If you stumble on this blog, you are going to Denmark’s exciting capital Copenhagen, or you are thinking about it. If you are into the best things to do while spending time in the city of fairy tales, you have come to the right place. We have got you covered. We have visited the city on multiple occasions and usually don’t have enough time to see everything the wonderful Danish city offers. So we know how to make most of the town even on a short trip.
This post is our overview of top activities in Copenhagen for short stays. All of these activities can be booked through our affiliate partner GetYourGuide. We could earn a commission on these activities, which we will use to keep this website running. We will use whatever is left to finance more stories and adventures away from the crowds.
Getting around in Copenhagen
Before we can talk about all the great activities that Copenhagen offers, we need to talk a second about transportation since you need to get around. Luckily, public transport in Copenhagen is excellent!
There is no need to spend crazy money on private transfers in Denmark; the public transport system is excellent. The airport is connected to the city center by metro, which takes about 15 minutes and runs approximately every 6 minutes. You can’t do it faster with an expensive taxi. The metro even runs at night! If traveling by cruise ship, getting to and from the city is slightly more complicated, but public transport saves you about 90% versus a taxi. You can find more information on Visitcopenhagen.com.
Get acquainted with Copenhagen... By boat!
When we arrive in a new city, we always want to get our bearings straight first. That means that we want to orientate and feel how the city works and where we can find significant highlights or even some hidden gems.
Typically, we would start exploring a city by walking around. But in Copenhagen, there is so much water that walking isn’t the best way to explore the city. Fortunately, there are lots of cheap and plentiful boat tours to take.
We recommend taking a 1-hour canal cruise that departs from Ved Stranden or Nyhavn. You can book this canal cruise for as cheap as USD 15,20. I have taken this boat tour before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The staff was always friendly, and my fellow passengers were mainly from Denmark. I always believe it is a good sign if locals participate in tourist activities. Following locals is one of the ways I differentiate between tourist traps and good-quality excursions.
During the tour, the boat takes you through, or close to, some of the highlights of Copenhagen. It will bring you close to the royal palaces, to the harbors, the old passenger terminal, and the exciting ‘hippie’ neighborhood of Christiana. You will also be able to observe the famous, but in my opinion, underwhelming, Little Mermaid statue. Luckily you will see her from the water, away from the crowds – which this website obviously likes.
Although there are multiple canal cruises to choose from, including a hidden gem or private tour, I recommend the standard 1-hour version. It isn’t just an economical option, I enjoyed it myself, and the reviews are also very good with 4.6/5 stars with well over 1,000 reviews.
The Copenhagen City Card
Like many touristic hotspots worldwide, Copenhagen offers a tourist-friendly City Card that includes many of the city’s activities, public transport, and restaurant discounts for a fixed price. The official card in the capital of Denmark is called the Copenhagen Card. These are the main things included in the card:
- Free admission to Tivoli Gardens, The Round Tower, Rosenborg Castle, Christianborg, Copenhagen Zoo, Danish Architecture Museum, Hans Christian Andersen Experience, and many more attractions.
- Public Transport
- Boat tours
- Children under the age of ten are free!
- Discounts on other tours such as hop on hop off buses and boats, Segway tours, and some restaurants (don’t do it for the restaurants).
The card works through an app that you can download for free. Once loaded with a valid ticket, the app serves as your public transport ticket and entrance ticket to all included activities and attractions. You can visit as many of these different attractions as you can fit within the time on your ticket. The Copenhagen Card is available for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 94 hours, or even up to 120 hours.
Whether the Copenhagen Card is worth it depends on the number of activities you plan to do. But imagine you want to use public transport and visit the Tivoli Gardens, a canal tour, the round tower and the Kronborg castle (outside Copenhagen). You will already have to pay 76 EUR. A 24-hour card will cost you 57 EUR to save 19 EUR. Of course, if you have a card for more than 24 hours, you will need to visit more highlights to make the card pay off.
The Tivoli Gardens is a unique amusement park situated in the middle of Copenhagen. The gardens opened almost 200 years ago in 1843 and are the third oldest still operating amusement park globally. Tivoli can easily be accessed from the city center by foot or metro.
