We live in a small town in Denmark (aka the town where LEGO is headquartered) just about three hours from Copenhagen. This means we have made our fair share of trips to the city!
Usually, we take a weekend trip to Copenhagen when we are tired of doing the usual things nearby us, like LEGOLAND and The LEGO House (which are also cool and I totally recommend).
We’ve visited Copenhagen multiple times on our own, plus we’ve taken almost everyone who visits us to Copenhagen as well (or they visit Copenhagen on their own after we give them our top recs of places to see😉). And from all of our experiences of our 7+ trips to the city, I think I have been able to curate the perfect itinerary for one day in Copenhagen.
It will include all of our favorite things to see in Copenhagen like the picturesque canals, seeing cyclists EVERYWHERE the open harbor, amazing city views, beautiful churches, great shopping, and even a super trendy outdoor food hall.
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Best time of year to take a day trip to Copenhagen:
One thing you’ll definitely want to take into consideration before planning your trip to Copenhagen is the weather. We’ve lived in Denmark for 3+ years and so I tend to think I know the weather pretty well.
The main takeaway you need to know about Copenhagen weather is that it’s often rainy with grey skies. And that’s ok! We’ve visited the city during all different months of the year, but we come prepared with proper jackets and/or umbrellas.
However, if you want the highest chances of sunny weather, blue skies, and puffy, white storybook clouds aim for visiting in May-September. But for even higher chances of beautiful weather, aim for visiting Copenhagen in June-August.
Denmark’s school holidays are most of July (along with many other parts of Europe). So if you want to beat some of the crowds and the higher prices I’d skip July.
If I’m recommending to a family member or close friend when to visit Copenhagen I suggest coming from the end of May to the end of June OR in August.
But even with those high chances, you definitely still will want to pack a pair of long pants, a rain jacket & sweater just in case the weather is not in your favor. Because even if the weather is in the 60s, it can feel quite chilly with rain, grey skies, and wind.
I’ve worn a light puffy jacket in Copenhagen during June on multiple occasions. And I have also been very hot in Copenhagen during the summer months as well. The moral of the story is just to come prepared😆.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lovely visit during the other months of the year! My next favorite time of year to visit Copenhagen is at Christmas which is about mid-November through December.
24 hours in Copenhagen at a glance:
- Canal Cruise from Nyhavn
- Amalienborg Palace
- Marble Church
- Lunch @ a traditional Danish Hot Dog Cart (or get smørrebrød)
- Rosenborg Castle
- The Round Tower
- Treat @ Sankt Peders Bageri
- Church of our Lady Copenhagen Cathedral
- Strøget pedestrian street
- Dinner @ Reffen Street Food
Copenhagen in a Day Map:
*Use this interactive map to see each stop on this Copenhagen 1 day itinerary. Click on the full-screen icon in the top right corner to have this map open in your own Google Maps app*
One-Day Itinerary for Copenhagen:
1. See the Colorful Buildings of Nyhavn
If you’ve researched Copenhagen for more than two seconds, you’ll for sure already know about the colorful buildings lining Nyhavn. In Danish, Nyhavn is pronounced ‘new-hown’ and literally means new harbor.
It’s a super cute area to walk through and snap some cute pictures. You can also swing into one of the cafes lining the harbor for some food or a drink. Some classics you can pick up are a Danish pølser (hot dog) or smørrebrød (rye bread with various toppings).
An awesome canal cruise leaves right from the end of Nyhavn (which I definitely recommend taking). I have more info about the canal cruise in the next point.
2. Relax on a Stromma Canal Cruise
One of my favorite things to do in Copenhagen (especially when we have visitors) is to take a 1-hour cruise through the city’s picture-perfect canals and harbor. I even have an article highlighting the top 8 Copenhagen canal cruises to choose from which you can check out here.
Even though there are a few different types of canal/harbor cruises available, the Stromma cruise is the best option for one day in Copenhagen because it departs right from the Nyhavn harbor!
On the Stromma Canal Cruise, you get to see so many of Copenhagen’s top attractions- including Amalienborg Palace, the Opera House and so many beautiful buildings topped with oxidized green copper spires.
You’ll even cruise past The Little Mermaid. And trust me, a canal cruise is the best way to see The Little Mermaid because it’s very underwhelming and a looooong walk from most other Copenhagen attractions.
Plus, onboard is a live narrator giving you the history and small tidbits of information about everything you past. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city and to get a general overview.
