Copenhagen has been referred to as the ‘happiest city in the world‘ and, for those of us who have been there, it’s not hard to see why. The Danish capital manages to strike a perfect balance between the chilled Scandinavian way of life and the vibrant buzz of a cosmopolitan city. As a result, this trendy capital city manages to impress most travellers lucky enough to visit.
If you’re looking for the ideal place to visit for a well-rounded and diverse city break, few cities in Europe deliver quite like Copenhagen. With castles, gardens, canals, impressive architecture, museums and colourful rooftops, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to keeping busy. With plenty of things to do in Copenhagen, you will never be bored, that’s for sure. Still, it pays to be prepared which is why we have put together this comprehensive 3 day Copenhagen itinerary. To make the most of your trip, use this Copenhagen city break guide to give you some ideas of what to do and see, where to eat and where to party during your stay.
When is the Best Time to Visit Copenhagen?
Copenhagen is such a varied city with many sides to see, so the best time to visit largely depends on how you want to see it. If it’s nice weather you’re seeking, then there is no doubt that the summer months of June through to August are your best bet. However, this is also the busiest time to visit Copenhagen, with thousands of tourists flock to the city to enjoy the good weather and the selection of festivals and events that are taking place.
A quieter time to visit Copenhagen is during spring, particularly between April and May. With fewer tourists visiting at this time, many services start to lower their prices making it an more affordable time to go too. Not only is springtime in Copenhagen quiet and cheap, but you also get to see the capital’s best-kept secret – the breathtaking spring blossoms which brighten up the city as it emerges from the cold winter.
Yet, my personal favourite time to visit Copenhagen is in the lead up to Christmas. A true home of Christmas spirit, there is no better way to get in the festive mood than by visiting the city’s many Christmas markets and drinking gløgg by the gallon. Just make sure you take plenty of layers – although winter won’t have fully hit yet, the city will certainly be very chilly.
How to Get Around Copenhagen
Although the city centre of Copenhagen is fairly compact, during a 3 day visit, you could still wind up doing a lot of walking in order to see all of the sites. Most of the time it is fine to walk given that most attractions are close together. But, there may be instances where it is much easier or necessary to use another method of transport to get to where you want to go.
One transport option is to do as the locals do and simply hop on a bicycle. With cycling being second nature to the locals of Copenhagen, there are plenty of bike rentals situated all across the city. Alternatively, you should check whether the accommodation you’re staying at provides bicycles to guests.
When it comes to public transport, your most versatile option is probably the bus, which will take you all over the city. Otherwise, you could opt for the S-trains which are used to connect the central station and Østerport. Perhaps the most inviting public transport option in Copenhagen though is the harbour bus which travels the city’s canals. What is super convenient about Copenhagen’s public transport is that it all utilises the same ticketing system, with a single trip ticket costing just DKK 24.
Accommodation in Copenhagen
In my opinion, accommodation can make or break a trip, even if it is just for 3 days. Therefore, deciding where to stay during your Copenhagen city break is an important part of planning. It’s not just deciding on what type of accommodation you’d like to stay in, but where in the city it is situated. You want to make sure that your accommodation of choice is right in the centre so that you can easily reach the main attractions and the best restaurants.
What type of accommodation you opt to stay in depends largely on your budget. For those who are looking for affordable Copenhagen accommodation, a hostel is likely your best bet. When I visited Copenhagen, I stayed in the Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. It is the perfect place to stay for anyone on a backpacker’s budget in the heart of the city. While it is great for partying, with a bar and nights dedicated to drinking, there is also the option to get a good night’s rest for those who want to be fresh for sightseeing the next day. Other Copenhagen hostels that are supposed to be great include Urban House Copenhagen and Annex Copenhagen.
If you are looking to stay somewhere with a touch more luxury but still keep the price reasonable, there are a few low-cost hotels available. One such hotel is the Comfort Hotel Vesterbro. This three-star hotel includes a complimentary breakfast and a modern design.
