For a well-rounded city break getaway, few cities in Europe deliver quite like the city of Copenhagen. Equal parts historic and cosmopolitan, the capital of Denmark manages to delight most travelers it encounters. No matter your interests the best things to do in Copenhagen are sure to include them. Still, it never hurts to come prepared, which is where our Copenhagen guide comes in handy. To get the most from your visit and see the things which interest you, use this Copenhagen itinerary to plan your trip and find out what to do in Copenhagen in 3 days.
Best Time to Visit Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a city with many sides to it, so it’s to be expected that the best time to visit Copenhagen will depend on how you want to see it. If you’re seeking the best weather then it’s hard to argue with the summer months of June through August. Of course this is also the busiest time to visit, as tourists flock to make the most of the good weather and, a diverse array of festivals and events are being held.
Another great time to visit Copenhagen though is in spring, especially the months of April and May. Firmly within shoulder season, prices often drop with the lower tourist numbers. But you also get to experience Copenhagen’s best kept secret, it’s dazzling spring blossoms which bring new life to the city as it emerges from the chill of winter.
Another great time to come is in the lead up to Christmas. Copenhagen is home to several excellent Christmas markets and the city’s festive cheer is infectious throughout December. Winter won’t have fully hit yet but you can still expect the city to be plenty cold.
How to Get Around Copenhagen
While visiting Copenhagen you’re going to find yourself moving around the city quite a lot, though the city center isn’t huge you could still wind up with a whole heap of walking throughout your long weekend in Copenhagen while you go about your sightseeing. At times that may be fine as quite a few attractions are close together but moving back and forth can quickly get tiring.
One way to move away from all the walking, is to simply do as the locals do and hop on a bicycle. Cycling is second nature to locals, so why not follow suit? Check if your accommodation provides bicycles to guests and if not, you’ll find plenty of bicycle rentals around the city.
In terms of public transport, the most useful options are likely to be the bus, S-trains, and harbor bus. Buses take you throughout Copenhagen making them the most versatile option. The S-trains are used to connect the central train station and Østerport. Perhaps most inviting of all though is the harbor buses which help you get across and along the canals of Copenhagen. All public transport uses the same ticketing system, with a single trip ticket costing DKK 24.
Recommendation: Save time and money by getting the Copenhagen City Card. With the card you not only get to use all public transportation for free but you also get to enjoy free or discount entrance at more than 80 museums and attractions.
If you’re flying into Copenhagen Airport, the best to way to get into the city center is by train or metro. Taking the train will bring you to Copenhagen Central Station, while the metro takes you to other parts of the city center like Kongens Nytorv which, depending on your final destination, may be more useful.
Accommodation in Copenhagen
Since a hotel or hostel can make or break a trip, deciding where to stay in Copenhagen is an important part of your planning. It’s not just deciding on the type of accommodation which matters, but also where in the city it’s located. In Copenhagen, look for somewhere right in the center or over in Vesterbro. These are your best options as they’re easily reached and are good for both sightseeing and restaurants.
Exuding pure luxury, the five-star Manon Les Suites Guldsmeden is the perfect place to treat yourself. From its massive suites to the indoor pool and stunning rooftop cafe, this hotel has everything you need to make your stay a memorable one.
To stay somewhere with a few comforts while keeping prices reasonable, the Comfort Hotel Vesterbro is a clever pick. Rooms in this three-star hotel include complimentary breakfast and feature a creatively modern design which suits the equally creative Vesterbro neighborhood surrounding this hotel.
If you’re looking for affordable accommodation, Urban House Copenhagen is a great choice. It’s conveniently located near the main train station and has everything from a billiards lounge to a bicycle shop. But it’s the staff and boutique design which make this one of the best places to stay in Copenhagen. Make sure to also take a look at our guide on the best hostels in Copenhagen.
