Diamond, a modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library on Slotsholmen. The building’s moniker is a reference to its polished and angular black granite cladding.
On your way to Rundetaarn, you’ll pass Christiansborg Palace, home of the Danish Parliament and the Supreme Court. The palace is actually on the tiny island of Slotsholmen, right in the middle of the city. Make sure to stop and admire the historical buildings.
The 17th century Rundetaarn Tower was one of the many architectural projects of King Christian IV of Denmark. It is indeed very round and very precise! Other unique features include but are not limited to, an extremely gradual circular walkway or spiral ramp that leads visitors to the top, a series of stamps to fill out a round tower passport, and an eclectic art gallery. There are excellent views of the city in all directions from the observation deck at the top.
There is also a small collection of seemingly random books including what appears to be the Danish version of the popular children’s book, Curious George. Except, in Denmark, for some reason, his name is Peter Pedal and we aren’t completely sure if he’s curious or not.
Watch the Changing of The Guard
Every day the Danish Royal Guard parades from Rosenborg Castle to Amalienborg Palace, arriving for the Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place at 12 noon. The ceremony is filled with plenty of pomp and circumstance and is very entertaining to watch.
The daily parade leaves from the Life Guard’s Barracks on Gothersgade at 11.27am and marches towards the royal palace of Amalienborg, along the main street of Strøget, Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street, and passing the Round Tower and Kongens Nytorv.
Next to the palace is the Amalienborg Museum, where you can see the private interiors of the most recent kings and queens of Denmark and information about the present Danish royal family, with its many traditions. If you have enough time and buy museum tickets, you’ll also get entry to Palace Square to see the Changing of the Guards ceremony itself – we think the extra cost is worth it!
Nearby is the stunning Frederik’s Church known as the Marble Church. With its unmissable copper green dome, St Frederiks is one of the most impressive churches in the city and is also home to one of the best views in town.
The church is not actually made from marble although that was the original plan. In a project commissioned by King Frederik V, the foundation stone was laid in 1749 as part of a grand plan to make an elegant new city district called Frederiksstaden.
Wander the Old Town Area
Strolling the old town of any historic city is one of the best places to get a real feel for the city. With its impressive churches and elegant squares, cute pedestrian streets of colorful buildings, souvenir shops, and good Instagram spots like Snaregade, Gammel Strand, Knabrostraede, and Nytorv, Copenhagen ranks right up there with some of the most photogenic cities in Europe.
The old market square of Gammetorv has long been the focal point of Copenhagen’s judicial and political life as well as one of its two principal marketplaces. Several former city halls have been located on the square which dates back to the foundation of the city in the 12th century, but most of its buildings were constructed after the Great Fire of 1795 in the Neoclassical style.
This large 17th century Dutch Renaissance palace includes a museum where they literally hide the crown jewels. There are guided tours and an audio tour that you can upload to your phone.
The impressive gardens are worth wandering and you can feed the fish and ducks in the lake and moat near the castle. It is entertaining to learn about the history of the palace and royalty through the formal displays.
RELATED POST: Beautiful Denmark: 11 Best Hidden Gems
Little Mermaid Statue
Based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, this bronze statue is over a century old, quite small and underwhelming, yet incredibly popular. The statue pays homage to the famous fairy tale writer, who lived and worked in Nyhavn for many years.
In fact, while the actual statue is barely worthy of the detour required, the chaotic bustle of tourists jockeying for photos, close-ups, and group shots is kind of worth your time, too, in a weird sort of way.
TOP TIP: It’s a good 30 minute walk from Rosenborg Castle to the Little Mermaid. It’s a pleasant enough stroll, but if your feet are tired or the weather is not so good, take this bestselling canal cruise.
These cruises take just an hour and leave from Nyhavn. You’ll not only pass the Little Mermaid, but you’ll also see Amalienborg Palace and Christiansborg Palace, as well as bypass the crowds on Nyhavn and see the picturesque canal from the water.
Visit Tivoli Gardens
Opposite City Hall Square, Tivoli Gardens are a famous and exhilarating amusement park and the top tourist attraction in Denmark’s capital city. Opened in 1843, the famous gardens are one of the oldest theme parks in the world and were supposedly the inspiration for Disneyland.
Visit in the evening for a magical night at the funfair. Packed full of history and charm, you’ll find all the usual rides, stalls, and eateries here, including a 100-year-old wooden roller coaster.
After sunset, the fairy lights, lanterns, and soft-glow bulbs turn on, lending an ethereal beauty to the setting and making this a great spot to end your perfect day in Copenhagen.
The gardens are open until 10pm daily. Unlike the major amusement parks, queuing is not usually a problem although you will need to book in advance for busy times like Christmas and Halloween.
TOP TIP: Tivoli is closed for around fourteen weeks every year in winter, so if it’s top of your Copenhagen must-do list, check for seasonal opening dates before booking your trip.
