Copenhagen is by far the largest city in Denmark and the epicenter of Danish culture. It is arguably the most laid-back capital in the Nordics that constantly ranks among the happiest cities in the world. It is the perfect blend of Scandinavian values with a distinct mainland European feel that sets it apart from the other Nordic capitals. You could easily spend a couple of days in Copenhagen soaking in all the city has to offer. As someone who lives here, I usually recommend that 3 days in Copenhagen is perfect. We’ve created a three-day itinerary for you to spend the best possible weekend in Copenhagen.
Table of Contents
3 DAYS IN COPENHAGEN – WHY & HOW
This itinerary covers all the essential sights but we also focus on some of Copenhagen’s distinct neighborhoods which give the city its unique character. We’ve included a free map which highlights the best places to visit in Copenhagen in three days.
We understand that everyone travels at a different pace so feel free to choose the destinations according to your own pace.
YOUR Weekend in COPENHAGEN
First off, this itinerary can be done during a long weekend in Copenhagen, but it’s also appropriate if you are visiting during the week. The itinerary includes both walking and the use of public transport. You can plan your trip using public transport on Rejseplanen.dk. Copenhagen is a very compact city and its flat terrain makes it easily walkable. Most of the main sights are within a short distance of each other. However, some of our hidden gems on the list are a little bit out of the way. For simplicity, we have decided to split the itinerary as follows:
- Day 1: Royal Copenhagen
- Day 2: Churches & Museums
- Day 3: Copenhagen Neighborhoods
Day 1 in Copenhagen
Today’s itinerary will cover most of the main sights within the inner city including a tour of Royal Copenhagen.
Kastellet & The Little Mermaid
Kick off your day by heading out see the Kastellet Fortress and The Little Mermaid statue. Kastellet Fortress is one of the best-maintained star fortifications in Europe. Kastellet is still an active military site and you can see a little bit of activity. It is an imposing citadel with raised, grassy battlements, army barracks, and a Dutch-style windmill, all of which are located inside a moat that can be accessed from two bridges at either end of the complex.
The beautiful St. Albans Church and the impressive Gefion fountain that represents the Norse goddess Gefion with a group of strong oxen are just outside the complex. With traditional canons and scenic views, this free attraction is a great way to spend a morning.
Just a short walking distance from Kastellet is the world-famous Little Mermaid statue. Created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913 this bronze sculpture is based on one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. As the name indicates the sculpture is diminutive in size and is usually surrounded by flocks of tourists trying to get the best selfie. The Little Mermaid is a little underwhelming despite garnering a lot of fuss but you can’t really come to Copenhagen and not visit.
Amalienborg Palace & Frederik’s Church
Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of the Danish royal family. The palace complex is very big and consists of four identical Rococo-style buildings in an octagonal courtyard built by royal architect Nicolai Eigtved in the mid 18th century. In the center of the complex, there is an equestrian statue of Frederick V, the founder of Amalienborg. The changing of the guards takes place daily at 12:00.
Just a stone’s throw from Amalienborg Palace is the stunning Frederik’s Church (Marble Church). This striking Rococo-style church with a large copper green dome is reminiscent of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is the largest dome church in Scandinavia and its dome looms large over the Copenhagen skyline. It’s totally worth popping inside to see the really phenomenal dome and artwork in the church. The stonework inside is rather modest, but the windows, paintings, and the bright ceiling are worth a look. It is possible to purchase a ticket to the top of the dome on weekends only at 13:00 on the dot. Unfortunately, only a few tickets are sold so be there early.
Nyhavn & Canal Tour
The image of Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s colorful and vibrant canal district is most synonymous with postcards and travel brochures. With its lovely old pastel townhouses around the canalside, restaurants, and cafes, it’s difficult to think that Nyhavn was a squalid neighborhood of lowlifes, drunks, and prostitutes up until 1970s, full of all-night bars and tattoo parlors. Nowadays, Nyhavn has undergone a metamorphosis and become somewhat of a tourist trap. Prices at eateries here are some of the highest in Copenhagen. So if you just want to relax and dangle your feet off the pier we suggest getting a beer or an ice cream from the nearest corner store or supermarket as it will save you money.
