It’s taken me a little bit of time of time to put together this post. The bottom line is that Mike and I both loved Copenhagen. Part of me was wondering, “did we just have a great time because we were traveling together after a rough couple of months and sans a busy, active toddler?” That was certainly part of it. (Nothing like getting on a plane without dependents to make you feel like vacation has begun!) But when I went to write this post, I was quickly reminded of the magic as I revisited all the photos. There were so many things to do in Copenhagen!
I feel like I have to preface every travel post with a disclaimer that I’m the farthest thing from a “travel pro.” In fact, I would be fine never traveling. I get anxious and homesick. I also feel this intense pressure to have “perfect trips” where we stay at the best hotel, eat at all the best places, see all the great sites, all while attempting to not stick out like a tourist. As a recovering perfectionist, I know it’s impossible, but that feeling still creeps in and I have a horrible habit of feeling disappointed when trips don’t live up to my unrealistic standards.
We decided to visit Copenhagen as our destination since Mike had to be in London and we wanted to go someplace nearby with direct flights where neither of us had been before. We also hoped to visit a destination that would work for a winter trip (our February dates couldn’t be moved due to Mike’s work) and also that would lend itself to a quick “long weekend” trip. Copenhagen checked all of our boxes and we booked the trip!
Truth be told, we probably could have gone anywhere. We were craving a trip and just wanted to escape our everyday life for a couple of days. With that said, Copenhagen far exceeded our expectations. We had some of the worst weather you could possibly have and we still loved every minute. Pouring rain, below freezing temperatures, snow flurries, and even a flash hail storm! It set the scene for an extra cozy trip though. (Mike and I both want to come back during the summer to experience it again and discover more things to do in Copenhagen!)
Before I dive into what we did, I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who recommended places and things to do! Both Mike and I referred to the comment section frequently while planning what we wanted to do. It was so, so helpful!
MY OVERALL THOUGHTS:
For someone who is a nervous traveler, this was an ideal location and I can’t recommend it enough.
Copenhagen is a beautiful, clean, and super easy to navigate city. It kind of has a small town vibe in that you can easily get to know the city and its neighborhoods relatively quickly on foot and by their (crazy efficient) metro. Everyone was friendly (and spoke English) and there’s this feeling that you’re really there with people who live there. That’s kind of hard to explain, but you don’t feel like you’re just surrounded by tourists and tourists only. Tons of families everywhere we went, too. I wouldn’t travel with a toddler there for such a short trip (personally, more power to you if you want to!), but it’s definitely a city that sees children as part of the community. I also loved seeing so many older couples and friend groups out to dinner– every restaurant we went to had tables and tables of friends out to dinner and it was just…. so nice to see? Once I started noticing it, it stood out to me because I don’t feel like you see people of all ages out to dinner in the same restaurants in NYC.
The food scene is also so great. The bakeries. The cafes. The restaurants. Everything from semlor to hot dogs to smørrebrøds– we tried to have a taste of Denmark, but we also had a lot of recommendations like “this restaurant that has the best burger” or that we had to “try the tacos at that restaurant. ”
Copenhagen is definitely a place you can visit for a long weekend, a week, or a full month and get an equally great experience. There are a number of easy day trips you can take out of the city and there are also just so many things to do in Copenhagen itself. I felt like we got a true feel for the city even though we were only there for three nights and, again, we really want to return because there’s still more we’d love to experience.
I also need to note that it looks exactly how photos look. Have you ever gone on a trip and been disappointed in the “Instagram vs. Reality”? I found Copenhagen to look exactly like the photos I saw online. It is that cute. The colors are great. The buildings are beautiful. Somehow it feels both modern and historic. It feels like something out of a storybook.
TRAVELING TO COPENHAGEN:
Newark –> Copenhagen
We took the nonstop red eye from Newark to Copenhagen on Scandinavian Airlines and had a great experience. There aren’t a ton of routes/times, but it was a seamless experience with exemplary customer service (for booking, in the airport, and during our flight). I wanted to note this because I am always curious what various airlines are like when I’m unfamiliar. You just never know! I was so impressed with SAS. I wish domestic airlines had the same quality of service.