3 Day Copenhagen Guide
Unlike many other major European capitals, you won’t require much more than 3 days to see the very best of Copenhagen. Using this guide to help you plan your Copenhagen city break, you should have no issue seeing most of the city’s most popular sites and come away feeling totally satisfied.
This Copenhagen travel guide begins in the heart of Copenhagen’s city centre and continues across the city, displaying the most vibrant and interesting parts. Following this Copenhagen itinerary, you will have the chance to experience all aspects of Danish culture, from the history to the food and nightlife.
Day 1 in Copenhagen
Breakfast: Porridge at the Original GRØD
Danes really do love their oats, and GRØD is proof of that. When it opened in 2011, the original basement location, on Jægersborggade in Nørrebro, was the world’s very first porridge bar. Serving up colourful, oat-based breakfast bowls that incorporate a range of healthy and nutritious ingredients, with elegantly placed toppings, GRØD makes the perfect place to fuel up before your first day sightseeing in Copenhagen.
Not only do they deliver a great bowl of porridge, they can’t be beaten for cosy vibes and good coffee either. Perhaps you would prefer a seat outside in the sun where you can people watch from the quiet street and look in through the surrounding shop windows. Providing reasonable prices, generous portions and a friendly atmosphere, nowhere does breakfast like GRØD.
Early Morning: Botanical Gardens & Rosenborg Castle
Once you’re all full up on porridge, head towards Hans Tavsens Park. Take your time strolling through this expansive park and take in the beautiful scenery as you make your way towards the main attraction of your first morning in Copenhagen. Just a 30 minute walk away is Copenhagen’s vibrant Botanical Garden. Once you reach this jungle haven, head inside to discover the endless variety of rare species and medicinal plants that call this oasis home. Make sure you also keep your eyes peeled for the tortoises that often frequent these gorgeous gardens.
Next, take a 5 minute walk to Rosenborg Castle and The King’s Garden. The walking route will lead you around the edge of the garden and up to the 17th century castle. Like something straight out of a fairy tale, the building features pointed turrets, stone lions guarding the entrance and even a moat surrounding it.
The castle’s interior is fairly small, with just 24 rooms spread across three floors. The Treasury, in the basement, is home to the famous crown jewels which you can see there. Although you can go inside the castle, the true charm lies on the outside. You won’t want to leave without taking a peaceful stroll through the King’s Garden, with its lush greenery, rustic sculptures, elegant fountains and tree-lined pathways winding throughout. While it’s easy to spend hours on end exploring these grounds, to squeeze as many activities into your 3 day Copenhagen itinerary, we need to swiftly move on to the next site.
Late Morning: Amalienborg Palace
Now, time for another Royal building. The Danish Royal Guard march from Rosenburg Castle at 11.30 am to arrive at Amalienborg Palace at 12.00 pm every single day. Once they reach the Palace, they perform the Changing of the Guard ceremony. When the Queen is present at the Palace, the Royal Guard’s band accompanies the ceremony. It is definitely worth the trip to watch the ceremony as you are likely to see them again during your stay as they march through the city.
Amalienborg Palace is comprised of four identical buildings, as well as an expansive courtyard which boasts a large, impressive horse statue in the centre. If you want to delve a little deeper into Danish Royal life, you should take a self-guided tour around the Amalienborg Museum. Meander through the rich decor of the rooms, with many interesting artefacts and precious heirlooms.
Lunch: Hey Darling
Hey Darling Photo Credits: TripAdvisor
Head to Hey Darling for honest comfort mood made from scratch. The menu largely consists of meatballs – but not just any meatballs. These meaty balls of goodness are the epitome of the gourmet meatball. Juicy and succulent, they are just what you crave after a busy morning of exploring Copenhagen.