For more accommodation options in Copenhagen check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 3-Day Copenhagen Itinerary
Unlike some other major European capitals, seeing the best of Copenhagen won’t require an entire week of your vacation. Though the city has a wealth of attractions which will easily win you over, you should feel confident that 72 hours in Copenhagen is enough. By planning your visit with this guide to Copenhagen, you should have no problem seeing the city’s best sights and come away from your trip thoroughly in love with Denmark’s capital.
This guide starts in the heart of Copenhagen’s city center and continues over your first two days not only through the prettiest parts of the city and its beloved symbols, but also through important historical and cultural landmarks. You’ll get the chance to experience all aspects of Danish culture, from food and leisure to shopping and its alternative culture. Afterwards, there’s time to head out and do some exploring with a day trip to one of the many fascinating destinations nearby.
However, before we get to our Copenhagen itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Now that you’re appropriately prepared for your trip, It’s time to dive into what you can expect from your 3 days in Copenhagen as you follow our expert Copenhagen travel itinerary.
Day 1 in Copenhagen
On the first day in the city, there’s no sense going anywhere but the best places to visit in Copenhagen. To start, we’re going to explore the places right in the heart of Copenhagen’s center.
Recommendation: If you want to learn a little bit more about Copenhagen’s history or see an alternative side to the city, consider joining either this 2.5-Hour City Walking Tour or this 2.5-Hour Alternative Tour. Both are great choices depending on your interest.
City Hall Square
Any good European city has a great big main square which you must visit, Copenhagen is no exception. Right at its core lies City Hall Square which doesn’t disappoint with the grand architecture around its sides, and the Copenhagen City Hall which takes pride of place with its gilded edges glimmering in the sunlight.
But the neighboring buildings each add to the square’s character. So too do the several statues that sit in and around the square. Hard to miss is the Lurblæserne statue of two men sounding curved horns way up on top of a pillar. The same goes for the Dragon Fountain which, in vivid detail, displays a dragon and a bull fighting.
Stretching right across the center of Copenhagen, the pedestrian street of Strøget starts off at City Hall Square and runs right into Kongens Nytorv. There are an awful lot of shops for you to pass as you cross Copenhagen on this street. Besides being great for window shopping, Strøget is quite pretty in its own right and offers pedestrians some nice views of other major city landmarks nearby.
Copenhagen is a waterfront city and there’s no argument that the most photogenic waterfront spot in the city is Nyhavn. Once a busy, rough-and-tumble port, Nyhavn is still lively but in what is now a more bright and cheerful kind of way. You’ll find plenty of boats packed into this small canal harbor, but it’s really the classic waterfront houses here that you’ll want to stop and take photos of. With such a pretty scene, you won’t need persuading to stop at one of the many waterfront restaurants here and just soak it in.
From Nyhavn you can also catch one of the many canal cruise boats that go along the main harbor and adjoining canals. For more information or to book a canal cruise click here.
Amalienborg Palace Square
Palaces aren’t in short supply in Copenhagen, especially around the Amalienborg Palace Square. On each side of this grand ring of cobblestone you’ll see the elegant palace buildings of Amalienborg Palace. Visitors to the city often come to this square to see the statue of King Frederik V on horseback or watch the ceremonial changing of the guards. The view from the square along to the Frederik’s Church is where you’ll spy the large dome on this 18th century building.
Churchill Park and the Langelinie
Just up along the waterfront, you’ll reach Churchill Park and the Langelinie Promenade, both packed with landmarks. Starting in Churchill Park you’ll come across the elegant grey and white St Alban’s Church, with the striking Gefion Fountain beside it. Following the waterfront promenade, you’re soon at the Angel of Peace statue in Langelinie Park which comes alive when spring blooms.
As you walk along the Langelinie you’re surrounded by water, with the canals of Copenhagen on one side and the moat of the Kastellet citadel on the other. There is perhaps not a more appropriate place to find the famous statue of the Little Mermaid. This bronze statue of the beloved fairytale character has become quite the icon of Copenhagen despite its small stature.