A canal tour is a great way to see Copenhagen as you get a unique view of the city from its waters. The canal tours depart at regular intervals from a number of stops, most notably Nyhavn. Several companies offer boat tours in Copenhagen and trips take you around the city’s harbor and defensive ramparts.
Located on the tiny island of Slotsholmen, the Christiansborg Palace houses the three supreme powers (executive, legislative, and judicial) of Denmark’s government. Christiansborg is steeped in more than 800 years of history and today the palace houses the Royal Reception Rooms, Queen’s Library, audience chambers, Knight’s Hall, Throne Room, Danish Parliament (Folketing), Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister’s Office. The first building on the present site of Christiansborg Palace dates back to as early as 1167 when Absalon’s castle was built here. Luckily, Christiansborg is open to visitors and the view from the tower is stunning.
Built in the 1600s as a summer residence by Christian IV and named after one of his horses, the Rosenborg Castle is actually more of a palace than a castle. It was only used as a royal residence for about 100 years and is now a royal museum of sorts. The Castle‘s main attraction is in the basement where the famed Royal Crown Jewels and royal paraphernalia are exhibited. In the basement, you can also find antique weapons including a pair of Colt revolvers given to Denmark’s king by President Lincoln. There is a more to see like many splendid paintings and collections of artifacts used by the Royal Family for generations. On the third floor is the Long Baroque Marble Hall which is exquisitely decorated and includes the King’s throne. Admission is 110 DKK. It’s worth checking out if you like royal sights.
You can also stroll around in the beautifully manicured King’s garden. The garden is open every day from 7:00-22:00.
In the Latin Quarter forming part of the academic Trinitatis Complex along with the university library and Trinitatis church is the Round Tower (Rundetaarn). The Round Tower is a 36-meter high structure dating back to 1642 and is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. The tower is famed for its unique spiral walkway as well as providing visitors with magnificent panoramic views over the city. Admission is 25 DKK.
In the heart of the inner city is Strøget, Copenhagen’s chief shopping area. This 1.1 km artery stretches from the City Hall to Kongens Nytorv. Along the way and on the various side streets you will come across a plethora of shopping options as well as many bars, cafes, and restaurants. You can find major international brand name stores as well as a couple of Danish stores such as Magasin Du Nord, Illums Bolighus, Royal Copenhagen and Lego. There’s some beautiful classical architecture here so you should keep your camera close by.
Copenhagen City Hall looms large over the bustling city hall square. The architectural style and design are very beautiful which is a blend of Italian Renaissance and medieval Danish architecture. Apparently, it was modeled after the city hall building in Siena, Italy. The inside of the building features a golden statue of the city’s founder Bishop Absalon on the front. The foyer features carvings of important events from Copenhagen’s history, as well as busts of prominent Danes. The Jens Olsen World Clock just off the entrance is amazing. It’s a mechanical marvel and one gear will take about 25,000 years to make a complete revolution. At 106 meters it is one of the tallest buildings in Copenhagen. You can get a guided tour of the City Hall for 50 DKK or you can just visit the tower for 30 DKK.
Day 2 in Copenhagen
Today’s itinerary will cover some other important sights as well as some museum hopping.
Christiania is an anarchist and partially autonomous community that is one of Copenhagen’s most popular attractions. Christiania began as a social experiment after a bunch of squatters moved into a deserted military barracks and were proponents of starting a free town. Strictly speaking, Christiania doesn’t contain any sights. It is a functioning alternative society, a place where many accepted norms don’t apply, and people formulate and live by their own rules. They have a certain set of rules for visitors that are expected to be followed. The central area has bars, organic eateries, souvenirs and a couple of quaint little shops. Pusher street offers a fine selection of cannabis delights. The real treat of Christiania is experiencing the handmade houses and buildings, colorful murals and the nature around the lake.
