Planning a first time trip to Copenhagen, Denmark? This post contains a cool Copenhagen itinerary for all the best things to see in Copenhagen in one day, including a map to ensure you make the most of your first time in Copenhagen!
Fairytale Copenhagen Itinerary for first-timers
Copenhagen is known as the city of fairytales, a namesake attributed by celebrated Danish author Hans Christian Anderson, who famously wrote the tales: The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, and The Ugly Duckling. When you arrive in Copenhagen you can really why! With brightly coloured houses, castles, cobbled streets and ships lining the picture-perfect waterways.
Copenhagen is a magical place to visit and in this post, I’ll be sharing all the best places to visit in Copenhagen in one day.
Things to See in Copenhagen in One Day
Coffee in Copenhagen
All good fairytale Copenhagen itineraries start with coffee, am I right?! Whilst the messages displayed in the coffee cups at The Union Kitchen are far from a fairytale, they do give you a well-needed wake-up call and caffeine injection to kick start a day in Copenhagen. Let’s face it, it’s got to be one of the most Instagrammable cafes in Copenhagen!
If you like to start the day with a lay-in (like me), The Union Kitchen has some great brunch options.
I enjoyed The BEC (bacon, egg and cheese) served in a soft brioche bun with salad. Adam enjoyed the pulled pork bowl, which I was rather jealous of now I look back on the photos.
These two mains, with two cappuccinos and two ciders, came to 504 DKK (£58.50 approx)…
Want money-saving tips for Copenhagen? Read my post about How to enjoy Copenhagen on a Budget & Save Money!
Nyhavn Port and Colourful Houses
Following a spot of brunch, the colourful houses of Nyhavn are located just around the corner and were what I was looking forward to seeing most on my trip to Copenhagen.
These colourful houses and port of Nyhavn are easily the best Instagram photo locations in Copenhagen.
It’s hard to believe Nyhavn used to be the worst part of Copenhagen, filled with sleazy bars and brothels, drunken sailors and ladies of the night! The brothels and taverns that line the canal are now a picturesque spot on every Copenhagen guidebook and are filled with souvenir shops, restaurants and pretty ice cream parlours.
You can easily lose a day in Copenhagen taking pictures of each of the colourful houses, walking each side of the street and capturing the reflection on the water. Nyhavn is a picture-perfect spot and one not to be missed on your Copenhagen itinerary, whether you are spending a long weekend in Copenhagen or just one day!
Rundetårn – Round House: The Kings Old Astronomy Tower
Rundetaarn, The Round Tower is a 17th-century iconic landmark in Copenhagen and the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. One of the most interesting things about climbing the tower is the lack of stairs. Instead, visitors paying a couple of Danish kroner can take the gentle spiral inclined walkway to the top.
The tower was commissioned by King Christian IV and was made wide enough so that the king could take his horse and carriage to the top. Saves walking I guess! The Round Tower has since become a place of bicycle races, with numerous records beaten and is a great place to get a view over the city.
Shopping in Strøget Copenhagen
As the Round Tower is located in the heart of the shopping district, it would be rude not to peruse Strøget, one of Europe’s largest pedestrian shopping streets.
Strøget has everything from international designer brands to high street favourites and it’s certainly worth a browse, even if the shops fall slightly out of your budget.
I knew I should have bought a bunny bag…!
See the stunning architecture of Rosenborg Castle
After a spot of shopping, it’s back to culture in Copenhagen admiring the beautiful Rosenborg Castle, which is a short walk away.
Built as a country summerhouse for King Christian IV, this Renaissance castle is quite the picture, complete with turrets, gables and a moat. If you’re visiting Copenhagen in the warmer spring or summer months, one of the best things to do in Copenhagen is to pack a picnic for Kings Park and admire the beautiful Rosenborg Castle and gardens.
If you’re lucky, you may also be able to witness the changing of the Royal Danish Guard. At 11.30 am the guard leaves its barracks at Rosenborg Castle to march through the city to Amalienborg Palace, the residence of the Danish Royal Monarchy.
Entry to the castle is free with a Copenhagen Card. There are 9 royal castles and palaces in Copenhagen to visit if your Copenhagen itinerary allows!
Unfortunately, the Tivoli Gardens were closed when we visited Copenhagen in March. But, Tivoli is the place to head if you are looking for fun things to do in Copenhagen. It is said to have inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland, with fun theme park rides and food markets, it is also conveniently located next to Copenhagen central train station.
I would imagine Tivoli is a magical place to visit and one of the best things to do in Copenhagen in winter.
Freetown Christiania in Christianshavn
For some, Freetown Christiania could be classed as an adult Disneyland as it’s main drag Pusher Street is a place where hash and weed is sold openly to the public.
At this point, you may be wondering what is Freetown Christiania? In 1971, a group of squatters claimed this abandoned military base as their own place to live, despite the lack of water pumps and sewage systems. A community was born and groups of hippies and free thinkers developed this collective space complete with their own governing laws, flag and currency.
The people who live in Freetown have plenty of open space and make use of their environment by recycling and creating a happy, colourful community.
