In addition to being Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen is also top-notch restaurants, world-class cultural attractions, Amalienborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle, The Little Mermaid, picturesque Nyhavn and, not least, curious little neighbourhoods such as Christianshavn or the remarkable freetown Christiania.
The Danes are informal and as a visitor it is not hard to blend in. You will immediately notice that Copenhagen is a city of a wide cultural diversity with a lively bicycle culture and enough room for everyone due to generous green spaces across the city. It has atmosphere, the vibe is great, and it is obviously attractive to locals and visitors alike.
What to see in Copenhagen in 3 days? Take a look at this itinerary which will give you some of the best cultural experiences the city can offer. If you have more time in Copenhagen, you may of course stretch it over more days, or include a few more things to do, and if you have just one or two days, you may pick the sights which seem most enticing to you.
The first thing you will do on Day 1 in Copenhagen is to visit Nyhavn and jump on a canal tour from there. This will give you the opportunity to get an overview of the city from Copenhagen’s waterside.
Nyhavn is one of the real iconic places in Copenhagen, charming, charismatic, colourful … This is where you will like to spend half an hour… which easily extends to a couple of hours. Stroll from Kongens Nytorv along the canal to the spectacular Royal Playhouse at the harbour. Just off the canal on the Kongens Nytorv side, you will stumble across the Memorial Anchor, which commemorates the 1,700 Danish sailors, who died in World War II.
The pedestrian street, stuffed with vibrant restaurants, bars and cafés expanding well into the street, flanks the canal featuring some real old sailing ships. Due to its idyll, the street is often packed with both locals and tourists. Most likely, you will also notice a few sitting at Nyhavn with their feet dangling on the edge above the water.
Regarding Nyhavn’s historical side, the harbour was established in the 17th century by the former King Christian V. In 1675 it stood ready for use by both local fishermen and other traders and merchants who could benefit from easy access to other locations along the harbour and coast.
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Famous people have lived here at Nyhavn. One of them is the distinguished Danish author Hans Christian Andersen who even has resided in more than one of the Nyhavn townhouses during his life: at No. 67 (1845-1864) and at No. 18 (1871-1875).
The ambience is particular at Nyhavn, and it is absolutely picturesque here! If you have time, you may consider returning to Nyhavn at sunset one of your evenings in Copenhagen to enjoy the stunning views of the colourful and vibrant canal street.
Now pick one of the canal cruises departing from Nyhavn – there are several to choose between. The Netto-Boats, Netto-Bådene is supposedly the most budget-friendly option. They depart just opposite the lively bars and cafés on the other side of the Nyhavn canal.
You will now get a unique opportunity to experience Copenhagen from the seaside. The tour will take you from Nyhavn past the ultramodern and stylish Copenhagen Opera House from 2004, to the Langelinie Quay where you will get the chance to admire the fabled Little Mermaid sitting on a rock in the water. Opposite you can enjoy the view of the old Batteri Sixtus, which is part of the naval base on Holmen. It is from here that official cannon salutes are fired at certain occasions!
Afterwards, the boat enters Christianhavn’s Canal, one of the popular and alluring canal stretches within the city of Copenhagen. The canals surround a number of artificial islands where 12 bastions were constructed in the 17th century by King Christian IV. This part of the city is lovely and full of atmosphere.
Catch a glimpse of the Church of Our Saviour before continuing to the old fish market at Gammel Strand with the famous statue of the fisherwoman. She is a symbol of the former fisherwomen known for shouting ‘Herring is good!’, or ‘Sild er godt’ in Danish, to sell their fish at this precise location.
Finally, listen to the guide explaining about Christiansborg, the governmental building, once a royal palace, and continue past the Old Stock Exchange, the Church of Holmen and the National Bank back to Nyhavn.
After the canal cruise you are back at Nyhavn, and will now cross over to Kongens Nytorv.
The impressive square dates from the 17th century and was established in 1670 under the reign of King Christian V.