The amusement park said to have inspired Walt Disney is a forever evolving feast of joy. Tivoli is home to thrill rides, children’s rides, an aquarium, and much more. While Tivoli is ranked as the fifth most visited theme park in Europe, it is remarkably cheaper to access than the other four parks, partially due to its modest size but mostly because you can get into the park on a ticket that doesn’t include rides. A general admission ticket costs about 20 USD, while a ticket that includes all rides goes for just under 40 USD.
While theme parks are arguably most enjoyable during warm weather days, Tivoli Gardens are open all year round. The gardens are decorated with beautiful nights in the winter and transformed into a winter wonderland. Although Tivoli has no skip-the-line or fast-track program, buying tickets in advance could save you time at the purchasing line.
Copenhagen Walking Tour
At Avoid-Crowds.com, we believe that walking is the best way to explore Copenhagen or any other city. The reason is simple: most, if not all, major activities in Copenhagen are within walking distance of each other. And what is better than a small, guided walking tour? Small groups always give more value for money while limiting your impact on the local community.
There are many walking tours to choose from in Copenhagen. Although you can find tours that last four to five hours, we believe that is a bit too much for some tourists. We, therefore, recommend going on a two-hour walking tour.
For example, this 2-hour walking tour, which costs about 40 USD per person, gives you a comprehensive overview of Copenhagen’. Which is ‘ideal for those who are short of time.’ Most two-hour walking tours will include Copenhagen’s most important historical sights and neighborhoods, including City Hall on the Rådhusplatsen, Christiansborg Palace, and Nyhavn.
Copenhagen castles and palaces
Although a democratic nation, Denmark still has a royal family, including a Queen as head of state. While the royal family holds no ‘de facto power,’ the city of Copenhagen is very much a royal city. As a result, there are many palaces to visit and crown jewels to fantasize about once you have returned home. All of the following castles can be seen in Copenhagen:
Built by King Christian IV early in the 17th century, Rosenborg Castle lies in the heart of Copenhagen. The palace/castle is home to ‘400 years of royal treasures, and the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia‘. If you want to see what the Danish royal family is all about, you should visit Rosenborg castle.
Christianborg is the seat of the Danish government and hosts the Prime Minister’s office, the Supreme Court, and some parts of the building are used by the royal family. While writing this, I realize this castle doesn’t perfectly represent Trias Politica in Denmark ;).
Tourists can join multiple tours at Christiansborg, including a tour that brings you to the ruins underneath the palace while another tour takes you into the royal reception rooms. The queen is still using these reception rooms for official occasions, during which you can not visit the castle.
Guarded by the Royal Life Guard, similar to the foot guards in London, Amalienborg is a significant palace, once again situated in the middle of Copenhagen. The castle is still in use by the Danish royal family and is also home to a large museum. In the museum, you can see the most recent private interiors of the royals and see some of the family’s treasures, such as ‘world-class jewelry. Amalienborg also hosts unique Russian Fabergé eggs in the Fabergé chamber.
Away from Copenhagen: Hamlet’s Kronborg castle, Frederiksborg
You can find a few other impressive castles outside Copenhagen with a long cultural history worth exploring. About 35 minutes away from Copenhagen, you can find the impressive Frederiksborg. The castle, built in the middle of a castle lake, is now home to a museum.
Meanwhile, a little bit more north, you can find Kronborg Castle. This castle has played a unique and vital role in Denmark’s history but was made legendary by no other than William Shakespeare. Known as Elsinore, it is the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
Copenhagen Culinary tours
Copenhagen is famous for its food. The city is home to the two best restaurants globally, and its unique Scandinavian kitchen is renowned. That is why all visitors should join a culinary tour through the city, for example, on this four-hour tour that combines tasting with the city’s best stories.
Tastings include ‘cheeses, meats, and famous open-faced sandwiches; wines, liqueurs, and spirits; and chocolates, toffees, and candies for those with a sweeter tooth. This food tour is an unmissable experience for foodies or Instagram storytellers.
Unique experience: Ski without snow -> Copenhill
One of the weirdest but most special activities that you can do in Copenhagen is to ski down from a huge power plant on the city’s outskirts. Named Copenhill, a large ski park has been built on the roof of this significant power plant. But although skiing might give you the impression the top is covered with snow, it isn’t. The roof is green. Nevertheless, you can ski down on environmentally friendly plastic. The slope’s length: 85 meters (278 feet).
Getting an entrance ticket costs about 58 USD, including rental gear and a lift pass.