The capital of Denmark offers so much to see and do and is such a family-friendly destination. (We traveled there with our kiddo and all had a great time!) This 3 day Copenhagen itinerary will help you explore all the city’s best sights, including castles, museums, and one of the world’s oldest theme parks!
Denmark is well known as one of the happiest countries in the world. To get ready for our trip to Scandinavia, I did a lot of reading with books about Denmark and books about Norway, and I learned that one of the biggest reasons why Danes are so happy is because they feel the social safety net surrounding them. They live in a society where equality is valued and where they know they can never fall too far from where they are because they will be taken care of. (Which, I mean, what a novel concept coming from the US!)
I was so excited to see this “happiest” country in the world and learn more about the culture of Denmark. While there is TONS to do in Copenhagen (and since we spent about five days there we were able to see a lot), this 3 day itinerary should help you hit most of the city’s highlights in a relatively short amount of time. And if you have more time, I’ve included a list of more things you can do in Copenhagen!
I’m also going to try not to pack too much into this itinerary. Each day has a reasonable amount of things to do and can be done by families traveling with kids.
So let’s get going!
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Getting to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is located in the very west part of Denmark, just across the water from Sweden, and it is super easy to get to.
Most people will probably be flying into Copenhagen, and it’s very easy to get to the city center from the airport. (Copenhagen has a fantastic public transport system, but more on that in a minute.)
From the airport, take the M2 metro line toward Kongens Nytorv. From there, you can transfer to any other metro line to get where you need to go within the city.
If you’re traveling within Europe, you can of course also take a train into Copenhagen. Most trains you take in will drop you at Copenhagen Central Station, which is also connected to the metro lines (København H).
Getting Around Copenhagen
Copenhagen is such an easy city to get around!
First of all, you’ll probably be walking a lot, so pack those comfortable walking shows. But because Denmark is such a flat country, you won’t find yourself with lots of uphill battles.
You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the metro system as soon as possible so you can take that wherever you need to go. Copenhagen is one of the best metro systems I have ever seen in terms of cleanliness and ease of use. When you take the metro, you’ll take multiple stories of escalators down to the platforms, and there will be screens showing you which side of the platform your train is coming on and how long until it will arrive.
Plus it has two other bonuses (bear with me as a wax poetic about my love for this metro system for a moment). First of all, the ride is SO SMOOTH. When we were there, we had just come from NYC, where the subway is generally rattly and gross. I could not get over how clean and smooth this one was. PLUS they have glass doors that shut across the tracks, so no worrying about your kiddos standing too close to the tracks!
If you purchase the Copenhagen Card, you can ride the metro limitlessly and for free (you don’t even have to scan your card in!). Otherwise, you can buy tickets from a kiosk at the station.
Then of course, we have bikes. Copenhagen is known as the bike capital of the world, and you’ll noticed why right away. There are people on bikes EVERYWHERE. Traffic knows to be aware of the bikes and bike lanes. In fact, you’ll see a lot less car traffic in this city than in many other European capitals because so many people ride bikes.
If you’d like to get around on a bike, you can find more information about bike rentals here.
3 Days in Copenhagen Itinerary
Copenhagen Itinerary Day 1
We’re going to start our 3 day Copenhagen itinerary assuming that you are arriving in the city sometime in the morning, so we won’t pack today with too much to do. Once you find a place to store your luggage (if you can’t check into your hotel yet, try leaving it at the front desk until you can, or find a luggage storage service), spend the day getting your bearings and touring some of the most popular places in the city.
I think a canal tour is the perfect way to begin your time in Copenhagen. It can help you understand the lay of the land and see a few of the most popular attractions from a distance. Plus, when you’re touring the city later, you may recognize an important building that had been pointed out on the tour that you otherwise would have walked right by.
There are several companies you can take canal tours with, but the most popular is Stromma Canal Tours. This is a one-hour guided tour where you’ll go past sights like Christianborg Palace, The Little Mermaid, the Black Diamond (library!), and more.
There are two different versions of the canal tour with Stromma:
1) The tour from Nyhavn, which travels through Nyhavn, but not through as much of Christianshavn, and is slightly more expensive.
2) The tour from Ved Stranden, which travels through more of Christianshavn but not through Nyhavn, and is slightly cheaper. Note that if you are using a Copenhagen Card for a canal tour, you have to do the one from Ved Stranden. (This is the one we did and we loved it! We didn’t feel like we were missing anything at all not going through Nyhavn because we knew we would see that later!)