Centrally located in the city, the eye-catching square is surrounded by significant 17th and 18th-century buildings such as the Charlottenborg Palace, today housing the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, and the Royal Theatre from 1748, designed by the architect Nicolai Eigtved. A world-famous institution belonging to the Royal Theatre is the internationally highly recognised ballet school from 1771 teaching the Bournonville tradition. In fact, the Royal Danish Ballet company was founded already in 1748, precisely here at Kongens Nytorv.
Moreover, you will at Kongens Nytorv also find the famous Hotel d’Angleterre with a history dating back to 1755. The hotel still holds on to many old traditions. Also the department store Magasin du Nord is one of the buildings flanking the plaza. Originally, it was a hotel, and, as an interesting fact, Hans Christian Andersen actually stayed here in the period 1838-1847!
From Kongens Nytorv you will now continue along Strøget, the main pedestrian street in Copenhagen. It offers all kinds of shopping options and fashionable boutiques. Just off Strøget you can visit both the 1800s edifice Copenhagen Cathedral, which is also known as the Church of Our Lady, and the church Helligåndskirken, where the distinguished Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was christened in 1813.
You will easily find a place to have lunch in one of the small streets around Strøget, or maybe on the square Gråbrødretorv, which used to be the location of a Franciscan friary (established in 1238). At the time the friary consisted of a church and a great hall. The church tower actually remained a part of the Copenhagen skyline for several hundred years, and with time the friary was paradoxically converted into a jail! Today, you will find numerous restaurants at the old square.
Now it is time to stroll down Købmagergade, another major shopping street in the pedestrian zone and one of the streets existing since the Middle Ages, where the butchers for many years had stalls along the street. The square Kultorvet along Købmagergade was established only after the Copenhagen Fire of 1728 and named after the trade in charcoal, fire wood and peat, which took place here.
A major attraction in Købmagergade is The Round Tower from 1642. It was built by the Danish King Christian IV as an astronomical observatory to continue the astronomical traditions that the astronomer Tycho Brahe had begun with the construction of Stjerneborg on the island Ven.
You will now walk all the way up the tower to the viewing platform from where you will be able to locate all towers and significant buildings in Copenhagen.
The Round Tower is also uniquely attached to the Trinitatis Church, the old university chapel, which you may look into from the tower. Despite burning down at the Great Fire of 1728, the tower was rebuilt in all its grandeur in the years to come.
The expression ‘having eyes as large as the Round Tower‘ originates from the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale ‘The Tinder Box’, where one of the dogs has such large eyes!
At the other end of Strøget you will reach the City Hall Square, Rådhuspladsen in Danish. In addition to the City Hall, it is flanked by a number of notable buildings, for example Politikens Hus, which is the headquarters of the national newspaper Politiken.
In 1888 a new city hall was planned on the grounds of the former expo area from the Nordic Exhibition of 1872 and the Nordic Exhibition of 1888, exhibitions of art, industry and agriculture in the Nordic countries. The architect Martin Nyrop, who had also designed the expo hall, won the competition with a design inspired by the Palazzo Pubblico and the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo in Siena.
In recent years the square has been modernised on the occasion of Copenhagen being the European Capital of Culture in 1996.
In the afternoon you will visit Glyptoteket, or Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek as its full name is.
Continue a few hundred metres from the City Hall Square to arrive at Glyptoteket at H. C. Andersens Boulevard. The museum dates back to 1906 and is definitely one of the top museums in Copenhagen, if you are interested in antique sculptures. The current building was designed by Hack Kampmann.
The museum was initiated by Carl Jacobsen (1842–1914), whose father had founded the Carlsberg Breweries. His passion was art, and in particular sculptural art. He donated his personal collection to Glyptoteket, and all naturally become a patron of the museum. Gradually, Glyptoteket’s collections expanded, and today the building houses both an impressive collection of sculptures, as well as paintings by famous artists such as Renoir, Degas, Cézanne, David, Monet, van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec within French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Moreover, Danish Golden Age paintings are represented by Eckersberg, Købke and Lundbye.
After a couple of hours in a universe of sculptures and art, you will probably start looking for a restaurant – maybe you will even pick one in Tivoli which is where you will spend the evening!
