Copenhagen is one of Northern Europe’s most charming cities, overflowing with history, culture, and sights. It’s easy to fill many days here, strolling in the photogenic canal district of Nyhavn, around Kongens Nytorv (The King’s New Square), and through myriad museums and elegant palaces.
The city’s dynamic design and culinary scenes draw visitors, too. Galleries, furniture stores, and chic boutiques abound, as do superb restaurants and cafés to cosy up in during the cold winter months.
Whether it’s your first trip to the Danish capital (in which case you will probably visit the most emblematic sites, and maybe snag a coveted dining reservation) or you’re a return visitor seeking out more unique experiences, these are the best sights and activities in Copenhagen.
The best things to do in Copenhagen
1. Stroll around Nyhavn
There’s a reason 17th-century Nyhavn appears on so many postcards and travel brochures — one of the most beautiful places in Europe, this picture-perfect waterfront district runs from Kongens Nytorv to the harbour and is framed by colourful townhouses and boats bobbing in the canals.
2. Ride a Nordic seaplane
It’s always a special experience to get a birds-eye view of a new city, especially one as lovely as Copenhagen. Cecilia Fonden, a concierge at d’Angleterre, a member of Leading Hotels of the World, suggests taking a Nordic seaplane as a method of sightseeing. “It flies just high enough so you can clearly see streets, canals, ships, coastlines, and iconic buildings.”
3. Visit CopenHill
Leave it to the Danes to construct a recreation area atop an active clean energy power plant. CopenHill welcomes visitors for skiing in the winter and hiking during the warmer months.
4. Explore Rosenborg Castle
Originally built as a summer country home, the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle houses sparkling crown jewels and other royal relics. Surrounding the stately structure are famously picturesque gardens.
5. Visit Kongens Have (The King’s Garden)
Copenhagen is famous for its beautiful parks and public gardens. Topping the list of must-see green spaces, Kongens Have (The King’s Garden) is Denmark’s oldest royal garden and a centrepiece of the Rosenborg Castle complex. Fonden recommends bringing a blanket and enjoying a quiet moment under a tree in the heart of the vibrant city.
6. Tivoli Gardens
Fun for all ages, the legendary Tivoli Gardens is a historic and beloved amusement park with thrilling rides — including one of the oldest operating wooden roller coasters — entertainment, shops, restaurants, and seasonal events, from summer concerts to a Christmas market.
7. Take a food tour
“Do your tastebuds a favour and go for a gastronomic tasting crawl with Foods of Copenhagen,” Fonden said. This is a great way to discover hidden pearls of the Nordic culinary capital’s extraordinary epicurean scene.
8. Eat in Reffen
Hungry for more? Head to Reffen, the largest street food venue in the Nordic countries. The street boasts a variety of global stalls that serve everything from Afgan lamb kebabs to New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp. It also has bars and boutiques and hosts special events like concerts.
9. Harbour Baths
“Copenhagen is surrounded by water so clean locals and visitors jump in to cool down on summer days. Some harbour baths (recreational bathing facilities) have platforms to jump from, others have pools for small children, and they all have lifeguards,” Fonden said.
10. Amalienborg Palace
Located in Frederiksstaden, Amalienborg Palace is the official residence of the Danish royal family (Queen Margrethe ll still resides there in fall and winter) and it also has a museum that gives tourists a front-row seat to many interesting aspects of the monarchy. Don’t miss the changing of the guards at noon.
11. Take a canal boat tour
One of the best ways for visitors to see the city may be via a Hey Captain Boat, which takes passengers through all the canals of Copenhagen. “The storytelling and scenery are magical. It’s just like being in a Hans-Christian Andersen fairytale,” Fonden said.
12. Rent a GoBoat
Prefer to captain a vessel yourself? Rent a Danish-designed, solar-powered GoBoat and cruise along the waterways for a few hours. Pack a picnic with local food and beverages to really elevate the experience.
13. La Banchina
A popular and oh-so-Copenhagen establishment, La Banchina is a walk-in restaurant and wine bar. It also happens to have a harbour dock for a refreshing dip and an onsite sauna.
14. Book a treatment at Amazing Space
What’s trip to Copenhagen without a little R&R? Below d’Angleterre, weary travellers will find a sanctuary of well-being called Amazing Space. The award-winning spa offers the only indoor pool in the downtown area, plus a steam bath, sauna, and Nordic treatments.
15. National Museum of Denmark
Located in the city centre near many other must-see attractions, the National Museum of Denmark is a treasure trove of Danish culture and history. It’s also home to interesting global exhibits that include African masks and Egyptian tombs. There’s an excellent onsite restaurant, too.
16. Shop in Strøget
The perfect place to stroll (and spend money), Strøget is Copenhagen’s famous shopping area and one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe. Expect upscale boutiques, plus cafés ideal for taking a break from your retail therapy adventures.
17. Copenhagen Zoo
Planning a family vacation to the Danish capital? Visit the 11-hectare (nearly 30 acres) Copenhagen Zoo to see more than 4,000 animals from all over the world — including giant pandas, hippopotamuses, elephants, and polar bears.
18. National Aquarium Denmark
Whether you’re travelling with kids or just enjoy seeing colourful marine life up close, the National Aquarium Denmark will surely wow you. Northern Europe’s largest aquarium is home to thousands of fish and sea creatures, from sturgeon that live in Danish lakes to South American electric eels.
19. Visit Christiansborg Palace
The awe-inspiring Christiansborg Palace on the islet of Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen traces its roots back 800 years. It currently functions as the seat of the Danish Parliament, the Danish Prime Minister’s Office, and the Supreme Court of Denmark.
Denmark has many iconic buildings, and Rundetårn, built by King Christian IV, is certainly one of them. Besides admiring the architecture, visitors can climb to the tower observatory for incredible views of the city.
(Hero and feature image credit: Lingxiao Xie/Getty Images)
This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com