We walked and took the metro everywhere. We didn’t take one taxi! We definitely would have attempted to ride bikes at some point, but I was nervous to begin with and the weather was wild. The bike lanes were amazing though, I think I was more openminded about it once we were boots on the ground and I could see it in person. Both walking and taking the metro couldn’t have been easier though. It’s such a walkable city and nearly every street is picturesque in its own right.
I was very impressed with the metro. (It actually made me feel ashamed of public transportation in the United States.) It was so clean and insanely efficient. Trains came every few minutes, reliably, and they were squeaky clean. It made our visit to Copenhagen incredibly seamless. Someone commented on my blog post where I asked for recommendations to take the metro from the airport to the hotel because it would be quicker. I’ll be honest and say that I was like, “Yea no.” I’m definitely someone who prefers convenience and in my experience taking a car is the more convenient route. Well, not here. It was about 20 minutes from the airport to the hotel door to door and was….. a breeze. Again, this is coming from someone who is a highly anxious traveler. It was great and such a fun way to start the trip. We mostly walked but took the metro every now and then– especially on the way back to the hotel after walking to a destination.
HOTEL SANDERS IN COPENHAGEN:
I have only been to Copenhagen once and I can’t compare any other hotels, but I just need to go on record to say that if you’re looking for a great hotel, you should absolutely stay at Hotel Sanders. It’s one of the most popular boutique hotels in Copenhagen- it has perfect touches around every corner, great customer service, and the coziest, sexiest overall vibe. It’s centrally located (only a block or two away from Nyhavn– the famous waterfront), but still feels like it’s off the beaten path because it’s tucked away down a quiet street.
There are bistro style seating outside, a lovely restaurant, and a bustling but private lobby. There is a swanky bar downstairs (where we found ourselves every evening) and a bright and airy rooftop bar, as well. This all lends itself to a trendy spot where you could find young, local people having business meetings, tourists stopping in for a bite, and guests relaxing after a long day… all under one roof.
Our room was beautifully designed and extra cozy with unique details in every corner.
WHAT WE DID:
Before I get into the details, I’ll preface this by saying Mike and I had a goal to just relax this trip. We didn’t want to feel rushed or pressured to always have things to do in Copenhagen. Our “plan” was always to have one main activity for the day (like a sight) and one dinner reservation. Otherwise, we just wanted to explore, wander, and enjoy. So this isn’t like some “here’s how to make the most out of your three-day trip to Copenhagen!” travel guide. These are just some of the highlights; we really just did a lot of walking and exploring.
– Nyhavn: This is the famous waterfront canal you see in all the photos. It was super charming to walk through. We never stopped in any of the restaurants or bars though, but we passed through it a couple of times. It’s really pretty, especially when you’re on the other side facing the famous buildings. We especially liked walking through around dusk when all the boats and restaurants would start lighting up!
– The Little Mermaid Statue: I can see how people think it’s underwhelming. I actually appreciate that it was a small statue and not overly… anything. We walked here on our first day when we were just out and about strolling and decided to detour to it. It’s not too bad of a trek and, honestly, I’m glad we saw it. (Though I think once you see it, you won’t have a need to see it again.)
– Strøget: This is the big street where all the big shops are. We wandered up and down it a few times going to and coming back from destinations. It’s a beautiful street and almost feels “fake” it’s so nicely laid out.
– The Glyptotek: On the coldest, rainiest day, we hid out from the elements in this museum. It’s what you’d expect for an art museum, but I really appreciated seeing the Danish paintings and sculptures. The atrium was especially beautiful!
– The King’s Garden: Walked through here on a cooooold afternoon. It was so gorgeous and I know it would be even more striking in spring/summer/fall. Absolutely one of the best things to do in Copenhagen!
– Rosenborg Castle: We didn’t plan to visit, but once we walked by it, I wish we had squeezed it in!
– Nørrebro Neighborhood: This was ranked the “coolest” neighborhood in the world. We walked here and it’s definitely cool. Felt like a European Brooklyn– tons of restaurants, little shops. It’s definitely a great place to go in the evenings, too (from what I heard, haha we were early birds). We did a little bit of exploring here, but definitely could have allotted more time to see even more!