One of the highlights today is a visit to the famous, historic Tivoli. It is the world’s second-oldest amusement park. Maybe surprisingly, the oldest one is also located in Denmark, namely Dyrehavsbakken set in beautiful surroundings in the forests north of Copenhagen! Still today, Tivoli is extremely popular – whether you are young, a family or a senior citizen, and whether you are a local or a tourist. There is something for any taste – and many Danes cherish lifelong memories of their childhood outings to Tivoli!
The founder and first director, Georg Carstensen, obtained an exclusive royal permission to open the gardens already back in 1843. A former military base just off the city ramparts became the chosen location for the enchanting attraction park.
Right since its opening, Tivoli has been both attractive and successful. World-famous people have over the years visited the thriving gardens, for example Hans Christian Andersen, who found literary inspiration here to write the entertaining tale The Nightingale, and Walt Disney, who was motivated here for particular details in the design of Disneyland.
You will definitely have fun and enjoy your evening in Tivoli with funfair rides, restaurants, games, children’s play area, concert venues, and not least, the amazingly beautiful flower gardens. Why not have fresh shrimps or smørrebrød at the traditional restaurant Grøften?
The outdoor stage and lawn Plænen offer top entertainment by prominent artists, and so does the Concert Hall. If you are in Copenhagen on a Friday and belong to the ‘younger segment’, you may want to listen to the Friday Rock, which since the 1990’s has been a big draw here.
With a bit of luck you may experience the Tivoli Boys Guard, dating from 1844. Ever since it has been hugely popular, and so is the open-air Pantomime Theatre from 1874, the oldest building in the amusement park, designed by Vilhelm Dahlerup. Here Pierrot, Harlequin and Columbine perform without a spoken word.
On a Saturday night your visit will culminate with the most spectacular fireworks taking place above the Tivoli Lake and it can be seen all over the city!
Day 2 you will explore a couple of unusual neighbourhoods in Copenhagen, Christianshavn and the freetown Christiania, visit the parliament in Denmark, Christiansborg, as well as the royal Rosenborg Castle, and maybe buy tickets for an evening performance at the Royal Theatre.
First thing in the morning you will find your way to Christiansborg on the islet Slotsholmen, which also houses the Old Stock Exchange, the Royal Library and the Royal Library Garden. Christiansborg is a former royal palace, which since 1849 has been the seat of the Danish Parliament, and now also houses the Supreme Court as well as the Danish Prime Minister’s Office. In addition to its governmental purposes, it is at times still used for both gala banquets and the recurring public audiences with the Queen.
Walk around Christiansborg and admire the old castle from 1928, designed in a Neo-baroque style. However, it is not the first castle being erected here. The first palace structure was raised by Archbishop Absalon in 1167 – to protect Copenhagen from enemies.
In the 1400s Copenhagen Castle was now erected, and from the 15th century the castles here changed status as the residence of Denmark’s kings and queens.
The current Christiansborg was designed in 1906 by the architect Thorvald Jørgensen.
You may wish to visit Christiansborg Castle inside as well. Parts of the building are open to the public, including the Royal Reception Rooms with a splendid décor and paintings by the Danish artists A. Abildgaard, C. W. Eckersberg, L. Tuxen and J. Skovgaard. An absolute masterpiece is the tapestry by B. Nørgaard which depicts the last 1000 years of history in Denmark.
Afterwards, you may want to continue to the Royal Stables, Kitchen and Chapel. Under the palace you will get the chance to take in the old ruins of Christiansborg, and if you choose to complete your visit by climbing the tower, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views of Copenhagen city (free admission).
In case you want to attend a sitting in the Chamber of the Danish Parliament (from October to mid-June, check the website) or go on a guided tour here, this is also possible. The tour must be booked in advance, but is free of charge.
Out again, you will walk over to The Black Diamond, Den Sorte Diamant, which is an extension to the Royal Danish Library’s traditional building on Slotsholmen, ingeniously constructed at the waterfront.
It is an architectural jewel from 1999 made of black granite, designed by the Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The name Black Diamond is obvious when you see the water reflected on the walls of the building – sparkling like a diamond!
