Copenhagen is one of the world’s most livable cities, so for tourists, few European destinations are as easy to visit as the Danish capital. With a sublime subway system, easy-to-navigate cycle lanes, and a beautiful network of canals and waterways, we know you’re going to quickly fall in love with Copenhagen!
And while traveling here might be a breeze, you’re going to have trouble deciding exactly what to do in the city because there are so many great places to see in Copenhagen. Start by visiting the iconic Little Mermaid statue that overlooks the waterway before enjoying freshly brewed coffee after exploring the colorful Nyhavn district.
You can explore Copenhagen on two wheels by following the Harbor Circle route, or you can take to the canals on a guided or self-guided boat tour through the city. Then there are royal palaces to see, art galleries and museums to visit, and roller coasters to ride at Tivoli Gardens.
With so many fantastic things to see and do, you might not know where to start. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Copenhagen for you. Stick to these fun and unique Copenhagen bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt that you’re going to have an incredible time exploring Denmark’s beautiful capital city!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Copenhagen
1. Take a look at Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid statue
The most famous Copenhagen sightseeing attraction isn’t a museum, art gallery, or palace – it’s a statue of the Little Mermaid. This bronze mermaid sits on a rock overlooking the water, and it has been Copenhagen’s most iconic sight since it was first unveiled in 1913.
Yes, this humble depiction of a mermaid is now the symbol of the city, and it’s got to be at the top of your list of things to do in Copenhagen. The statue was designed by Danish sculptor Edvard Eriksen. It’s an enduring tribute to the Little Mermaid fairytale, a story written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
The story of the Little Mermaid is one of Denmark’s most popular children’s fables, and the original story provided the inspiration for the Disney classic of the same name. You’ll find the Little Mermaid is located in Lanegline, a lovely public park where you can take a stroll and enjoy Copenhagen’s waterfront after finding the statue.
2. Embrace Copenhagen’s cafe culture in Nyhavn
Nyhavn is one of the top things to see in Copenhagen, and this quirky, colorful, and historic district should be at the top of your travel itinerary!
Nyhavn means “New Harbor” in Danish, although it’s hardly new these days. The harbor area was built in the 17th century on the orders of King Christian V, and it turned Copenhagen into a mercantile, trading powerhouse, bringing much wealth to the city.
Today, the Nyhavn district is best known for its colorful waterfront houses, many of which are hundreds of years old. The canals and quays are home to historic sailing ships and schooners, which have been masterfully restored. In many ways, it feels like you’re taking a step back in time when you wander through the harbor area.
But Nyhavn, while undoubtedly touristy, is also one of Copenhagen’s most vibrant cultural districts. This is where the city’s cafe culture thrives, and you’ll find coffee shops spilling out onto the cobblestone streets and the smell of freshly brewed beans wafting through the air.
The best cafes, bars, and restaurants are always located on the sunny, northern side of Nyhavn, while you can also join canal tours that regularly depart from the docks.
3. Cycle Copenhagen’s Harbor Circle
Copenhagen is a bicycle city. Almost 50 percent of locals cycle to work every day, while many more enjoy cycling as a leisurely pursuit or as a form of exercise. Copenhagen has impressive cycling infrastructure and laws to protect cyclists, and it’s safe to say that the best way to see the city is on two wheels!
You can embrace Copenhagen’s impressive cycling culture by tackling the 8-mile Harbor Circle route. This excellent cycling trail takes you past the city’s major waterfront sights and gives you a chance to jump right into local cycling traditions.
The route includes Copenhagen’s colorful Nyhavn district. Plus, it crosses over the river to Christianshavn and takes you into the Inner City and Vesterbro. Along the way, you can stop off at waterfront cafes and restaurants to refuel, you can pop into museums and galleries, or you can even stop for a quick swim at the public Harbor Baths.
It’s easy to rent a bicycle in Copenhagen, and many hotels offer free or discounted rentals to guests. You can also rent public bicycles from designated points throughout the city, with many now offering built-in GPS systems, so you don’t get lost.
If cycling isn’t your thing, don’t worry because you can still tackle the Harbor Circle on foot – it just takes a little longer!
4. Spend the day at Tivoli Gardens
If you’re looking for good old-fashioned fun, a hint of nostalgia, and a great day out, then Tivoli Gardens is one of the top things to do in Copenhagen.
First opened in 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the third-oldest amusement park in the world, with the only older ones being in Vienna and one other town in Denmark. Tivoli Gardens is still going strong over one and half centuries later, and it has become an iconic fixture of Copenhagen. Tivoli Gardens is so iconic that it provided inspiration for Disney World and many more modern theme parks!
You haven’t really seen the city until you’ve visited Tivoli Gardens, and you can expect to find a fantastic range of roller coasters, theme park rides, and traditional amusement park features to enjoy. There are restaurants, cafes, and bars, of course, while the gardens are within walking or cycling distance of most places in the Inner City.
Tivoli Park is much more than just a theme park, though, and you’ll also find a Moorish-inspired five-star hotel within the grounds, alongside a concert hall, pantomime theater, and, in the summer, open-air music festivals.
