Top 10 things to do on a weekend in Copenhagen
Planning a weekend break in Copenhagen? You won’t be short of things to do! Regularly topping the ‘best place to live’ polls, the chic Danish capital is renowned for its cutting-edge design, bike-friendly culture, excellent sustainable credentials, and world-class food scene.
From cruising along the city’s scenic canals to letting your hair down at Tivoli Gardens, here are 10 top things to do on a weekend in Copenhagen.
1. Unleash your inner child at Tivoli
If there’s one ‘must’ on your weekend break in the Danish capital, it’s a visit to Tivoli Gardens. One of the oldest amusement parks in the world, it’s been thrilling visitors since 1843.
To call Tivoli an amusement park doesn’t really do it justice. Yes, there are stomach-churning rides, fairground stalls, and candyfloss, but it’s also home to beautiful themed gardens, high-end restaurants, shops, and a regular programme of live entertainment.
With so much to see and do, where do you start?
The rides! If you’re an adrenaline junkie, make a beeline for Rutschebanen. Tivoli’s most popular ride, it’s one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters. If that doesn’t get your heart pumping, try the Demon – a floorless steel roller coaster that reaches 28 metres at its highest point.
Got kids in tow? They can get their kicks on the Camel Trail rollercoaster, travel into space on the Central Observatory, and enjoy a dragon boat ride on Tivoli Lake. If they’re too young for rides, they can play, laugh, sing and eat at Rasmus Klumps World.
When you’re ready to slow the heart rate down, take a stroll around Tivoli’s gardens. From the Chinese-inspired Bamboo forest to the landscaped Parterre Gardens, there’s a huge variety of flora and fauna to enjoy.
High season at Tivoli is from April to September, but there are themed activities year-round. In the winter, it transforms into one of Europe’s most magical Christmas markets.
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Want to know more about Tivoli? Here are our top 5 reasons to visit.
2. Indulge in some fine dining
Copenhagen has gained a reputation worldwide for its food scene. A hotbed of culinary innovation, there are incredible dining opportunities around every corner.
Central Copenhagen is home to no less than 14 Michelin-starred restaurants, the most famous being Noma. Regularly topping ‘the world’s best restaurant’ lists, this high-end eaterie is famous for establishing the New Nordic cuisine movement. If you can bag a reservation, your taste buds are in for a treat.
You can also sample New Nordic cuisine at Høst. Order the tasting menu and you’ll get 5 courses, plus 3 ‘surprises’.
However, you don’t have to venture to a Michelin restaurant for great food in Copenhagen. Reffen, in the industrial area of Refshaleøen, is Scandanavia’s largest street food site. There are 54 stalls selling incredible food from around the world. Want to try a Danish staple? Stop by the Nordic Hotdog stall for pølser (a Danish-style hot dog made with lightly smoked pork meat).
If you can’t choose between the many fantastic eating spots in the city, why not follow the advice of a local, on a private food and drink tour?
3. Meet some unique marine life at Den Blå Planet
Fancy an immersive underwater family adventure? Set some time aside to visit Den Blå Planet (Denmark’s National Aquarium). Home to the brown-banded bamboo shark, the Atlantic goliath grouper, and the redbelly yellowtail fusilier, a visit to Northern Europe’s biggest aquarium is a unique opportunity to come face-to-face with some of the world’s most unusual sea creatures.
You’ll also get to meet the aquatic equivalent of the big five: sea otters, hammerhead sharks, arapaima, giant Pacific octopuses, and stingrays.
As well as marine life, you can see Philippine crocodiles, boa constrictors, and the violet turaco (a rare bird native to sub-Saharan Africa).
A fascinating day out for all ages, Den Blå Planet is not to be missed.
Book your tickets here.
4. Dive into a harbour bath
You’re never far from a beach in Copenhagen (Amager Beach Park is Copenhagen’s largest), but during the summer months, you can take a dip in the middle of the city, in one of the four harbour baths (free, urban public swimming areas).
The most popular harbour bath is located at Islands Brygge, across the bridge from the city centre. Designed by renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it boasts a 75-metre swimming pool, diving pool, children’s pool, and a paddling pool. When you’re done in the water, you can dry off and relax on the lawn.
If you want to avoid the crowds at Islands Brygge, cross the harbour and head to Fisketorvet, where you’ll find an Olympic-size pool, diving pool, and a children’s pool.
While you’re in the area, why not indulge in some retail therapy at Fisketorvet shopping centre?
