Copenhagen, Denmark is a fabulous destination full of fascinating history, gorgeous architecture and so many fun things to do. Copenhagen is often overlooked for other European capitals like London, Paris, and Amsterdam. However, those who know enough to give Copenhagen a chance are blown away by the Danish capital. There is an abundance of great restaurants, beautiful hotels and numerous things to do in Copenhagen. Below are some of the best options for one perfect day in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Best Things to do in Copenhagen

Copenhagen square

If you’re wondering what to do with one day in Copenhagen, rest assured that there are a ton of things to do in the city. If you have enough time to spend there you can fill it with museums, castles, and a multitude of different tours.

There are countless day trips you can do from Copenhagen stretching from the Danish countryside to Hamlet’s Castle to cities in Sweden. Still, if you narrow your time down to one day, there are some obvious “must-do” Copenhagen attractions. Here is how to spend the perfect day in Copenhagen.

Nyhavn

The first thing you must do in Copenhagen is to visit Nyhavn. That’s the most picturesque harbor in Copenhagen. It’s the iconic image of the city that you see on every postcard from Denmark. The colorful houses lining a canal with cobblestone streets and cafes. The harbor itself was dug out by Swedish Prisoners of war – no two countries have been at war more times than Denmark and Sweden.

This area was once the seedy part of Copenhagen, where sailors were up to no good near the docks. Today, it’s one of the most prestigious locations in Copenhagen. It was also the home of Hans Christian Andersen, one of the most famous residents of Copenhagen.

Breakfast Near Nyhavn

Nyhavn is the perfect place to start your day, but the eateries along the canal are pricey and unexceptional. The good news is, there are plenty of options in the area. For a better breakfast, find Union Kitchen (Store Strandstræde 21) one street away.

They open at 7:30 am so it’s perfect for anyone who wants to get an early start to the day. Union Kitchen serves traditional and international cuisine, so even the pickiest visitor should be happy there.

Canal Tour of Copenhagen

Canal Tour of Copenhagen

From Nyhavn, you can easily jump onto a canal tour. There are two docks in Nyhavn where you find a 90-minute canal tour with a live guide. The canal boats arrive regularly all year, so you’ll never wait long. The nicer of the two boat tours is Stromma, look for their dock closest to the Danish Naval Memorial statue.

A canal tour allows you to maximize your one day visit because you will see most of the main attractions in Copenhagen. Having a live guide makes sure that you get the pertinent information to go along with the photo ops. You cover a lot of ground, and it would be next to impossible to visit all of these sites in one day, let alone before lunch.

copenhagen canals

Copenhagen Street Food for Lunch

End the canal tour where you began, in Nyhavn. From there you can walk across the harbor to the Inner Harbor Bridge or “Inderhavnbroen”. You’ll cross the harbor you were just cruising around and reach The Bridge Street Kitchen or “Broens Gadekokken”. It’s a collection of food stalls from local restaurants and it’s a perfect spot to eat lunch along the harbor.

It’s popular year-round and the atmosphere is great with DJs and a vibrant crowd. Fun fact, if you are lucky enough to see the bridge retract for a boat to pass, you’ll notice it isn’t a typical draw bridge.

The Inderhavnbroen doesn’t separate vertical into the air. Instead, the two retracting pieces of the bridge slide horizontally backward. The bridge has earned the nickname, “the kissing bridge” because it looks like two faces kissing when the bridge slides back together.

Stroll through Christianhavn

Christianhavn

After lunch and resting your legs, you can go on a peaceful stroll along Christianshavn. It’s a side of the city that most people don’t seek out, but it’s quintessential Copenhagen. The canal itself was inspired by a visit to Amsterdam by King Christian IV. He ruled during Denmark’s Golden Age and is responsible for a number of building projects in Copenhagen.

You’ll probably notice his symbol on buildings around Copenhagen. Look for the letter C with a number 4 in the center. The canal is gorgeous and is lined with moored sailboats and brightly-colored buildings that catch your eye. Look for the swans who make the canals their home and enjoy the scenery.