5. Delve into Danish history at the National Museum of Denmark
A visit to the National Museum of Denmark is one of the must-do things in Copenhagen because the country’s premier museum is the best place to learn about all things Danish. You can find the National Museum of Denmark in the Inner City, with exhibitions located within the Prince’s Mansion, a former residence of the Crown Prince of Denmark.
The royal location is a very apt one for this magnificent museum, where you’ll be taken on an exciting yet comprehensive tour of Denmark’s past. Spare plenty of time for this one, as your journey begins several thousand years ago in the Ice Age, with a look at the earliest human inhabitants of the land that would eventually become Denmark.
As you might expect, there’s a huge focus on Danish Vikings. The impressive exhibits and displays feature coins and weapons uncovered from as far afield as Italy and Greece, demonstrating the extent to which Viking raiders and traders traveled in the early medieval period.
The museum then moves through the Middle Ages, and eventually, into the modern era. You’ll also find exhibitions focusing on ancient and international history, as well as Danish history. There are Egyptian mummies, for example, and collections from the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
6. Marvel at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s impressive art collection
If you’re an art lover, then you’ve come to the right city because one of the top sights in Copenhagen is the extravagant NY Carlsberg Glyptotek. This is one of the world’s foremost art galleries, and you’re going to be amazed by the wondrous collections found within its elegant halls.
If you know anything about Danish beers, then you’ll know that Carlsberg lager is one of Denmark’s most famous exports. This huge multinational brewing company is responsible for countless other brands across Europe, too. But, did you know the company’s owners were also philanthropists and art lovers?
The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek was founded by Carl Jacobsen. He was the son of the Carlsberg Breweries founder – and he inherited a fortune! Jacobsen amassed a huge collection of artwork throughout the 19th century, which now forms the basis of the gallery in Copenhagen.
The collection is as impressive as it is varied, and you’ll find that while the primary focus was intended to be sculptures, the museum also showcases Danish Golden Age paintings, as well as the work of famous European artists like Monet and van Gogh.
7. Discover more artwork at the Statens Museum for Kunst
You’re going to be spoiled for artistic choice during your stay in Copenhagen, and if you’re a culture vulture looking to see the best artwork in Europe, your next stop needs to be the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK).
The SMK, as it’s usually abbreviated to, is home to Denmark’s largest collection of art, and you’ll find paintings, portraits, and sculptures that date back as far as the 14th century. There are hundreds of thousands of works in the collection, with the focus primarily being on European art.
There are old works by Rembrandt, for example, as well as newer works by the likes of Picasso. You can also find large sections devoted entirely to Nordic art, including several contemporary Danish artists who add a modern touch to the museum.
The museum’s location is excellent, and you’ll find the collections housed within an impressive revivalist-style building that was constructed in the late 19th century. The SMK is found within a large public park in central Copenhagen, overlooking one of the city’s many lakes.
8. Catch the changing of the guard at Amalienborg
You’ll find the Amalienborg overlooking the river in one of the most prominent locations in Copenhagen. It’s a fitting setting because Amalienborg is the home of the Danish royal family. This is the Danish monarchy’s residence, or to be precise, Amalienborg is four royal residences, all set out around a central courtyard.
The four royal palaces are identical. Although they were originally built in the 18th century for wealthy Danish families, the royal family purchased them in 1794 after their old palace burned down in a fire.
The royal family is still resident within parts of the four different palaces. However, there are tours that allow access to the stately rooms and gilded interiors at various points throughout the year.
Every day, though, you can watch the extravagant changing of the guard ceremony, which takes place outside the palaces. You’ll need to be here at 11:30 am sharp to see the uniformed soldiers of the Royal Guard marching into the square with regal fanfare. It’s quite the sight and one of the best things to see in Copenhagen!
9. Be awed by the treasures of Rosenborg Castle
The Royal Guard starts their changing of the guard ceremony at Rosenborg Castle, a former royal residence that is located less than a mile away from Amalienborg. The castle is one of Denmark’s top attractions, and as well as catching the Royal Guard marching through the gates, you can be awed by the regal architecture and lavish interiors of this Copenhagen landmark.
Rosenborg Castle was originally built back in the 17th century, and it was intended to be the monarchy’s summer palace. It’s still surrounded by lovely green gardens, which are a welcome escape from the surrounding city.
The gardens are one of Denmark’s most-visited tourist attractions, while inside, you can tour parts of the Royal Collection. Here you’ll be able to see the castle’s ballrooms and stately halls, as well as the royal family’s Crown Jewels and the Danish Crown Regalia.
10. Eat like a local at Torvehallerne Food Market
At this point in your Copenhagen sightseeing tour, you might start to feel hungry. If that’s the case, now’s the perfect time to visit Torvehallerne, Copenhagen’s number one food market!
Take a stroll through this extensive, foodie heaven, and you won’t be hungry for long. We know from experience that the culinary temptations on offer will be too attractive to resist.
