Copenhagen was on my travel bucket list for a longggg time. It 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! My husband Sam and I squeezed in a Copenhagen stopover on our way to Finland in 2018, and we returned this fall after traveling in Norway. Plus, I lead trips to Scandinavia as part of my work as a trip leader!
With lots of experience in Copenhagen, I have curated the ideal 48-hour itinerary for first-timers. This well-organized 2 day travel guide promises to unveil the best of Copenhagen's magic, leaving you with cherished memories of a weekend well spent in this captivating city.
Exploring Copenhagen in just 48 hours may seem like a whirlwind, but this Scandinavia gem offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and culinary delights that can be savored in a weekend getaway. Whether you're captivated by the whimsical allure of Tivoli Gardens, eager to delve into royal history at Rosenborg Palace, or craving a taste of the city's delectable culinary scene, this itinerary promises an unforgettable two-day adventure.
The Perfect 48 Hour Itinerary in Copenhagen
Morning: Nyhavn & Surroundings
Located in the heart of the city, Nyhavn is a picturesque and iconic waterfront district that nearly every traveler visits on their first time in Copenhagen. The most striking feature of Nyhavn is its colorful row of 17th-century townhouses that line the waterfront. These buildings, painted in an array of vibrant hues, show up on the cover of like EVERY travel book or blog post about Copenhagen.
The bustling waterfront promenade is the heart of Nyhavn's activity, and I’m going to be honest – it’s pretty touristy. Pop into a cafe to grab a coffee or souvenir, but then start making your way north to sightsee around the historic city center.
Nearby to Nyhavn, Frederik's Church is a magnificent architectural gem. The church's most striking feature is its immense copper dome, one of the largest church domes in Europe. The dome's neoclassical design, inspired by the iconic St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, gives the church an imposing and regal presence. The interior of Frederik's Church is equally impressive, featuring a spacious, light-filled interior adorned with beautiful frescoes, intricate stucco decorations, and a sense of symmetry and balance characteristic of neoclassical design.
Your final stop on your morning sightseeing tour is Amalienborg Palace. This magnificent palace complex serves as the official residence of the Danish royal family. Amalienborg consists of four identical palaces that surround an octagonal courtyard. The palaces are known for their elegant and harmonious neoclassical design, characterized by symmetric facades, grand columns, and intricately adorned interiors.
You can tell if the royals are in town if there are flags flying above the buildings. The current queen’s residence is clearly recognizable because it has an extra chimney at the top. Despite her old age, she smokes 2 packs of cigarettes per day!
Amalienborg is busiest around noon, when there is a daily changing of the guard ceremony. It is held in the courtyard of Amalienborg, and free for the public to watch. This is a popular attraction for visitors, although it is not all that exciting. The royal guards, dressed in their distinctive uniforms, carry out this traditional and precise ceremony with great pomp and precision.
Early Afternoon: Harbor Tour by Boat
See Copenhagen from the water! The sea is an important part of life for Danish people, which totally makes sense when you consider that the entire country is a massive peninsula and series of islands. You’re never far from the water! The harbor in Copenhagen is undergoing rapid change, from an industrial harbor to recreational spaces. Now is a great time to get up-close-and-personal with Copenhagen’s seafaring history and modern life. There are a number of canal and harbor tours in Copenhagen, but I think the best one is Hey Captain.
Hey Captain offers what they call “social sailing”, where the guests and tour guide all interact in a casual and friendly way. It has such a nice vibe! We did the 2-hour Hidden Gems tour. This tour highlights locally beloved (i.e. off-the-beaten track) spots. You’ll explore up-and-coming areas away from the inner part of the city. I especially liked seeing the unique aspects of Copenhagen’s architectural movement, such as cutting-edge floating homes, refurbished industrial buildings and hyper-modern structures. We had a stop in the middle of the tour at an abandoned fort in the harbor, which was a total surprise!
Late Afternoon: Christiansborg Area
The imposing Christiansborg Palace serves as the home of the Danish Parliament, the Prime Minister's Office, and the Supreme Court. It combines political importance, historical significance, and architectural splendor. Considered an architectural masterpiece, the palace has a combination of various architectural styles, such as neoclassical, baroque, and rococo architecture. One of the most iconic features of Christiansborg is its tower, which rises high above the city. Visitors can ascend the tower to enjoy panoramic views of Copenhagen.
From here, I would recommend wandering along the small canal, because there are some really picturesque views around this area. Make your way towards Strøget, one of the main shopping streets in Copenhagen. There are lots of cute alleys and side streets around here, lined with any number of adorable cafes and quirky shops. This is a fun part of the city to simply wander, explore and get a little bit lost. End your walk near Copenhagen’s city hall. With its striking red-brick exterior and distinctive clock tower, it sits on a massive public square with great public transit options.
Evening: Reffen Food Truck Park
A distinctly Copenhagen vibe, Reffen Street Food park is a redevelopment project in a revitalizing area of the industrial harbor. Housed within upcycled shipping containers, Reffen is one of those see-and-be-seen kinds of places. It has a cool vibe and even cooler restaurants with a broad diverse assortment of global flavors. Not only is Reffen an affordable place to eat (with mains starting at 70 DKK) but the food is mouthwatering. Whether you're craving Indian or Mexican cuisine, you'll find it here. As the night goes on, it shifts into a clubby vibe with live music and cool lighting.