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Church of Our Saviour
In my opinion, the Church of Our Saviour is the most beautiful church in Copenhagen. This alluring Baroque church was consecrated in 1696 is famous for its golden spire which is more than 90 meters high. The interior is nicely decorated and the Church also houses a huge organ (carillon). The organ is carved in wood and it rests over two marble elephants. The entrance to the tower cost 35 DKK but it is certainly worth it if you want to enjoy one of the best viewpoints in the city. Note that the last 150 stairs are outside so if you’re acrophobic it can be a terrifying climb!
Islands Brygge is a popular waterfront area in central Copenhagen. Up until the mid 20th century, Islands Brygge was a dilapidated industrial and dockland area with a rowdy, blue-collar reputation. Since 2000 it has undergone a massive facelift and now the quayside along the harbor is one of the most sought-after places to live in Copenhagen. The popular waterfront park, Havneparken (Harbor Park) is located here. A notable feature of the harbor park is that vestiges of the neighborhood’s past are still used to accentuate the history of the place. Railroad cars, ships, and machines are part of the park. The architecture here is a cool amalgam of old buildings and modern architecture. Islands Brygge is a nice place for a walk, relaxing and people watching.
The National Museum of Denmark is a must-see attraction for anyone who is interested in Danish history and culture. It is housed in the 18th century Prince’s Palace, a sprawling Rococo building. This museum is absolutely brilliant with a wide range of collections. The collection of archeological and ethnographic artifacts is incredibly well preserved including the Rune Stones, the Sun Chariot, and Viking prehistory. There are also exhibits about Asia, Africa, and Oceania as well as the culture of the Native Americans. If you have kids you should go to the Children’s Wing. It’s a hands-on exhibit including a kitchen, horse, shops, classrooms, Viking boat and costumes where kids can indulge themselves. The museum is open from Tuesday-Sunday, admission costs 95 DKK.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Next destination our favorite museum in Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. The museum houses an amazing collection of artists from the Golden Age of Danish Painting and an extensive collection of French impressionists and Post-impressionists such as Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, and Gauguin. There are antiquities from the Mediterranean including Egypt, Italy, and Greece. The collection of modern sculptures includes some works by Rodin and bronze dancers by Degas, all of which are top notch. Another highlight of this excellent museum is its leafy winter garden that acts as an oasis.
The museum is open from Tuesday-Sunday. Price of admission is 115 DKK with free admission on Tuesdays.
Danish Museum of Art & Design
Scandinavia has a legendary reputation for design, so it’s hardly surprising that Copenhagen is home to a splendid design museum. The Danish Museum of Art & Design was founded in 1890 with the goal of encouraging both designers and consumers to create and seek out better-quality goods and also to communicate the idea of quality within design. Since 1926 it has been located in one of the best Rococo-style buildings in Copenhagen, the former King Frederik’s hospital. Covering handicrafts, industrial design, and furniture design, the collection accentuates work by esteemed Danish designers such as Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, and Kaare Klint. I really loved some of the furniture pieces that seemed straight out of a surrealist painting. The museum is also home to the largest library in Scandinavia dedicated to design.
The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday and admission costs 115 DKK.
Cap off your day with a visit to the world famous Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli first opened its gates in 1843 making it the second oldest amusement park in the world. With its amusement rides, carnival games, splendid manicured flower gardens, and entertainment venues, Tivoli has been a vibe that mesmerizes both children and adults. It is no surprise that Tivoli Gardens has been the main attraction in Copenhagen for generations. The entrance to Tivoli costs 120 DKK. Tivoli has a carnival-like ticketing system that means you pay per ride (30 DKK) with some rides requiring up to three tickets. So it’s better to purchase the unlimited ride pass (230 DKK) if you’re in the mood for a few rides. Check the Tivoli website for up to date opening times.
Day 3 in Copenhagen
In today’s itinerary, we will be looking at some of Copenhagen’s colorful neighborhoods.
