Oops, I did it again! Surprise, surprise…I fell in love with yet another European city. I recently headed on a solo trip to Copenhagen for the weekend, and honestly couldn’t have enjoyed my time in Denmark more.
Why did I love Copenhagen, you ask?
Public transportation is efficient, tourist sites are easy to walk to, the architecture is both charming and colorful, there are tons of museums, and there are quite a few cool day trip options. Oh, and did I mention there are palaces?
These elements combine to make Copenhagen not only an excellent choice for a quick weekend trip, but also make the city a perfect destination for solo travelers.
Whether you’ve already booked your tickets to Copenhagen or are deciding if a trip to this Danish city is for you, you’ll want to check out my ultimate weekend itinerary! From historical sites and regal palaces to the best viewpoints and landmarks in town, you are sure to be dazzled by this stunning capital city.
While you only really need two days to see most of the major landmarks, I recommend staying for three so you can squeeze in a day trip or spend some more time museum-hopping.
Keep reading to discover all of my favorite things to do and see in 3 days in Copenhagen, plus discover some awesome day trip ideas!
- Day 1: Red
- Day 2: Orange
- Day 3 (Day Trip Options): Yellow
Day 1: Nyhavn, Amalienborg Palace, Frederik’s Church, The Little Mermaid, Freetown Christiania
Get your trip started off right with a visit to one of Copenhagen’s most picturesque spots, Nyhavn, or “New Harbor”. Today, the harbor is known for its colorful 17th and 18th-century buildings which line the canal. Take a pleasant stroll down the promenade, and consider stopping for a coffee in one of the bars or restaurants that are situated in this iconic location. It’s impossible not to enjoy the pleasant array of colors you’ll see here. Just walking along the street put me in a great mood, and I had way too much fun snapping shots of the boats and buildings within this harbor.
Head on a Canal Tour
If you’d like to see Copenhagen from the water and explore more of the city’s canals, consider hopping on a canal tour. While I personally opted to skip a tour and instead walk along the canals, a tour is a great way to give your feet a break from walking and see the city from a different perspective.
The next stop you’ll want to make is Amalienborg Palace, which is where the royal family of Denmark currently resides. If you can, try to time your visit out so you can observe the changing of the guards, which occurs daily at 12:00 PM. Once you reach the massive square, you’ll notice there are 4 separate palaces. Christian VIII’s Palace houses the Amalienborg Museum and is open to visitors. Tickets are 95 DKK (~15 USD). You can also purchase a combined ticket for both Amalienborg and Rosenborg palaces, which costs 155 DKK (~25 USD) and is valid for 36 hours, which I highly suggest. If you are choosing between visiting Amalienborg and Rosenborg, then I recommend skipping the Amalienborg museum in favor of Rosenborg, as there is more to see there. (Don’t worry, a visit to Rosenborg is on the itinerary for Day 2!)
As you exit Amalienborg, you’ll find yourself right next to Frederik’s Church. This Lutheran house of worship is impossible to miss thanks to it’s massive dome, which is actually the largest in Scandinavia. The Rococo church was completed in 1894, and is certainly worth popping into before heading to your next destination.
The Little Mermaid
If you went to Copenhagen and didn’t catch a glimpse of the Little Mermaid statue, did you even visit at all? This bronze work by Danish artist Edvard Eriksen has become a symbol of the city and receives over 1 million visitors each year. The just over 4-foot tall statue is a tribute to Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. While I grew up watching Disney’s adaptation of the popular fairy tale, after visiting the statue, I definitely have plans to read the original!
After a day exploring some of Copenhagen’s most popular tourist spots, it’s time to hop on the metro and see a funkier side of Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania. Christiania is a self-governed autonomous community that originally began as a hippie-haven in the 70’s when squatters took over an abandoned military zone. Today, the area is home to 85o-1,000 residents and is filled with colorful buildings, art galleries, restaurants, and other interesting spots worth checking out. In some ways, it reminded me of my visit to Metelkova, an autonomous art district in Slovenia, but on a much larger scale!
It should also be noted that Freetown Christiania is also known for the sale of marijuana, and visitors must be cautious of taking pictures on “Pusher Street,” or “the Green District”, where hash is sold, as the sale of marijuana is illegal in Denmark. Pay attention to signs throughout the area if you plan on taking photos, or join a local on a walking tour to learn more about this intriguing non-conforming community within Copenhagen.
Day 2: Rosenborg Castle, Rundetaarn, Strøget, Christiansborg Palace, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
My favorite single site that I visited in the city of Copenhagen was hands down Rosenborg Castle. This might be due to the fact that I am a big history nerd and absolutely love all things that have to do with royals or monarchy. Even if you aren’t as into visiting palaces or castles as I am, you’ll want to pay Rosenborg a visit.
The 17th-century castle was built by Christian IV, and houses a pretty impressive collection. The castle is home to antique paintings, furniture, and tapestries, an epic throne room featuring unforgettably fierce silver lions, and even the bloodied shirt of Christian IV himself. Though the castle may look compact from the outside, there are so many interesting items to behold within that you are sure to spend at least an hour here.