Add on a selection of diverse side dishes for a complete and tasty lunch to keep you going for the rest of the day. They also serve exceptional coffee, cocktails and wine to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated in the best kind of way. You can eat your snacks in their trendy restaurant or take them our to sit in a local park and people watch while you tuck in.
Early Afternoon: Wonder around Nyhaven
No Copenhagen itinerary would be complete without a trip to the iconic, insta-worthy scene of Nyhaven. This thriving canal district is buzzing with energy and packed to the brim with vibrant little townhouses transformed into bars, restaurants and cafes. Lining the edge of the water sits colourful, picture-perfect sailboats.
Given its beautiful aesthetic and lively atmosphere, this area can understandably get a little too touristy. However, the crowds only seems to further add the buzz and life of the district. When I visited Copenhagen in the winter, this canal area was lined with quaint Christmas market stalls and Christmas lights were strung from every building and boat. I enjoyed a warm glass of gløgg while admiring the handmade souvenirs.
As well as a fun atmosphere, Nyhaven has plenty of history to get your teeth into. In fact, the famous Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen, lived in three of the Nyhaven houses throughout his life, including No. 20, 67 and 18 – so make sure to look out for them.
Late Afternoon: Take a Canal Tour
Talking of Nyhaven’s fascinating history, the best way to discover it, along with that of the other spots around the city, is on a canal tour. You can purchase canal tour tickets at various points across the city, including tourist information huts. The tours run at regular intervals throughout the day, starting from the port at Nyhaven. The canal boat takes you around the main harbour and the idyllic canal ways of the city. As you cruise along, multi-lingual tour guides will teach you of the long history of the churches, castles and other city landmarks. The tour guides will also point out some of the lesser-known buildings that you wouldn’t normally take notice of. A canal tour of Copenhagen also provides an excellent way of getting your bearings and seeing what else you might want to see around the city.
When you arrive back at the Nyhaven port, you are sure to be ready for a snack or drink to fuel all that new knowledge you have acquired. Take your pick from the many bars and cafes to sit in or out with a refreshing beer or a delicious glass of wine – or both.
Dinner: Sample the Local Cuisine at Restaurant Krebsegaarden
Choosing where to eat on an evening during your city break in Copenhagen can be a serious challenge. There are so many interesting places to eat in the city that choosing just 3 for your 3 day itinerary is almost impossible. But, when it comes to incredible home-cooked traditional Danish food and superior customer service, I think Restaurant Krebsgaarden is by far one of the best.
This cosy little restaurant has a really intriguing concept which is what first attracted me to its menu. Given that they share the building with a gallery, the menu is inspired by whatever exhibition is being held in the gallery at the time. The restaurant and gallery are situated on a peaceful street, just off the main road through the city centre. With around 10 tables, the atmosphere is very intimate which just adds to the homely feel – but be sure to make a reservation to secure one of the few tables available.
Nighttime: The Meatpacking District
Originally home to Copenhagen’s meat industry businesses, “Kødbyen” has been transformed into a trendy cluster on buzzing basement-like bars, pubs, nightclubs and eateries. Part of Copenhagen’s Vesterbro neighbourhood, the Meatpacking District comprises two separate parts: The Brown, originating since 1878, and The White, originating since 1934.
This once industrial and gritty part of the city is now fashionable and hip. It has become increasingly popular owing to its central city location, wide-spanning cultural offerings and thriving nightlife. The Meatpacking District is by far one of Copenhagen’s hotspots when it comes to nightlife. Today, you can hang out and party alongside the original, industrial vibes and feel like you’re getting a taste of Danish history as well as whatever spirit is in your cocktail.
