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Latest update: 4 January 2024

Copenhagen is a beautiful city in Denmark. One that I have always ignored because Scandinavian prices have scared me off. But I made it! And while I’m here, I want to see EVERYTHING. Or at least as much as possible. So let’s find out what you can do in two or three days in Copenhagen. I have listed the best sights for you.

Taste the atmosphere in Copenhagen

It strikes me how many people sit on the terraces day and evening, even though it is still pretty cold in April. “Outside is the new inside!”, I read on Denmark’s tourism site. I experience Copenhagen as a large but quiet city. Especially compared to Amsterdam. The city is spacious with wide roads and sidewalks. Renting a bicycle is an affordable luxury to cover the distances.

There are several neighborhoods in the heart of Copenhagen, each with its own character. You’ll probably make your way to all of them in just two or three days in Copenhagen. These are (in short) the neighborhoods of Copenhagen:

  • Center: here you will find most of the sights and shops
  • Vesterbro: formerly a working-class district, now very hip
  • Nørrebro: multicultural district with many shops and restaurants
  • Østerbro: a popular neighborhood with families with lots of greenery
  • Christianshavn: full of canals and of course the free city of Christiania

2 or 3-day Copenhagen trip

Read this blog to properly prepare for your 2- or 3-day Copenhagen trip. But can I also recommend the book Copenhagen Like a Local? It is a handy booklet with tips for restaurants, bars, shops, culture, nightlife, and the outdoors. It does not include the sights (those are in this blog) but allows you to experience Copenhagen through the eyes of a local. And that’s always a good idea.

Also, a good idea is to check out the city passes. They give you free or discounted access to attractions and unlimited free use of public transport. View and compare the Copenhagen City Card and the Copenhagen Card. Especially if you plan to fit in many things to do in just 2 or 3 days in Copenhagen, you can save some money this way.

I managed to cram a lot of sightseeing into my weekend. So I’d like to give you inspiration for what to do in Copenhagen in just a few days.

Visit the Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket museum

The Glyptoteket art museum in Copenhagen is quite impressive, and that applies to the collection and the building. The museum has more than 10,000 works of art and archaeological finds. So there is a lot to see: from images from Egypt, Greece, and Italy, paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, and Renoir to Danish work. Because most walls have a cheerful color, this is a somewhat warmer museum visit. You know, one of those where you still dare to talk out loud.

I like that the museum gives context to what you see. There are many busts without noses, for example. They are sensitive to damage. And so the museum collects all the ‘lost’ noses in one display.

There is also regularly a statue that has now lost all color. The museum then places a replica next to it and paints it as it looked at the time.

The beautiful winter garden in the museum is simply gorgeous. A lush green oasis – I didn’t expect that here! Don’t forget to look for the museum’s roof: from there, you can see the Tivoli roller coaster passing by. The museum is closed on Mondays. On Tuesdays, you can enter for free!

Google Maps location

Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania is home to hippies, artists, and free spirits. In 1970, they squatted in an abandoned military barracks, and it has since grown into a self-declared semi-independent area with its own rules. Buildings were squatted or built with whatever material was available. The government tolerates the initiative, but they prefer not to have it.

It’s definitely a ‘free town’. You can buy soft drugs freely here, for example. Which attracts a lot of people. I am definitely overwhelmed by the number of people here – and by the commercialism. The residents of Freetown Christiania want to withdraw from society, but it is full of stalls with souvenirs. That contradicts. It’s jam-packed during the weekend. Everyone wants to take a look, see the street art, and soak up the atmosphere. The hippies themselves are now a tourist attraction in Copenhagen.

There are tours in Freetown Christiania on weekends and even every day in the summer. You don’t need to make a reservation, but check the website for the latest information. And please note: you are not allowed to take photos here!

Google Maps location (Prinsessegade entrance)

The change of palace guard at Amalienborg

Make sure you are at Amalienborg at 12 noon when the changing of the guard takes place. The guards then march across the square. This is nice to see on ‘normal’ days, but it’s also pretty straightforward. The spectacle is more remarkable on special days or when the royal family is home. The square is surrounded by four palaces that look identical at first glance. The royal family still lives here, each household in their own palace. There is an underground corridor system so that they can visit each other. If you find the royal family interesting, visit the palace museum: Amalienborgmuseet. Free entrance with the Copenhagen Card!

Google Maps location

The marble church Frederiks Kirke

From the square of Amalienborg you have a beautiful view of the Frederiks Kirke. An impressive church known as the Marble Church. This church was intended to be made entirely of Norwegian marble, but that was far too expensive. And so they stopped construction. Ultimately, an unfinished church stood there for about 150 years before it was finally ready for the public in 1894. With a lot less marble. The dome is the largest in Denmark and, according to some, even in Europe. You can visit the Frederiks Kirke for free.