When you think of Copenhagen (or do any kind of image search) Nyhavn is probably what comes to mind. This street/canal is by far the most popular thing to see in Copenhagen.
Nyhavn means “new harbor.” But of course, it’s not very new to us because it was built in the 1670s. It used to be where cargo entered the city and ships from around the world docked.
Now at Nyhavn you’ll find restaurants and bars, and this is great place to grab a bite to eat or stop for a drink. Of course, it can also be a little pricey. So if you’re on a budget (or just don’t feel like a sit-down meal) grab a hot dog and/or a beer from one of the kiosks you’ll find along the street.
Really, the main thing to do in Nyhavn is enjoy your surroundings and admire the architecture.
You can also find No. 20, which is where Hans Christian Anderson, the famous writer of fairytales, once lived.
After spending some time in Nyhavn, stroll through Strøget. This is one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets, and it runs from Kongens Nytrov (near Nyhavn) to City Hall Sqaure.
You certainly don’t have to walk the whole thing, but at least get a taste of this famous pedestrian street and its high end shopping. You can also find a place to grab dinner and/or an evening snack along here.
(Note: If you took the canal tour from Ved Stranden, you might want to walk Strøget on your way to Nyhavn instead of the other way around.)
Copenhagen Itinerary Day 2
For the second day of our 3 day Copenhagen itinerary, we’re going to see A LOT. But don’t worry, a lot of these are sights that you’ll be able to hit pretty quickly. And there are definitely some things you can skip on this part of the itinerary if you are feeling a little too jam packed. (The King’s Garden is a pretty garden, but don’t stress about it. And personally I think the Little Mermaid Statue is highly overrated.)
Honestly, the main thing I would say NOT to miss on this day is Rosenborg Castle. We loved our visit to this castle, were fascinated by its history, and thought it was absolutely beautiful. And it is WAY better than Amalienborg Palace, which is why you’ll just see Amalienborg Square on here but not the actually palace tour.
Ok…on to day 2!
Rosenborg Castle was built in 1607 as Christian IV’s summer house. And it is absolutely gorgeous inside. Some of our favorite rooms included The Winter Room, The Marble Room, and of course The Great Hall, where there is a throne made of actual narwhal tusks!
Also, don’t miss the clothes in Christian IV’s Bedchamber. They are his clothes still stained with blood from a battle when he lost an eye. Apparently he liked to keep them and show them off to guests.
You can also go down into The Treasury here and see weapons displays and the Crown Jewels, which contain one of the most intricate crowns I have ever seen.
Rosenborg Castle was my favorite castle of our entire trip, so definitely don’t miss this one!
Entrance is free with a Copenhagen Card. Otherwise, you can buy tickets online or at the Castle. I definitely recommend buying your tickets (or booking your time online if you are using a Copenhagen Card) ahead of time. It wasn’t particularly crowded when we were there, but I just think it’s always a good idea to book what you can ahead of time just in case.
The King’s Garden
Behind Rosenborg Castle, you’ll find the King’s Garden. There are some really beautiful areas here including a rose garden, lovely tree-lined streets, and a dragon themed playground that kids will love.
This is really a great place to spend some outdoor time in Copenhagen, especially if you are there when the weather is nice.
You can get into the gardens for free through several different entrances around the perimeter.
Tip: If you are trying to get to the garden from the castle, you may have to exit the castle area, walk down the street a bit, and then enter the garden separately.
Torvehallerne Food Hall
We aren’t going to be bossy about food a ton here (although we do have some recommendations about food toward the end of this post). But since you are going to be just about a 10 minute walk away, we highly recommend going to Torvehallerne Food Market (TorvehallernKBH) for lunch.
Torverhallerne is a huge food market where you can find prepared food as well as fresh produce, fish, and meat. There are SO MANY OPTIONS here, so everyone in your family will be happy. This is also a great place to go to Hallernes Smørrebrød, where you can get a classic Danish open face sandwich.
Seriously, you’ll find everything here, from coffee, to pastries, to pizza, to ice cream. Plus it’s just a really lovely space visually.
Climb the Round Tower
For bird’s-eye views of Copenhagen, one of the most popular things to do is climb the Round Tower, which is only about an 8 minute walk from Torverhallerne. This tower was completed in 1642 as an astronomical observatory and as part of the university chapel.
