In need of a comprehensive Copenhagen travel guide? Don’t worry, I’ve just returned from a week long trip in Denmark’s capital city, so I’m jotting everything you’ll need to know below!

You know, visiting Copenhagen wasn’t necessarily high on my travel list, but I feel like I’ve always wanted to go. Way back in college one of my acquaintances studied abroad there, and I floated the idea of visiting. Since then, everyone I know has always had good things to say whether they were cursory travelers or professional ones.

This year, though, my friend, Alyshia, had a week off of work for spring break and asked if I wanted to go anywhere. At first we were looking at Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island but decided it was still way too cold to properly enjoy. Then we thought about somewhere in the Caribbean or South America but it was either too far for a week or too expensive since other Canadians were also escaping the cold. Finally, Alyshia plugged in some cheap flights from Toronto and came up with Copenhagen or Paris. Since we’d both already been to the latter, we immediately agreend on Copenhagen.

Flash forward a few months and we’ve just spent a fun week exploring the city, eating a wonderfully absurd amount of carbs, and walking up a lot of steps. Check out the below guide for all my best tips.

A Copenhagen Travel Guide for First Time Visitors

A Brief History of Copenhagen

As with all places I write about, I’m starting with a bit of Copenhagen’s history. After all – how else will you know and appreciate what you’re seeing today?

Copenhagen (or København in Danish) began around the 1000s during the Viking Age, though the earliest historical records we have are from the 1100s. As you might guess from the waterfront location, it became a popular spot for merchants and fishermen and really anyone who used the sea for work.

One of the important moments in Copenhagen’s history was when it, with Norway and Sweden, established the Kalmar Union to counter the Hanseatic League (of Bergen fame). Think of it like a smaller EU.

The way it all came about is thanks to the typical royal inheritance debacles, but the union did last from 1397 to 1523. During that time Copenhagen became the center of the union as it became the seat of the monarchy and, naturally, it flourished culturally, economically, and socially.

The next big event in Copenhagen’s history is the Danish Golden Age. This age all started with a plague and a fire, almost giving the city a chance to start from scratch. During the Golden Age, which lasted for half of the 1800s, culture was front and center. From architecture to art to literature to music, a ton of important Danish figures emerged during this time. The most famous, of course, would have to be Hans Christian Andersen, aka one of the main creators of the modern fairy tale.

Today, Copenhagen has more or less retained its cultural reputation. Both Danish and Copenhagen culture is frequently referenced whether it’s style, food, interiors, or design. I’m sure we’ve all heard of hygge by now! Not to mention noma, the restaurant of all restaurants in the fine dining world (soon to be an RIP). If you watch “The Bear,” this is where Marcus trains when he goes to Copenhagen.

Hard to meet anyone who’s been, no matter the time of year, and had a bad time in the city!

copenhagen travel guide

How Expensive is Copenhagen?

I will not lie to you – like most Nordic countries I’ve been to, Copenhagen can get very pricey. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily pricier than, say, San Francisco or New York City, but if you’re not used to those prices, you might find yourself pinching pennies a bit.

However, there are a lot of ways to offset the cost! The biggest one I’d recommend looking into is the Copenhagen City Card. I’m going to write a post breaking down the card’s cost vs. how often we used it, but when I tallied the total, we saved about $70 USD with the 120-hr card!

Other ways I’d say to save is to bring a water bottle to refill (tap water here is delicious). Stick to cafes, bakeries, food halls, and cheap eateries (even the “cheap places” are mouthwatering!). Walk as much as possible if you’re not using the card (really the city isn’t that big) and look into budget accommodation – especially off season.

Plus, check out the local grocery stores. You can easily make yourself sandwiches and snacks from Netto while on the go. Quite a few places have packed lunch sections to sit and eat.

When to Visit Copenhagen

Honestly, after being further north than Denmark in all the seasons, I would say you could visit Copenhagen any time of year and have a good experience.

Summer is obviously the most popular with warm weather, long, sunny days, and everything open. However, with all of that comes more expensive rates on hotels, tickets, and flights.