Torvehallerne Market Hall
Pay a visit to Torvehallerne, Copenhagen’s premier food market hall. With its two large steel and glass halls and an area of over 700 m² Torvehallerne is the largest covered market in Copenhagen. Torvehallerne is split into two market halls, each with its own offerings. Between the two halls is an area with communal picnic tables. Here you can find top products for every budget and for all tastes, ranging from sweet and salty to local specialties like smørrebrød. If you’re a foodie, check this place out.
Nørrebro is one of Copenhagen’s most diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, It competes with Vesterbro for the title of Copenhagen’s hippest area. Nørrebro has undergone extensive refurbishment in recent years that has helped spur its transformation from a poor working-class district into one of the most covetable addresses to live in. The district has a high concentration of non-western immigrants. When I was walking down Nørrebrogade, its main street I was amazed at the sheer number of Turkish kebab shops, Middle Eastern barbers and butchers, South Asian and African grocery stores and other bohemian stores that I encountered.
While there aren’t any traditional big tourist draws in Nørrebro, there are still plenty of things to do and see around here for the adventurous traveler. The process of transforming Nørrebro into a modern neighborhood has ushered in a new architecture. Superkilen, an open urban space located on the border between Nørrebro and the Nordvest district signifies this best. It serves as a testament to Nørrebro’s ethnic diversity and has objects from all over the globe like swings, sculptures, seats, chess tables, and barbecue spots. Superkilen is what you would term a highly instagrammable place and is divided into 3 regions – The Red Square, The Green Park, and The Black Market.
You can take a stroll through Assistens Kirkegård (Assistens Cemetery), a popular green oasis in Nørrebro. The Little Mermaid might be the best-known tribute to HC Andersen but it is here that you will find his resting place. Other prominent Danes are also buried here such as the famous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.
Lunching & Dining
Nørrebro has a burgeoning culinary scene and there are plenty of dining options in Nørrebro as the area is packed with restaurants, bars, and cafes for all budgets. There is a multitude of great eateries in the area around Sankt Hans Square. Ølbaren is one of the best beer bars I’ve visited. The bar has a fantastic atmosphere with diverse styles to choose from. If you’re in the mood for Japanese ramen and good beer in a relaxed, unpretentious setting, Ramen to Biiru is the best place in Copenhagen. There are some great ethnic eateries in Nørrebro and Maed serves piquant Ethiopian dishes at very reasonable prices.
There are also a couple of fantastic streets here such as Jægersborggade and Ravnsborggade where you’ll come across small designer boutiques, charming antique dealers, art galleries and top-notch organic produce shops. Be sure to check out Meyer’s Bakery on Jægersborggade which for me offers the best pastries in town. Every time I’m on Jægersborggade I always make sure to go to Istid where they make fresh organic ice cream with liquid nitrogen! This makes the texture of the ice cream different from regular ice cream and it is absolutely delicious.
Situated in the Bispebjerg district in the North West Block of Copenhagen is the beautiful Grundtvig’s Church. This is by far one of the best churches that I have seen. It is often referred to as a Gothic cathedral, but it is a stunning piece of expressionist architecture.
The building of the church was completed in 1940 and took 19 years to build. Grundtvig’s Church is made entirely of pale yellow bricks, a staggering six million of them. It was built in commemoration of the Danish priest, poet, and reformer Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig. The interior of the church is rather traditional and there are no frescos or stained glass windows. It is extremely simple and undecorated but the overall effect is extraordinary. It has a cavernous, unadorned interior with towering columns, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults. The imposing facade of the church reminds me of some post-apocalyptic edifice. The beech wood chairs inside are a fine illustration of Danish design.
A visit to Grundtvig’s Church comes highly recommended especially if you’re an architecture buff. Best of all, the entrance is free.
Frederiksberg is a city within a city. It is an enclave surrounded by Copenhagen on all sides and even though it has its own municipal council and mayor Frederiksberg generally gets treated as a neighborhood of Copenhagen. The municipality is generally more affluent than other areas of Copenhagen and walking around some of the streets here serve as a testament to that. Frederiksberg Alle is one of those type of streets, a large tree-lined boulevard that is home to some exclusive addresses.