With so many aesthetically pleasing bars and nightclubs to choose from, again, it can be difficult to choose between them. For the best cocktails in town and a laid-back late-night experience, you have to try NOHO, a New York style bar with bright, fluorescent signs and a pink flower ceiling. Alternatively, if you’re more a ‘drink your beer from a bottle’ kind of person then Jolene might be more to your liking. Jolene is a proper bar – not a cocktail venue. Tattered furniture and shabby lamps all add to the relaxed, industrial-chic vibe. Or, maybe you’re looking for a true old-style pub to feel like you’ve stepped back in time. If you cherish a cosy and informal atmosphere while sipping your beer, along with good music, then Mesteren & Lærlingen.
Day 2 in Copenhagen
Breakfast: Lille Bakery
For breakfast on day 2 of your Copenhagen itinerary, treat yourself to some fresh-from-the-oven pastries from one of the city’s most popular bakeries. Lille Bakery is located in the old industrial area Refshaleøen, but it is well worth the trip over the harbour to try their delicious baked goods. They have everything from sourdough bread, brioche and cinnamon rolls to donuts, granola and eggs.
The owners of this quaint little bakery try to work as closely as possible with local producers to protect the environment and ensure premium quality. Take a seat in their industrial-style cafe or get your treats and coffee to go and munch while strolling the narrow streets of Copenhagen.
Early Morning: Visit the Little Mermaid
Once you’re all fuelled up on bread and pastries, head towards the Langelinie promenade where you’ll find one of Copenhagen’s most well-known visitor attractions, The Little Mermaid. This bronze sculpture was erected in 1913, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name. The statue, which consists of a mermaid sat on a rock in the water, watches as ships pass by the harbour.
Many have criticised the attraction for being a ‘disappointment’ or ‘smaller than expected’. So, you might want to bear this in mind before taking the trip. However, I would still say that it is worth a visit just to say that you’ve seen it. If you take a canal tour around the city, you get a fairly good view of the statue from the boat anyway, so you might want to skip this if that’s the case.
Late Morning: Design Museum Denmark
Next up on your 3 day Copenhagen itinerary is The Design Museum Denmark, which you’ll conveniently pass as you make your way back to the city centre. Scandinavian design is iconic, recognised all over the world as some of the most impressive. This museum showcases some of Denmark’s most astonishing and eclectic pieces of architectural design, furniture and fashion.
One of the museum’s highlights that you must see is The Danish Chair. Yep, that’s right, this exhibition is an in-depth look at the history and design of the chair. It comprises an entire room filled with chairs. While that might sound a little odd, it is really interesting to discover the development and cultural tools of furniture design throughout the years.
Lunch: Burgers at Gasoline Grill
For lunch, head to Copenhagen’s most hyped burger joint. This former gas station has been ingeniously turned into a small, retro burger bar. Even with a simple menu and just two outside tables, this unique burger joint has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike.
Gasoline Grill is so good that, in spring 2017, it was nominated in Bloombergs list of the top 27 best burgers in the world – the only one in Northern Europe. Although this joint can get fairly busy, don’t let the long queue scare you away – it tends to go down rather quickly and their juicy burgers are definitely worth the wait.
Early Afternoon: Climb the Round Tower
Right, straight back to it after an award-winning burger and fries. Now, you are going to head to The Round Tower, situated in the Latin Quarter. The Tower is a 17th-century astronomical observatory that now functions as an observation deck. Trek up the seemingly-endless steps of The Round Tower to get one of the best views of the colourful rooftops of Copenhagen.
The inside of the Tower features a 209 metre long cobbled walkway which spirals up and up, winding a total of seven times until emerging at the top. Don’t let this overwhelm you – there are plenty of stops on the way up, including exhibitions and even a cafe to re-hydrate. When I visited The Round Tower, it was fairly late in the evening and so dark. While it was still very impressive and we got splendid views of the lights across the city, I think it would have been better to go during the day.
Late Afternoon: Strøget
Now your thighs are probably burning from the steep climb up The Round Tower, it’s time for a more leisurely stroll down Strøget. Strøget is Copenhagen’s main shopping street and is fully-pedestrianised. Stretching for 1.1 km, this street features a diverse collection of the some of the world’s most expensive brands, budget high-street chains and independent shops. No matter what your style or price tag, there’s plenty for you to choose from.
