24 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen Denmark is an awesome European destination definitely worth visiting. If you are thinking of traveling to Scandinavia, visiting Copenhagen needs to be at the top of your list!
I’ve lived in Denmark for 3+ years now and have made my fair share of trips to visit Copenhagen. We live in a small town in Denmark about three hours away from the city so we go and spend a day in Copenhagen (or a long weekend) quite frequently. From all of these trips to Copenhagen, I’ve compiled this list of 24 things to know before visiting Copenhagen Denmark!
Denmark is often ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world (although many Danes roll their eyes at this). However, I’d largely attribute this to their amazing work/life culture (hello 37-hour work week), universal healthcare and the culture of getting outside for a walk or bike ride no matter the weather (we’re looking at you rain).
Besides visiting one of the ‘happiest’ countries in the world, you’ve never seen a cycling culture like the culture you’ll find in Copenhagen. For example, there is a cyclist bridge in the city that sees over 40,000 cyclists EVERY day! That alone is reason enough to visit this city in Scandinavia (but seriously seeing all the cyclists is one of my favorite things).
We know lots of yummy, cheap eats in Copenhagen and have found our fair share of Copenhagen budget-friendly hotels. And this post is to give you all of my top recommendations of things to know and top tips before you visit Copenhagen!
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24 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING COPENHAGEN DENMARK
1. There is nothing called black licorice in Copenhagen it’s just called licorice
Okay, so maybe what to call licorice isn’t necessarily the most important thing you need to know before your trip to Copenhagen. However, it’s definitely a good souvenir and it will give you a sneak peek into Danish culture.
In the US we are used to what we call licorice (which is red) and then what we call black licorice (which is black). Red licorice in the US really isn’t licorice, it’s just called that because of the similar texture to the OG black licorice.
Denmark just has black licorice aka real licorice and it’s a big deal. You’ll see licorice-flavored ice cream, sprinkles for ice cream, licorice gum, and tons of different licorice variations in the candy aisle. They even have licorice-covered chocolate balls rolled in spicy powder for those that want hot licorice (I’m not joking it’s called lakrids stærk or ‘strong’).
Anyway, I definitely recommend picking up some licorice while you travel in Copenhagen or asking for licorice sprinkles on your ice cream! You can find plenty of varieties at a grocery store. However, if you want loads of flavor options that come in a super cute container, swing by one of the many Lakrids Bülow shops in Copenhagen.
2. The best times to Visit Copenhagen Denmark are the Summertime and Christmastime
By far the best time of year to travel to Copenhagen is the summer, followed by Christmas. This is because it rains SO much in Copenhagen and if you want any chance of clear blue skies then you’ll want to visit in peak summer months.
By peak summer months I mean visiting from June-August. However, July is known to be an especially busy month in Denmark since it’s the schools’ summer holidays (meaning July has higher prices and more crowds). However, you can for sure bleed into May and September and still have chances of great weather.
The main thing to understand is that Copenhagen often has grey skies and rainy days. And that’s ok! Even if you visit in mid-July, you still may get all rain (or you might have beautiful weather with storybook clouds).
We’ve visited the city during all different months of the year and are always sure to come prepared with proper jackets and/or umbrellas.
The next best time of year to see Copenhagen is when the city is decked out in Christmas lights, decorations markets, ice rinks, and more. Plus you can taste yummy æbleskiver, rice pudding, and gløgg!
You can expect Christmas festivities to begin mid-November and last through the end of December.
3. You’ll easily get by in Copenhagen Speaking English
Danes were recently ranked as the world’s second-best speakers of English as a second language. A whopping 86% of Danes report being able to speak English fluently (which is awesome but a little tricky if you are trying to learn Danish).
Danes start learning English in the first year of grade school and continue learning all the way through graduation. All of this to say, you’ll get by just fine in Copenhagen only speaking English. But of course, it’s always nice to keep the Google Translate App on your phone for items at the grocery store or signs that are only in Danish.
4. Food and lodging in Copenhagen can be pricey
Food and lodging can be a bit pricey in Copenhagen, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit! I’ve put together a list of budget-friendly (but beautiful) Copenhagen hotels and a cheap eats Copenhagen food guide.
For lodging, I’d recommend planning on $175-$200 per night or more depending on your needs. And for food, I’d recommend budgeting about $15-$20 for a pretty basic meal.
