Copenhagen has been on my travel bucket list for a long time. This city has everything I like—bicycles, amazing food, urban scenery—on top of the fact that Denmark is regularly ranked the happiest country in the world! Naturally when my husband and I decided do a holiday trip to Helsinki, I wanted to squeeze in a stopover in Copenhagen.
We only had two days in Denmark’s capital city, so we packed our itinerary full of activities, sightseeing, and of course, food adventures. You’ll notice that the informal theme of this guide is food. Copenhagen has the best culinary scene in Scandinavia and arguably one of the best in all of Europe, so our top priority was squeezing in as many delicious meals as we could in just 48 hours. When we weren’t busy stuffing our faces, we were delighted to explore many of the other interesting things to do in Copenhagen!
Here is how I would recommend structuring a 48 hour itinerary in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Morning: Coffee Culture
Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark are among the highest coffee consuming countries in the world (a lack of sunshine will do that to you!). In fact, most of the Scandinavian and Nordic languages have a special word for taking coffee break—Fika. As such, no trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a visit to a quality coffee shop!
There are a variety of good cafes to choose from in Copenhagen, and most will have a small bakery included. This makes for a low key and delicious way to begin your first day in Denmark’s capital city! European Coffee Trip wrote a great list of all the best coffee shops and cafes to try while in Copenhagen, which we worked off to this for local suggestions. We LOVED the espresso at Copenhagen Coffee Lab and the lattes at Coffee Collective were divine.
Afternoon: Sightseeing Around Historic Copenhagen
Once you’re sufficiently caffeinated, it’s time to get acquainted with the city’s most important monuments and buildings. If you’re used to an urban cycling environment, then a bicycle tour of Copenhagen is the way to go. Bicycles are a cheap and flexible way to explore the city center and as a bicyclist myself, I was drawn to a cycling tour. Copenhagen has excellent bicycle infrastructure and flat topography. It is also blessed with a temperate climate all year round so you’ll see locals riding their bicycles nearly 365 days a year! There are public bike rentals on the street or if you prefer a guide, there are lots of companies offering accompanied tours. If you go without a guide, it’s no problem as most of the sights are self-explanatory. If you’re not a big rider, no problem—check out one of the canal tours to see Copenhagen from the water!
Regardless of which mode of transportation you elect, here are a few of my tour highlights and recommendations for what to see in central Copenhagen during your 48 hour itinerary:
- City Hall Square (Major central market square)
- Christiansborg Palace (Denmark’s seat of parliament)
- The Tower at Christiansborg (Amazing views of Copenhagen and even Sweden!)
- Amalienborg Palace (Home to the Danish Royal Family)
- Changing of the guards (Daily at Amalienborg Palace at noon)
- Rosenburg Castle (Dutch Renaissance palace & gardens)
- Kastellet (Star-shaped 17th-century fortress)
- Frederik’s Church (18th-century Lutheran church with the largest dome in Scandinavia)
Evening: Tivoli Gardens and Dinner in the City Center
Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and it actually inspired Disneyland! I’m not normally one for “touristy” sights like an amusement park, but on nearly every guide or recommendation for Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens kept popping up as a must-do activity.I decided to give Tivoli Gardens a go and I’m happy to say that it was worth it —our visit to Tivoli was one of my favorite nights of our trip! It is a surprising fun way to spend time during your 2 days in Copenhagen!
Located in the city center, Tivoli Gardens is easy to access via public transportation and is best seen at night when thousands of lights turn on to create a fairytale-like atmosphere. We were lucky to be in Copenhagen during the holiday season, which only added to the magic in the air. There are amusement rides, small shops, and food stalls inside the park, or you can just wander around to enjoy the ambiance. On weekend nights, they will shoot off fireworks around 10pm.
I honestly thought it would be kitschy, but I was surprised to find a high number of Danes enjoying their evening at Tivoli just as much as we were! There are lots of high-quality restaurant options located in and around the park so you can make it a full date night. We tried the swanky French cafe Nimb Brasserie as well as the edgy foodie haven Uformel.
Morning: Traditional Danish Brunch
Like so many other foodie cities of the world, brunch is a key meal in the life of Copenhagen’s locals. Sundays are the most popular days for brunch, and you’ll find that it is quite a leisurely experience. A traditional Danish breakfast will include rye bread, cheese and seafood of some variety like salmon or shrimp with a sticky sweet pastry on the side.
There are plenty of good options for traditional and non-traditional brunch around the city. Use this meal as an excuse to explore some of the neighborhoods outside the city center! Mad & Kaffe in Vesterbro is one of the more well-known spots or try Wulff & Konstali for freshly baked breads and cakes.
Afternoon: Explore the Freetown of Christiania
For a more nuanced understanding of Copenhagen, a visit to the hippy district of Christiania is a must-see. As a street art lover, I was really looking forward to wandering around this corner of Copenhagen during our 48 hours in the city. Much to the disagreement of locals at the time, the Freetown of Christiania was founded in 1971 by a group of squatters who wanted to create an autonomous hippy community. Christiania is currently home to about 1,000 residents and is ground zero for alternative living in Copenhagen.
We stayed at an AirBnb just around the corner for Christiania, so naturally we wandered over after our morning brunch to check out some of the tips from Culture Trip of what to see and do in Christiania. I was charmed by the colorful street art, hovel homes, and cozy cafes of this hippy neighborhood. If the weather is nice, take your chai latte from Månefiskeren to go so you can enjoy the view over the little lake to the east of the neighborhood. Christiania also has a “green light district” along Pusher Street where you can openly purchase soft drugs like marijuana openly. No photos are allowed there, so be careful before entering the street or you may have your camera confiscated.
Evening: Michelin Star Dining
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, Copenhagen has world-class cuisine—it is home to 18 Michelin stars! In fact in 2010-2012 and 2014, Copenhagen’s Noma was ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant magazine. That is quite an accolade! You can see a full list of the Michelin restaurants here. It would be a shame not to indulge in a fancy dinner at least once during your 48 hour visit to Copenhagen.
Personally, I was all too excited to drop some serious Krone on a Michelin-star meal! We ate at Kiin Kiin which is the only Thai restaurant to have a Michelin outside of Thailand. Female chef Dak Laddaporn loves to play with temperatures, so expect a few surprises like liquid nitrogen frozen red curry or chicken satay with a peanut ice cream sauce. Once you’re sufficiently stuffed with amazing food, head out to enjoy Copenhagen’s nightlife scene. The city center has plenty of bars and clubs open until the wee morning hours. Cocktail bars are on the rise in Copenhagen, making trendy places like Ruby, Bar 7, and 1105 worthy stops for a boozy last evening in the city.
This post was originally published in January 2018 and updated in January 2020.