Torvehallerne is a large, glass-covered market that’s located next to Norreport, just a short stroll away from Rosenborg Castle. Inside, you’ll find an abundance of fresh fruit and veg sellers offering freshly farmed produce, as well as fresh fish, meats, cheese, and more.
Best of all are the many independent cafes, where you can sit back with a freshly brewed coffee or enjoy a traditional open-faced sandwich, which is the one Danish delicacy you have to try during your stay in Copenhagen!
11. Go big with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant
Copenhagen is one of Europe’s culinary capitals, and while you’ll find great food at affordable prices in the market, you can also go all out on some serious fine dining. Copenhagen has an impressive number of Michelin-starred restaurants for you to choose from. But remember to reserve early to avoid disappointment!
Copenhagen restaurants frequently make it onto lists of the world’s best restaurants, but one establishment that has really shaken the dining scene is Noma. This world-famous restaurant is as much an experience as it is a place to satisfy your hunger pangs. You’ll be served a 20-course meal based on an ever-changing culinary concept, such as Ocean Season or Game and Forest Season.
Other great Michelin-starred restaurants where you can indulge your taste buds include Kiin Kiin, which specializes in Thai fusion food, Geranium, which provides seasonal tasting menus, and The Samuel, which has its own herb gardens and extensive cheese cabinets.
12. Take a swim in the Harbor Baths
Copenhagen is a city of waterways, islands, and canals, so it should come as no surprise that the city is also a great place for swimming.
Copenhagen has some of the cleanest water in the world, and the city has begun transforming many of its old, industrial harbor areas into public swimming baths.
The Harbor Baths are a unique Copenhagen project that provides locals and visitors alike with the opportunity for open-air swimming and relaxation. A visit to one of the Harbor Baths is one of the most fun things to do in Copenhagen, although we would recommend taking a swim in the summertime if you’re not used to cold water swimming!
The most popular Harbor Baths are found at Islands Brygge, where there are five swimming basins, as well as several diving boards. Copencabana Harbor Bath (named after Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Beach) is extremely popular in the summer, while there are several other Harbor Bath locations along the waterfront.
13. Explore Freetown Christiania
Denmark is one of Europe’s most liberal countries, but did you know that the Danish capital is also home to a self-declared, semi-independent commune called Christiania?
That’s right, head over the river to Christianshavn and take a stroll into Freetown Christiania, and you’ll find that you’ve left Denmark, and you’re in a free-living self-governing society.
Freetown Christiania was once a military barracks, but in the 1970s, the military left, and the area was gradually taken over by squatters, anarchists, and hippies. They turned Christiania into a self-declared independent nation, where cars, police, gangs, and military were banned, and everyone lived by a unique moral code.
The district became a haven for artists, bohemians, musicians, and radical political thinkers. Although, despite claims to the contrary, they are still officially part of Denmark!
Freetown Christiania is a quirky and controversial place, but it’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Copenhagen. Make sure you respect the local rules (which are posted at the entrance to the district), or you could get in trouble. We recommend taking a guided tour to learn more about the history and ethos of Freetown Christiania, several of which are run by local residents throughout the week.
14. Take a cruise along the canals
You can’t visit the Danish capital without taking to the water, and one of the best Copenhagen activities is a cruise along the canals. Copenhagen’s canals and waterways are extensive. After all, this is a port city that’s built across multiple islands, and you’re going to love how much there is waiting to be explored!
You can join a guided canal tour that takes you to the best spots in the city, with expert commentary along the way. Canal cruises depart regularly and take in scenic spots along the waterfront, including the iconic Little Mermaid statue, the royal palaces, and the post-modernist National Library of Denmark. You’ll have uninterrupted views of Denmark’s most iconic waterfront attractions, and you’ll see the city from the most unique angle.
If a guided tour is too traditional for you, we’ve got another great option to keep you entertained. Copenhagen also has a fleet of GoBoats, small, easy-to-operate boats that anyone can rent out and self-pilot. GoBoats are a fantastic way to explore the canals at your own pace, and you don’t need any boat piloting experience to get started!
15. Escape the city with a day at the beach
Copenhagen is an island capital – the city is built over several islands, in fact – and you’ll be happy to know that there are some excellent beaches to visit nearby!
A day at the beach is one of the best Copenhagen activities, and you’ll love how quickly you can escape the urban sprawl and find yourself on the edge of the North Sea. The beaches are, unsurprisingly, busiest during the summer, when everyone in Copenhagen seems to be chilling out at the beach on the weekends.
But despite the blustery North Sea winds, you can visit all year round. Although, you might not want to take a swim in December!
You don’t even have to go far – not if you visit Ofelia Beach. This public space overlooks the waterfront by Amalienborg, offering a small beach area and plenty of cultural events throughout the year.
The best beaches are a little further away, though. Without a doubt, the best beach to visit in Copenhagen is Amager Beach Park. It’s a few miles out of the city, but it’s well connected to Copenhagen’s metro system and within cycling distance of the city center. You’ll find several miles of beachfront to enjoy and views of the spectacular bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Copenhagen. What’s your favorite thing to do in Copenhagen?
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