5. The Copenhagen airport is only a short train ride to the city center
Unlike the airports in Paris or London, the Copenhagen airport is just a short 15-minute metro ride from the city center! This means you may even be able to see a good amount of the city if you have a long layover at the Copenhagen airport.
6. The Copenhagen Card is a great way to save money on public transit and attractions
The Copenhagen Card is a great card that includes admission to over 80 attractions/experiences in Copenhagen, plus it offers free public transit within Copenhagen and to and from the airport. You can purchase the Copenhagen Card in increments from 1-5 days depending on how long you will be in the city.
I’m all about having a card that covers all public transportation. It’s so nice not to worry about paying for each ride on the metro or bus.
Some of the top sights you can use the Copenhagen Card for are a canal cruise, The Round Tower, Rosenborg Castle, Amalienborg Castle, Danish Design Museum, and more!
7. Copenhagen is often voted as one of the safest cities in the world
I’m all about feeling safe while I’m traveling and there are very few places that you may feel safer in than Copenhagen. Copenhagen is often ranked as one of the safest cities in the world because of its low crime rate and relatively narrow wealth gap.
This makes it a great destination for families and solo travelers, plus anyone else who just prefers a basic feeling of safety.
Of course, as with anywhere, you’ll want to exercise basic precautions to ensure safety and prevent pickpockets.
8. Taking a canal cruise will be a highlight of your trip to Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen is home to some very picturesque canals lined with tethered sailboats and colorful buildings. The most famous canal is Nyhavn (you’ve seen pictures I’m sure) but you also get to see lesser-known, but super cute areas like Christianshavn.
I enjoy the canal cruises so much that I am sure to take any guests that visit us on one. I’ve even written an entire post about my favorite Copenhagen canal cruises. It’s just such a great way to see a large amount of the city, learn a little bit of history and fun facts, and have fun while doing so.
9. There are so many fairytale castles to see in and near Copenhagen
Another great thing about a city break to Copenhagen is that but you can also see many beautiful, fairytal-esque castles! Just while walking around the city, you can visit Rosenborg Castle, Amalienborg Palace, Christianborg Palace, and Fredriksberg Palace.
Plus, just within 1-2 hours of the city you can see Fredriksborg Castle (one of my favorites), Kronborg Castle (from Hamlet) and Egeskov Castle (perfect for families).
For a true local experience, bring a picnic lunch to The King’s Garden next to Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen and relax with the picturesque castle as your backdrop.
10. There are separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists
As I’ve mentioned, Copenhagen the cycling scene in Copenhagen is absolutely thriving. And because of this, you need to be aware of a few things concerning cyclists.
Copenhagen has specific bike lanes that are often nestled between the road and the sidewalk or walking path. And you need to be sure to stay on the walking path and to not step out into the bike lane without looking. That’s basically the equivalent of stepping out into the road without looking.
Cyclists pass quickly and frequently so you definitely need to be aware of your surroundings and be thinking of cyclists (especially if you aren’t used to being around bicycle traffic).
This is also important if you rent a car in Copenhagen. Be sure to check your side mirrors frequently before taking any right turns. It can be hard to remember that a group of cyclists may be sneaking up in your blind spot!
11. There are great day trips to take from Copenhagen
If you are lucky enough to have more than one day in Copenhagen then you may have some time to make some great day trips from Copenhagen! Here are some of my favorite and most popular day trips from the city:
- Frederiksborg Castle (epic castle and chapel full of Carl Bloch paintings-my favorite day trip)
- Roskilde, Denmark (see original Viking ships at the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum and an epic cathedral)
- Kronborg Castle (the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet)
- Tisvildeleje Beach in the ‘Danish Riviera’ (see rolling sand dunes and beaches with colorful changing huts)
- Dragør, Denmark (see an idyllic fisherman village with cobblestone streets and yellow houses close to the city)
- Odense, Denmark (the birthplace of Hans Christian Anderson and close to Egeskov Castle)
- Møns Klint (see limestone and chalk cliffs along the Baltic Sea)
- Malmö, Sweden (see an additional country just a 35-minute train ride away!)
