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24 or 48 Hours in Copenhagen

Wednesday, 27th July 2022

Will Gray

denmark copenhagen nyhavn waterfront istk

Read our guide to the perfect way to spend a day or two in the Danish capital, renowned for its palaces and harbour, as well as trendy shops, Nordic cuisine, iconic design and green spaces.

Copenhagen has pledged to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025 – around a quarter of the city is made up of parks, lakes or natural areas – so travelling by train is the greenest way to go. You’ll arrive at Central Station, right in the heart of Copenhagen, close to hotels and many of the main sites. The compact city centre is easily explored on foot – or you could hire a bike, jump in a taxi or catch a sightseeing boat.

Day 1

Let’s assume you arrive in Copenhagen during the afternoon. Once you’ve checked in to your accommodation, stretch your legs with a stroll around King’s Garden (open daily, 10:00-20:00). Laid out in the early 1600s next to Rosenborg Castle, the beautiful old royal garden has broad lawns, tree-lined paths, rose-smothered archways and a liberal scattering of sculptures. Just the other side of the palace, the Botanical Garden (open daily, 08:30-18:00) has a spectacular collection of European plants, including an air-conditioned greenhouse for Arctic species.

TIP: The Copenhagen Card gives you admission to 89 attractions and museums, as well as free public transport in the city.

DINNER: From King’s Garden it’s only a 10 to 15-minute walk to Høst (Nørre Farimagsgade, open daily 17:30-00:00). Danish for ‘harvest’, this award-winning restaurant is famed for its seasonal Nordic cuisine and is the perfect choice for a special meal out in Copenhagen. Book well in advance and expect to pay around £55 for a five-course evening menu with dishes such as baked halibut with cauliflower and mussel sauce, scallops with nashi pear and horseradish, crab with celery and almonds and apple sorbet with rose geranium and caramel.

Day 2

MORNING: Experiencing Copenhagen’s fabulous dining scene isn’t just about pricey Nordic restaurants. You should also experience a fika coffee break with freshly-baked cinnamon buns. A great spot to partake in this local tradition is Nyhavn, the 17th-century harbour waterfront where brightly coloured, gabled townhouses crowd a narrow canal lined with historic boats. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, so head there first thing in the morning to soak up the sights and find a quayside café for your coffee.

From Nyhavn, you can hop on a sightseeing boat to take in other major landmarks, such as the grand old Christiansborg Palace, the uber-cool Opera House and iconic Little Mermaid statue – the latter inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale (by now, you might also have seen a statue of the author in King’s Garden, as well as the house he lived in at Nyhavn). Boat tours last around an hour.

From Nyhavn, you’re close to several palaces (or Slots as they’re called in Denmark). The vast Christiansborg Palace (open daily Jun-Sep 10:00-17:00, closed Mondays Oct-May) has several attractions, including the Royal Stables and Royal Kitchen, but if you only have time to see one thing, make sure it’s the Royal Reception Rooms where the Great Hall is adorned with tapestries depicting 1,000 years of Danish history. Amalienborg Palace (open daily 10:00-17:00) offers another glimpse into Danish royal history and a chance to witness the Changing of the Royal Guard at noon.

LUNCH: Both palaces are within a 20 to 25-minute walk from the glass-covered food hall of Torvehallerne (Frederiksborggade, open daily from 10:00). Selling everything from fresh fruit and fish to pastries and pizza, it’s also just the place for grabbing a delicious Danish open sandwich, known as smørrebrød. Hallernes Smørrebrød offers options such as shrimp and egg, bacon and potato and breaded plaice with lemon and remoulade.

AFTERNOON: If you fancy somewhere quiet to relax for an hour or two after lunch, Ørstedsparken is a short stroll from Torvehallerne, or you could head over to Tivoli Gardens (open daily from 11:00). Dating from 1843, this national treasure is a fun mixture of formal gardens, theme park and music venue, with a good choice of restaurants thrown in. If you’re visiting Copenhagen with kids, they will probably want to spend the rest of the day here, making a bee-line for the boating lake, haunted house and wooden rollercoaster.

Alternatively, if Copenhagen’s designer boutiques beckon, walk from Torvehallerne to Strøget, the city’s famous shopping district. As well as perusing the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton and other fashion brands, be sure to delve into the side streets in search of hidden gems like the Stork Fountain, Round Tower and Church of Our Lady (Helligåndskirken).

Next, head southeast across the main canal to Christianshavn. Close to the city centre but with a much more laidback vibe, this hygge neighbourhood is home to the Opera House and the commune of Freetown Christiana, founded in 1971. Climb the spiral staircase of the Church of our Saviour for panoramic views across Copenhagen, check out the vibrant paintings at Christiana Art Gallery or even hire a boat to potter around Christianshavn’s network of canals.

DINNER: For the ultimate dining venue in Copenhagen, you will need to book months in advance for a table at Christianshavn’s triple-Michelin-Star Noma restaurant where the tasting menu will set you back around £350. More affordable options for dinner include No.2 and Café Wilder.

Day 3

MORNING: The Little Mermaid might be the city’s emblem, but Copenhagen is also synonymous with Bang & Olufsen radios, the Caravaggio Lamp, Arne Jacobsen’s Egg Chair and even the Sydney Opera House (designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon). Find out about these and many other design icons at the Design Museum Danmark (open Tue-Sun from 10:00), located right in the heart of Copenhagen’s historic centre. Nearby, the star-shaped fortress of Kastellet (open daily from 06:00) offers excellent views of the harbour from its ramparts. Or you could wander down Bredgade to Nyhavn for lunch on the waterfront before heading to the station to catch your train.

Feeling inspired?

Visit Copenhagen on one of our European rail journeys, departing from London. The 10-night Scandinavian Capitals by Rail itinerary includes two nights in the Danish capital, as well as time in Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmo and Hamburg. Alternatively, our Capitals of Scandinavia itinerary combines planes, trains and ferries.

If you have any questions about any of our rail holidays or want to start planning your own trip to Copenhagen, call our Travel Specialists on 01737 214 250, or you can send an enquiry to start discussing your options.