Winter sounds fun with all the hygge and it still gets quite a decent amount of daylight compared to other Scandinavian countries. I assume a lot closes though.

I really enjoyed coming over Alyshia’s spring break in mid-March! Like 99% of what we wanted to do was open, and we got really great deals on flights and hotels. I also noticed a few places either had slightly lower prices too. Temperature-wise it was around 30-50F depending on the day and mostly overcast.

I would say the sweet spot would be late April, early May or mid-late September. Some of the things I wanted to do like the Reffen Market or Tivoli Gardens were still closed in March but would be open in April. The weather is a bit better and because you’re still in the shoulder season, you should be able to find decent deals.

copenhagen travel guide

Where to Stay in Copenhagen

As someone who hates, hates walking with a suitcase for more than 15-20 minutes, I am a big proponent of staying close to stations. Luckily, Copenhagen has a really great train, metro, and bus situation so regardless of where you stay, you’ll be pretty close to something.

For first time visitors, I’d stay right by København H (Copenhagen Central Station). It’s a straight shot to the airport in under 30 minutes and will have you connected to not only everything in the city but will make any and all day trips easier. Plus it’s right by Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District which has a lot of cool cafes and restaurants.

We stayed at Go Hotel Ansgar since we were looking for something budget-friendly. I’d say the only downside was that the internet was pretty spotty, so don’t plan on making video calls or anything too intense. Otherwise, we didn’t mind the tighter quarters since we were pretty much out from morning til evening. Check current prices here.

Some other hotels we looked at:

Hotel NameNearby StationCosts
Absalon Hotel $$København HView Here
Grand Joanne $$København HView Here
The Square $$RådhuspladsenView Here
WIDE Hotel $$RådhuspladsenView Here
Hotel Sanders $$$Kongens NytorvView Here

Otherwise, I’d say stay near Kongens Nytorv or Gammel Strand to be central but in charming areas. Meanwhile Rådhuspladsen and Nørrebro are cool neighborhoods that feel a little more hipster, local but still easy to navigate.

How to Get into Copenhagen

By Plane

I’m going to assume 90% of you reading this post are coming in by plane and flying into Københavns Lufthavn (Copenhagen Airport or CPH). Lucky for you this airport is really easy to navigate, it’s just really big and can feel like you’re walking for a while.

To take public transport, you can literally get on the train right at the airport in Terminal 2. Alyshia and I found each other by baggage claim and then went to get hot dogs at Steff’s Place. The ticket station and entrance to the train was right next to stand.

Also you can download the DOT Billeter app to buy directly on there but I couldn’t get it to connect to my credit cards. If you use the Copenhagen card, airport transfer is included.

By Train or Bus

For those of you coming in by bus or train, you’ll likely go right to København H (Copenhagen Central Station). Sometimes it shows up as Köpenhamn H. Just know whether you see København H, Köpenhamn H, or Central Station, they’re all the same.

copenhagen travel guide

How to Get Around Copenhagen

On Foot

If you’re ready to walk, you can very easily walk everywhere in Copenhagen. Like we took the metro and buses a lot since we had unlimited rides, but if you’re trying to save money and want to, this city is incredibly walkable. Tons of sidewalk space and just easy to navigate. I can just picture visiting as a college student and managing to walk all around!

By Bus/Metro

Copenhagen has a really great metro and bus system. It costs about $3.50 USD per ride so that can definitely add up if you’re not careful, especially when some of the rides could be 15-20 minute walks.

Most metro trains we took came every 2-5 minutes while buses were definitely a little rarer. The further out of the center you get, the longer the wait in between the buses. When we went to find the troll, Kaptajn Nalle, buses were very 20-30 minutes.

By Bike

Obviously, Copenhagen is bike city! There are bike lanes everywhere, and from what I can tell most people get around on their two wheels. As a tourist, I’d only bike if you feel comfortable with it as I imagine it’d be pretty annoying to have someone causing issues in the bike lane during rush hour.

From what I can tell most hotels will have bikes available to rent – ours has a whole line of them. As for parking them, I saw plenty of bike parking lots, but, again, ask your hotel for guidance!