The Black Diamond contains in addition to the library, an auditorium, the Queen’s Hall, which is frequently used for concerts and exhibitions, a bookshop, a restaurant, a café and a few museums on photography and cartoon art. It is free to visit the building, but you may additionally decide to buy tickets for a guided tour of The Royal Library.
You will now cross the bridge and move over to Christianshavn, an old neighbourhood and working-class borough, located on several artificial islands, which over the last decades has changed and today is hugely popular with locals and visitors alike! The area is absolutely bohemian and charming, and you may now look for one of the many informal places to have lunch, for example Broens Gadekøkken, a street food place with various options.
Afterwards, stroll along the idyllic Christianshavn canals, established in the 17th century by the former, highly productive king Christian IV. You will recognise many locations in Copenhagen named after him. At his time Christianshavn was part of the bastion-shaped fortifications of the Danish capital.
Christianshavn also features the eye-catching, alternative community in Copenhagen (and Denmark), the freetown Christiania, which will be your next stop.
You will probably enter the freetown Christiania through the gate marking the cease of the normal society and the entrance to this experimental part of Copenhagen.
The area used to be an abandoned military base, and in 1971 a group of people broke into it to take advantage of the empty grounds and military barracks. At the time Copenhagen had problems providing sufficient affordable housing, and this was by some seen as an opportunity to acquire the demanded accommodation. An intentional community in Denmark, the freetown Christiania, saw the light of day in this part of Copenhagen, guided by the leader of the squatters, Jacob Ludvigsen. It became for some decades an autonomous society with an own lifestyle and own laws, distinct from the usual Danish laws.
Walk around the Christiania village and be surprised at the primitive houses, unusual approaches and creative ideas which have sprung up here over the years and still today characterise the freetown in Copenhagen. Christiania features as a freetown a pronounced hippie culture and social experiments within unconventional ideologies, and even then Christiania has coexisted more or less in peace with the rest of Copenhagen and Denmark for decades!
The downside has been the great amount of drugs sold here in ‘Pusher Street’, occurring because Danish laws were not enforced at Christiania. This also gave rise to a lot of political debate in Denmark, and finally in 2010 the cannabis trade was prohibited at Christiania, and the freetown is now again under the same laws as their neighbouring areas in Copenhagen.
Anyway, the hippie community is still present at Christiania, and the residents have managed to turn the apart freetown into an enticing place in Copenhagen to locals and visitors alike. Actually, the Christiania economy to some extent is now based on the visitors from Copenhagen, Denmark and from abroad.
You may want to have a drink or a light meal in one of the Christiania restaurants, enjoy a gallery or two, or simply chill out in the freetown for an hour or so before continuing your sightseeing in ‘conventional’ Copenhagen. You will then continue to Rosenborg Castle.
After your ‘freetown Christiania’ experience, you will visit Rosenborg Castle, one of the finest castles in both Copenhagen and in Denmark. Here you will also have time to enjoy the spectacular and popular park, Kongens Have, meaning the King’s Garden, from 1606, originally planned to provide the Court with fruits, vegetables and flowers from Rosenborg.
Again, Rosenborg Castle is one of the renowned constructions undertaken by King Christian IV in the years 1606 – 1633, assisted by the architects Bertel Lange and Hans van Steenwinckel. The King showed great interest in architecture and considered it a personal challenge to take an active part in the construction of his buildings such as the erection of Rosenborg Castle.
As a Dutch Renaissance palace, Rosenborg Castle had all the things a so-called pleasure palace at the time required: a real drawbridge, elegant turrets and a lavish Great Hall flanked by a series of tapestries depicting his superior victories.
Since 1710 Rosenborg Castle has on Frederik IV’s initiative served as the home of royal art treasures, and you can for instance experience the exclusive Crown Jewels in the Treasury Chamber here. Christian VI’s queen, Sophie Magdalene, contributed with her own jewellery to the collection, and so did Frederik VIII’s queen, Lovisa and Christian VIII’s queen, Caroline Amalie. Even today the Queen will come to Rosenborg Castle to select the Crown Jewels, she intends to wear.
Don’t forget to see the Rosenborg Porcelain Cabinet with Flora Danica, the Glass Cabinet, the armoury rooms and the Rosenborg Castle Wine!