One of my favorite areas the canal cruise goes through is the super picturesque area of Christianshavn. It’s as colorful and quaint as Nyhavn minus the crowds and the canal is absolutely lined with cool sailboats and houseboats.
And the best part about the Stromma Canal Cruise is that it’s such a great value at only about $15 per person for a 1-hour cruise (or it’s included for free in the Copenhagen Card)! Things can’t get much less expensive than that in Copenhagen.
However, if you’re looking for a smaller more intimate cruise experience, check out the Hey Captain canal cruise. The Hey Captain departure point isn’t too far from Nyhavn and it’s a MUCH smaller boat carrying only 12 people rather than the super big groups that the Stromma cruises accommodate.
The smaller group on a Hey Captain canal cruise will give you more opportunities to ask questions and have the cruise itinerary change according to the wants of the group. But no matter which cruise you go with, I definitely recommend taking one.
3. See the guards at Amalienborg Palace
After your canal cruise, take a short walk over to Amalienborg Palace. Amalienborg Palace is the winter residence of Denmark’s queen and her family. You can know they are currently residing there if there is a Danish flag flying over the palace.
Similar to Buckingham Palace in London, Amalienborg Palace has a royal guard stationed in front of the palace (think fancy uniforms and tall puffy hats). You can even see the changing of the guard every day at noon in the palace square. You can get more information about the changing of the guard here.
We’ve seen the changing of the guard and it’s definitely fun if you happen to be in the area at the right time. I’m completely fascinated by the idea of royal guards and was super jazzed to see the changing of the guard in Copenhagen. However, if it’s not your thing, don’t change your entire itinerary around just to see it.
You can also see the inside of Amalienborg Palace at the Amalienborg Museum– entrance is included in the Copenhagen Card!
4. Marvel at the dome of Marble Church
From Amalienborg Palace, you’ll see the huge oxidized green copper dome of the Marble Church (also known as Frederiks Kirke). Again, just another short walk away you can reach the steps of the Marble Church and take a peek inside to see the largest dome in Northern Europe.
The church is very commanding and I don’t know how you can walk past the area without taking a peek inside. It’s a short easy stop for your Copenhagen one-day itinerary.
5. Pick up a Danish hotdog or smørrebrød for lunch
Something that surprised me about Denmark is the Danes’ love of pølser (hot dogs). The first hot dog cart (pølsevogn) hit the streets in 1920 years after they were popularized in Germany, then Sweden, and Norway.
At one point Copenhagen had over 400 street cars selling hot dogs in Copenhagen! In recent years that number has dwindled to more around 60 hot dog carts.
The most common way to get a hot dog is called ‘ristet pølse’ (roasted hot dog) which is served with ketchup, spicy mustard, remoulade, fried onions, and thin pickle slices. Check out this site to learn about some of the most popular hot dog carts and their locations.
A Danish hot dog is one of the traditional Danish foods I purchase most frequently. However, if you want to try another traditional food, pick up smørrebrød from Aamans Deli & Takeaway (it’s thought to be some of the best smørrebrød in the city).
Smørrebrød is basically a slice of hearty rye bread topped with various toppings. Usually, the rye bread is topped with various types of meat and fish but I personally prefer the vegetarian smørrebrød options (to each their own 🤷♀️).
6. Visit Rosenborg Castle & The King’s Garden
One of my favorite things about Copenhagen is stumbling upon a beautiful castle right in the city center. Rosenborg Castle was built about 400 years ago and is now home to the crown jewels and other historical items. Entrance to Rosenborg Castle is also included in the Copenhagen Card.
The castle really is so picturesque and surrounded by The King’s Garden which is one of my favorite places to stroll through or picnic in. If you are looking for a different lunch option, swing by the walk-up counter around the corner at Gasoline Grill to take a burger and fries to the King’s Garden to picnic.
In the summer months, the King’s Garden is full of locals having birthday picnics and playing lawn games. It feels pretty idealistic. There is even a small children’s playground here if you have kiddos that need to get their wiggles out.
7. Climb the Round Tower for great views of Copenhagen
The Round Tower (Rundetaarn) is by far one of my favorite things to see in Copenhagen in one day. You’ll find the Round Tower located just a short walk from Rosenborg Castle in a lovely pedestrian-only area of Copenhagen and it’s a great spot for some beautiful views of the city.