Once you’ve had your fair share of royal splendor within the castle, be sure to head beneath to check out the crown jewels. I’m pretty sure my mouth was gaping open the entire time I was walking around in the basement…I was absolutely stunned by the jewels within. Anyone know a Danish royal they can set me up with? 😉
Rundetaarn (Round Tower)
Copenhagen’s Rundetaarn, or Round Tower, is a 17th-century tower that offers some of the best views in town! The tower is attached to the Trinitatis Church, which you can take a peek at before climbing up. Entrance to the tower costs 25 DKK (~4 USD). Instead of ascending a series of stairs, visitors actually head up a long ramp to reach the top. I’m a sucker for a great view, so this stop was totally worth it for me!
Next, you’ll want to head to Strøget, a pedestrian-only street known for its shopping! From high-end brands to more affordable retailers, you’ll be able to shop until you drop along this pleasant thoroughfare. There are also a variety of vafes and restaurants near the area if you are looking for a bite to eat before continuing on.
Christiansborg Palace is where the Danish Parliament, Supreme Court, and Ministry of State are run. I, unfortunately, ran out of time and daylight hours and wasn’t able to step inside the grand reception rooms for which the palace is known. However, I was able to see the palace during the evening, although it was undergoing some exterior renovations. If you are loving the royal history of Copenhagen, you can purchase a combined ticket to the ruins, royal reception rooms, royal stables, and royal kitchen The Royal Stables for 150.00 DKK (~25 USD).
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
In the afternoon, I recommend checking out one of Copenhagen’s many world-class museums. While there are many museums in the city to choose from, I was most intrigued by the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum was created form the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen, of Carlsberg Breweries. The museum is known for housing primarily ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek artifacts as well as French Impressionist and post-impressionist works. I was totally blown away by the collection, and was even more amazed by the fact that I practically had the museum to myself. This probably had something to do with the fact that I visited during a weekly Thursday late-night opening in the dead of winter. Tickets are 95 DKK (~15 USD), but I was able to get the under 27 discount of 50 DKK (~8 USD)!
If I had more time to spend in Copenhagen, I would have loved to have visited some of the city’s other museums. There are so many to choose from and simply not enough time to see them all! If you have more time in town, you can consider visiting some of these popular museums:
- National Museum of Denmark
- National Gallery of Denmark
- Hirschsprung Collection
- Thorvaldsen Museum
- The David Collection
- The Danish Museum of Art & Design
Day 3: Choose Your Own Adventure-Tivoli Gardens, Frederiksborg Castle, Kronborg Castle, Malmö
If you aren’t planning on visiting every museum in town, you should only need about two days to explore Copenhagen, even in winter when the sun isn’t up for as long! (Trust me, I visited in January and still had enough daylight hours to see everything I wanted to in town). For your final day in Copenhagen, you can choose your own adventure! Visit Tivoli Gardens, take a day trip to Frederiksborg Castle and Helsingør Castle, or head across the Øresund Bridge to Malmö, Sweden.
I visited Copenhagen in January when Tivoli Gardens is unfortunately not open. The theme park first opened in 1843 and is the second-oldest theme park in the world! The most expensive tickets are 110.00 DKK (~18 USD). As the park is not open year round, be sure to check the Tivoli Gardens website to confirm that the park will be open during your visit. I totally wish I could have experienced this magical part of Copenhagen, and will definitely make it a point to visit if I return to Denmark!
Frederiksborg Castle and Kronborg Castle Day Trip
Haven’t gotten enough of castles? Why not take a day trip to two of Denmark’s most well-known castles. In just one hour, you can easily catch a train from Copenhagen to Hillerød. A 20-minute walk will bring you to the stunning Frederiksborg Castle. I am so happy that I decided to take this day trip because Frederiksborg Castle truly was a highlight (if not the highlight) of my visit to Denmark. I arrived around 30 minutes before the museum opened, and so enjoyed walking around the nearby lake as the sun rose. As majestic as the castle was on the outside, I was even more impressed by the interior. Room upon room filled with paintings, sculpture, crests, opulent furniture, and all of the ornate details you’d expect of a 17th-century royal residence. I even loved the audioguide (which I almost never like listening to!). Tickets are 75 DKK (~12.50 USD) and are so worth it.
If you are efficient with your time, you can visit both Frederiksborg Castle and Kronborg Castle in the same day-I did! However, if you feel this is cutting it close, then you will have to pick one. If you are more interested in art and royal history, then I recommend choosing Frederiksborg Castle. If you are a lover of Shakespeare or more interested in exploring a more militaristic fortress, then head to Kronborg.
Kronborg castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Helsingør. The Anglican version of “Helsingør” is “Elsinore,” which Shakespeare buffs will recognize as the setting of Hamlet. The castle can easily be reached in less than 1 hour via train from both Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød or Copenhagen. The fortress has been in existence since 1420, and, though much less grand than Frederiksborg, offers incredible insight into Denmark’s past. The fortress offers some pretty great views of the harbor, and you can even see Sweden form the grounds! The inside is a bit more stark, but it was still a really cool experience to visit another one of Shakespeare’s settings (the last one I visited was Verona!) Tickets cost 90-140 DKK (~15-23 USD) depending on the season.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post filled with tips for visiting both castles in one day!
Day trip to Malmö, Sweden
Looking to hit two countries in one weekend? Why not take a day trip to Sweden? Try crossing the Øresund bridge and heading to Malmö, Sweden, the country’s third-largest city. Spend a day or half-day visiting the 16th-century Malmö Castle and wandering around the town’s charming historic center. Just don’t forget to bring your passport, you are crossing a border, after all!
Which of these activities will you be putting on your Copenhagen itinerary? Let me know in the comments!
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