My first visit to Copenhagen was an impromptu one. A quick tw0-night stopover on my way between Oslo and Stockholm left me wanting more. Since that visit, I said I would return to Copenhagen and do Denmark right. Fast forward a decade and I am still saying this.
I did, however, recently return to Denmark for a quick 3 days in Copenhagen. Although another short visit, it proved to be enough time to see its highlights, taste its delicacies, and drink its very drinkable beer. Paired with a Copenhagen Card I was able to cover this city tip-to-tip and am here to share why it makes for a perfect short escape.
With that in mind, here is what you can cover with three days in Copenhagen including what to see, do, and eat.
What Is There to See in Copenhagen?
Once overrun with brothels and drunken sailors, this colourful row of houses has become the iconic image of Copenhagen. Although today it is overrun with tourists, its charm and character cannot be missed.
There is no better way to experience the laid back hygge lifestyle the Danes are known for than sitting patio side with a pint of Carlsberg and enjoying life in Nyhavn go by. Once done be sure to check out the buildings where Hans Christian Anderson lived and wrote such children’s classics as “The Princess and the Pea.” From there it is a short canal-side stroll or bike ride to The Bridge Street Kitchen, a collection of street food vendors serving up some of the best eats in the city.
READ MORE: A Photo Walk Around Bergen, Norway
A society within a society, Freetown Christiania is truly a unique area of Copenhagen. There are no cars allowed and residents abide by their own rules. Stealing, guns, and violence are forbidden and, although technically not legal, the use of cannabis is widely accepted. Hard drugs are not.
This divide has caused some issues in the past with gang members moving in and police cracking down. Because of this, photographs of the area are not allowed, especially on the drug peddling Pusher Street.
But don’t just take my word for it:
For your own safety, visitors are advised not to film nor photograph in Christiania, especially not in the area in and around Pusher Street, mainly due to the hash dealing, which is illegal in Denmark. At the entrance you will find signs indicating ‘do’s and don’ts’ in the area. We advise you to take them seriously and follow them for your own safety.
Don’t let this warning scare you, a stroll through Freetown Christiania is a must-do when spending 3 days in Copenhagen. It attracts over half a million visitors a year for its free-living ways, organic eateries, and yoga-loving lifestyle.
Denmark’s home to the royal family, Amalienborg is a city highlight for me for a couple reasons. One, its four palace architecture is stunning. The octagonal courtyard separating the palaces are open to visitors and is a fun tour past by bike. Smack dab in the middle you will find an equestrian statue of King Frederick V, founder of Amalienborg.
Second, the changing of the guard at noon is worth taking in. Similar in dress to the British Army, Denmark’s Royal Guard stands out front of the palaces with a parade like change at noon.
If you miss the guards marching in their fuzzy hats, fret not. post replacements happen every 2-hours.
Those interested in the history of Denmark’s royal family or want a peek inside the grand palaces should check out the Musée Amalienborg.
Copenhagen is a lot of things, however, more than anything else I would say it is green. There is no shortage of parks and green spaces in the city and that’s how the Danes like it. So much so that in 2015 the city declared that all of its residences must be within a 15-minute walk to a park or beach.
That is commitment.
The King’s Garden is the most visited and oldest of all of Copenhagen’s parks. It is well-loved by locals and makes for a beautiful stroll at sunset.
City Hall Square
Overlooking nearby Tivoli you will find Copenhagen’s impressive city hall. Visitors can climb the clock tower or take in special events held in its massive square. Be sure to visit the iconic statue of Hans Christian Andersen looking at Tivoli before hopping on the famous Strøget shopping street.
Strøget shopping street
Known as one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets, Strøget is an interesting mix of restaurants, shops, and expensive name brands. It runs 1,1-kilometre from City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv square and makes for a great way to cross the city core on foot.
What Is There to Do in Copenhagen?
Rent a Bike
There is no better way to see all of the above in Copenhagen than by bicycle. After all, Copenhagen is considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. So do as the Danes do. Hop on two wheels and cruise the town.
Although there is no shortage of bike rental options, (including bike share programs) through Foods of Copenhagen Culinary Bike Tour we rented through Københavns Cykelbørs and can highly recommend them!
Climb the Round Tower
Copenhagen a few towers for you to climb, however, Rundetaarn (Round Tower) is my favourite. As the name suggests, this round tower is unique in that there is no staircase, rather a ramp circling its way up to the observation deck.
Constructed in the 17th century as an astronomical observatory, today it offers guests a beautiful 360° view of Copenhagen with an easy and fun climb up to it.
Cruise the Canals
Copenhagen’s city centre is carefully dissected into several waterways and travelling on them offers a completely different perspective of the city. Iconic city highlights such as The Copenhagen Opera House, the Black Diamond Library, and the Little Mermaid statue can be viewed from the water from one of several different tour companies.
This is probably my biggest tip to share from my 3 days in Copenhagen – skip the big boats leaving Nyhavn and sail with Hey Captain!
This small-group tour of the Canals is soooo much better than the bus-like boat tours leaving from nearby Nyhaven. For one, you are not jammed in like sardines and fed a recorded canned tour. Nope. Hey Captain! has roomy boats with your very own captain/knowledgeable local ready to answer your most inquisitive questions about the city and Danish life.
Second, and more importantly, booze is included in the tour.