The most interesting thing about this tower is that is is constructed as a hollow core with a spiral ramp going up. There is access to a library about halfway up (which is now used as an event space), and so it was built as a ramp so that horses could carry books up and down.
This is really a fun ramp to climb (at least, as fun as climbing ramps can get I think), and when you get to the top you have some really amazing views of Copenhagen. On your way, you can even look down through some plexiglass to see the length of the hollow core!
Admission to the Round Tower is free with the Copenhagen Card. This is one where it is super easy to buy your tickets there too if you aren’t getting a Copenhagen Card.
The Marble Church
Next, head to Frederick’s Church, also known as The Marble Church. (Really, even the nearby metro station is named Marmorkirken, which is also probably the easiest way to get here.)
The Marble Church is definitely one of the most recognizable landmarks in Copenhagen, with its huge green copper dome. Interestingly, it is not actually made of marble but rather of limestone due to budget cuts once it was finished over 100 years after it was started.
If The Marble Church is open when you visit, you can go inside and take a look around. Otherwise though, I think it’s perfectly sufficient to admire it from the outside.
Amalienborg Palace, which is directly across the from The Marble Church, is where the Danish Royal Family still lives. It is made up four four identical buildings that sit across from each other in Amalienborg Square.
Listen, you can visit the Palace if you want to. But I was extremely underwhelmed by this visit and would recommend skipping it unless you have just tons of extra time on your hands. Inside you can see several of the rooms that were once used by Danish Royals. But honestly it felt like they had taken every photograph and piece of memorabilia they could find and lined it up for display. The overall effect of this was…junky (sorry Royals!).
Instead, I would recommend just walking through Amalienborg Square, admiring the palace, seeing the nearby fountain, and looking out across the water to see the Copenhagen Opera House.
If you keep walking north along the water from Amalienborg, you’ll find Kastellet (aka The Citadel). This pentagon shaped fortress was initially constructed in the 1600s, and there are all kinds of buildings (including a gorgeous windmill) that you can see here. You can walk up and down the embankments, through the fortress, and do all kinds of exploring. It’s really a gorgeous place, and, like the King’s Garden, can give you a nice taste of nature in the middle of Copenhagen.
The Little Mermaid Statue
The Little Mermaid Statue is located just outside the Northwest corner of Kastellet. It is commonly known as THE number one thing to see in Copenhagen. But I’m going to be honest….you can totally skip this one if you want. Especially if you saw the back of her from the canal tour.
Is this absolutely treasured by the city of Copenhagen? Yes. Is it a very exciting thing to see? No, not really. BUT if you are walking through Kastellet and don’t want to leave the city without seeing its most popular attraction, you might as well check it out while you are there.
Copenhagen Itinerary Day 3
For most of today we are going to talk about one big attraction: Tivoli Gardens. Honestly, considering that we love Disney around here, it shouldn’t really surprise you that we recommend spending most of your day in a theme park. But even if are you aren’t a theme park person…just trust us.
Sankt Peders Bagari
Like I said, we aren’t going to be super bossy about food here. But I have a strongly recommended breakfast for this morning: Sankt Peders Bagari. This bakery claims to be Copenhagen’s oldest bakery. And they know what they are doing pastry-wise.
Get the weinerbrød with the vanilla custard in the middle (it looks almost like a fried egg on top, but it’s not) and you will fall in love. This is easily the best pastry I ate on our entire trip.
City Hall Square
On your way to Tivoli Gardens, you’ll stop by City Hall Square, which is located in front of, you guessed it, City Hall. Here you’ll find The Dragon Fountain sculpture as well as a sculpture of Hans Christian Anderson looking out to Tivoli.
There’s not a ton to see or do here, but it’s a natural stop on the way to Tivoli, and as one of Copenhagen’s main squares, it’s worth seeing.
Tivoli Gardens was first opened in 1843, and it is the third-oldest still operating amusement park in the world! (If you want to go to the oldest, by the way, it is also in Denmark! Bakken is just about 30 minutes away from Copenhagen.)
Tivoli Gardens is also known for inspiring Walt Disney as he was planning Disneyland. It is also known as a place Hans Christian Anderson frequented.