Strøget is also a popular area for street performers, including acrobats, musicians and magicians, to keep you entertained while you roam the shops. Located in the centre of the shopping district is the Stork Fountain which stands out for its beauty among the bustling crowds and trendy shops. Surrounding the statue is a great range of coffee shops and cafes where you can stop off for a drink while you admire the impeccable Danish fashion as it walks by.
Dinner: Cosy Comfort Food at Il Buco
The go-to for candle-lit spaces and cosy secret settings is Il Buco, an Italian restaurant that serves dishes that will really hit the spot. Hidden within an old warehouse on Islands Brygge, Il Buco serves a rustic atmosphere, authentic food and an intimate vibe.
Don’t been fooled by this restaurant’s rugged warehouse exterior – inside, it is a true Italian dream. The tables are placed close together in the dimmed space, lit by loads of candles in the evening. With an open kitchen, you can admire the art of how your food is created. During the warmer months, the huge windows open up into the courtyard where the seating expands out so you can enjoy the fresh Scandinavian air as you dive into your big bowl of pasta. On an evening, they serve well-portioned, hearty dishes that aren’t too heavy.
Nighttime: Experience Tivoli Gardens
After dinner, it’s time to visit the magical Tivoli Gardens, an absolute must-see attraction to include in your 3 day Copenhagen itinerary. Tivoli Gardens is the world’s second oldest amusement park, opening in 1843. The park is without a doubt at its most impressive in the evening, when the dark draws in and Tivoli’s attractions light up the sky. And, if you’re willing to wait around until midnight, then you can watch an incredible firework and light show on the lead up.
Stepping into Tivoli really does feel like stepping into a fairy tale world. Yet, while it is mesmerising to children, it has great appeal for kids and adults alike. In fact, it is thought to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s own Disney World.
Once in the park, you can purchase tokens which will grant you entry to a whole variety of amusement rides and carnival games. There is a good mix of rides that cater to both adrenaline junkies and scaredy-cats. For those who enjoy bigger rides, you can go on the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster – just make sure you hold on to that Italian food you just ate at Il Buco.
Day 3 in Copenhagen
Breakfast: Tacos at Hija de Sanchez
For breakfast on the third and final day of your Copenhagen itinerary, head to the Mexican street food stall Hija de Sanchez and feast on some top-notch breakfast tacos. Ranked Europe’s best street food, you won’t want to miss out on this explosion of flavours. The chef behind this Mexican magic is Rosio Sanchez who originally worked as a dessert chef at Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant.
This trendy little Mexican joint specialises in tacos, using the best quality meat and local ingredients. Everything is made from scratch, from the corn flour for the tortillas to the homemade organic cheese (quesillo). All their delicious food is served in a friendly, casual environment perfect to lift your spirits before taking on your final day in Copenhagen.
Although I’ve suggested visiting Hija de Sanchez for breakfast, it is also a fab place to go for lunch. As well as incredible Mexican street food, they serve taste-bud tingling cocktails and the best Mexican beers – but maybe best to save them until lunch time at least (or maybe not).
Early Morning: Visit Church of Our Saviour
A short walk away, you will find the architectural beauty of the Church of Our Saviour – a must-visit spot that has to be on any 3-day Copenhagen guide. It is likely that you have already spotted the incredible 90 metre high golden spire on the top during the canal tour, but the church looks even more astonishing up close. The exterior of the church is insanely intricate and enough to make any tourist marvel at its detail.
While the outside of the church is breath-taking, the inside slightly steals the show for me. The church’s interior is a Baroque masterpiece, featuring an ornate three-storey organ carved out of wood and marble. You can climb the 400 steps up to the viewpoint at the top of the church to get an incredible panoramic view of the city. However, it is worth noting that the last 150 steps are situated on the outside of the spire and may be a little daunting for those afraid of heights.
