I didn’t plan on only having one day in Copenhagen. But of course, as is often the case when travelling, a lot can happen to throw your plans down the drain. This time it was a majorly delayed flight that saw me spending nearly an entire day in the Dublin airport instead of hanging out with the Little Mermaid. And by the time I finally arrived in Denmark’s Capital it was nighttime, which left me with only one full (and sadly, rainy) day to explore the home of the infamous Danish fairytale writer: Hans Christian Anderson. While Copenhagen has plenty to see, including the Tivoli Gardens and Christiania (which are not included in this guide because of the time constraint) one day in this Scandinavian capital is definitely worth your time, and there is more than enough to keep you busy.
Located by the sea, there are plenty of ways to get to Copenhagen. I arrived by plane where I was able to easily hop on the metro to take me downtown in about 20 minutes. Copenhagen also has a central train station, located near the Tivoli Gardens, which the largest train station in Denmark. Trains here have connections to other cities around the country as well as with southern Sweden. As a port city, Copenhagen is also a popular cruise hub and has been named Europe’s leading Cruise Port multiple times.
Copenhagen is a very walkable city. For the most part, the majority of the hotels and attractions are within a reasonable walking distance from each other. That being said, the city also has a good metro station and bus service. Another option for sightseeing is to take one of the canal tours, which leave regularly from Nyhavn; it’s an easy and relaxing way to see some of the city’s highlights (especially if its pouring rain and you don’t want to walk).
Need a place to stay? For something elegant try Skt. Petri Hotel. If you are on a budget try Generator Hostel which has both dorms and private rooms. And don’t forget to check Airbnb for budget friendly choices!
What to See and Do
Literally translated to ‘New Harbour’, the colourful buildings of Nyhavn make it the most photographed area in all of Copenhagen. Originally a hub for prostitution (and also where acclaimed author Hans Christian Anderson lived), today Nyhavn is full of restaurants and bars and home to the Veteran Ship and Harbour museum. You probably don’t want to eat here (it’s very pricey) but its perfect to walk around and take photos. Here is also where you will find the canal tours. At only one hour long, they are a great and fun way to see the city from the water.
The Little Mermaid
Possibly one of the most iconic statues in the world, the Little Mermaid is a top tourist favourite. Popularity aside, the poor girl has had it rough over the past 50+ years in which she has been decapitated, had her arm cut off, been covered in paint, and defiled with the dildo. However, despite the numerous cases of vandalism she has been restored many times and is usually found all in one piece. The Little Mermaid can be found on a rock in the bay along the Langelinie promenade. It is a fair walk from the city centre, but don’t worry; if you are pressed for time and/or stuck in bad weather (like I was), the canal cruises will take you out to her.
This pedestrian only area is considered to be the shopping street of Copenhagen. At 1.1 km, it is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in all of Europe. StrØget has something for everyone and is filled with a selection of souvenir shops, popular chain stores, and of course high end designer boutiques. This is also the area where you will find Copenhagen’s most famous (and expensive) stores including the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory.
The winter home to the Danish royal family, Amalienborg is made up of four mansions or palaces, centred on a courtyard. Of the four palaces only two, the Christian VII and Christian VIII, are open to public. Frederick VIII’s Palace is the home of the current Crown Prince Frederik and the Crown Princess Mary. Amalienborg palace is guarded 24/7 by the Royal Life Guards who execute a changing of the guard at noon every day in front of the palace. Also close by the Frederick’s Church (the Marble Church) which is also worth a peek if you are in the area.
City Hall and Jens Olsen’s World Clock
Located in City Hall Square, City Hall is a beautiful building that was inaugurated in 1905. But despite the beautiful façade and interior, the main attraction here is Jens Olsen’s World Clock. This astronomical clock has twelve movements and is wound once a week to display an incredible variety of things including: lunar eclipses, different times around the world including Copenhagen time and solar time, the time of sunset and sunrise, the calendar, a star map, and the solar system amongst other things. The World Clock located just inside city hall to the right. Entry to city hall (and the World Clock) is free to visitors.
Originally built as a summer house in 1606, the Rosenborg castle was only used as a royal residence for a little over 100 years. Since then it was been used twice more to house the royal family in emergency situations, but today is used as a museum. The exhibits here are royal collections including the crown jewels, the coronation carpet, and the throne chair of Denmark. Though you probably won’t have time to go inside if you only had a day, Rosenborg Castle is located in the Kongens Have (King’s Garden) which is the country’s oldest garden and free to visitors. This area is a picture-perfect place to relax and take a break from sight-seeing.
Although the area has been the site to many different castles over the centuries, Christianborg Palace today is the Danish house of power. Parliament is located in the southern wing while the northern wing houses the royal reception rooms, Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister’s Office. Tickets for entry as well as tours are available at what is rumoured to be a costly fee, but the buildings themselves are fantastic to look at.
To Get the Most out of Your Day
If you are up for a lot of walking I highly recommend taking a free, three hour city tour to get the best out of your short stay. I took a group tour with Sandeman’s New Europe Tours (which run twice a day, daily) and was able to see a lot of the city in the three hours. Also, as mentioned above, there are a the canal tours (1hour long) that offer a great introduction to the city from the water.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and while you can easily stay longer to explore, one day is perfect for seeing the highlights.