Short on time? Here’s how to explore all Copenhagen has to offer – brews, food, canals and more – in one wonderful day.
Anyone who’s visited Copenhagen knows this city is definitely worth more than a one-day visit. In fact, if I had the option I would spend at least a month (or more … if I could bring my dog) exploring the charming canals and cute side streets of this Scandinavian city.
But alas, sometimes you don’t have one month. When you’re trying to jam pack all the things into your one-week trip, you may only have one day like me (thanks limited vacation days, you’re the best…). While my future trips to Copenhagen will without a doubt be longer, this first visit was one for the books. From my favorite canal strolls to tasty brew pubs, here’s how you can recreate these experiences with one day in Copenhagen.
Hooray! You’ve made it to Copenhagen! Now it’s time to begin your walking tour by starting at the main square outside City Hall. If you have time, visit Tivoli Gardens, an ornate garden and the second-oldest amusement park in the world. Entrance is about $20. (We didn’t visit; we were too tight on time and in desperate need of coffee #jetlag).
After Tivoli, continue along to Strøget, a long pedestrian street with shops, bakeries and street performers. We took a quick break here to grab coffee and basically an entire loaf of Denmark’s beloved rye bread. When in Denmark…
From here, head to Copenhagen Cathedral, then walk across the river to Church of our Saviour, a famous Danish church with a long, serpentine spire that we’re told has amazing city views.
Of course, while we were in line waiting to see said views, something happened on the spire and the fire marshals cleared it out. Greaaaat. With that lovely update, we moved along to one of my favorite parts of Copenhagen…
This former military base turned green, car-free and hippy neighborhood is autonomous from Copenhagen – and therefore super chill and worth a visit! This “free town” is great for shopping, photographing (intricate graffiti is everywhere) and relaxing along the water, especially on a sunny day. In the “Green Light District” (aka, where weed is sold) photography is not allowed; hash is still illegal, and consequentially distributors don’t want their photos taken.
Nyhavn Canal Walk
Head over to Nyhavn, the colorful stretch of Copenhagen canals that’s photographed all the time – but for good reason. It’s so pretty! The best views are on the south side of the canal facing the colorful townhouses and restaurants. (Tip: Visit in the early afternoon to get unobstructed sunlight on these beauties – we lucked into this! Second tip: Download the long-shutter app Cortex Cam. It prolongs your phone’s shutter speed to give you that glassy reflection on the water.)
Lunch – Nyhavns Faergekro
With its chilly seaside location, Copenhagen is a haven for herring. Eat like the locals at Nyhavns Faergekro, a waterfront restaurant with an all-you-can-eat herring buffet. They have a variety of unique herring options here – curried herring, sweet herring, herring with fruit, fried herr — OK, OK. You get the picture. If herring is not up your alley (I hear ya…) you can try the smørrebrød, a small mini sandwich topped with your choice of fish, meats, cheeses, etc. (For the record, I *did* try some of my brother’s herring – I just didn’t want an unlimited buffet.)
Continue your stroll (or catch a cab if you’re in a herring coma) over to Amalienborg Palace, an 18th century palace that’s home of the Danish Royal Family. You can do tours here if you’d like (although they were closed during our holiday weekend). From here, head on over to the peaceful Kongens Have (King’s Garden) where you can enjoy fresh air and flowers before the real fun begins…
Craft Beer Hot Spots
The craft beer scene in Copenhagen is out of this world, and you could spend all night – and the next night, and the night after that – exploring new and delicious beer bars. Unfortunately, I tried to do all of that in one night. (Ouch.) But I survived and lived to not only tell the tale, but to share it with you. (Well, for my “professionalism” I won’t get into details of the horrific hangover of 2018, but I will share three of my favorite beer stops along the way!)
- Noerrebro Bryghus: They have their own tasty beers, as well as multiple levels for seating. If you’re lucky enough, Norrebro Bryghus may still have the “Hi Doggie” APA … and a photo of an overweight pug on the beer board to accompany it. (#obsesseddogmom who was obviously missing her pup…)
- BRUS: This bar from Danish microbrewery To Øl has a beer hall feel to it; you can sit at the outdoor patio or indoor picnic tables. As you’d imagine, BRUS has tons of awesome beers and bottles, which is why we ended up staying for multiple … perhaps not the best idea with an early flight the next day. (Yet delicious at the time.)
- Warpigs: This was our last stop of the night, but definitely not the least. Warpigs is a joint project between American brewery 3 Floyds and Danish beer powerhouse Mikkeller. As part of this venture, the two breweries have created a one-of-a-kind American-Danish vibe, inclusive of Texas barbecue, American-Danish style brews and a lively overall vibe. Had it not been midnight with an early flight the next morning, we would have totally stayed here for three or four – or more – tasty brews!
Dinner – Ramen to Biiru:
With your night off to a beer-filled start, you’ll need to fill up on some carb-heavy foods while maintaining that buzz. Introducing, Ramen to Biiru, the perfect mix of carbs (ramen) and beer (Mikkeller beer, to be exact). This unique restaurant is a joint collaboration between Bento Copenhagen and Mikkeller. It’s very casual, with diners happily slurping their traditional Japanese ramen while cramped in teeny little corners. While it has a slight hole-in-the-wall feel (mostly because it’s small yet super popular, and therefore crowded!) the food is delicious, and the beer – well, it’s a Mikkeller bar, so of course it’s top notch.
Accommodations – Axel Guldsmeden Hotel:
After a long day and an even longer night, we loved resting our heads at Axel Guldsmeden Hotel, located walking distance from the train station and city center. (Make sure you select the “Axel” one, as they have different locations.) This hotel is chic and welcoming, and even more important, it’s dedicated to sustainability. They even provide bamboo toothbrushes for all its guests (I still have mine to this day!).
While our visit to Copenhagen was nothing short of a whirlwind, we definitely got to see and do a lot – and we did it all by foot! I loved what I saw and know I’ll be back, so if you have any recommendations for my next visit, please share in the comments!
In the meantime, here’s a quick Google Map guide to the attractions listed above. And, if you’re planning to visit one of Scandinavia’s other popular destinations – Iceland! – make sure to check out my Iceland guides!