Copenhagen is a charming city known for its smart Scandinavian design and overall laid-back vibe. Though it’s not as flashy as some European capitals, Copenhagen is a firm family favorite — the people are extremely welcoming, the terrain bike-friendly and the green spaces and parks plentiful. Here’s our guide to a long weekend in this Danish gem, sure to delight young and old(er) alike.
Perhaps the best way to get a feel for Copenhagen is from the water, so start with a canal tour to appreciate the city’s layout. Back on dry land, make your way to Strøget, a pedestrian street that is more than a mile long. Feast your eyes on the shops and boutiques and don’t miss the flagship store of infamous Danish building toy LEGO.
Smørrebrød are the Danish answer to sandwiches, but their preparation is an art form all its own. The beautiful Toverhallerne Food Market is a fantastic lunch option offering a range of foods, including smørrebrød (try Hallerne). After lunch, sample a traditional Danish flødebolle — the ones from nearby Lagkaghuset Bakery deserve a shout-out. These wafer-thin biscuits topped with soft meringue and covered in chocolate are like super-fresh and decadent Mallomars. Pop into Flying Tiger, a design-forward yet kid-friendly store across the street, for great souvenirs.
Next up, visit the Renaissance Rosenborg Castle, built by Scandinavian King Christian IV and now home to the Danish crown jewels. If time permits, check out the National Museum which features an extensive collection of (Viking!) artifacts as well as being home to the Children’s Museum where younger kids can climb aboard a 10th century Viking ship replica.
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Start your day at highly photographable Nyhavn, the “new harbor,” with its colorfully painted houses. Hans Christian Anderson lived on Nyhavn and wrote many of his famous fairy tales, including The Princess and the Pea, at number 20 (he also lived for two decades at number 67 and two years at number 18). Look for the newer Inderhavnsbroen pedestrian bridge, which offers a different vantage point of the landscape.
Amalienborg Palace is next on the agenda for a glimpse of the official residence of the Danish Royal family. Enjoy a tour of the opulent palace, but time your visit to see the changing of the Royal Guard at midday. Tip: Have the kids look for the flags on the roof of the palace; if the swallow-tailed flag is raised, none of the Royal Family are in residence.
For lunch, check out nearby Papirøen (Paper Island) to sample Copenhagen street food. All of the varied food stalls and trucks are located inside a warehouse-style building, but you can eat inside or outside.
The Little Mermaid statue, another homage to Hans Christian Anderson, has earned a top spot on many travel lists, but the actual small bronze statue may be slightly underwhelming. Don’t make a special trip; just walk around the picturesque area, including the star-shaped 17th-century fortress Kastellet, and tick the statue off your list on the way.
Gear up for a magical day! Tivoli Gardens is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and it inspired Walt Disney to create his eponymous park. Don’t miss the Oriental Gardens, the fanciful pirate ship or the famed wooden Rutschebanen roller coaster. You can easily make a day of it here with kids of any age.
If the weather is nice and you’d prefer something more low-key, join the locals in the afternoon at Harbour Bath Island Brygge, a popular canalside pool. Up for venturing a bit farther out? Amager Beach is a good choice for families.
If you have an additional day or more in Copenhagen, consider the following ideas:
Open-Air Museum. Spanning 80-plus acres, this living museum is one of the largest in the world and offers a peek into Danish life as it was in various periods from 1650 to 1940.
Kronborg. This 16th-century castle, located 45 minutes north of the city, was the model for Elsinore in Hamlet.
Dyrehavsbakken. Known simply as “Bakken,” this amusement park beats Tivoli by one spot to the claim of world’s oldest amusement park. Nature lovers will enjoy the chance to commune with rabbits and deer at nearby Dyrehaven animal park. If you go, the spectacular modern art museum Louisiana is only 20 minutes farther north.
KU.BE. This community center offers a dose of Danish design, complete with a Scandi soft-play space and a mod playground, all located north of the zoo.
A hop over to Sweden. If your crew is eager to tack on another country, take the 8-km Oresund Bridge to Malmo, Sweden. You could even go just for lunch or dinner.
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