Google Maps location

Graffiti in the Westend Walls

Ok, this is a bit of a deception, to be honest. When I think of the Westend Walls I imagine long walls full of street art. In reality, it is a small alley with two murals. They are regularly redone so that you can always view a fresh graffiti work of art here. Please don’t put too much effort into visiting these walls, but if you’re in the area… why not have a quick look right?

Google Maps location

Tip! What Heineken is to the Netherlands, Carlsberg is to Denmark. Check out the options for a tour at this world-famous beer brewer.

Creative hotspot in Copenhagen: Bolsjefabrikken

After the deception of the Westend Walls, I am pleased with Bolsjefabrikken. On this cultural site, you will find a music venue, studios, workshops, and a lot of graffiti. It’s not all pretty by any means. Many ‘artists’ kept it at an ugly tag, but there are also beautiful paintings. So you come in the evening for a party and during the day for the street art. I went through it by bike and combined it with Bananna Park and strolling through Nørrebro.

Google Maps location

Street art playground Bananna Park

The highlight of Bananna Park is literally and figuratively the outdoor climbing wall. Monkeys and bananas are depicted here, hence the name. There is also a football field and a chill area. You can easily take in this sight of Copenhagen on a bike ride through Nørrebro and visit the Bolsjefabrikken.

Google Maps location

Private walking tour of Copenhagen with a local

I always like to start a city trip with a walking tour through the city. That’s why I booked a private tour of one and a half hours with a guide at Withlocals. The walking tour has been set up by Withlocals, but local guides will guide you through the city. This means that every tour is different, because you get to see Copenhagen through the eyes of a local. Very nice. I chose guide Hisham, and he is really lovely. He is kind and enthusiastic and knows a lot.

Hisham takes us to the most important sights of Copenhagen and freely shares all his knowledge about the city and city life. About cinnamon rolls (which we can also taste), architectural styles, the canals, modernizing the church, and keeping the city clean. I like having a private tour at Withlocals because it gives us plenty of time to ask questions. There are also options to join a group. Check your options at Freetour.

Danish art Statens Museum for Kunst

The Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) is Denmark’s most important art museum. The museum has no fewer than 260,000 pieces! There is an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures from 1300 to the present, a massive collection of prints and drawings, and the museum has more than 2000 plaster statues. There are also changing collections. Modern art appeals to me the most, but there are also classic paintings by French, Dutch, and Danish artists. The emphasis is on Danish art. You can easily spend hours here, but you don’t have to. Pick a few rooms that appeal to you the most and return to Copenhagen for another visit!

Google Maps location

Take a walk in the botanical garden

The outdoor gardens of Botanisk Have are freely accessible. It is an excellent place to take a walk in the greenery. At the beginning of April, when I am there, there is little in bloom – at least to the untrained eye. Because the garden actually has more than 13,000 species of plants. The garden has several greenhouses, of which the round Palm House is the highlight. That is a covered area with palm trees. You do have to pay an entrance fee to visit it.

Google Maps location

Tip! Do you want more green and nature? Then go a little further out of the city to the Sydhavnstippen park – llamas roam freely here!

Visit the local market: Torvehallerne

I always enjoy visiting markets and good supermarkets abroad: all those unknown products and delicacies! In that respect, the Torvehallerne is the place to be in Copenhagen. This is perhaps the most famous food market in the city. There are at least 80 shops and stalls. You will find everything: tea, drinks, fresh fish, smörrebröd… Tip: buy the Gammel Cheese at the cheese shop Arla Unika, an old cheese with beautiful salt crystals. Delicious.

Google Maps location

Find happiness in the Happiness Museum

The Happiness Museum is actually a quick visit. The museum is small in size but big in numbers. You will find a lot of statistics about happiness worldwide, as well as background information about what happiness is and why you are or are not happy. Hundreds of people wrote on a sticky note what makes them happy, and you can complete some small ‘tasks’ to become happier.

Google Maps location

The Little Mermaid of Copenhagen

Together with the colorful merchant houses on the harbor (Nyhavn), the statue of the Little Mermaid is the sight that immediately comes to mind when you think of Copenhagen. It is a tribute to the fairy tale by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. However, the statue disappoints many people because it is so small. For me, the disappointment is mainly the crowds: everyone wants their picture taken with the little mermaid.

But hey, have you even been to Copenhagen if you haven’t seen her?! So drop by. Get your picture and move on. Immediately next to the Little Mermaid is a nice green area with the beautiful St. Albanus Church and Kastellet: an old fortress.

Google Maps location

The genetically engineered little mermaid

Yes, there is another version of the little mermaid: The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid. The artist had a much more modern interpretation of the mermaid. It is a short walk or bike ride from the original, in a modern residential area on the water. There are some other sculptures around it and zero tourists.