Having walked past it you can now turn and make your way across one of the bridges into the Kastellet citadel. This large star shaped fortress is quite the sight thanks to its surrounding moats and high grassy embankments. Once part of Copenhagen’s defenses, Kastellet was later converted into a public park with walking trails along its old fortifications. At the center of the fortress are several heritage buildings which, together with the large stone gates, are the main reminders of its military past.
Having spent the day out and about sightseeing, it’s time for a bit of fun over at the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park. The second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli has everything from rides to music and dance performances among its beautiful gardens. Rides here include a vintage wooden roller coaster, drop towers, bumper cars, ferris wheel, and swing carousel. Amazingly, this park was the inspiration for Disney World!
In winter, the gardens are home to one of the city’s Christmas markets, ice skating and special illuminations turning it into a winter wonderland. No matter the season, or age range really, Tivoli Gardens are a great way to spend your first evening in the city. You can purchase your skip-the-line tickets in advance here.
Day 2 in Copenhagen
Today you’ll return to the city center of Copenhagen before slowly moving your way further and further out of the center. You’ll also have a chance to experience other sides of the city beyond sightseeing.
One of the big landmarks in the city center which you did not see on your first day, is Christiansborg Palace. Actually on its own little island within the city, this massive palace is just as important to Copenhagen’s present as it is the city’s past. That’s because the founding of the city back in the 12th century was tied with the first of many castles to be built on this very spot.
Today though, the 20th century palace is home to each branch of the government, not to mention several Royal functions. The palace hosts the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court, and the Prime Minister’s Office, and yet it’s still possible for visitors to come and tour through the building. While the view of the main courtyard is quite impressive, it pales in comparison to the Great Hall with its grandiose design and beautiful tapestries.
Another castle not to miss while in Copenhagen is the Rosenborg Castle, thanks to its graceful architecture, inviting garden, and overwhelming treasury. This renaissance castle is where you’ll find many of the shiniest items tied to the Danish Royal Family, from the crown jewels to coronation thrones. Besides the opulent collections of the treasury, you can also appreciate the glamorous interior of this royal palace as you pass from room to room.
Statens Museum for Kunst
Not just Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen is also a capital of culture with countless museums and galleries worthy of your time. While you could spend days also visiting places like the National Museum of Denmark and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, if you only have time for one museum it should be the Statens Museum for Kunst. The SMK for short, this vast art museum sits just across from the Rosenborg Castle.
As the National Gallery of Denmark here you’ll find works of art which span centuries, from the Renaissance to modern and contemporary art. Not only are the works of Danish artists on display here, but so too are works by such names as Rubens, Matisse, and Munch, as well as whomever each temporary exhibit brings with it.
In recent years, Copenhagen has become known as a major foodie destinations thanks to its many Michelin star restaurants. But you don’t need to fork out lots of money to try Danish cuisine thanks to food markets like Torvehallerne. Inside there are over 60 food stalls, selling everything from baked goods to fresh fish, alcoholic drinks, and all sorts of gourmet produce. For a truly local taste though, try smørrebrød, a Danish open-faced sandwich topped with cold meat, fish and other garnishes. You can also grab a fresh coffee here to help you through the remainder of your sightseeing.
Royal Danish Playhouse and Opera House
Up until this point you’ve focused mostly on the historical side of Copenhagen, but the city can be quite fresh and modern too. Just look to the strikingly modern architectural design of the city’s Royal Danish Playhouse and Opera House to see what I mean. Positioned either side of the canal, both waterfront venues really help make this part of the city an inviting one. If you have time one evening, either one is a fantastic place to catch a performance at. Just don’t forget to dress up!
The city of Copenhagen may seem like quite a straight-laced place at times, but that’s not the case with Freetown Christiana. Off in the southeastern edge of the city center, this alternative community has strived to be independent and self-sufficient from the city for decades. Situated on a former barracks, a visit to this commune makes you feel like you’ve left Copenhagen behind.
Known for its successful cannabis and hash trade, it’s common to see people smoking here, just don’t take photos around the “Green Light District” and keep in mind that cannabis is illegal in Denmark. Still, with organic food, live music, and tours through the community, it’s become quite an attraction for visitors looking to see another side of the city.