When your mind is filled with impressions from Rosenborg Castle and the King’s Garden, you may want to continue to Torvehallerne at Nørreport Station to grab a quick bite. It is Copenhagen’s popular food market place which opened in 2011. Here you will find fresh fish, vegetables and other produce among the many specialities, as well as a number of small restaurants and cafés. Otherwise there are lots of other restaurant options around.
For your second evening in Copenhagen you may have booked tickets for a play at the Royal Theatre!
Today is a museum day – and a glimpse of Amalienborg Palace and the Royal Life Guards, the Citadel and the world-famous Little Mermaid.
Unless you are a true museum addict and want to cover both the National Museum and Thorvaldsen’s Museum, you will probably have to select just one of them, depending on your interest: Denmark’s past and cultural heritage, or sculptures.
If you choose to visit the National Museum, you will be exploring Denmark’s archaeological past.
The National Museum is the largest museum in Denmark of its kind, and you have a unique opportunity here to see outstanding finds for yourself, including the rare Golden Horns, the Egtved Girl tomb, the exclusive Trundholm Chariot of the Sun, as well as the renowned Gundestrup Cauldron.
A visit to the museum is a 14,000 years’ journey through Denmark’s history, from the Ice Age and prehistory – until Viking kings ruled and the Middle Ages swept through the country. Anyway, the exhibitions don’t stop here, but continue into present-day Danish culture. It is really an occasion to gain insight into Danish archeology and cultural heritage!
In case you pick Thorvaldsen’s Museum instead of the National Museum, you will dive into a world of sculptures!
The collection contains a selection of Thorvaldsen’s masterpieces and other works produced throughout his life. They comprise marble and plaster sculptures, as well as models for cast bronze figures.
You will notice his neoclassical style and great inspiration from Rome, where he lived for many years. Moreover, the collection includes various artifacts from Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. If you love antiquity and sculptures, this is really the museum for you!
Next thing on your agenda is Amalienborg Palace, the official royal winter residence. There are four palaces: Christian VII’s Palace ( Moltke’s Palace), Christian VIII’s Palace ( Levetzau’s Palace), Frederik VIII’s Palace (Brockdorff’s Palace) and Christian IX’s Palace (Schack’s Palace).
When built around 1760, the mansions were intended to be residences for noble people in Copenhagen. However, when Christiansborg Palace burned down in 1794, the Danish monarchs moved in at Amalienborg Palace instead. Since then they have more or less permanently occupied one of the four buildings here.
The Royal Life Guards, Den Kongelige Livgarde, guard Amalienborg, and they march from Rosenborg Castle at 11:30 am through the city to arrive here at the royal courtyard for the changing of the guard.
Afterwards, you may enter selected parts of the Palace. You can visit The Amalienborg Museum in Christian VIII’s Palace and do the tour of Christian VII’s Palace.
The four identical buildings surround the octagonal plaza, Amalienborg Slotsplads, with the equestrian statue of Amalienborg’s founder, King Frederik V, in the middle.
Continue from the central courtyard in direction of the sea. You will then arrive at the modern Amaliehaven from 1983, designed by the Belgian architect Jean Delogne. The small sculptural park with the beautiful fountain was a gift from the founder of the Mærsk company, A. P. Møller, to the citizens in Copenhagen.
Right behind Amalienborg you will find the Frederik’s Church. The renowned rococo architectural edifice with a copper green dome is also known as the Marble Church. It has the largest church dome in all Scandinavia! The church is an Evangelical Lutheran church, designed by the architect Nicolai Eigtved in 1740, and much later, as late as in 1894, completed by Carl Frederik Tietgen and the architect Ferdinand Meldahl, who was also the architect behind Frederiksborg Castle.
Originally, the Marble Church was intended to be part of Frederiksstaden, the new part of the city which was laid out to commemorate the 300 years jubilee of the House of Oldenburg ascending the throne. However, Johann Friedrich Struensee changed the plans and left the church incomplete for several hundred years.
