Let’s be honest – not everybody has the time to explore a place for weeks. Sometimes we just need to make the most of the time we have. In the third part of our “One Day” series, we’re looking how to spend one day in Copenhagen, Denmark. Copenhagen is relaxed, sometimes funky, but definitely full of hygge. That’s why we fell in love with is as soon as our plane touched down. While one day in Copenhagen may not be enough to explore everything the city has to offer, you will still have plenty of time to explore. For your convenience, this post includes a free map for a self-guided tour of Copenhagen. And now, off you go 🙂
Copenhagen in One Day – Why & How
There are a couple of reasons for why you might have just 24 hours in Copenhagen. Perhaps you are on a cruise or you managed to snag a super cheap flight deal to visit Copenhagen for a day. Copenhagen airport is served by more than 50 airlines which means you won’t have any troubles getting into the city.
Most of the city is also accessible by bike, but biking in Copenhagen can be a bit intimidating for beginners. As a rule, it’s always good to look out for bikes when you are crossing the street. To be honest, I’m even more scared of getting hit by bikes than by cars these days! So always keep your eyes open! Similarly, always walk on the sidewalk and never in the bike lane as people WILL lose their Nordic coolness and get angry at you. It is also a safety measure for you.
Notes About the Walking Tour
Most tourist attractions in Copenhagen are within walking distance, which is why we have decided to include a self-guided walking tour in this post. You can find the map at the end of the post. The tour will take you past more than 20 attractions, restaurants, and cafes. If you ever feel tired along the way or the bad weather is getting the most of you, feel free to take a break. We have split our walking tour into a basic tour (12 km) which leads you throughout the city centre, as well as an advanced tour (6 km) which takes you into some of the outer districts of Copenhagen. You may also choose to use public transport between some of the stops.
We recommend the advanced tour either if you are very fit, able to get up early, or if you are visiting in the summer when there is plenty of daylight. Together both tours are about 18 km which can be rather demanding. You may also take the advanced tour if you are staying for more than one day in Copenhagen. If you are up to the challenge of doing it all in one day, we recommend you begin your day with the advanced tour.
Your One Day Itinerary to Copenhagen
Advanced Walking Tour
– Central Station
– Frederiksberg Palace & Gardens
– Frederiksberg Allee
Basic Walking Tour
– Central Station
– The Lakes
– Rosenborg Slot
– The Little Mermaid
Advanced Walking Tour of Copenhagen (6 km)
If you are doing both our walking tours in one day, we recommend you start your day no later than 8 am in the morning. In any case, whether you are doing our advanced tour or only the basic tour, you will always start and finish at Copenhagen Central Station. Copenhagen Central Station has been at this location since 1847 and is a beautiful sight even after having undergone several refurbishments. It’s also a great spot to grab a cup of coffee early in the morning!
You will then exit the Central Station at the rear end in order to get onto Istedgade. Istedgade will lead you into the district of Vesterbro. Vesterbro used to be infamous as Copenhagen’s red light district and retains much of its vibrancy until today. Istedgade is now brimming with cafes, bars, and boutique shops and a popular hangout spot for younger people. It particularly comes alive in the late afternoon and early evening, but it is also a great area to grab some breakfast.
Istedgade merges into Roskildevej close to Frederiksberg Palace. Getting up the hill is a bit of a hike, but it’s the only climb you’ll have to do today 😉 You cannot enter the palace, but the gardens are well worth a visit. Copenhagen Zoo is also at this location. A little south of the palace (and down the hill) lies Carlsberg brewery and its visitor centre. Mihir and I visited in 2015 and absolutely loved it! If you enjoy beer or want to learn more about the beer making process and its history in Denmark, you’re at the right address. In their bar, they also serve some banging Danish smorrebrod!
Now, Frederiksberg isn’t actually part of Copenhagen, but its own municipality with a mayor and everything. It is home to some of the city’s richest inhabitants and generally a treat to explore. On your way back from Frederiksberg Palace you will walk along Frederiksberg Allé, which is my favorite street in all of Copenhagen. I can’t help but dream what it would be like to live there. Not too far from the palace grounds, there is also a little chocolate shop which sells some of the best ice cream in Copenhagen during the summer. Don’t miss it!
Your final steps on your way back to Central Station will be on Vesterbrogade which is another are brimming with cafes and restaurants. If you need a break after this walk, why not take it here before heading into our basic walking tour? 🙂
Basic Walking Tour (12 km)
If you have less than 15 hours in Copenhagen or generally just enjoy a more relaxed itinerary, you will love our basic walking tour. Our basic walking tour of Copenhagen will take you to everything you need to see in order to say “I have been to Copenhagen” 😉
Stroget & Round Tower
Head from Copenhagen Central Station towards the inner city of Copenhagen. Your first stop will be city hall at Radhuspladsen. The current city hall was opened in 1905 and is a beautiful example of the National Romantic style which is so typical for the Nordics, although architect Martin Nyrop drew inspiration from the Siena city hall in Italy.
From there you will enter Copenhagen’s famous shopping street Stroget. It spans over 1.1 km in and by itself and it is all too easy to overindulge in a little retail therapy here. It’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs or just enjoy the buzz of the city.