Notable Sightseeing Places in Copenhagen

There are a lot of cool things to do and see in Copenhagen, but to give you the very basics, here are the top five:

Nyhavn

This little waterfront strip is THE place to see in Copenhagen. Pretty much every establishing shot on film and every prominent photo of the city was taken right here. It spans about nearly 1500ft (450m) and is full of colorful buildings and boats. If you want to do a canal cruise, they usually leave from here too.

I imagine it’s swarmed come summer, so visit early for a more peaceful atmosphere. Or come in the shoulder season and even in the afternoon it shouldn’t be too bad.

Skip any food here, from what I’ve read none of it is particularly remarkable and is more expensive than walking 5 minutes away towards Kyngens Nytorv.

Rundetårn

Most things are closed on a Monday but not Rundetårn (The Round Tower). It’s one of the best ways to get a bird’s eye view of Copenhagen and dates back to the 1600s. It’s actually the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, and you can see its telescope once you climb up.

Bonus: When you get back down, go to the døp hot dog cart for an excellent hot dog – ask for everything on it!

The Little Mermaid Statue

If you can’t tell by the absolute terrible quality of the photo above, I didn’t go check out Den Lille Havfrue or The Little Mermaid on land. Maybe if I go in warmer weather, I’ll walk over, but for now I was fine viewing it from our canal tour’s boat.

This statue is dedicated to the fairytale and is part of Hans Christian Andersen’s legacy in Copenhagen. It’s also been named as one of the most disappointing landmarks to see in person, so keep your expectations low! And if you do go over to see on land, combine it with a trip to Amalienborg Castle and Kastellet, a start-shaped fortress.

Tivoli Gardens

I’m so bummed Tivoli was closed while we were there! This amusement park is literally right by Central Station (like we walked by it constantly) and is one of the most popular amusement parks in all of Europe. They even say it inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.

Everyone I know and every blog, Reddit post, and Instagram Reel or Tiktok had Tivoli on their list of things to do in Copenhagen, so you know it’s not just a tourist thing. Just know if you only get an entrance ticket, you’ll have to pay for each ride, so book a ticket with unlimited rides to make the most of it.

One of the Palaces

Within Copenhagen, you can visit Amalienborg (the current home to the royal family), Christiansborg (home to Danish parliament), or Rosenborg (where the crown jewels are kept). About an hour away is Frederiksborg (the “Versaille of Denmark), and Kronborg (Hamlet’s Castle). That’s all to say, you’ve got five different palaces to choose from, so take time to see at least one.

I will say the palaces that are in Copenhagen are pretty quick visits as only part of them are actually open to the public, so you could easily plan to visit all three in a day if you wanted to. Many even have combination tickets to make it more affordable.

Where to Eat in Copenhagen

The thing I noticed about Copenhagen is that it’s really hard to have a bad meal here. Maybe around Nyhavn there are crappy menus, but honestly this city takes its gastronomy very seriously. There’s a reason it’s home to over twenty Michelin-starred restaurants!

Either way, whether you want a cheap hot dog or can score reservations at the most exclusive fine dining restaurant out there, you will eat well while you’re here.

Cafes and Bakeries

You guys know I love a good café city, and Copenhagen does not disappoint! There are cafés and bakeries (or bageris) all over, and we probably stopped into at least two or three a day. Not only will you get delicious coffee, most places will have something to eat or, at the very least, an extremely delicious array of freshly made baked goods.

We usually started off with breakfast at a café near whatever landmark we wanted to go, and I often switched it up with matcha lattes and hot chocolates. Who knew Denmark was known for its matcha skills?!

copenhagen travel guide

Food Halls

Another really good option for eating in Copenhagen is looking up the various food halls. There are quite a few options, and while we were there we managed to make it to Torvehallerne where I tried some Danish porridge (grød).

I will say a lot of the open air food halls/markets like Reffen or Broens Gadekøkken are closed until at least April, so double check times on their websites.

Hot Dog Stands

As someone who’s not even a big hot dog person let alone someone who adds a ton of toppings to her dogs, I am OBSESSED with Danish hot dogs. I remember hearing Iceland had really fantastic hot dogs too but didn’t get a chance to try one, so I wanted to make sure I ate at least one while here.