If you want to learn more about Freetown Christiania and how hippies took over a military base in the 1970s, consider joining this alternative walking tour. It’s a super interesting tour and highly recommended.
A great way to unwind after another day sightseeing is with a good ol’ soak at one of Copenhagen’s many spas. Spending time in a hot tub and sauna is another slice of Danish life you need to experience. While there are many day spas across the city, none are quite like CopenHot.
Not only do they have big outdoor barrel spas right along the waterfront, but their saunas also have a great big window so you can gaze out across the harbor. And don’t forget about their sailing hot tubs, where you can drink and play music while floating around Copenhagen’s waterways from the comfort of a hot tub.
Day 3 in Copenhagen
At this point you’ll likely be infatuated with Copenhagen, but it’s time to go out and explore other parts of Denmark or even hop over to Sweden. These day trips from Copenhagen will help you get a better sense of just how awesome Denmark and Scandinavia are.
Recommendation: To get the most out of your third day in Copenhagen, consider joining this highly rated day tour to Roskilde, Frederiksborg, and Kronborg. This tour is ideal for those who are short on time and want to see as much as possible of historic Denmark.
Denmark and castles go hand in hand, so why not spend your day visiting Kronborg Castle in the city of Helsingør. This incredible renaissance castle may be a UNESCO world heritage site but it’s best known as the setting for Hamlet, the play by William Shakespeare. Inside the castle you’ll learn about the city’s history and delve into its crypts and catacombs. Because of its literary link, the castle also hosts an annual Shakespeare Festival where you can see Hamlet in its actual setting.
While it may be the city’s most famous landmark, there’s much more to Helsingør (also known as Elsinore – just don’t get it confused with its Swedish neighbor across the water, Helsingborg!) At the center of the city lies its quaint Old Town complete with cobblestone alleys and picturesque houses. But Helsingør can also be strikingly modern as the port city’s Culture Harbor proves with the contemporary design of the M/S Maritime Museum. You can expect to learn plenty about vikings here with the museum’s exhibits on Denmark’s seafaring history.
Another great Danish city that is easy to visit from Copenhagen is the ancient city of Roskilde. Although there’s a great deal to see in the city, Roskilde is best known for two wildly different things, the Roskilde Music Festival, and its Viking Ship Museum.
The Roskilde Festival is a huge 4-day music festival held each summer which attracts over 100,000 festival-goers. No surprises then, that it’s one of the biggest music festivals in all of Europe. Started in 1971, the festival used to focus on Scandinavian and European music, but nowadays attracts major international artists like Metallica, Bruno Mars, and Eminem. The city’s love of music has even led to the creation of the Ragnarock Museum that explores the history of rock.
And yet, Roskilde is also famous for its incredible Viking history, best covered in the Viking Ship Museum. Here you can learn about the history and culture of the Vikings, as well as see what remains of five Viking ships that were uncovered in the nearby fjord. You can also watch as new Viking ships get made over in the shipyard workshops.
Since you can actually see Sweden from Copenhagen, the temptation to head over and visit a new country is hard to ignore. What’s great though is that it’s easily done via a visit over the Øresund Bridge to the Swedish city of Malmö. Full of history and character, you can expect to see quite a bit of Malmö in just a day.
It’s best to start with the delightful half-timbered houses that line the central square of Lilla Torget, before heading over to Malmö Castle. Inside this low-lying fortress you can visit the City Museum and then wander the Castle Gardens and Kungsparken in search of the Castle Windmill. Just over from Kungsparken you’ll find a wonderful mix of modern and historic in the design of the Malmö City Library.
If the weather’s right, you won’t want to miss a trip down to Malmö’s waterfront. Not only can you spend some time at the beach there and see the Turning Torso Tower, but you can look back at the Øresund Bridge stretching off to the horizon.
Hard to believe, but that’s it. You can certainly understand how it’s possible to see Copenhagen in 3 days and have a little extra time left over for some sightseeing beyond the city.