Located on Stroget, not far from Copenhagen University is the Round Tower (rundetårn). It’s one of Copenhagen’s most recognizable landmarks and utterly unique. Built in the 17th century the Round Tower in Copenhagen is notable for its equestrian staircase. Knights were actually able to ride their horses all the way to the top! Once you have climbed up the tower you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Copenhagen. And best of all, admission only costs 25 kr which makes it one of the cheapest things to do in Copenhagen.
The Lakes & Rosenborg Castle
From the Round Tower, you walk on to my favorite food hall in Copenhagen, Torvehallerne. Here you can buy fresh meat, fish, and produce. Or, you could, of course, grab a cup of coffee or a bowl of traditional Danish porridge at Grød!
Only a few steps further lie The Lakes. The Lakes in Copenhagen are three artificial lakes in the heart of Copenhagen and a much needed recreational space in the dense inner city. It’s one of my favorite photo spots in the entire city. Close by is a cafe named Zaggi’s where everything only costs 15 kr. Best place ever!
From The Lakes you’ll walk about one kilometer to our favorite spot in Copenhagen, Rosenborg Castle. Rosenborg Castle, built in the early 1600s, is one of Christian IV’s many architectural accomplishments. Today it houses Denmark’s crown jewels, but its real jewel is its gardens. Copenhageners come here to relax and catch some much-needed sun. It’s the perfect place for a picnic.
Kastellet & The Little Mermaid
Your next stop is nearly 2 km away, so settle in for a gentle walk. Alternatively, you could also take a train from Nørreport to Østerport which would save you a couple of steps. Kastellet is one of the best-preserved citadels and star fortresses in the world. Although it still serves as a military location, it is also open to the public. I love taking a stroll through it on my way to the Little Mermaid.
Speaking of the Little Mermaid, you are now only a few steps away from Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attraction. The statue of the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen is based on a fairy tale of the same name by Danish author H.C. Andersen. Unfortunately, it’s often subject to vandalism so get your photo while you can 😉
Amalienborg Palace & Nyhavn
Now you have the chance to walk along the sea towards your next destination, Amalienborg Palace. Amalienborg is the home of the Danish Royal Family and utterly impressive in its massiveness. If you would like to see the changing of the guards in Copenhagen, we recommend that you arrive at Amalienborg a little before 12.
Just down the road from Amalienborg is picture-perfect Nyhavn. If you have ever looked up Copenhagen on Google, you must have come across a picture of the iconic Nyhavn harbor. It’s the most touristic spot in Copenhagen and the restaurants along the harbor charge corresponding prices. We’d recommend that you come, take a couple of pictures, but eat your dinner somewhere else 🙂 That being said, there is a fantastic waffle shop on the short end of the mile!
One of the unique spots Copenhagen has to offer is the Freetown Christiania. Christiania was established in 1971 by an alternative community who started squatting in former military barracks. Today it is almost like a city within the city with its own rules and laws. Most people know it for Pusher Street, a short stretch within Christiania dedicated to the selling of marijuana. The area is generally very safe, but if you feel uncomfortable with that sort of thing or are traveling with children, you can still experience Christiania. If you do visit Pusher Street, please note that you should not take pictures or videos as hash dealing is illegal in Denmark.
Christiansborg Palace & Copenhagen Museums
You are now nearing the end of your one day in Copenhagen. One of the last stops is Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament. Many parts of the palace are actually open to the public, but our favorite must be the tower. At 106 meters high it offers beautiful views of the city. You access the tower through the King’s Gate. The best thing about it is that it’s completely free! However, you should be prepared to go through a security check (it IS the Danish Parliament after all). On top of the tower, there is also a restaurant if you need a meal to go with that view 😉
Not far from Christiansborg Palace are also some of Copenhagen’s most notable museums, such as the Danish National Museum and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Glyptotek is free to visit on Tuesdays, so pop in and marvel at the beautiful winter garden if nothing else!
Actually, you have already passed Tivoli early in the morning, but it is worth noting here as Tivoli is open relatively late. It is the second oldest amusement park still in operation worldwide and great fun anytime during the year! However, there are certain periods when the gardens are closed, so you should always check their website in advance.
From Tivoli, you make your way back to Copenhagen Central Station, impossibly tired but with tons of great memories and a truckload of photos 😃
Practical Information for One Day in Copenhagen
If you are planning on using public transport during your stay in Copenhagen, you may want to consider getting a 24 h pass which you can purchase at the Central Station. A 24 h pass for Copenhagen (Zones 1-4) only costs 80 kr and allows travel on trains, metros, and buses. If you want to travel outside the city (i.e. for doing some of our great day trips) the ticket will cost you 130 kr per person. Do not travel on public transport without a ticket as the fine is currently 750 kr and chances are they will catch you.
If you are planning on using public transport and on visiting some of the paid attractions, you could also consider getting the Copenhagen Card for 395 kr.
Your Copenhagen Walking Tour Map
Now, what do you think? Did you enjoy our itinerary? Or was it a bit too ambitious for you perhaps? Did we miss anything important? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!