Tivoli Gardens

You can’t miss a trip to Tivoli Gardens when you’re in Copenhagen, and it’s a short walk from Christianhavn. Tivoli is an urban amusement park located in the shadow of Copenhagen’s City Hall. It’s the second oldest amusement park in the world, slightly younger than nearby Bakken. It opened in 1843 and is full of Old World charm. Entry to walk around the gardens is about $20 USD and you can buy a pass that includes rides for an additional fee.

Inside Tivoli, you’ll find more than beautiful landscaping and rides. There are nightly light shows, theatres, and performances throughout the day and even a Friday concert series in the summer. Tivoli inspired Walt Disney to create his own amusement park and it’s easy to see the similarities between Tivoli and Disney parks.

Dinner options in Tivoli Gardens

There are a number of dinner options inside of Tivoli Gardens and there’s a food hall just outside with even more options. One favorite is to visit the pagoda next to the lake inside of Tivoli Gardens. There you’ll find a fantastic local sushi restaurant called Letz Sushi.

Another popular option is Pirateriet, which is a pirate ship floating in the lake serving Spanish food. The theme makes it a fun experience and the food is quite good. Best of all, you get to dine on a ship in the lake at the center of Tivoli Gardens. It’s a pretty great location for dinner.

New Nordic Dinner

New Nordic Cuisine

An option outside of Tivoli Gardens is to try New Nordic cuisine. New Nordic cuisine evolved from Danish culinary trends in the early 2000s. In 2004, the owners of Copenhagen’s famous restaurant, Noma, gathered the best chefs in Scandinavia. The reason for their meeting was to develop new culinary standards for Scandinavian cuisine. Their ideas centered around using fresh, local ingredients and reviving traditional Scandinavian cooking methods with modern techniques. The results are delicious and you have to try New Nordic cuisine while you’re in Copenhagen.

From Tivoli, you can walk to Restaurant Meille (Sankt Peders Stræde 24A) for a perfect sampling of New Nordic cuisine at a reasonable price. They serve a fabulous 3-course and 5-course tasting menu with optional wine pairings. It’s advisable to make a reservation for Meille, but the meal is entirely worth carving out some time in your schedule. The experience of New Nordic cuisine is one you won’t soon forget.

Copenhagen Night Life

The nightlife in Copenhagen is a lot of fun. There are a number of larger clubs and spacious cocktail bars in the Meatpacking district, Nyhavn and around City Hall. One of the best cocktail bars in the city is Ruby (Nybrogade 10). They specialize in mixology and have a posh, modern motif. You can also try The Living Room (Larsbjørnsstræde 17) for cocktails. They have a fantastic drink menu and two floors of seating that is as cozy as relaxing in your own living room.

In the city center, most buildings are older, smaller and home to cozy pubs and bars. An example is Southern Cross, a fun Australian-themed sports pub (Løngangstræde 37). One important thing to know about bars and clubs in Copenhagen is that there is no food served in bars. You’ll have to make sure that you’re well-fed before you begin your night out. Alternatively, you can seek out fast-food options if you get the late-night munchies, but there’s no pub food available.

Best Hotels in Copenhagen

By the end of the night, you’ll be ready to get a good night’s sleep. Knowing where to stay in Copenhagen in key! There are three main areas for hotels near Copenhagen’s city center: City Hall, Nyhavn, and Vesterbro.

  • City Hall is the most central, and the best option for most of the year.
  • Nyhavn gives you the chance to stay near the gorgeous waterfront of Copenhagen Harbor and Nyhavn.
  • Vesterbro is a fun neighborhood that used to be Copenhagen’s Red Light District. Today it’s full of fun bars, great restaurants, and some very nice boutique hotels. Best of all, it’s close to Tivoli Gardens and Central Station with slightly lower prices.

Budget Options

If you’re looking for budget lodging, consider CPH Downtown Hostel (Vandkunsten 5). It’s a lively place to stay with young staff, a busy disco and pub and it’s in a perfect location. They organize nightly activities in the hostel bar and run tours during the day.

