Copenhagen was a city which promised much, but failed to deliver on a number of accounts. HOWEVER. Many other people have been to the city and had a fab time, so just because we didn’t love it doesn’t mean you can’t visit and form your own opinions. Here’s how to get the most out of 48(ish) hours in this Scandinavian capital city.
Take a boat tour
One of the best ways to see Copenhagen is from the water. Jump on one of the tours from Nyhavn or Holmenskirke, and spend an hour floating through the waterways, hopefully picking up lots of interesting tidbits about the history and layout of the city as you go. We used Netto-Bådene; their partially covered, glass-topped boats take you past some of Copenhagen’s most famous sights, including the Opera House, Little Mermaid (or at least, the back of the Little Mermaid), Amalienborg Palace, the “Black Diamond” and various church spires
…Or take a walking tour
I’m a big fan of a city walking tour, even more so when it’s free. And in a city as pricey as Copenhagen, free counts. A lot. Departing daily at 11am and 2pm from outside City Hall, this three-hour tour takes in many of Copenhagen’s famous landmarks. The tours vary according to your guide, who are a diverse mix of Scandinavians and ex-pats. We follow our English guide and her yellow umbrella from City Hall to Christiansborg Slot to Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn, to the waterfront before finishing off at Amalienborg Palace. Wear comfy shoes and wrap up warm! Oh, and please do tip if you enjoy the tour – it’s not compulsory but it’s definitely nice to reward the person that’s just spent three hours trying to keep an unruly crowd of multi-national tourists engaged.
Window shopping on Strøget
Allegedly an auto-free zone, it didn’t seem much like that on our visit, with delivery trucks, refuse vehicles and construction equipment blocking this famously “pedestrianised” street. Running from Rådhusplads all the way to Kongens Nytorv there are plenty of restaurants, fast food shops, department stores, high-end designer stores, boutiques and gift shops lining the one kilometre plus route. Many of the stores don’t open till 10am, and many are closed on Sundays. This is the medieval part of Copenhagen but it’s hard to get a feel for the beautiful architecture through the neon lights, reversing beeps and jostling crowds. You will no doubt find yourself in this area whilst passing from the west to the east of the city, but there are better places to linger…
…like Nyhavn. Nyhavn is a perfect place for people-watching – if by people, you mean tourists taking selfies in front of colourful townhouses and vintage boats and eating ridiculously oversized portions of churros. It’s bright, it’s vibrant, it costs a small fortune for a drink and a snack but it has to be experienced. And when the sun shines, do as the locals do – purchase drinks from a local shop and sit on the wall, dangling your legs over the water and listening to the impromptu musicians that spring up from nowhere. A certain Hans Christian Anderson lived, wrote and died in various houses along Nyhavn.
A stroll along the waterfront from Nyhavn and you’ll come to Amalienborg Palace; the winter residence of the Danish Royal Family. You can stroll into the courtyard and be surrounded by not one, not two, but four grand palaces which house various members of royalty and you may be lucky enough to see Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II coming and going! You can even pose with the Royal Guard…but apparently they’re none too friendly and do carry guns.
In good weather it would be a lovely stroll from Amalienborg along the harbourfront to Copenhagen’s most loved/loathed statue. On a grey, slightly drizzly early April day it was a little miserable. But there she is…face of a ballerina, body of a sculptor’s wife and tail of a fish. We saw many people scrambling over what looked like extremely wet and slippery rocks to get as close as possible for that “perfect picture”. Stay safe and stay on the viewing area peeps – let everyone get their photo without you clambering all over the shot.
If you’re visiting the Little Mermaid then you may as well spend some time exploring the peaceful parklands of Kastellet. The Kastellet itself is an old citadel, which remains an active military area, albeit one which is accessible to the public. You can walk along the ramparts overlooking the Øresund Strait, or stroll around the picturesque barracks, church and windmill. Despite the grey and drizzly weather, we enjoyed a picnic in the park with a sandwich and juice purchased from njoy during our travels
Rosenborg Castle and King’s Gardens
King Christian IV’s 17th century summer residence is now a museum hosting the Danish Crown Jewels and other royal regalia and artefacts. The Royal Guard march from Rosenborg to Amelienborg daily at 11:30am. We were there on a Monday, when most museums – including Rosenborg – are closed, but it is open to the public most other days of the year (105DKK admission). The gardens were open and we were able to take a stroll through the beautiful landscaped pathways and tree-lined avenues. In the summer, this must be a wonderful place to while away the hours on a blanket with a good book…
Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
The 35 metre high Round Tower, unsurprisingly, is a tower, that is round. And has no steps so that King Christian IV could ride his horse all the way to the top. Although technically there is a flight of stairs leading up to the final observation platform – I’d like to have seen King Christian and his horse tackle those. Its 25DKK per person to enter, and the views are good from the top, although there are taller towers in Copenhagen which would probably give you better views on a clear day, such as the one at Christiansborg Palace.
The Lakes and Norrebro
I was surprised to discover that Copenhagen has three inner city lakes. This is a popular place for locals to walk their dogs, jog and cycle, or just sit on one of many benches and gaze across the water. There are also a number of lakeside cafes where you can grab a seat for an al fresco coffee and catch-up with friends.
Cross the Dronning Louise’s Bro – Queen Louise’s Bridge – and you leave inner city Copenhagen behind and enter the multicultural neighbourhood of Norrebro. This is fast becoming one of the most popular districts of Copenhagen, with its diverse population and popularity with the young and trendy. Cafes and bars line the streets and the popular meeting place of Sankt Hans Square. Dive bars nestle next to Michelin starred restaurants. Vintage shops are neighbours with kebab sellers. We ate and drank in this area on our final night in Copenhagen, and can highly recommend the Barking Dog for beer and cocktails, and Norrebro Bryghus for beer and food. If we had discovered this district on our first night we’d probably still be there now, eating and drinking ourselves into a coma.
There was a lot we didn’t do in Copenhagen. We had 48 hours to squeeze in city sightseeing and a trip to Sweden to boot. The weather was miserable most of the time, and downright vile for the rest of the time. We didn’t see the best of the city, and with a bit of coaxing, I’d be willing to give Copenhagen another chance. So maybe, some day in the future, there will a sequel to A Brummie Home and Abroad’s Guide to 48(ish) hours in Copenhagen.
If you’ve been to Copenhagen, what have I missed off the must-see and do list?