The Round Tower has been around since 1642 and served as an observatory tower connected to a church and (at the time) also housed the university library. The most unique feature of The Round Tower is the spiral ramp that circles from ground level to the top of the tower.
The spiral ramp is made of bricks and surrounded by white curved walls. It’s very pretty and a great leadup to the pretty views of Copenhagen you get at the top. I’m a total sucker for a good view, so I really enjoy The Round Tower. You can see the many green coppered spired buildings jutting out from the city floor and even hear church bells if you happen to catch it at the right time.
The ramp definitely makes it an easier climb to the observation point. However, as an FYI, the last short bit to the top is a small spiral staircase.
8. Pick up a treat from Sankt Peders Bageri
I like to swing by a bakery (or two or three) in any new city I am visiting. Generally, local desserts seem to be my favorite food I try while traveling and that’s no different in Copenhagen.
You’ll find most of the same things in any bakery you step into in Copenhagen, however, a great bakery to try is Sankt Peders Bageri. Sankt Peders Bageri is known as Copenhagen’s oldest bakery and is famous for its kanelsnegls (aka cinnamon rolls).
And if you’re lucky enough to be in Copenhagen on a Wednesday, be sure to get the onsdagssnegle (Wednesday roll) which is more of a sticky bread type of cinnamon roll (and extremely popular).
And if you’re coming from the US looking to try a dessert we know as a ‘danish’ the closest thing will be wienerbrød with a cream filling. Don’t ask for a danish at a bakery because nothing exists by that name. You’ll notice they don’t taste the same as what we in America call ‘danishes’ but it’s the same idea but done better 😆.
If you’re looking for a vegan/gluten-free bakery experience, visit the bakery Landbageriet for some delicious goodies. We’ve visited there multiple times and love their carrot cake.
9. Admire Thorvaldsen’s Christus Statue at The Church of our Lady
My favorite church in Copenhagen is The Church of our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke) also called The Copenhagen Cathedral.
The Church of our Lady has been home to a beautiful statue of the resurrected Christ (entitled Christus) created by the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen since its completion in 1833. Along with the statue of Christ, there are also beautiful statues of the 12 apostles lining each side of the chapel
The Church of our Lady is not as popular among tourists (although I think it should be). But because of this, it makes the church a very peaceful place to think and receive some respite from the world.
The outside of the church is quite bare and unassuming and you’d never know of the beautiful sculptures and peace just inside the doorway.
Thorvaldsen’s Christus is so lovely that it has actually been adopted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as part of the church’s symbol. The church has also produced replicas of the Christus at holy temples throughout the world to emphasize their love and belief in the Savior.
The Church of our Lady is located on a sidestreet of the Strøget area that I talk about in the next point below making it very easy to see if you have just one day in Copenhagen Denmark.
10. Walk & shop on Strøget pedestrian street
Throughout the center of Copenhagen, you’ll find a 1.1-kilometer-long pedestrian-only shopping street full of stores from the fanciest like Louis Vuitton and Prada down to stores like H&M and Zara. You can also find good street food like hot dog carts, kebab shops, and ice cream plus other restaurants and stores.
You can also find a LEGO store here which usually has a Denmark-specific set or two since Denmark is where LEGO was created and is still headquartered.
However, if you’re into LEGO, be sure to add The LEGO House to your Denmark itinerary which is just a few hours from Copenhagen.
One important thing to know is that Strøget is more of a nickname and you won’t be able to find a street with that name on your maps. Strøget is actually an area made up of multiple streets and squares: Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, and Østergade and Nytorv square, Gammeltorv Square, and Amagertorv Square.
11. Dinner along the harbor at Reffen Street Food
Copenhagen is home to multiple food halls but by far my favorite is Reffen Street Food. Reffen is a super hip outdoor food hall right on the harbor with 40+ vendors selling food and goods from all over the world.
The stalls are very colorful and cute with some made out of shipping containers or whatever other clever things you can think of. We even found a small photo booth to get some pictures taken in.
Reffen is located across the harbor which may seem like it’s difficult to get to, however, a quick bus or water taxi ride will get you to Reffen’s front door no matter where you are in the city (just plug it into your Apple or Google Maps).
One important thing to note is that Reffen Street Food is only open during the summer month. However, if you are visiting in the winter months, I recommend swinging by Broens Gadekøkken another great, outdoor food hall (though much smaller). But the plus side is that in the winter months it has an ice rink!