I know this may not be the most popular of opinions, but I think you should plan to spend most of your day at Tivoli Gardens. If you don’t want to, lots of people go to Tivoli just for the magical evenings. But I think there is enough to do and see and enjoy here that it’s worth spending most of the day here.
There really is something for everyone at Tivoli: thrill rides, mild rides, absolutely gorgeous gardens and grounds, tons of food options, and live music and performances. The entire park is completely charming and we absolutely fell in love with it.
Another selling point of Tivoli: it really felt like what my days at Magic Kingdom as a kid felt like. Where you can get on rides over and over (we rode the Milky Way Express at least 7 times), and just ride whatever you want to when you want to because nothing ever had way too long of a wait. (Now could this be different at different times of the year? Yes. But we all know that no days like that really exist at Disney World anymore.)
A few of our favorite rides:
- The Demon (a roller coaster with none of the huge drops I hate but all of the loops I love)
- The Milky Way Express (which is probably now our kiddo’s all time favorite roller coaster)
- The Mine (a cute dark ride, but honestly ignore the laser game)
- The Roller Coaster (which has a live brakeman who rides the coaster and controls it)
Also definitely don’t skip out on food while you are Tivoli. Not only does the park have a lots of great dining options, it is also connected to Tivoli Food Hall where you can choose from all kinds of cuisine.
Note that entrance to Tivoli is free with the Copenhagen Card, however you will have to pay for the rides.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
The best places to stay in Copenhagen will be centrally located and with easy access to the metro. Copenhagen is broken up into several different areas, and anywhere within the Indre By (or Inner City) area will be very convenient to everything you want to do. There really is no real unsafe area to be concerned about, at least within the inner city.
We stayed a few blocks from the Marble Church and felt our street was nice and quiet and the metro station convenient.
Here are a few hotel options in Copenhagen to consider:
- 71 Nyhavn Hotel — This is right on the water in the historic Nyhavn area, and the rooms look lovely with lots of Danish character.
- Radisson Collection Royal Hotel — This hotel is located right next to the entrance to Tivoli Gardens, making it a great location. The rooms look lovely and it great views of the city.
- Scandic Palace Hotel — This hotel is right on City Hall Square and seems to get consistently good reviews.
Where to Eat in Copenhagen
We really had some GREAT meals in Copenhagen, and surprisingly, some of the best food we have wasn’t even Danish. While we can’t cover every restaurant obviously, here are the places we ate and really loved.
Copenhagen Breakfast Spots
Sankt Peders Bagari — We mentioned this already, but this was truly the best pastry I had on our trip. It’s a classic for a reason, and I wouldn’t miss out on it.
Bagt — There was a location for this bakery near our apartment, and we really loved it.
Lagkagehuset — This is an extremely popular chain in Denmark. We thought it was a solid choice, and there is no dearth of location options.
Emmerys — Another bakery chain that we thought was really good.
Copenhagen Lunch & Dinner Spots
I’ll be honest here…lunch and dinner places were a little bit of a challenge for us. A lot of this had to do with the fact that we were traveling with our kiddo and so were trying to make sure we were hitting spots we knew she would like. But the other half of it had to do with the fact that some of the best known restaurants in Copenhagen (such as Noma and its counterparts) tend to be pretty highly priced. But here are some places we ate and loved!
Gasoline Grill — Go get a burger here! Yes, I know I’m recommending an American hamburger from Copenhagen, but it was seriously good.
Sporvejen — Another burger recommendation (thanks to our burger loving kid). But they were really solid and we really enjoyed sitting outside here.
Torvehallerne Food Hall — Such a great choice for families. There is everything from traditional Danish cuisine to French food to pizza. You can’t go wrong.
Tivoli Food Fall — Another great option that gives you everything from Mexican to Danish to Indian cuisine. Also, you don’t have to be in Tivoli Gardens to eat here! There’s a separate entrance outside the park!
Reffen — We didn’t actually make it to Reffen although we meant to. But this is an extremely popular area serving a variety of street food.
More Things To Do in Copenhagen
While you can definitely see so much of Copenhagen with a 3 day itinerary, there is still so much more you can do if you have more time! Here are some options.
Copenhagen Botanical Garden
Located hear Rosenborg Castle, the Copenhagen Botanical Garden has beautiful grounds plus a conservatory with a butterfly house. We really enjoyed our visit here (I think my kiddo would have stayed in the butterfly house all day).