5. Learn about Copenhagen’s history
Want to learn about the history of Copenhagen? The Museum of Copenhagen is the place to go. During your visit, you’ll be introduced to all the important places and events in the history of the Danish capital, from the Vikings through to the free city of Christiania today.
A wealth of exciting archaeological finds and historical exhibits document Copenhagen’s past, including a bone comb from the Viking Age, the skeleton of a warrior from the Middle Ages, and an early edition of the Copenhageners’ favourite mode of transport, a bike made of wood!
There’s also an exhibition about Jens Olsen’s World Clock – a key feature of the Town Hall next door, and a garden featuring plants (grown in a toilet) in the 1700s!
The museum organises lectures, guided tours, city walks, and workshops, among other activities.
Find out more on the museum’s website.
6. Go green at the Botanical Garden
Want to escape the crowds? Head for The Botanical Garden. A tranquil oasis in the middle of the city, it’s home to more than 13,000 species of trees, flowers, and plants, housed in a complex of ornate, 19th-century greenhouses.
Highlights include the rhododendron garden, a rock garden with alpine plants, and a Nordic Beer Garden showcasing plants that have been used for brewing beer in the Nordic countries through the ages.
The pièce de résistance is the Palm House, which contains exotic and rare plants which grow in different tropical and subtropical environments. In the summer months, the Palm House transforms into a butterfly house.
The Botanical Garden is free of charge, but there’s a charge to enter the Palm House.
7. Wander the waterfront in Nyhavn
With its colourful 17th-century townhouses, quaint cobbled streets, and tall ships bobbing at anchor, the bustling, old harbour area of Nyhaven is the most iconic (and photographed) spot in Copenhagen.
After a leisurely waterside stroll, stop for a coffee and a Kanelsnegle (Danish cinnamon bun) at one of the many waterfront cafes or restaurants. Most of them have alfresco tables, so you can enjoy your delicious Danish delicacy while soaking up the ambience and indulging in a spot of people-watching.
Once refreshed, why not take in some of Copenhagen’s sights on a canal tour? (See point 9) Or if you’re craving some culture, pop into Kunsthal Charlottenborg, a Baroque building on Nyhavn’s south side, which is home to a fantastic contemporary art gallery.
8. Shop til you drop on Strøget
Itching to shop? Start on the city’s most famous pedestrian street: Strøget. Europe’s longest shopping street, you’ll find a wealth of international brands to suit every budget, ranging from Topshop and Zara to Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Hermés.
For second-hand and vintage shops, head to Nørrebro, where you’ll find the best thrift stores in Copenhagen. Be sure to check out Prag and Keiko.
Another place to check out is Værnedamsvej – a small, busy shopping street between Vesterbro and Frederiksberg. Known as ‘The French Street’, its packed with fashion shops, delicatessens and great eateries. Just the thing you need after a busy day’s shopping. If you’re hot and bothered, order a bowl of ‘koldskål’, a cold, sweet buttermilk soup. You’ve probably never heard of it, but its a tasty Danish staple.
Tip: If you want to own a piece of iconic Danish design, Illums Bolighus is the place to buy it. The store sells everything from lamps and ceramics to porcelain and glassware.
9. Explore Copenhagen by water
Copenhagen can easily be explored by foot, but you’ll miss out if you keep both feet on the ground. Copenhagen is ringed – and defined – by its network of canals, so why not head out on the water?
This one-hour canal cruise will take you past some of Copenhagen’s most iconic landmarks, including the Little Mermaid Statue (this famous bronze sculpture was inspired by the famous fairytale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen), Amalienborg Palace (the winter home of the Danish royal family), and Christiansborg Palace (home of the Danish Parliament).
Alternatively, you can enjoy a romantic gondola ride, captain your own solar-energy-powered boat, or kayak your way around the waterways.
Wondering how much to tip in Denmark? Find out how much gratuity to leave here.
10. Experience the city on two wheels
Copenhagen is the most cycle-friendly city in the world. Countless bike paths and bridges connect the various districts, making it easy to navigate. Some of the bicycle bridges are destinations in their own right, such as the sykkelslangen (‘bicycle snake’), an S-shaped bridge famous for its iconic design.
There are various signposted routes that will take you past through key neighbourhoods, such as Havneringen (Harbour Circle) – a 13km route around the harbour, that snakes its way through Islands Brygge, Amager, Sydhavnen, Vesterbro, Holmen, and Christianshavn. You can check out the route here.
If 13 kilometres requires too much pedal power, you can do shorter chunks of 2, 4 or 7 kilometres.
Another option is to go on a locally-guided bike tour of Copenhagen and get an insider’s take on the city.
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