- Billund, Denmark (the home of LEGO world headquarters and the amazing LEGO House experience)
12. Seeing The Little Mermaid statue is a little underwhelming
Okay, if you’ve researched things to do in Copenhagen for more than a few minutes you’ve probably come across The Little Mermaid statue. The Little Mermaid statue was erected in the Copenhagen harbor in 1913 based on the 1837 fairytale written by the Danish author Hans Christian Anderson.
I don’t necessarily recommend visiting the Little Mermaid statue just to visit the statue as it is about a one-mile walk from Nyhavn away from many other top Copenhagen attractions. Plus it’s quite small making it a little underwhelming 😅. However, if you want a nice stroll along the harbor it’s a nice thing to see along the way.
We rented bikes and rode along the harbor past The Little Mermaid while on our way to other sites in the city. Nearby The Little Mermaid statue you can see the Kastellet citadel or pick up ice cream at a kiosk near The Little Mermaid statue.
Another great way to see the statue is on a Copenhagen canal cruise. Every canal cruise in Copenhagen sails past The Little Mermaid Statue, plus you get to see the rest of the city’s picturesque canals and modern harbor.
13. The sun stays up late in the summer and goes down early in winter
In the summer months, the sun can rise at 4:30 am and set at 10:00 pm. This means if you are a light sleeper, you may want to bring an eye mask along with you in case your accommodations don’t have proper blackout curtains.
On the other hand, in the winter, the sun won’t rise until around 8:30 am and it can set early around 3:30 pm. If you are visiting at Christmastime it’s not such a bad deal since there will be plenty of Christmas lights and lit-up markets you want to see (not to mention Tivoli Gardens sparkling in the night) so it’s almost kind of nice to have the evening start a little earlier.
14. Keep an eye out for parking meters
If you’re renting a car in Copenhagen, pretty much anywhere you park is going to cost money. And that’s okay, it really isn’t too expensive (we aren’t talking New York City prices). However, you may need to do a little searching to find the meter where you pay.
We have parked on the street in Copenhagen before and the meter was almost a block away. And even though it was so far away it clearly showed that we were in an area that we needed to pay for.
The easiest way to pay for parking is via the Easy Park App. Almost every parking lot and even the street parking in Copenhagen can be paid for via the Easy Park App. You can even add time via the app while you are out and about- I definitely recommend it.
15. It is illegal to turn right at a red stoplight (bikes included)
Another tip if you’re traveling in Copenhagen with a car, is that it is illegal to turn right at a red stoplight. This may take some practice to remember if you’re coming from the US where it’s allowed.
And once the light turns green, you need to be very aware of cyclists passing by you on the right side before you take that right turn. If you’re driving during commuter traffic time, it can feel quite stressful with all of the bikes passing by.
16. The Copenhagen Harbor is so clean you can swim in it
Another unique aspect of Copenhagen is that the Copenhagen harbor is clean enough for swimming and there are multiple designated swimming areas! The most popular and central harbor bath is Islands Brygge where you’ll find both tall jumping platforms and shallow play areas!
You can even take a dip in most of the swim areas in the winter if you want to try Danish winter bathing.
17. Copenhagen has multiple Michelin-star restaurants
If fancy food is your thing, Copenhagen is the place for you. Copenhagen boasts 20+ restaurants with Michelin stars! I haven’t personally eaten at any of the Michelin restaurants in Copenhagen ( I can barely afford the budget-friendly food in Copenhagen🤣).
However, if you’re looking for the best of the best, Noma is one of the most famous restaurants in Copenhagen/the world and has been awarded the max number of Michelin stars available. But it will cost you a pretty penny and you need to get reservations months in advance.
18. You need to try a Danish pølse (hot dog) from a street cart
If you pick up just one typical Danish meal, for sure have it be a hot dog from a Danish hot dog cart (of course, you also need to stop at a bakery for treats afterward). Hot dog carts have been a staple in Copenhagen since 1920- at one point there were more than 400 street carts selling pølse!
The most traditional Danish hot dog is a ‘ristet pølse’ with, spicy mustard, remoulade, ketchup, fried onions, and thin pickle slices. Be sure to try it with all the toppings! If you don’t like it, just pick up another one later with only the toppings you want😄.
You can find these hot dog carts all over the city, there’s even one right at Nyhavn, one next to The Round Tower, and others along the pedestrian-only area, Strøget.