National Museum of Denmark
If you want to get a grasp of the history of Denmark, the National Museum of Denmark offers a look at the country from the Vikings up to the year 2000. They also have a really great children’s museum area, with interactive displays and play areas.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
The Glyptotek is an art museum next door to Tivoli Gardens. Here you’ll find Danish art, French art, Greek and Roman sculpture, and more.
For another castle in Copenhagen, visit Christiansborg Palace. While this was once the home of Danish kings, it now houses Danmark’s Parliament, Prime Minister, and Supreme Court. Here you can see the areas still used by the Royal Family (even though they don’t live here) like the Royal Reception Rooms, the Royal Stables, and the Palace Chapel.
This is a super popular area to see in Copenhagen, as it is an anarchist commune within Copenhagen. They are known for selling cannibis (which is otherwise illegal in Denmark), plus lots of street art and a hippie-like culture. While it is safe to visit Freetown Christiania, do stick to the tourist areas. Also, be aware of photography rules (there are places photos are not allowed).
Church of Our Saviour
To get the absolute best views of Copenhagen, you can visit the Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn. You can climb 400 steps to the top of the church’s spire and get an incredible view of the city. Definitely not for people afraid of heights though!
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Take about a one hour train ride north of Copenhagen and visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. This building is full of mid-century modern architecture and a unique collection of modern art. They also have beautiful grounds that overlook the sea and a great children’s section with all kinds of art projects. This day trip is 100% worth it if you have the time!
Take a train about 10 minutes further north from the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (also include about 10 minutes walking time each way) and visit Kronborg Castle. This castle is also known as Hamlet’s Castle, as this is where Shakespeare based the play. Here you can explore both grand rooms and underground passages. Next to Rosenborg Castle, this was my second favorite castle we visited on our trip!
Should I Buy the Copenhagen Card?
While you should definitely do your own calculation about whether or not the Copenhagen Card is worth it (you can find their calculator here), I personally think it really is worth purchasing it for a 3 day Copenhagen itinerary.
Not only does the Copenhagen Card give you free admission to most of the city’s attractions, it also gives you free access to public transport. This means that not only do you not have to purchase additional tickets, you don’t even have to get a “free” ticket. Just get on the metro or train (really, the Copenhagen cards covers a huge zone including up to attractions like Kronborg Castle). If a conductor comes by to check your ticket, you can show them your Copenhagen Card.
Packing for Copenhagen
Being in Scandinavia means you really want layers! Some days can be warm, some days can be cold, some days can be rainy, some can be sunny.
Generally the weather, even in the summer, is pretty cool. While late summer days can get up into the 70s, you will still have cool mornings and evenings and will want to plan accordingly. When we visited in early June, most days had highs in the mid-50s to low 60s.
Aside from your usual toiletries, travel essentials, etc., here are some things you might want to remember to pack for Copenhagen:
Long pants — Most days you will want long pants to wear. Most days I wore jeans.
Shorts or dresses — If you are traveling in the height of summer, bring at least one or two shorter bottom option, like shorts or a dress. (Always check the weather before you go of course!)
Top Layers — Layer your top half! You will want to bring a variety of short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, and light jackets that can be layered on top of one another.
Waterproof jacket or coat — You will definitely need a waterproof jacket or coat during your time in Copenhagen! While they can have sunny days, rain can also be pretty common. When we were there, it rained at least some every day! If you are traveling in winter, you’ll want a warm coat. During the summer, a mid-weight rain jacket will work. (Most days I work a long sleeve shirt with my rain jacket. On colder days I had a light fleece jacket I put on under my rain jacket as well.)
Hat — Depending on the time of year, you may want a warm hat! Even during the summer, there were days when I was very glad for my rain jacket’s hood!
Umbrella — See above. Be prepared for rain!
Waterproof shoes — You will probably be walking a good amount during your time, so I always think water resistant shoes are a good idea. And of course make sure they are comfortable too!). I wore these Allbirds Mizzles which were both warm for the chillier days and water resistant.
Good socks — Remember, you will be walking a good amount, so you want your feet to be comfortable!
Sunscreen — Even on cloudy days, you can still get sunburned!
Copenhagen is such a great European capital to visit! It’s a city that’s a bit less busy and more low-key than some other capitals, with lots of history and lots of family friendly activities.
We really loved our time here, and definitely hope we can make it back again sometime!
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