Late Morning: Explore Freetown Christiania
As a slight change from the Copenhagen you’ve seen so far, next on the itinerary is Freetown Christiania. This self-proclaimed autonomous, anarchist district was started by squatters in the 1970s, and is now home to around 1000 people. Many would describe Christiania as run-down and a bit post-apocalyptic feeling given its old, decrepit buildings and graffiti. However, it has an other-worldly vibe about it that is unlike anywhere else in the normally neat and tidy city of Copenhagen.
It is a really interesting place to visit given its outright rejection of the boundaries of society’s norms. In other words, its residents live by their own rules! When visiting Christiania, you are also expected to abide by the residents’ rules and regulations. One of the main rules is that photographs can only be taken in certain areas. For instance, photography is completely prohibited on Pusher street as this is where Cannabis is commonly sold, despite being illegal in Denmark.
Lunch: California Kitchen
Now time for lunch! I’m sure you’re starting to feel rather full and greedy from all the delicious meals and snacks you’ve had over your 3-day Copenhagen itinerary. So, to lighten the load a little, I recommend taking a trip to California Kitchen where you can order a super healthy and tasty salad bowl. Travel to sunny California for a short while as you tuck in to a big bowl of goodness.
California Kitchen serves all kinds of colourful salads in a bowl. Choose The Mexicali, The Super Bowl, The Poke Bowl and many more intriguing names. Who knew salad could be so exciting? The kitchen aims to serve nutritionally rich, environmentally conscious and super tasty whole foods to its customers. Their mission is to promote a healthy, convenient and economical lifestyle through their food. However, it is not only the food that will win you over though – inside the restaurant is a glass ceiling that creates the authentic feeling of sunlight – like you’re really on the Sunshine Coast.
Early Afternoon: Visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
The very last museum on your 3-day Copenhagen itinerary is Ny Carlsberk Glyptotek. While it may be the last it certainly is not the least. This museum is home to an expansive collection of art from all around the world. Featuring exhibitions from ‘Greek and Roman Sculpture‘ to ‘Egypt‘ and ‘French Art‘ – there is plenty of history to be learnt and artefacts to be seen.
One of the most popular and impressive rooms in the Glyptotek is the ‘Winter Garden‘. A true oasis, this lush indoor garden consists of stretches of greenery and palm trees reaching up to the huge glass dome. Throughout the garden, sculptures are scattered, the most notable of which being the ‘Water Mother‘ right in the centre.
Late Afternoon: City Hall
The final attraction on your Copenhagen city break agenda is The City Hall. Looming over the bustling City Hall Square, this impressive building is one of the must-see attractions in the Copenhagen. The architecture is a blend of Italian Renaissance and medieval Danish architecture, creating an incredibly mesmerising stature that is sure to impress.
Standing above the entrance to The City Hall is a gilded statue of Bishop Absalon, the 12-century founder of Copenhagen. The interior of the Hall is just as fascinating. The huge, expansive first-floor hall is flanked by cloisters and topped with a glazed roof. The room features Italian wall decor and various busts of fairly prominent Danes, including Niels Bohr and H.C. Andersen.
Dinner: Mother Pizza
We couldn’t let you leave Copenhagen without trying out their pizza game. Giving Rome a run for its money, Copenhagen is fast becoming Scandinavia’s Italian culinary capital. So, before leaving the city and heading for home, you really must visit the ultra-hip Mother Pizza, one of the very first restaurants to open its doors in the Meatpacking District.
Situated in a cosy, rustic little building, you can treat yourself to one of their trademark sourdough pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven. All of their pizzas are made from organic Danish produce and authentic ingredients imported from Italy. They have even, more recently, introduced a new, healthier way of making pizza so you don’t have to feel guilty while indulging. This healthier version of pizza dough is made using purified seawater instead of traditional salt and water.