So take it from me, someone who unfortunately did the sardine tour 10 years ago, Hey Captain is great and can’t recommend them enough!
Before there was Disneyland or Universal Studios, there was Tivoli Gardens. This historic amusement park has been entertaining children of all ages for over 175 years and is said to have inspired the likes of Hans Christian Andersen and Disney himself.
Inside the gates, you will find beautiful gardens and nostalgic rides including a roller coaster with a brakesman on board!
Carlsberg and the Catacombs
The Carlsberg brewery is located on the outskirts of the city and is well worth the minimal effort it takes to get out there. The brewery is well connected (Get off at the Carlsberg stop on the B line!) and rewards visitors with a taste of Carlsberg through the ages. Enjoy a horse carriage ride, marvel at the Guinness Wolrd Record collection of unopened beer bottles, or just kick back with a cold Carlsberg straight from the source.
READ MORE: Tips on Visiting Carlsberg Brewery
After your tour wander (stumble) your way over to nearby Søndermarken park and visit the eerie Cisternerne. Once home to 16-million litres of drinking water, today it houses art exhibits in the coolest way possible, literally.
What Should I Eat & Drink in Copenhagen?
As noted in my write up on my time with Foods of Copenhagen culinary bike tour, Copenhagen is at the forefront of New Nordic Cuisine. With that comes plenty of must-try dishes and treats. Here are a few of my favourites:
You would be hard-pressed to find a sexier looking open-faced sandwich than Copenhagen’s smørrebrøds. Although they can be found at any local restaurant serving up New Nordic Cuisine, the aptly named Hallernes Smørrebrød located in the Torvehallerne Market is a favourite. Based on the long lines, I am not alone in this thought.
Smørrebrød serves up these traditional sandwiches with a local twist in a variety of flavours. I tried salmon with pomegranate, shrimp and egg, and fried whitefish during my 3 days in Copenhagen – all amazing which makes me think you can’t go wrong.
Leave it to the Danes to take everyday boring oatmeal and turn it into something unique and special. Much like Smørrebrød the eatery, the aptly named Grød cerates creative porridge dishes worthy of seconds. Their menu offers both savoury and sweet variations with the most awesome toppings possible. We’re talking Icelandic yoghurt, freeze-dried raspberries, and local rhubarb compote. My sample was a curry styled porridge with salted almonds, cherry tomatoes, and fresh cilantro.
Before my 3 days in Copenhagen, I crowned Iceland the hot dog king. Now I say, move over Reykjavik. Hot Dogs in Copenhagen are elevated with a plethora of toppings and sauces making for unique combinations at each visit. My favourite stop is DØP. Located next to the Round Tower on Købmagergade pedestrian street, this popular hot dog stand is often called the best in the world for its organic goods. Don’t forget the crispy onions!
Eat Artisinal Ice Cream
For a New Nordic Cuisine twist on ice cream head to Wintersping. There you will find creative sorbet and ice cream dishes carefully constructed by barista-like chefs. All ingredients are local and fresh making for some of the most interesting ice cream creations you will ever taste.
Thirsty yet? Carlsberg has you covered. Denmark’s favourite beer can be found at any street-side patio or pub and pairs well with any of the above dishes. I also recommend sampling it straight from the source at the Carlsberg brewery!
Copenhagen’s beer scene goes far beyond Carlsberg. No better example of this is the world-renowned Mikkeller micro-brewery. What started as a high-school teacher and his journalist friend experimenting with homebrew has blossomed into locations around the world serving up experimental beers that continue to question the norm. The result is some seriously tasty beer.
Located in Vesterbro, Mikkeller Bar is a hip brewery offering up sample sized pints so you can taste the complete menu. On my visit, I met fellow Canadian making his way through the list only with full-sized pints. Hats off to that.
Where Should I Stay in Copenhagen?
Copenhagen is by no means cheap when it comes to accommodations. Even less so during my three days in Copenhagen as the city was hosting the World Cup of Hockey. This lead me to the Steelhouse Luxury Hostel and the last dorm room I will ever book. This is by no means the hostel’s fault, just a combination of a lack of sleep and the realization that my dorm days are over.
I checked into this modern hostel sleepy-eyed and ready to crash only to find my assigned bunk already taken. Instead of dealing with it I upgraded to a very pricey private room. It turned out to be the perfect place to call home for my 3-day visit.
Located in the Vesterbro area, the Steelhouse is situated in Copenhagen’s trendiest area and with a train station and metro line blocks away it is also well connected.
Although small, rooms are modern and cosy. The hostel also has plenty of non-traditional amenities to enjoy such as a gym, pool, bar, and even a movie theatre! Your father’s hostel, this isn’t.
Three Days in Copenhagen?
As you can see, you can cover a lot of ground with just 3 days in Copenhagen. From cruising the canals to biking its bikeable streets and eating its delicious New Nordic Cuisine eats, Copenhagen has plenty to see, do, and eat.
Could you spend more time there? Absolutely! I plan to, once again, return and do Denmark proper. If you’re pressed for time or are lucky enough to be close by for a weekend escape, 3 days in Copenhagen is plenty of time to experience a little hygge for yourself!
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My 3 days in Copenhagen was made possible in part by Visit Copenhagen.
As always, the experience, opinions, and hygge fun are my own.