With its colourful, sun-soaked streets, winding canals, bustling plazas and notable architecture, its no wonder Copenhagen casts such a spell on those lucky enough to explore the city. While it would be easy to spend a few days simply wandering around admiring the perfectly-preserved castles and wooden maritime buildings that seamlessly blend with more modern designs, there are also plenty of fun activities to keep visitors occupied. Here are 10 of the best.
1) Go on a canal tour
If Amsterdam and Venice are the king and queen when it comes to canals, Copenhagen surely deserves a spot among royalty. Waterways criss-cross through the Danish capital, granting vantage points of the city that can only be seen from the water.
The most popular way to experience them is on a canal tour, which depart several times per day from various locations around the city. The boats glide through the pretty Christianshavn and Holmen areas, passing landmarks including the Copenhagen Opera House and the famous Little Mermaid statue. Spoiler alert: despite being one of the city’s top attractions the sculpture can be somewhat underwhelming due to its small size, and you’ll only be able to see its backside from the water.
Tip: Book through Netto-Badene which docks in both Nyhavn and Holmen. Tickets are only 40 kroner per person—half the price of what other operators charge for the same tour. Click here for more tips on seeing Copenhagen on a budget.
For an even more memorable experience, rent a GoBoat which is powered by solar energy and does not require any sort of experience to operate. They seat up to eight people, and you can even call ahead and order your own picnic to enjoy on board.
2) Sunbathe in a park
Copenhagen doesn’t skimp when it comes to green space, so spend a sunny afternoon soaking up the sun in one of its many parks. The Botanical Gardens are a great choice, offering 10 hectares worth of serene ponds and quiet walking trails right in the centre of the city.
Just down the road you’ll find the Rosenborg Castle, a renaissance castle dating back to the 17th century that’s marked by towering green spires. Coronation thrones, tapestries and crown jewels—which are still used by the royals today—are on display inside, but the surrounding grounds are also worth exploring. Wander through the immaculate gardens bordered by topiaries and blooming roses, then find your own patch of grass or bench to relax on.
3) Rent a bike
In another nod to Amsterdam, Copenhagen’s bike culture is huge. Fit in with the locals by renting a bicycle to explore the city’s well-marked paths on two wheels, either from one of the many bike shops or by using Byckylen, the public bike system. There are numerous stands around the city, and you simply enter your information into one of the attached tablets to sign each bike out. Click here to learn more about how to use Byckylen.
4) Enjoy a drink in Nyhavn
Nyhavn may be where you’ll find loads of tourists and overpriced drinks, but there’s a reason: it’s one of the prettiest spots in the city. The colourful strip overlooks the bustling harbour, where tour boats mix with a fleet of historic sailing ships. “New Harbour” as it’s known literally has a ‘storied’ history, as the place where Hans Christian Andersen penned The Princess and the Pea. Visitors should keep an eye out for house numbers 18, 20 and 67, where the famous storyteller once lived.
Nyhavn is a fun place to grab a seat on one of the outdoor patios and watch the sun go down, while enjoying the lively tunes from the many buskers.
5) Get a birds-eye view of the city
One of the best views in Copenhagen is found at the top of The Tower of Our Saviour’s Church, which is a dizzying 90 metres from the ground—oh, and you can climb all the way up. There are 400 steps to the top, including 150 which wind around the outside.
Even if you don’t plan on making the trek up, the baroque-style church is well worth a visit, especially if you can time it for when the thunderous organ begins to play.
6) Break the bank along Strøget
If money is no object, then Strøget is the place for you. The one-kilometre long pedestrian street stretches through the heart of Copenhagen, and is full of luxury department stores and boutiques including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Gucci. Branch off to side streets like Frederiksberggade to enjoy a smørrebrød for lunch (an open faced sandwich) or Østergade which has one of Copenhagen’s most picturesque squares—and the best people watching.
7) Rent a kayak
Still want to explore more of Copenhagen’s waterways after the canal tour? Then head over to Kayak Republic next to the Knippelsbro bridge in the city centre, and hop into a kayak. The company offers guided kayaking tours through the canals or the option to paddle on your own, and you can head over to Kayak Bar afterwards to enjoy food and drinks on their private dock, which they like to call a “floating beach.”
8) Play in the Tivoli Gardens
Channel your inner six-year-old at the spectacular Tivoli Gardens, which is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks and hosts an incredible four million visitors per year. Founded in 1843, it’s now home to rides, gorgeous gardens, outdoor concerts and a number of restaurants. If you visit at night, you’ll also be able to see over 100-thousand lanterns illuminate the Chinese pagoda and main fountain.
9) Visit Carlsberg Brewery
Like beer? Then you’ll love touring the Carlsberg Brewery, which is the site of the iconic company’s original brewery. One highlight about a five minute walk from the entrance is the magnificent Elephant Gate, which has life-size elephant sculptures with Swastika carvings. They may be alarming on first glance, but it turns out the Swastika is actually an ancient symbol of prosperity in Sanskrit, which is why Carlsberg’s founders originally chose it. They ditched the Swastika in 1940 for obvious reasons.
Today, guests are welcome to tour the visitor centre and learn more about Carlsberg’s history and how beer is produced, by wandering through the interactive exhibits. It wouldn’t be a brewery tour without drinks, so two beers or soft drinks are included with admission.
10) Explore a castle
With a handful of castles right in Copenhagen, exploring one of the city’s opulent palaces is always high on the must-see list. In fact, many visitors start their day at the gargantuan Amalienborg Palace, which is made up of four buildings surrounding an expansive plaza. It just so happens to be the winter residence of the Danish royal family who are watched over by the Royal Guard, and if you visit at noon you can watch the ceremonial changing of the guard.
Checking out the royal jewels at the aforementioned Rosenborg Castle is usually the next stop as it’s so close, and from there visitors can make their way to Christiansborg Palace. Set on the tiny islet of Slotsholmen, the palace is home to the Supreme Court and Danish Parliament, and is occasionally used by the royal family for events.
Do you have any fun activities in Copenhagen to add to this list? Share your recommendations in the comments below!
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Globe Guide explored Copenhagen in collaboration with Viking Cruises