19. Smørrebrød is a unique local food to pick up for lunch
Another traditional Danish food you are sure to see or hear about is called smørrebrød. Smørrebrød is basically a slice of hearty rye bread topped with various toppings. The most common toppings are pickled herring, salmon, shrimp, and roast beef (not all together😅).
I personally prefer the vegetarian smørrebrød options with toppings like potato or avocado (which can be a little trickier to find). One of the most popular places to pick up smørrebrød in Copenhagen is Aamanns but you can find it all over and there is usually a stall selling it in any of the food halls.
20. Be sure to swing by a bakery in Copenhagen and try wienerbrød, kanelsnegl or romkugle
Every new place I visit, I’m sure to make a stop at a few local bakeries and Copenhagen is no exception. If you’re coming from the US, you may be thinking you can pick up a pastry called a Danish ( I mean you are in Denmark after all). However, nothing exists by that name here.
However, you will find wienerbrød with cream filling and that’s the closest thing to what Americans call Danishes (although wienerbrød is much better…shock, surprise).
Another top treat to try is a kanelsnegl which is Denmark’s answer to a cinnamon roll or romkugle which is a sprinkle-covered ball made up of leftover pastries all mashed together.
And if you like marzipan, then Copenhagen is the place for you! You will find SO many bakery options that include marzipan if that’s what you’re into.
A great bakery to swing by is Sankt Peders Bageri aka the oldest bakery in Copenhagen famous for their kanelsnegls.
21. Copenhagen is home to Tivoli Gardens- an amusement park visited by Walt Disney
I usually don’t think to visit amusement parks on international trips, however, Copenhagen is an exception. The center of Copenhagen is home to a beautiful amusement park called Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli has been around since 1843 and is the third-oldest operating amusement park in the world.
It is rumored that Walt Disney visited Tivoli and received inspiration for Disneyland. Which would make sense because Tivoli is an incredibly beautiful, clean fun park with live shows, music, good restaurants and fun rides.
If you only go on one ride, be sure it’s the wooden Roller Coaster (Rutschebanen). It’s one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world and it’s so fun! The crazy thing is that the coaster is braked by a real employee that sits on the ride and controls a large brake lever in a fun almost theatrical way.
22. Many interesting tours/experiences can be booked in Copenhagen
One of the best things to know before visiting Copenhagen is that you can find many unique activities and tours led by locals to help you get a better feel for the city.
You can find a guided bike tour (or an e-bike tour) through popular neighborhoods and past top sights, a super fun Danish pastry baking class, a cozy Copenhagen hygge tour, and even a tour that will take you on a day trip to Sweden.
Choosing one of these local-led experiences is definitely a great way to experience Copenhagen and the surrounding areas.
23. There are other awesome places to see in Denmark besides Copenhagen
Copenhagen is by far the most popular place for visitors to see in Denmark, however, there are plenty of other beautiful and interesting places to see! The best way to see the rest of Denmark is to rent a car and take 3-5 days to travel from Copenhagen to Denmark’s northernmost point, Skagen (where you can see the waves meeting of the Baltic and North Sea).
Other great places to see in Denmark include Roskilde, Odense, Billund, and Aarhus (just to name a few) to then end in Skagen. Skagen is also just a ferry ride away from Norway or Sweden if you’d like to then travel on to see more of Scandinavia.
24. Copenhagen Denmark is a popular stop on Scandinavian Cruises
If cruising is your thing, you’ll be happy to know that you can find Copenhagen on many Scandinavian cruise itineraries. You could hop on a Scandinavian cruise to stop in Copenhagen with other possible stops in Denmark like Aarhus and Skagen and then cruise onto Sweden then the Norwegian Fjords.
Check out these other posts, I know you’ll love them:
- The Only Itinerary You Need for One Day in Copenhagen
- 8 Unique Canal Tours in Copenhagen You Need to Book
- 8 Incredible and Budget-Friendly Copenhagen Hotels
- The Ultimate Cheaps Eats Copenhagen Food Guide
- How to Visit Islands Brygge Harbour Bath in Copenhagen (Havnebadet Islands Brygge)
- 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 those are the top 24 things I think you need to know before visiting Copenhagen, Denmark! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions about Copenhagen travel or Denmark travel in general. I love to talk all things travel.