Morning: Rosenborg Castle & King’s Garden
Rosenborg Castle, a magnificent Renaissance-style palace located in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark, is a living testament to the country's royal heritage. Built in the early 17th century by King Christian IV, the palace is beautiful from the outside. If you don’t have time (or an interest) to go inside, seeing the exterior is still worth it. Rosenborg Castle boasts a stunning copper roof and intricate spires, set in a peaceful rose garden in the heart of Copenhagen.
Open daily, you should buy tickets to go inside ahead of time. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself waiting in a massive line. The ticket will come with a scheduled time to go inside the castle. Once inside, visitors can explore the opulent rooms and chambers of the castle. Each room is dedicated to the stylings of a different member of the Danish royals, giving it this unique aesthetic that progresses through the decades and centuries. Don’t miss the Danish Crown Jewels exhibit. It is down in the basement, but wow. The collection is super impressive, including some massive gemstones, crowns and regalia.
Adjacent to the castle is the King's Garden, a meticulously manicured and picturesque park that serves as an ideal complement to Rosenborg Castle's grandeur. The garden features well-kept lawns, tree-lined avenues, colorful flowerbeds, and peaceful pathways. Skip the Little Mermaid Statue – it is WAY too crowded and actually pretty small. Opt instead for a stop at the Hans Christian Anderson statue in the King’s Garden. It is far more peaceful and still dedicated to the man who created the famous story.
Early Afternoon: Torvehallerne
Not far from Rosenborg Castle is Copenhagen’s best food hall – Torvehallerne. This is SUCH a great place to stop for lunch. Covering an area of over 700 m², TorvehallerneKBH is an upscale food hall with food ranging from baked goods to seafood. With its two large steel and glass halls, each side of the market specializes in something different connected by a large patio in between.
I recommend following your nose or looking for lines of locals. This is how you find the best stalls in the market! A few places I can recommend:
- Albatross & Venner: is a bakery with a penchant for using modern techniques to reinvent classic breads and pastries. Savory pastries are the focus.
- Coffee Collective: meticulously sourced and expertly roasted coffee. Their pour-over coffee, prepared with precision, is the shining star.
- Exotic Mix: sample the beloved local licorice sweets. Great selection of dried fruits & nuts as well.
- Rørt: seasonally inspired, approachable Smørrebrød. Vegan & vegetarian options available.
Late Afternoon: Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and it actually inspired Disneyland. I’m not normally one for amusement parks, 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 wow – I’m happy to say that I LOVED IT!
Located in the city center, Tivoli Gardens is easy to access via public transportation. You’ll find amusement rides, small shops, and food stalls inside the park. There are two types of tickets for Tivoli Gardens – an entry pass or entry + rides pass. If you plan on riding even three rides, opt for the entry + rides pass, since it gives you unlimited rides.
There are certain days when the park is open at night. If you happen to be in Copenhagen during these days, I strongly recommend going at night because 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. Sometimes on weekend nights, they will shoot off fireworks around 10pm!
The entire vintage aesthetic of the park is curated in this turn-of-the-century mixed with atomic age style. I’m obsessed! Everything was a blast of nostalgia. I haven't rode a rollercoaster in ages, which was a blast. I was laughing the whole time! I also tried out the high swings and bumper cars.
Evening: Michelin Star Dinner
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, Copenhagen has world-class cuisine—it is home to 26 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! 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!
On my first trip to Copenhagen, we ate at Kiin Kiin. 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. Another great choice is Restaurant Jordnær. It was the most special meal of our recent trip to Copenhagen. Seafood is the true star of the show as the set menu features an array of bold, creative and stunningly plated fish and shellfish dishes.
Bonus Day 3
If you’ve got some extra time, I can recommend checking out the hippy district of Christiania. Christiania is a former military base that sat abandoned for many years until 1971, when a group of squatters established an autonomous, anarchist community. Nowadays, Christiania is currently home to about 1,000 residents and is ground zero for alternative living in Copenhagen.
I was charmed by the colorful street art, hovel homes, and cozy cafes of this hippy neighborhood. If the weather is nice, grab a chai latte from Månefiskeren to go so you can enjoy the view over the water on the east of the neighborhood. Christiania is probably most famous for its “Green Light District” along Pusher Street, where you can openly buy and consume cannabis. No photos are allowed there, so be careful before entering the street or you may have your camera confiscated.
How to Get Around in Copenhagen
In my opinion, the best way to explore Copenhagen is by bicycle. This probably isn’t a surprise to long-time readers – I love riding bicycles when I travel. Thankfully, Copenhagen is one of the most bikeable cities in the world. 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!
Bicycles are a cheap and flexible way to explore. There are public bike rentals on the street through companies like Donkey Republic. If you prefer a guide, I strongly recommend going on a bike tour with Bike with Mike. He offers customizable private tours or daily public tours, which will take you to Copenhagen’s major highlights.
Where to Eat in Copenhagen
Often rated as one of the top foodie destinations in Europe, Copenhagen has an abundance of dining experiences like no other. Our top priority was squeezing in as many delicious meals as we could in just 48 hours. From delectable breakfast and coffee spots for a delicious Fika to vibrant lunch and street food markets where a myriad of global flavors await, Copenhagen promises to be a food lover's haven. Copenhagen is one of those destinations where you could spend an entire day eating and still not be satisfied. There are just SO many fantastic restaurants in Copenhagen.
Do you have thoughts or questions about this Copenhagen travel guide? Tell me in the comments!
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