Google Maps location

The colored facades of Nyhavn

This is it: THE picture Copenhagen is known for. Nyhavn is the famous part of the city center with the colored merchant houses on the water. This is, of course, THE must-see sight of Copenhagen. The new harbor was excavated in the 17th century. The houses you see are more than 300 years old. The writer Hans Christian Andersen (who wrote the mermaid story) lived in several of these houses. The merchant houses are now restaurants. So you can have something to eat here or sip a cocktail on a nice day. It does feel a bit like a tourist trap, I must admit. So take your photo and then dive a little deeper into the city. Or first, take a boat tour. For less than 20 euros you can sail through the harbor and canals for an hour.

Imagine yourself in Netflix’s Borgen: Christiansborg Palace

The beautiful Christiansborg Palace is in the center of Copenhagen. The royal family used to live here but moved to Amalienborg after a fire and never actually returned. Now, it houses the Danish parliament and the Supreme Court. Have you watched the Netflix series Borgen? I did, and it’s really cool to actually walk around here.

Lying in front of the palace are the royal stables. If the doors are open, you can go inside to take a look. The horses are beautiful. Fun fact: these horses are born black and turn white as they age. If you want to see more of the palace, you have to buy a ticket.

Christiansborg Tower is the tallest tower in Copenhagen. There is also a restaurant in the tower: Meyers i Tårnet. Because it is in the parliament building, there is strict security. We went there on spec to eat smörrebröd. I heard later that we were very lucky. Apparently, you actually have to make a reservation well in advance. Meyers i Tårnet is a bit chic, very tasty, and what a location! The ceiling is no less than 11 meters high and you have a beautiful view over the square.

You can even go a little higher into the tower. You will first find a room with giant statues and an art installation of pigeons. And, of course, it is a beautiful vantage point: on a clear day, you should even be able to see Sweden.

Google Maps location

Hidden gem in Copenhagen: the garden of the royal library

The garden of the Royal Library was created about a hundred years ago, in 1920. There is a huge pond with a fountain and benches. It is an oasis of peace with lots of greenery. I definitely recommend you take a look. It is next to Christiansborg, so you can get there quickly.

Google Maps location

Rent a bike in Copenhagen

You can easily explore the center of Copenhagen on foot, but because there are many good spots to check out outside the center, renting a bike for at least a day is smart. You see Lime and Donkey Republic bicycles everywhere in the city. With some of these bicycle providers you pay per minute, with others per part of the day. My experience is that Donkey Republic is a lot cheaper (and check whether the code DE07C7 still works for the first 15 minutes for free). Also, check the prices at Baja Bikes. Comparing really pays off!

Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park

I’ve somehow managed to visit Copenhagen when Tivoli Gardens is closed. Such a pity! I would have loved to visit this old amusement park and ride the oldest wooden roller coaster in the world. The park is in the middle of the city, isn’t that special? It was once on the city’s edge, but Copenhagen has expanded considerably. You buy an entrance ticket and then pay per attraction. Some people don’t even go on a ride but just visit the beautiful gardens or the restaurants. Unfortunately, I have to make do with some peering through the fences.

Google Maps location

Reffen street food area

The industrial Reffen site is quite a bike ride from the center. You can also get there by water taxi. This street food location opens at the beginning of spring for a few months to prepare the tastiest dishes from all over the world. It’s really huge, so come hungry. The location is on the water, and they use this smartly with an improvised city beach. There is regular live music for extra entertainment. Visiting Reffen is obviously best done when the sun is out.

Google Maps location

Tip! Hungry? Thirsty? I listed some cool restaurants and cafes in Copenhagen for you.

A quick tour of Copenhagen City Hall

The town hall is on the town hall square – who would have thought?! It’s over a hundred years old and beautiful on the outside alone. The tower stands out: it is 105 meters high, and you can climb it. 300 steps later, a beautiful view of the center awaits you. You can discover the town hall and the tower with a guide for a few euros. Reserve a spot in advance.

Google Maps location

Copenhagen City Hall

Nice hotels in Copenhagen

With so many sights to see, you also need to rest occasionally. Copenhagen has many beautiful hotels. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be really cheap. I spend two nights in a ‘cheaper’ hotel and then spend one night in a more upscale option. The Urban House Copenhagen and Axel Guldsmeden are directly opposite each other in Vesterbro, so that is perfect. The move takes hardly any time and both hotels are close to Central Station. This makes traveling from the airport to the hotel a breeze.

Urban House Copenhagen is a hostel with private rooms, dormitories, and a few communal spaces. The bar, in particular, is very fun. The hotel room is mainly functional. It is decorated with a graffiti-like image on the wall. Great if you plan to spend a lot of time in the city and as little time as possible in your room. Check the hotel at Booking.com.

The Axel Guldsmeden hotel is a luxurious eco hotel. The lobby is colorful and invites you to linger for a while. There are all kinds of fancy care products in the room that you can use and the room has a peaceful appearance. The hotel has a small courtyard and even a spa and gym. You can book here. The Axel Guldsmeden hotel is part of the Guldsmeden chain, and they have stunning hotels. This one, Manon les Suites, is everything you want and need, right?!

More Denmark inspiration?

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First published: November 2022. The article has been updated since.

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