Tivoli, the Little Mermaid & More: A City Break Guide to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is often named among the cities of the world that offer the best quality of life, and even on a short break you can see how that's a deserved accolade. It's easy to get around on foot, by bike, or on public transport, and the atmosphere manages to be laid-back and vibrant at the same time. Whether you make use of the long hours of summer daylight, or seek out some winter hygge, there are always plenty of ways to spend your time. Think world-class museums, innovative restaurants, waterside walks, grand historic buildings, and old industrial units converted into hip hangouts.
Here are our deal experts' favourite places to visit on a Copenhagen city break.
Climb the Round Tower for city views
Get your bearings by heading up the 17th-century Round Tower, or Rundetaarn. Built by King Christian IV, it's the oldest functioning astronomical observatory in Europe, and a great place to take in the panorama of central Copenhagen. To reach the viewing platform, nearly 35 metres above ground, you’ll need to walk up a spiral ramp that was designed to allow a person on horseback to ascend (Tsar Peter the Great is among those to have done so). The platform has wonderful 360-degree views, and because Copenhagen is largely low-rise, you can see right across the city.
Fill your boots at Torvehallerne food hall
When you’re feeling peckish, head to the glass market halls of Torvehallerne, close to Nørreport Station. This food market is home to a multitude of sellers offering delights from Denmark and further afield. You can buy fresh fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, and many other groceries, plus there are restaurants and stalls selling a wide range of food and drink including sandwiches, sushi, coffee, tapas, chocolates, pizza, wine, and much more. There's seating here, or you can walk a block and sit by the lake in Ørstedsparken, or stroll five minutes to the splendid Rosenborg Castle Gardens.
Cross "The Bridge"
The Øresund Bridge opened in the year 2000, and provides a road and rail link between Denmark and Sweden. It has since gained wider fame as the eponymous structure in the Scandi noir television series "The Bridge", which was set on both sides of the border. The crossing isn't all bridge; there's also a section of tunnel at the Danish end. You can get a direct train from Copenhagen Central Station to the Swedish city of Malmö (40 minutes), which is a nice day-trip destination thanks to its museums (including the Disgusting Food Museum), galleries, and attractive main square.
Take the obligatory photo of The Little Mermaid
Since its unveiling in 1913, Edvard Eriksen's bronze statue has become perhaps Copenhagen's most iconic visitor attraction, even though it's also one of its smallest, measuring just 1.25 metres tall. It's worth a visit, not least because of its location on the Langelinie promenade, which is one of an extensive series of pleasant walks around the city's waterfront areas. Try to get to The Little Mermaid early, before the coach tours arrive.
Find amusement at Tivoli Gardens
One of the world’s most famous theme parks, Tivoli Gardens has been well loved by generations of Danes since it opened in 1843. It's packed full of theme park rides — one of which is among the world's oldest operational wooden roller-coasters — plus entertainment, an aquarium, places to eat and drink, and plenty of pretty areas of garden to explore. It's open for about nine months of the year, but the most magical time to visit is around Christmas, when the park is transformed with thousands of Christmas trees and even more lights. Look out too for an ice rink, festive food and drink, and a Christmas market.
Enjoy some hygge (and a drink or two) in a bodega
Copenhagen’s bodegas are dimly lit, relaxed, and friendly bars that you'll find all over the city, and are particularly cosy in the gloomier months. They’re a great place to hang out with friends and have a game of pool or darts, or you can easily just go on your own and strike up conversations with strangers. Bodegas serve mostly beer, but you’ll probably get to discover plenty of new brews, and they’re not expensive places to drink. There’s no need to rush your drink either, as many bodegas stay open well into the early hours, sometimes until 5am. Note that smoking is still allowed inside many smaller bodegas.
Take to the slopes at CopenHill
Copenhagen might not be known as a skiing and snowboarding destination, but there is actually somewhere you can hit the slopes in the city. CopenHill is a sports facility built on the roof of a power plant that turns urban waste into energy. The artificial slope is accompanied by ski lifts, a café, and an après-ski bar, and you can watch the plant's towering chimneys emit what appear to be smoke rings above you (they’re actually steam — the facility filters out most of its emissions). In addition to skiing, there's a hiking trail, plus the world's highest climbing wall, which measures 85 metres.
Go for a dip
In Copenhagen, you're never far from outdoor swimming opportunities, and the city’s harbour baths are popular places thanks to their clean water and good facilities. Head to Islands Brygge Harbour Bath, right across the Langebro bridge from the city centre, where you can take in waterfront views as you swim. Another official bathing zone is at Sandkaj in the Nordhavn area, where there's a boardwalk and cafés. You could also head to popular Bellevue Beach, about 10 kilometres from downtown Copenhagen, where there's a 700-metre-long stretch of sand, plus lifeguards and showers.
Relax in pretty Nyhavn
The pretty waterside area of Nyhavn used to be a busy commercial port, but it's now a relaxed, picture-postcard area of colourful old houses (former residents include Hans Christian Andersen), plus restaurants and bars. Although it’s firmly on the tourist trail, it's a great place to go at any time of year; it's perfect for sitting outside with a beer in summer, while at Christmas its cobblestone streets are taken over by a festive market. You can also jump aboard ferries at the mouth of the harbour and explore the Copenhagen waterfront in more detail.
Explore the Meatpacking District
The Meatpacking District is part of the once gritty and industrial, now much more fashionable, Vesterbro neighbourhood. It's a great place for a night out, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and clubs inhabiting the old factories. You could head to Kødbyens Fiskebar for fresh seafood in an informal atmosphere, or grab a homemade burger and chips at Tommi's Burger Joint. Then go for drinks at WarPigs, a brewpub with 22 taps to choose from, grab some cocktails at NOHO, or chill out at cosy and relaxed bodega Mesteren & Lærlingen. The area is also home to several art galleries.
Take a day trip
If you can extend your trip to Copenhagen by an extra day, use it to explore a bit more of the island of Zealand. You could take the train north for 45 minutes to Helsingør, also known as Elsinore. The city is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kronborg, a stunning Renaissance castle that was the setting for Hamlet (it was rebuilt after Shakespeare's time). On the way back to the capital, stop off at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, where you can see works by Warhol, Picasso, and Hockney. You can also get off the train in Rungsted to visit the Karen Blixen Museum, which is in the former home of the Out of Africa author.
Explore more in our blogs about Europe's best Christmas markets, see why Copenhagen is one of our picks for the world's best jazz destinations.
Read about our other favourite city break destinations:
Go beyond the beach in Marseille.
Spend a weekend amongst the Gothic spires of Prague.
Discover Lithuania's captial of Vilnius.
Take in all the culture of Vienna on a weekend break.
Find out what to do on a break in Reykjavik.
Eat and then some in Bologna.
Say "bonjour" to the best of Paris.
Explore Belgium's Brussels and Bruges.
Make the most of a Madrid short break.
Read about Berlin's many musea and attractions.
See our top tips for a weekend in Amsterdam.
Enjoy the beach and art in Barcelona.
Or check our city breaks page and our Europe hotels collection for deals to Copenhagen.
Tanja Timmer and Nick Elvin contributed to this post.