Turns out we ate four, including one quite literally after we met at the airport. You can’t go wrong with a stand, and there’s at least one in every major square. Heck as soon as you exit Central Station, there’s a great hot dog stand right there.

Michelin Restaurants

Like I mentioned above, Copenhagen has well over twenty Michelin-starred restaurants and is home to what might be the most famous (maybe infamous?). I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest foodie on the planet but even I’ve heard of noma!

If you’re someone who seeks these restaurants out or are traveling with a fine dining foodie, you’ll have a bevy of options right at your finger tips. We didn’t visit any of them as we were on a budget and I had so many cafes, hot dog stands, and fast food-style places I wanted to try, but maybe on a future trip!

Vietnamese Cuisine

Here’s something totally random I noticed – Copenhagen seemed to have a lot more Vietnamese cuisine than I could have ever expected. Given that I lived there and love the food, I do tend to notice Vietnamese restaurants whenever I travel. I truly don’t think I saw so many places as I did in Copenhagen.

We wound up going to Hanoi Alley in Nørrebro because we were hiding from the rain. As much as I love cafes, I was craving something heartier and nothing tastes as good as beef pho on a cold, rainy day!

Day Trips from Copenhagen

Fredricksborg

As I mentioned Frederiksborg Slot is like Denmark’s Versailles. It’s about an hour on the train in Hillerød and was built in the 1600s for King Christian IV. It has this huge, Renaissance design, so I’d really like to go one day. We just ran out of time!

Hamlet’s Castle in Helsingør

One castle we did do a day trip for was Kronborg Slot in Helsingør. It’s also about an hour on the train and became famous when Shakespeare set his most famous play there, naming the castle Elsinore. A number of famous actors have participate in productions there from Laurence Olivier to David Tennant (and me, of course, hehe)! Kind of cool to imagine getting the chance to witness Laurence Olivier acting out Hamlet in the Hamlet castle, but I also spent a whole semester studying that play so that might be a niche interest.

While you’re here there’s also the Maritime Museum which is supposed to be award-winning. Truthfully, I wanted to make sure we had time for the next spot on our list, so we skipped it.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

About halfway between Kronborg and Copenhagen is a very cool modern art museum. The exhibits have so much going on and the location is right on the coast, so you could easily turn this into a full day trip on its own. The nice thing is that it’s open pretty late, so even if you want until the afternoon, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy.

Malmö, Sweden

Fun fact – you can pop over to Sweden in under an hour! Heck, even in the airport you’ll see signs for Malmö. It’s Sweden’s third largest city and sounds like a cool spot to visit on its own whether it’s for historic architecture, castles, or cool museums. Since we didn’t plan to go, I couldn’t tell you what was there exactly but it sounds like people who go enjoy it.

Shopping in Copenhagen

Copenhagen has some really fun shopping whether you’re looking for specific deals at the GANNI Postmodern Outlet or for quirky creations at Studi Arhoj. I mean, there’s a good reason people love Danish interior design and Copenhagen street style. I promise I’ll have a whole other post on shopping to share everywhere we went!

copenhagen travel guide

Safety & Health in Copenhagen

You know, I’m sure there’s crime in Copenhagen but this has to have been one of the safest major capital cities I’ve ever been to. The “sketchiest” part was in Freetown Christiania, and honestly, I’ve seen worse on a normal day in HCMC or Philly.

I feel like the worst crime to worry about is pickpockets but even then there doesn’t seem to be a crazy epidemic like in Barcelona and Paris. I mean, this is a city where people just leave their babies in strollers outside of restaurants – it’s a pretty safe city.

Likewise for health – this is the kind of place were you not only can you drink the tap water, it’s actually delicious. And there are so many nice, clean public bathrooms everywhere even in the metro stations.

That’s all I can think of to put into a single Copenhagen travel guide. I’ve got a bunch more posts coming because I really enjoyed this city, but in the meantime let me know if you have any further advice or questions below!

For more Scandinavian travel, read these next:

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copenhagen travel guide

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