The district is known for its large green spaces such as Frederiksberg Gardens, Søndermarken, and Hostrup Gardens.
Frederiksberg Gardens are an absolute treat to stroll around. The gardens are large, the lawns are very well manicured in the English romantic style and you can find waterfalls, grottos, the Apis Temple, Chinese summerhouse and two follies here. A wide array of flora and fauna can be found here such as swans, geese, ducks, and herons. The gardens are also the location of the Frederiksberg Palace, a former Baroque style royal residence that now houses the Royal Danish Military Academy.
Frederiksberg is also home to Copenhagen Zoo which is located adjacent to the Frederiksberg Gardens. If you’re traveling with kids, the zoo is a great place to spend a couple of hours. There are over 3000 animals housed here. The zoo is open daily from 9:00-20:00 and the entrance is 195 DKK.
Arguably the hippest district in town and rival to Nørrebro is Vesterbro. This is our absolute favorite district in Copenhagen. Vesterbro has a checkered history and was formerly known for being a working-class neighborhood and harboring the notorious red light district. Today, however, it is a neighborhood in transition and there’s little evidence of the seedy nightlife that once made it a no-go zone and the area is now full of organic food shops, fashion boutiques, tattoo shops, cafes, great new bars, and restaurants. One of the things I love about Vesterbro is that it is relatively devoid of tourist hordes compared to the city center.
Istedgade and Vesterbrogade are Vesterbro’s main shopping arteries. Among them, you’ll find enticing fashion stores, design boutiques, jewelry stores, antique shops, desirable homeware stores, independent galleries, bohemian shops, bars, and restaurants.
Værnedamsvej, also known as Copenhagen’s answer to Paris is where you’ll come across an array of wine bars and restaurants. There are also some fine deli, chocolate, deli, bakeries and cheese shops. The whole street gives off a charming French vibe.
Beer fans should head over to the Visit Carlsberg Museum located on the western fringes of Vesterbro. This place used to be the first location of the Carlsberg Brewery. This museum is certainly not one of the best in the world but it does provide a great insight into the history of beer brewing as well as a look at the world’s largest collection of unopened beer bottles, over 22,000 of them!
Copenhagen is full of microbreweries and Mikkeller is undoubtedly the best known one. Mikkeller Bar run by the Mikkeller microbrewery is a beer lover’s mecca. Mikkeller has become a global craft beer trendsetter of late and is famous for experimenting with unusual ingredients such as chipotle chili, lychee fruits, seaweed, avocado leaves, and Vietnamese weasel droppings. Other Copenhagen based craft breweries I really like are Amager Bryghus and To Øl. When it comes to beer bars, two of my favorites are Black Swan and Taphouse which have a fantastic selection of beer.
Meat Packing District
Vesterbro is renowned for its nightlife and excellent dining options and the Meatpacking District (Kødbyen) is the perfect place to go to experience this. For over a century this area was an industrial space. But nowadays these white buildings which formerly housed large meat halls are home to some of Copenhagen’s trendiest bars, restaurants, and even art galleries. Take a stroll through Kødbyen and you’ll notice locals socializing over a beer. Our personal favorite here is the awesome WarPigs Brewpub that serves heavenly Texan style barbecue and some outstanding American-Danish style craft beer.
Extending Your Stay
Although 3 days in Copenhagen is a good amount of time, we certainly think you could stay one or two days longer. Below we have compiled a few suggestions on how to spend one or two extra days in Copenhagen. And while you’re at it, why not check out our list of the best hotels and hostels in Copenhagen? We have made sure to recommend only the best of the best (in terms of quality and value) 🙂
Extending Your Stay in Copenhagen
→ Discover 11 hidden Castles on a Day Trip from Copenhagen
→ Follow in Hamlet’s Footsteps at Kronborg Castle
→ Vist One of the World’s Best Museums, Lousiana Museum of Modern Art
→ Enjoy Some Locally Distilled Whiskey in Koge
→ Visit the World’s Oldest Amusement Park and the Danish Coast
Now, what do you think? How would you spend a weekend in Copenhagen? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!