Additional Things to see if you have more than 1 Day in Copenhagen:
- Play and relax at Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park
- Explore Design Museum Denmark
- Walk and play at Superkilen Park
- Walk through Kastellet Citadel
- Views from The Church of our Saviour
- Take a dip in the Harbour Bath
- Bellevue Beach or Amager Beach Park
- Copenhagen Botanical Garden
- The Lakes Area of Copenhagen
Tours to Experience Copenhagen in One Day:
If you are someone who enjoys a good guided tour or experiences once in a while (I know I do) here are some great options for tours in Copenhagen! I’ve taken a few of these tours with others still waiting on my list of things to do in Copenhagen:
- The Art of Baking Danish Pastries: Bake yummy, traditional Danish pastries with a professional pastry chef (with plenty left over to snack on later!)
- 1-Hour Sightseeing Canal Tour: Lovely, narrated sightseeing tour through Copenhagen’s picturesque canals. Check out my Copenhagen Canal Tours article for more canal tour options.
- 2-Hour Guided E-Bike Tour: See Copenhagen like a local on a guided E-bike tour
- 3-Hour Guided Cargo Bike Tour: What’s even more local than a traditional bike is a cargo bike! Take this cargo bike tour to see some of the city’s top sights. Exploring the city on a cargo bike has been one of my favorite experiences in Copenhagen!
- 1.5-Hour Private Walking Tour: Take a quick walking tour through the city with a private guide to kickstart your time in Copenhagen.
- 1-Day Tour in Copenhagen w/Food: Explore Copenhagen for a full day with a private guide, including food stops!
- Hamlet Castle And Sweden Day Tour from Copenhagen: Visit the Hamlet castle plus take a trip to Sweden all with a one-day tour from Copenhagen.
How to Get Around Copenhagen in 1 Day:
A great thing about Copenhagen is that it’s quite walkable but also has a great public transit system that will get you everywhere you need to go whenever you need it. One great way to have the cost of public transit covered is to purchase the Copenhagen Card.
The Copenhagen Card is an awesome card that gives you free entrance to 80+ attractions in Copenhagen PLUS free public transit (including from the airport into the city). I am all about something that gives me free public transit so that I don’t have to purchase individual tickets or think about anything each time I want to take a bus or metro.
You can purchase the card in 1-5 day increments depending on how long you will be in the city. It’s a great option if you plan to visit multiple sights in Copenhagen with an entrance fee. For example visiting Rosenborg Castle, Amalienborg Palace, Tivoli Gardens or taking a canal cruise.
However, if you don’t plan on doing many things that require an entrance fee, the Copenhagen Card may not be a good value for you (but it might be!).
If you don’t plan on purchasing a Copenhagen Card, the next best option is the public transit City Pass. The City Pass gives you unlimited rides on the buses, trains, metro, and harbor buses of Copenhagen. You can choose between a City Pass Small or City Pass Large that is valid for 1-5 days.
A great thing about the City Pass for families is that two children under 12 years old can travel for free per adult with a City Pass.
Whenever I travel, I prefer to purchase a card that will cover all my public transit rather than paying per public transit trip. Whether you do this via the Copenhagen Card or the City Pass it doesn’t matter, but I do recommend choosing one.
Copenhagen is known as one of the best cities in the world for biking. And as soon as you’re there you’ll quickly realize why. There are more cyclists in the city than I have ever seen before. The bike lanes are amazing. They are very protected, have their own stoplights, and are often packed with cyclists.
All of this is to say that if you really want to get the real Danish experience, rent a bike for the day and explore Copenhagen that way. If you only have one day in the city I don’t necessarily suggest renting a bike (some areas are easier explored on foot).
However, if you have a bit more time, renting a bike or taking a bike tour in Copenhagen is a great idea (and one of my favorite things I have done in the city). Many hotels offer bike rentals or you can rent an e-bike here.
Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:
- 8 Unique Canal Tours in Copenhagen You Need to Book
- 24 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Copenhagen Denmark
- The Ultimate Cheaps Eats Copenhagen Food Guide
- 8 Incredible and Budget-Friendly Copenhagen Hotels
- Viking Ship Museum Denmark: Everything You Need to Know!
- A Local’s Ultimate Guide to The LEGO House Home of the Brick
- Aarhus, Denmark: 8 amazing things to do, see, and eat
And that’s what I recommend to see in Copenhagen in one day! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about Copenhagen or Denmark in general- I love to chat all things travel.
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