– Freetown Christiania: Freetown Christiania is… an experience. It is right in the city of Copenhagen. It was an abandoned military base that hippies broke into in the 70s and started squatting there, turning it into a rule-free self-governing commune. It’s one of the largest tourist attractions in the city, but people still really do live there. They don’t allow hard drugs (there is lots of pot though) and no photos! I will say, about four minutes after we arrived there was a big police raid and foot chase that ended about five yards from where we were standing 😳, so it felt a bit abandoned (and a little scarier than it probably is). I am glad we visited Christiania but I did have a pit in my stomach the entire time after witnessing the raid. I should note, I’m not sure if this is a normal occurrence or not, but it did happen. After visiting, I found myself reading all about its history on the flight home… especially in recent years, it’s interesting to learn how the city and the people cooperate.
WHERE WE ATE:
Hotel Sanders (breakfast, drinks): We had a few bites at our hotel. Notably the breakfast was divine and I had their hot chocolate every afternoon to warm up. (I love the idea of hot chocolate but usually end up disliking it every time I try…. but I loved Hotel Sanders’ hot chocolate and would love to figure out how to replicate it at home. It wasn’t overly sweet at all. Simply perfect.)
Restaurant Kronborg (lunch): This is where we had traditional Danish smørrebrøds! It was delicious. We ordered a few types, but by far my favorite was the pickled herring. I think it was the best thing I ate the entire trip!!
Høst (dinner): We did the tasting menu here and really enjoyed it. It was definitely an inspired kind of meal (where dishes are recreated in new and interesting ways) and leaned “earthy.”
Skt Peders Bageri (pastry): So many people recommended this bakery! It was very good, but I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to visit again. (Felt a little rundown and not quite as clean as some of the other spots we went to.) I will admit, we were not there on a Wednesday when they bake their famous onsdagssnegle (aka cinnamon rolls) so maybe that would change my vote.
DØP (hot dogs): Hot dog stands are everywhere in Copenhagen. And delicious!! We went to DØP, a popular organic hot dog stand. I love all kinds of hot dogs and this one was excellent.
Barr (dinner): We also did the tasting menu here at Barr. They serve modern interpretations of classic Nordic dishes. I loved that the restaurant is right on the water (actually in the original location of Noma). There was quite the scene going on outside (ice skating, polar plunging, etc.) and it felt upscale trendy but still relaxed at the same time.
Andersen & Maillard (pastry): Out of all the pastries we had, the ones from Andersen & Maillard were the best!!! I will dream of the semla I had there. (So much so that I’ve been stalking bakeries in NYC to see if I can find one that comes close.) This must be one of your things to do in Copenhagen.
Poulette (lunch): This is a little hole-in-the-wall takeaway chicken sandwich spot. Very, very, very good!
Ripotot (dinner): My favorite dinner! Our hotel concierge recommended a reservation at Ripotot and it was definitely the best dinner we had. Again, we did the five course tasting menu here. (We actually each got one of the tasting menus and split the dishes so we were able to try all ten!) It’s a relatively new restaurant featuring a rotating menu of farm-to-table dishes. Absolutely every dish knocked it out of the park and is one of the best things to do in Copenhagen.
I regretfully didn’t do much shopping. It just wasn’t that kind of trip. When we return, I’d love to explore more stores, especially second hand stores! I’ve heard they are great!!
We did go to one store that I have to share because it was so thoughtfully designed. Karrusella is a children’s boutique and it was like walking into my dream kid store! All the Maileg mice you could dream off, cute little gifts, big toys, etc. Mike was getting a gift for a friend’s new baby and we also each picked out a small trinket to bring home to Jack.
I’m clearly far from an expert, so I wanted to share three Instagram accounts I’m now obsessed with. It’s great inspiration for things to do in Copenhagen.
Ashlyn Salisbury (who happens to be Kristin Johns’ sister– one of my favorite Youtubers!) shares her life living in Copenhagen, including reviews of pastries and bakeries throughout Copenhagen. I drool just looking at her new posts!!!!
Annie Samples is an American mom documenting her life in Copenhagen with her family. She does a lot of interesting videos about American moms vs Danish moms!
Ellie Owens, another American mom living in Copenhagen with three children. You may have seen a couple of her viral TikToks/Reels about Copenhagen playgrounds (how I found her).