Where to Eat in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is famous for its New Nordic Cuisine, a food movement that promotes local, natural, and seasonal produce that has led to a raft of Michelin stars for the best restaurants in Copenhagen.
Traditional Danish dishes like smørrebrød, or open sandwiches on rye bread, pork, with the most popular dish being stegt flæsk med persillesovs (crispy pork with parsley sauce and potatoes), sweet pastries and savory morning buns are staples of life in Denmark.
A great way to try the cuisine is with our favorite Copenhagen culinary experience tour where you’ll get to try local cheeses, Danish meat, fresh fish, chocolates, and Denmark’s famous open-faced sandwiches.
Lunch at Café Gammeltorv
Cafe Gammeltorv will allow you to try some Danish food such as the highly recommended and traditional rugbrød (rye bread) or smørrebrød (open-faced sandwiches).
TOP TIP: The atmosphere is quite casual but it is very popular with locals, so you should probably reserve a table if possible.
Dinner at Refshaleoen
The scenic public ferry cruise across to this slightly off-the-beaten-path neighborhood of Refshaleoen is cheap (or covered by your City Pass) and worth the journey itself to the graffitied, cool, and kitschy cluster of food stalls offering everything from Danish hot dogs and Mexican tacos to kebabs or fish and chips.
This food market is also a terrific place to recharge after a fully packed day. You can choose between outdoor picnic benches and a sheltered, heated beer garden to suit whatever weather you may be having. The food stalls in Refshaleoen are also reasonably priced 50-100DKK range.
Top Five Copenhagen Travel Tips
- The City Pass gives you access to the public transport network (including to and from the airport) in the whole Copenhagen region via your phone and is the best option if you’re going to use public transport to get around. A 24 hour pass costs from 90DKK.
- Copenhagen is an expensive city to visit. Plan your trip carefully and only buy a Copenhagen Card if you know you’ll get your money’s worth from it.
- Even though Copenhagen is a notoriously expensive place, especially when it comes to eating and drinking, there are still a surprising number of fun and fascinating things that can be done very affordably or, in some cases, even free.
- Hygge is definitely a thing in Denmark and up there with some of the most beautiful words in the world! With no direct translation, hygge is a state of comfort, relaxation, and peace with the ones around you. Visiting Copenhagen in winter makes for the best hygge experience, with log fires in hotels, candle-lit bars, and twinkling fairy lights festooning the streets and squares of the old town.
- One of our favorite things to do with a spare hour in Copenhagen is to visit the design store Illums Bolighus for the best buys in Danish interiors. Remember that you probably have a luggage allowance before you get sucked into the Scandi vibe of this very cool store!
More Than One Day in Copenhagen
Clean, organized, and friendly, Copenhagen routinely exceeds expectations and leaves people wishing they had stayed longer. If you have two days in Copenhagen or an extra half a day in Copenhagen, check out these attractions.
Visit the Royal Palaces
During your one day visit you’re unlikely to have enough time to visit the royal palaces of Copenhagen. You’ll be able to admire them from the outside but to really get into the history of Copenhagen, you’ll need to get inside!
Amalienborg Palace is the royal residence in winter of the Danish royal family; Christiansborg Palace is home to the Folketinget (Danish Parliament), the Prime Minister’s Office, and the stunning Great Hall; Frederiksberg Palace dates back to 1699; and Rosenborg Palace is home to beautiful gardens called Kongens Have, the King’s Garden, the perfect place to escape the city.
Take a Day Trip to Sweden
Take this highly recommended day trip to Lund and Malmo in Sweden and see two countries in one day! Across the amazing Oresund Bridge, one of the main routes into Sweden and Norway from mainland Europe. Sweden’s third largest city brims with life and energy and a healthy love for the outdoors.
Enjoy a Pint at Carlsberg
Visit Carlsberg. The fifth largest brewing company in the world, their first brewery was opened in Copenhagen in 1847 and is now a fun and interactive museum.
Explore the National Museum of Denmark
Learn about Danish culture at the National Museum of Denmark. Also a great place to visit on a rainy day!
Roskilde, Frederiksborg & Kronborg Day Tour
If you take one day trip from Copenhagen, make it this highly recommended and well organized day trip.
Delve into the history of Denmark on a scenic tour of royal castles and Viking ships. Soak up the romantic setting of Frederiksborg Castle and visit Shakespeare’s Elsinore, from Hamlet, at Kronborg Castle. See the burial sites of Danish kings and queens at UNESCO Roskilde Cathedral and discover old Viking ships and reconstructed models at the Viking Ship Museum.
With a professional guide to offer insights, an organized tour is the perfect opportunity to see more of Denmark in less time!
Written for The Gap Decaders by Dean and Laynni of Routinely Nomadic.