You are now after the morning tour of central Copenhagen ready to move a bit northwards to the old citadel, Kastellet, but first you should take advantage of the many restaurant options in the city to have a late lunch!
Originally also known as ‘King Frederik III’s harbour’, the citadel Kastellet is today a well-preserved fortress, which dates back to the 17th century.
You can walk along the 5 bastions overlooking the old moat. Kastellet was initiated in 1626 under the monarch King Christian IV, as part of the bastioned ramparts surrounding Copenhagen city.
Although being a Danish citadel, the fortress was the work of two Dutch engineers, Johan Semp and Henrik Rüse, who redesigned it after the end of the Swedish siege of Copenhagen in 1660.
You will now enter Kastellet through the gate, either the King’s Gate or the Norway Gate. Inside a small village is revealed with guard and store houses, as well as six barracks with dormitories for the garrison of 1,800 men.
Moreover, you will in the military complex find the Commander’s original house, a granary, gunpowder stores, a church and a prison.
It is a lovely place to spend a couple of hours chilling after the more intense morning sightseeing in Copenhagen city!
Of course a Copenhagen visit is not complete without a glimpse of The Little Mermaid. She sits within walking distance from Kastellet, actually at the foot of it. Go for a stroll along Langelinie until you reach the small statue.
Commissioned by the son of the founder of Carlsberg, Carl Jacobsen, and created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, she has, maybe a bit surprisingly, become one of the most significant landmarks in Copenhagen.
You will probably think that she is even tinier than you have imagined, but that doesn’t change her fame!
Only for the Expo 2010 in Shanghai was she removed from her sitting position on the rock at Langelinie and moved to the Danish Pavilion at the Expo.
Last thing today is a visit to the Opera House, but before then you may want to make a short detour to the Meatpacking District, or Kødbyen, at Vesterbro – and maybe pop into a restaurant there? The district used to house the meat industry in Copenhagen. Today it is a vibrant place and cultural melting point with a lot of trendy galleries, clubs and restaurants for fine dining – or for an excellent casual meal.
You will now approach the sea once again to arrive at Copenhagen Opera House. Here you will be able to enjoy stunning sunset views of Copenhagen Harbour and waterfront. Beforehand, you may even have managed to get tickets for a performance here tonight!
Copenhagen Opera House is located on the island Dokøen at Holmen. Constructed just opposite Amalienborg and aligned with both the Palace and the Marble Church, it has one of the best locations in the city. It was constructed in 2001-2004 and is one of the most top-notch opera constructions in the world! It is really the perfect place to end your Copenhagen visit!
Steel House Copenhagen is a modern hostel, located minutes’ walk from Tivoli. The hostel features both a dormitory, as well as private rooms, and offers a café, a bar, free WiFi and an indoor pool. 2 km from Nyhavn.
Wakeup Copenhagen – Borgergade is a centrally located hotel in the heart of Copenhagen near Nyhavn, Kongens Nytorv, Rosenborg Castle and Strøget. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi and modern rooms with private bathrooms.
Ascot Hotel is a centrally located hotel set in a charming 19th-century building close to Tivoli and Copenhagen Central Station. The hotel features a breakfast buffet and free gym access.
Copenhagen Admiral Hotel has a unique location close to Amalienborg Palace and the Copenhagen Opera House. Organic breakfast and a gourmet restaurant are some of the things the hotel offers. Nyhavn, Kongens Nytorv and Strøget shopping street are all within easy reach on foot.
Copenhagen Island Hotel is an ultramodern hotel with free Wi-Fi, gym and sauna access, centrally located near Fisketorvet and Tivoli. Minimalist interiors, harbour or city views and restaurant with seafood dishes.
Radisson Collection Royal Hotel, Copenhagen is located in the heart of Copenhagen next to Tivoli. Designed by Arne Jacobsen as Copenhagen’s first skyscraper. The hotel features free WiFi, gym, sauna, massage and amazing city views.
Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen
Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen
Read more about Copenhagen, Nyhavn, the freetown Christiania and Rosenborg Castle: 9 Cultural Things to Do in Copenhagen
Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen
Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen
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Nyhavn, Freetown Christiania & Rosenborg Castle Copenhagen:
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