It’s quite the eye-opener if you stumble across it accidentally when exploring Copenhagen, as Adam and I did on our visit to Copenhagen! Be warned, no photos are allowed on Pusher Street!
I was keen to see the street art in Christianshavn, but overall we found the street art at Christianshavn underwhelming. Though at the end of the day it’s a place where people live, not a Copenhagen attraction and it was interesting to see how those living in the area had created their own independent community. Plus, there was one saving grace…
Church of Our Saviour
Easily my favourite part of Christianshavn was seeing the Church of Our Saviour. The serpentine spire reminded of a giant telescope looking over the city. The spire is in fact, the Saviour standing on top of a golden globe keeping watch over the city of Copenhagen.
It’s possible to climb the baroque Church of Our Saviour, the 400 steps are worth it to enjoy the unparalleled views over the city.
Copenhagen Food Markets
Now you have an idea of what to see in Copenhagen in one day, I bet you now want to know where to eat in Copenhagen!
If you want to try some of the best Danish dishes, you need to check out Copenhagen’s street food scene. There are plenty of food markets in Copenhagen to choose from and most are within walkable distance from the city centre. This means there are plenty of opportunities to tuck into fresh Danish pastries and a traditional Smørrebrød Danish open sandwich.
Eating at the markets enables you to enjoy the best of Copenhagen, especially if you only have one day in Copenhagen to fully explore.
Torvehallerne is one of the most well known of Copenhagen’s street food markets and the great thing is it’s located right in the heart of Copenhagen city centre. Torvehallerne comprises two main halls offering takeaway, small restaurants, fresh food and groceries.
Kødbyens Mad & Marked is located in Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District and is a great place to grab a bite and enjoy the local bars into the early hours!
Reffen food market is located in Refshaleøen, not far from the Church of Our Saviour and is a short ride across town if you are hiring bikes in Copenhagen. The industrial area is popular with locals, as well as tourists and, has over 50 stalls offering an array of international cuisines. Next to the market, there is a local craft brewery called Mikkeller, where you can pick a beer to accompany your food.
The Little Mermaid Statue
The Little Mermaid statue is inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale, which the city of Copenhagen is famous for. The bronze and granite sculpture was a gift to the city of Copenhagen from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen.
The Little Mermaid is said to have been beheaded three times to make a political statement, which is the reason why the statue is located so far outside the city centre.
People tend to either have a love it or loathe it relationship with the Little Mermaid statue, and after crossing the city to locate it, most report that it is underwhelming. For this reason, on my trip, I didn’t want to waste a day in Copenhagen to see a statue I’d seen numerous times on Instagram. Though, I have included it on the Copenhagen Itinerary map below if you want to find it!
Here’s my Copenhagen Itinerary Map, which you’re free to use and download! Click to Open Google Maps, click the tab on the left-hand side and click on ‘My Places’ where you can add to this map or create your own map.
If you do visit The Little Mermaid Statue, it’s worth exploring Churchill Park and the Kastellet (historic windmill) to make the journey worthwhile.
Is Copenhagen Safe for Tourists
Unlike my weekend in Paris, where Adam and I certainly encountered some scary moments, I can honestly say there wasn’t a moment I didn’t feel safe in Copenhagen. Even when we roamed Freetown Christiania, an area where the people police themselves.
We stayed in the Carlsberg District outside of Copenhagen City Centre, travelled by metro and, even at night we did not encounter any problems.
In my stupidity, I left my Kate Spade bag with my digital camera, iPhone, purse and cash cards all inside in the public toilets at Copenhagen Airport. Luckily, I had taken my engagement ring out of my bag in the morning!
I ran around the airport like a crazy woman to the toilets and then to the Airport help desk when I realised I’d lost my handbag! As I looked desperately to the help desk assistants, my hopes were raised when the lady at the help desk remarked “you are lucky” as she pulled my beloved Kate Spade bag from a desk drawer.
From my experience, I can honestly say that Copenhagen is the safest city I have visited and I would be very lucky indeed to have been reunited with my handbag in any other city.
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
Now we’ve got the important aspect of safety out the way, I bet you’re wondering where to stay. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a sucker for a boutique hotel and Brøchner Hotels have some beautiful boutique hotels to choose from.
During my time in Copenhagen, I stayed at Hotel Ottilia (at a discounted press rate) in the upcoming Carlsberg District. I love how the hotel stayed true to its industrial heritage with exposed walls, steel pillars and minimalist lighting.
My favourite aspect was that every evening the hotel has a happy hour between 5-6 pm, where you can drink the house red or white for free! This element created a great social dining aspect at the hotel and would be particularly good for those travelling solo to Copenhagen.
Though, I loved our stay at Hotel Ottilia the area is currently in development, therefore is not quite where it needs to be yet. For a first time visit to Copenhagen, I would recommend staying at one of Hotel Ottilia’s sister hotels in Copenhagen city centre.
Here are Brøchner’s other Copenhagen hotels:
And yes, they do have a happy hour too!
I hope my Copenhagen itinerary gave you plenty of tips on how to spend one day in Copenhagen for a first-time visit! My next post is all about how to save money in Copenhagen – click here to read it!