A similar option in the Nyhavn neighborhood is Generator Hostel. They have a great bar area with plenty of activities like bocce, billiards, and shuffleboard. They also organize tours and can help you with planning activities in Copenhagen.

Midrange Options

A mid-range option is to stay at First Hotel 27, which is just down the street from City Hall (Løngangstræde 27). The rooms are cozy and modern and it’s been recently renovated. Besides the comfortable accommodations, there’s a lot to do from this area. From First Hotel 27 you are a short walk to Christianborg Castle and Tivoli Gardens.

Just on the other side of Tivoli, you can find Absalon Hotel in Vesterbro. It’s a short walk to Central Station and also close to the hip, trendy Meatpacking neighborhood. There you’ll find some of the city’s best restaurants and cocktail bars.

If you’re looking for a mid-range option in Nyhavn, try Best Western City Hotel Copenhagen. It’s a short walk to Nyhavn and a block from the waterfront of Copenhagen Harbor. The rooms are large, recently renovated and the interior decor is a great example of Scandinavian design.

Luxury Options

For a luxury hotel, you have some great options in Copenhagen. One is staying in Hotel Nimb, located inside of Tivoli Gardens and across from Copenhagen Central Station. Hotel Nimb delivers luxury with incredible attention to detail and a gorgeous building. It’s a stylish boutique hotel built in Morrish-style. The Nimb Hotel is well decorated inside with a stunning exterior.

Perhaps the most famous luxury hotel in Copenhagen is Hotel D’Anglettere in Kongens Nytorv. The area gives you views of some of the most beautiful structures in Copenhagen like the Old Opera House, French Embassy and Scandinavia’s oldest department store, Magasin du Nord. The hotel was built in 1755 and is incredible. Hotel D’Anglettere defines luxury in every way from their sprawling well-appointed rooms to their in-house restaurant, Marchal.

Best Time to Visit Copenhagen

Copenhagen Christmas Market

There’s really no bad time to visit Copenhagen, but the city is quite different from month to month. If you’d like to beat the crowds and still have warm temperatures and “normal” daylight hours, then late August is a great time to visit Copenhagen.

Copenhagen comes alive in the Christmas season! There are so many things to do in Copenhagen in the winter. The city is decorated from top to bottom and people still spend a lot of time outdoors. Cafes, bars, and restaurants retain outside seating and provide heat lamps and blankets to keep you warm. The festive Christmas markets are also a huge draw during November and December. Of course, you’ll also want to see Tivoli Gardens at Christmas, their decorations and Christmas market is amazing.

The warmest month to visit Copenhagen is usually July. It’s warm enough to swim in the harbor and take advantage of Copenhagen’s numerous harbor pools. Boating is also a popular summer activity and you can rent an electric boat to do your own canal tour with an on-board picnic. In the summer you’ll also have a massive amount of daylight. The days are so long in late June and early July that the sun doesn’t really fully set. This can make it tough to sleep but gives you plenty of daytime for exploring Copenhagen.

Day Trips from Copenhagen & Top Tours

I love to do a combination of exploring on my own as well as a few organized tours when I travel. I love to learn about the history and culture in a new location and tours with local experts is a great way to do this. I recommend Get Your Guide because you can cancel most bookings for free up to 24 hours before they start and their customer service is available 24/7 in multiple languages. 

A few Top Tours in Copenhagen, Denmark

1-Hour Canal Cruise from Ved Stranden or Nyhavn a 1-hour boat tour along the main harbor and adjoining canals. Depart from Ved Stranden or Nyhavn and see lovely houses, ancient castles, and beautiful churches along the way.

Roskilde, Frederiksborg & Kronborg Day Tour Visit the royal castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg, and Denmark’s old capital of Roskilde on a tour from Copenhagen. Enjoy the scenic landscape of North Sealand, and the history of the Vikings at the Viking Ship Museum.

Lund & Malmö: Guided Tour of 2 Countries in One Day Visit two countries in one day with this 8-hour guided tour. Sightsee through the city of Lund and Malmö and visit the cities most important landmarks. Take a picturesque ferry trip over the Øresund, visit Hamlet’s castle and the Øresund Bridge in a day.

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