10 Days in Copenhagen: The Ultimate Travel Guide
Denmark is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world and it’s always made me curious as to why - so much so that I made it a priority to be my next big travel trip. I'm so happy I did. Less than 24 hours after landing, I experienced what the Danes like to call “Hygge” and suddenly got why they’re so dang happy. If you’re not sure what “hygee” is I highly recommend reading this book. I love also this explanation via The Conversation: “Hygge is sometimes translated as “cozy,” but a better definition of hygge is “intentional intimacy,” which can happen when you have safe, balanced and harmonious shared experiences. A cup of coffee with a friend in front of a fireplace might qualify, as could a summer picnic in the park.”
Simple, cozy pleasures are in abundance throughout Copenhagen. Just in experiencing dining out it became apparent through small touches; most restaurants come with blankets to curl up with, waiters genuinely encourage you to linger in conversation once your meal is done and meals seemed to be served by candlelight, regardless of the hour.
Copenhagen was a perfect way to experience a piece of Europe without a ton of tourists, proving to be a colorful haven along the water with SO much to enjoy. Before I share some of my favorite excursions and eats, here’s a few quick tips to help you enjoy Copenhagen to the fullest.
Getting around the city: Get the Copenhagen card, you can refill it for travel! Or just a rent a bike - you can practically be anywhere in Copenhagen in 10-15 bike ride and the lanes are HUGE. More people bike than drive.
Take one of these boat tours early into your trip to get acquainted with the city. Yes, it’s totally touristy but it orients you with different neighborhoods and gives you a bit of historical context before you go exploring by foot or bicycle.
Central Copenhagen and the MeatPacking district are the most "happening" spots. Something to keep in mind when scheduling your stay.
Use Airbnb experiences to book something fun! This was my first time using Airbnb experiences for a trip and I’m now completely OBSESSED! I was able to book two amazing experiences I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Search by city and enjoy a unique experience with a local.
Speaking of Airbnbs, they are MUCH cheaper than hotels and even hostels (this really surprised me coming from America). Copenhagen in general is incredibly expensive, so Airbnbs will help you stretch your budget!
Skip the mermaid statue. If you take the boat tour, you’ll see it from a distance and it will surrounded by an unreasonable amount of tourists.
If you go to Louisiana (a beautiful seaside town 30 minutes outside of Copenhagen I’ll talk about later), buy this pass in advance to get you to and from there, plus the price of admission - MUCH cheaper to bundle than buy individually (learned the hard way):
Now onto the rest of the good stuff:
Eat, Drink and Hygge!
Selma [Danish small plates]
Okay, if I only had ONE restaurant to recommend in Copenhagen it would be this! I took a cooking class in the city and asked the chef where her favorite places are to eat and Selma was at the top of her list. It was my absolute favorite meal of the trip! It's a contemporary take on Scandinavian dishes and the menu is driven by what's in season so it's constantly changing. Enjoy yourself and don't skip anything. I skipped dessert and I still regret it.
Juno the Bakery [baked goods]
The first Airbnb I booked was in Aarhusgade in Outer Oesterbro. It’s a bit far from central Copenhagen (didn’t realize that at the time) and there’s not a ton around. It's still a lovely and serene area though! Right next door to the apartment is Juno the bakery though and is the reason why I’m actually so glad we stayed in this apartment. It was the PERFECT introduction to Danish pastries! Everything is freshly made from scratch (you can watch them in the window rolling out dough and carefully slicing buns and sprinkling sesame seeds) and one step inside and wafts of cardamom and sugar start swirling through the air. Get there early because there's always a line. Grab a coffee to enjoy alongside your pastries outside on their bench. Such a treat!
Mad & Kaffe [brunch]
I basically loved every breakfast I had in Copenhagen, but I think my favorite brunch experience was at Mad & Kaffe. You can choose 3 or 5 dishes which are served on a wooden board and absolutely everything was delicious. There's a nice mix of healthy and decadent dishes to choose from. Get the organic rye sourdough bread - it’s out of this world soft and everything bread should be. I'm still dreaming about it.
Torvehallerne Market [market with food, drinks and more]
This market is a must-stop when in Copenhagen! It reminds me of a bit of Oxbow Public Market in Napa combined with a big farmer’s market and food trucks. So it's essentially everything I love (thanks for the recommendation, Neysa!). It’s a lovely spot to grab food for a picnic and since you can drink alcohol in the streets in Copenhagen, stop by Mikkeller bottle shop for some unique beers to toast with!
Souls [Vegan-friendly restaurant]
This spot's slogan is "Eat like you give a fork". They're a plant-based restaurant that's totally delicious and unpretentious. I grabbed their veggie burger and an Aperol Spritz (when in Europe!). Even though the menu is vegan, it's still very much comfort food and something carnivores can easily enjoy, too.
