Nestled along picturesque canals, Copenhagen is one of my favorite European cities – and it is so underrated! I think Copenhagen offers all the charm of Amsterdam, the delicious food of Paris, and the cleanliness of Stockholm but with a quarter of the crowds. This Danish gem captivates visitors with its vibrant cultural scene, mouthwatering culinary delights, and a rich tapestry of historical landmarks. I promise you will fall in love with it!
In this guide, I have curated the 15 absolute best things to see, eat, and do in Copenhagen, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this enchanting destination. From exploring iconic sites like the Nyhavn and Rosenborg Palace to indulging in Nordic gastronomic wonders, this is the ultimate guide to seeing the very best of Copenhagen.
15 Best Things to See, Eat and Do in Copenhagen
Best Castles & Palaces in Copenhagen
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.
To enter the castle, you should buy tickets 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.
The imposing Christiansborg Palace is home to 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.
Amalienborg Palace serves as the official residence of the Danish royal family. Amalienborg consists of four identical palaces that surround an octagonal courtyard. 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 honestly. The royal guards, dressed in their distinctive uniforms, carry out this traditional and precise ceremony with great pomp and precision.
Unique Copenhagen Experiences
Tivoli Gardens is one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, and it actually inspired Disneyland. 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. 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.
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. I strongly recommend going at night if you can, because thousands of lights turn on to create a fairytale-like atmosphere. Sometimes, they will shoot off fireworks around 10pm!
Freetown 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. 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.
Reffen Street Food 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.
Active Copenhagen Activities
Harbor Boat Ride
The harbor in Copenhagen is undergoing rapid change, from an industrial harbor to recreational space, so now is a great time to experience the canals and harbor. There are a number of canal and harbor tours in Copenhagen, but I think the best provided is Hey Captain. We did the 2-hour Hidden Gems tour. This tour highlights locally beloved (i.e. off-the-beaten track) spots. 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.
DIY Bike Tour
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 guided experience, 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.
Wander King’s Garden Park
Adjacent to Rosenborg Castle is the King's Garden, a meticulously manicured and picturesque park. The garden features well-kept lawns, tree-lined avenues, colorful flowerbeds, and peaceful pathways. Pick up some picnic supplies at the nearby TorvehallerneKBH food hall to bring with for a low-key and memorable afternoon in the park. Stop at the Hans Christian Anderson statue in the King’s Garden to pay homage to Denmark's beloved literary hero.
Popular Attractions in Copenhagen
Located in the heart of the city, Nyhavn is the iconic waterfront district that adorns nearly EVERY travel book or blog post about Copenhagen. The most striking feature of Nyhavn is its colorful row of 17th-century townhouses that line the waterfront in an array of vibrant hues. 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 or two to grab a coffee or souvenir, but I wouldn’t recommend hanging out in this area too long.
Kastellet & Little Mermaid
This might be a hot take but I don’t think the Little Mermaid statue is worth visiting. I find it was one of those classic Instagram vs. reality moments. Just look at the picture below! Massive bus loads of tour groups come to the statue to take a picture, and there is almost nothing else to do around here. It is WAY too crowded and the statue itself is actually pretty small.
If you must visit the Little Mermaid as part of your Copenhagen bucket list, at least spend some time exploring the far more interesting Kastellet. This well-preserved star-shaped fortress was constructed in the 17th century as part of King Christian IV's ambitious defensive strategy. Kastellet boasts a unique and symmetrical design, complete with earthwork ramparts and a surrounding moat. Nowadays, it is a serene waterfront park with immaculately maintained grounds, tree-lined avenues, and a historic windmill.
One of the most recognizable buildings in Copenhagen’s Old Town is Frederik's Church. 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.
Often referred to as "The Marble Church'' due to its neoclassical design and use of marble in its construction, the exterior is constructed primarily from Norwegian and Danish marble. 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.
Foodie Copenhagen Experiences
Scandinavian countries like Norway, 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 Nordic languages have a special word for taking a coffee break—Fika. As such, no trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a visit to a quality coffee shop! I summarize my favorite coffee shops in Copenhagen here.
In case you aren’t familiar, Smørrebrød is the iconic traditional open-faced sandwich from Copenhagen. They are a must-try dish for any foodie visiting Denmark’s capital city. The name "Smørrebrød" literally translates to "buttered bread," and the combination of flavors and textures in these meticulously crafted sandwiches reflects the rich culinary heritage of Denmark.
Locally beloved, Smørrebrød consists of a slice of dense, dark rye bread as the base, generously topped with an array of ingredients that can range from herring, cold cuts, or seafood to vibrant and fresh garnishes like pickles, herbs, and eggs. A few of the best places to sample Smørrebrød in Copenhagen are:
- Selma ($$$): Michelin Bib Gourmand award for meticulous, precise, and high-quality ingredients
- Meyers i Tårnet ($$): Stunning views, delicious food, and a traditional experience
- Rørt ($): seasonally inspired, approachable Smørrebrød with vegan & vegetarian options available.
Michelin Star Dining
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, Copenhagen has world-class cuisine—it is home to 26 Michelin stars! It would be a shame not to indulge in a fancy dinner at least once during your 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.
Do you have thoughts or questions about visiting Copenhagen? Tell me in the comments below!
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