Copenhagen is a beautiful city with numerous magnificent sights and experiences to offer. There's no wonder why it’s been ranked as one of the fastest-growing tourism destinations in Europe. But with so many things to see and do, it’s easy to be at a loss. Even more so if you only have 24 hours to explore this wonderful city. The good thing is that if you're not a huge fan of museums, you can simply skip them for attractions that take no more than an hour to see. From getting off the plane to leaving Copenhagen, here are 10 things you can definitely do in just 24 hours.
If you’re arriving late at night or early in the morning, the best starting point might be the City Hall Square, because a lot of the coolest attractions are located up north, to the east, and northeast of the square. While you can definitely walk from this first attraction all the way to the last on the list, it might be worth renting a bike so it takes less time to get from point A to point B—and less tiring, too! In the square, you can find the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, the Gothic Dragon Fountain, and, of course, the Copenhagen City Hall itself. Make sure to enter the City Hall and admire the intricately made timepiece called Jens Olsen’s World Clock.
When you’re done looking around the City Hall Square, head to the 0.68-mile pedestrian shopping street that is Strøget. You’ll need to park your bike somewhere as bicycling there is frowned upon. One of the longest pedestrian shopping centers in Europe, Strøget has everything from luxury brands, budget-friendly stores, and quaint coffee shops. What makes Strøget a must-see for non-shoppers is that it’s a prime venue for people-watching. Get a cup of coffee, and watch people pass by and street entertainers do their thing.
There are numerous castles in and outside of Copenhagen, and they’re all worth visiting, but Amalienborg is one of the best ones to visit if you only have a day to spend in Copenhagen. The official residence of the Danish Royal Family, Amalienborg Palace features four former mansions that face a central square. What makes this castle stand out from the rest is the Changing of the Guard ceremony that takes place every day at noon. You’ll get to watch royal guards in funny hats do their routine. If the Queen is in residence, the guards will be accompanied by a marching band.
After watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony, bike to Torvehallerne to grab something to eat for lunch. One of Copenhagen’s best food halls, Torvehallerne boasts over 60 stands selling everything from fish, meat and produce to exotic spices to gourmet chocolate to some of Copenhagen’s most popular foods. While you’re there, make sure to try Denmark’s famous open-faced sandwich. Called smørrebrød, this sandwich is made with buttered rye bread and a variety of toppings, including pickled herring, cold cuts, cheese, spreads, and garnishes. These sandwiches look so pretty it’ll make you not want to eat them.
Once you get your fix of Copenhagen foods, go to the Botanical Garden and explore its extensive complex of 27 glasshouses. Covering an area of 2.4 acres, the Botanical Garden has 13,000 species of plants arranged in different sections. Each room is made to mimic the environment of the geographical location the plants are originally from. The Botanical Garden also has a lake, a café and a Butterfly House that’s open during summer. Visitors normally spend an average of 1.5 hours here, but you don’t need to see everything if you’re pressed for time.
The second and last castle to make it to our list of must-see attractions, Rosenborg Castle is only a two-minute bike ride from the Botanical Garden. Rosenborg Castle is absolutely stunning and would make for a jealousy-inducing Instagram post. Inside, you can take a look at the coronation thrones, tapestries on the walls commemorating important battles, the crown jewels, and many more noteworthy sights. If it’s too good of a day to be inside, explore the grounds of Rosenborg Castle instead. Called the King’s Garden, it has huge flowerbeds and is home to a rose garden and a variety of sculptures.
If you start sightseeing in the morning and follow this guide to the T, you’ll have seen plenty of great stuff in the city by the time you reach the Round Tower. The outside of the tower doesn’t look as glorious as many of the popular structures in Copenhagen, but that’s okay because you’re actually climbing the tower to see splendid views of the city. It’s the oldest functioning observatory in Europe, and you have to take the spiral walk to get to the top. If you’re in great shape it’s gonna be as easy as 1-2-3.
Up next is probably the most unique thing you’ll see in Copenhagen. Take Krystalgade then turn left to Nørregade and just go straight until you see the canal. You’ll see a lot more things that way on the way to Freetown Christiania. A very controversial part of Copenhagen, this neighborhood is populated by the hippie community and is filled with interesting murals and pieces of art. Freetown Christiania is an alternative society with its own rules, so you have to be at your best behavior there. It’s common to see marijuana dealers and smokers in its Green Light District, but it’s important to note that this isn’t yet legal in Denmark.
Now you’ll understand why you were recommended to take a specific route to Freetown Christiania. It is so you won’t see Nyhavn on the way there, as it’s better to go there in the late afternoon to get a snack or a drink. Nyhavn is probably the most Instagrammable location in Copenhagen, with its colorful houses by the harbor and its historic ships. Take as many photos as you want, but try to avoid eating at any of the restaurants by the harbor. They’re quite expensive despite offering mediocre food.
Checking out Tivoli Gardens might be the best way to end your day in Copenhagen since it’s open until 9 pm, with its hours extended in the summer. You don’t need to be a huge fan of amusement rides to have fun there. Tivoli Gardens is a beautiful park with restaurants, an outdoor beer garden in the summer, theaters, dance halls, an aquarium, and a classic Japanese garden. If you happen to be there on a Friday night, you’ll get to enjoy watching fireworks as well. It’s quite expensive but it’s well worth the price.