This is the one spot I wouldn’t go out of my way to go to - that being said, it’s fairly close to Tivoli Gardens so if you’re in the area and love matcha (or have an affinity for nut-based desserts) then make a stop. I'm crazy about matcha and it was fun to try some of their unique concoctions like the Iced Pitaya Matcha that's adds a super vibrant purple hue to your matcha. I wasn't a big fan of the dessert we tried but the space was really beautiful and the owner very friendly.
Spaghetti La Perla [Italian food]
After an oh-so long trek around the city, we found Spaghetti La Perla - a lovely, old-school Italian spot. The truffle pizza and salmon pasta were delicious and the decor super cute. If you've ever wanted to be surrounded by pictures of famous people eating pasta, this place will be your jam. Grab their sparkling presseco and people watch a long the street while enjoying your decadent Italian eats.
Reflections Ice Bar [frozen ice bar]
Due to a mishap while booking Airbnbs, I messed up our reservation dates and ended up not having a place to stay for the night (such a rookie travel mistake) but we ended up at The Generator, a hostel that has a frozen ice bar in it! We would have never found it otherwise, plus they have storage lockers which we ended up using in-between stays so we could freely explore the city without waiting to check-in to our next place. Win-win. The ice bar is carved with Hans Christian Anderson fairly tale scenes and I enjoyed a Blueberry gin-based drink that was delightful. It was freezing, but it's easy to adapt in a complementary parka. It's definitely a one-drink type of spot though - nobody wants to intentionally be cold for that long, haha.
Activities / Things to Do
This was one of the Airbnb Experiences I found and I'm so glad I did! It was the perfect way to relax after airplane travels and the guys who run it are hilarious. The spot is along the water and decked out with barrel-spas and an indoor sauna that smells so good. Some people jump into the water after heating up in the sauna, but I'm from California and so that was a hard no for me because it wasn't my version of warm outside, haha. It's a bit of a drive to get out there, but totally worth it! Then, once your done at Copenhot, it's a short walk out to Reffen to grab food (more on that next)!
This was hands down the coolest thing I did in Copenhagen. I booked it in advance and was a little nervous about splurging roughly $125 on a class, but it was beyond worth it. My mouth literally dropped open when I saw how beautiful the space was. If I could create my dream home, it would look like the inside of their event space. The dinning room is flooded with natural light, tall ceilings, a living plant wall and a long dinning table with fresh flowers and rows of candle sticks just inviting you to host a dinner party. The actual class was so fun to partake in - we learned how to create sourdough rye bread and a couple danish pastries that were so tasty. We had a great group and the staff was amazing! They taught us so much about the food culture in Denmark and I felt so accomplished afterwards.
This is always a popular stop for travelers and after spending a full day there I can absolutely see why. Tivoli opened in 1843, making it the second oldest amusement park in the world (the first is also in Denmark) and it's unlike any amusement park I've ever been to. And by that I mean it's really elegant and nothing like what you think of when thinking about American amusement parks. Tivoli Gardens is nestled in a lush, sweeping garden and despite the space being 175 years old, it's been well-kept to include gorgeous landscape, unique buildings and restaurants as well as colorful rides. My favorite part was the greenhouse restaurant. We stopped for coffee and just admired the beautiful garden surrounding the space for over an hour.
Yes, this is touristy but I'm a firm believer that sometimes touristy things are worth it. This is a 30-45 minute boat ride that takes you through the canal and out into the water to view neighborhoods of Copenhagen by boat and it really orients you with the city. You'll also see some cool things that are harder to get to or out of the way so I really felt like it was worth my time.
Formerly known as Paper Island, Reffen is a street food market and urban area for start-ups, innovation and creativity at Refshaleøen in Copenhagen. There are tons of food options and lots of tables to enjoy your food by the water. It's a very up and coming space that clearly has a lot of people building community and adding back to it. If you have a sweet tooth, don't hesitate to grab the Icelandic cheesecake at the end of the night!
Another great recommendation from the crew at CPH Cooking Class that we wouldn't have known about! It's maybe 30-45 minutes outside of Copenhagen but the train ride is really scenic and enjoyable. The main attraction here is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and it's loaded with interesting installations and art work. The building is right by the ocean and you can even get a panoramic view of Sweden from the grass outside. It's definitely a trip that is meant for all-day, but they have a cafe where you can grab lunch and coffee and enjoy the beach.
Lastly, if you're in the mood to shop, head to Strøget street! There are also plenty of shops along the water canal. My favorite department store was Magasin du Nord - loaded with gorgeous things to buy and eat.
All in all I can't recommend Copenhagen enough! So many friendly people and beautiful things to see. Have you been to Copenhagen before? Would you consider adding it to your list?