72 hours in the crown jewel of Northern Europe
While cities like Paris and London have always been hotspots for world travelers visiting Europe, people are starting to realize that plenty of smaller European cities have just as much to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, and history. One of these cities is Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. Nestled against the Øresund, the strait that separates Denmark and Sweden, Copenhagen lies mainly on the island of Zealand, but also partly on the island of Amager. Upon first glance, Copenhagen’s colorfully thin homes, canals and cyclists might conjure visions of Amsterdam. But it has a singular charm all its own.
Copenhagen is an extremely accommodating and tight-knit city, offering several different ways to get around. The best, easiest, and most beautiful way to experience Copenhagen is by foot or by bike. The bike share program boasts more than 2,000 bikes around the city, all equipped with a GPS system at an additional charge. Several of the best attractions in the city are biking and even walking distance from the city center. Trying to go somewhere a little off the beaten path? Copenhagen has an extensive bus system, and a train network called the S-tog. The bus and metro run 24/7 while the trains run between 5 AM and 12:30 AM the following morning. For a flat fee, the Copenhagen Card offers you rides on the metro, buses, and train network. (This does away with the hassle of having to buy new passes each time you may want to take the train as single tickets typically expire after a couple hours.) The card, which can be bought on an app, also grants access to 87 different museums and attractions. One more transportation note: Be aware that Uber is not available in Denmark, but there are several taxis available should car be your preferred method of travel.
The first thing we’d recommend is strolling the Kastellet, one of the best maintained fortresses in Northern Europe. With its green grass, long walkways, windmills and historical appeal, it’s one of the best ways to spend your first morning in Denmark. There’s also a changing of the guard at noon. Given their close proximities among the surrounding promenades, it always makes sense to combine seeing the Kastellet and the famous Little Mermaid Statue in 1 stop. Built in 1913, this over 100 year old landmark is a staple for anyone traveling through Copenhagen. After the Kastellet, we’d recommend heading over to Nyhavn to stroll around, try some Danish cuisine, and view the famously colorful buildings that you often see on Danish postcards and paintings.
Start Day 2 in the heart of the city at Rosenborg Castle. This 400 year old castle was built by Christian IV and offers tours for visitors who seek to look deeper into the rich history of the Danish throne. Inside the castle you can see the Knight’s Hall and coronation thrones, which are guarded by three breathtaking life-sized silver tigers. After Rosenborg Castle, you should visit one of the most interesting places not just in Denmark, but in all of Europe: Christiania, a 900-person community lying slightly out of the city center yet not governed by the Danish government. This “Freetown” imposes only two rules on its visitors they enjoy hosting: have fun and don’t cause panic. Other than that, travelers are encouraged to explore the several cafes, restaurants, and live music venues Christiania has to offer. Once returning to the city center, we recommend seeing the Tivoli gardens as the evening and/or night time are the most charming times to do so. While labeled as an amusement park, Tivoli is much, much more than just that. With lush greenery, endearing architecture and mesmerizing lights, Tivoli Gardens is one of not just Copenhagen’s, but all of Europe’s most popular attractions. Feel free to wander the pathways, go to a pantomime theater, have a snack, or yes, ride dozens of amazing rides.
To round out your stay in Copenhagen we recommend starting at the National Museum of Denmark. Like most European countries, Denmark’s long, intertwined and ever changing history provides an amazing, eclectic and inspiring journey through several halls filled with pottery, jewelry, and artifacts from several ages and times in Danish history. Next up should be the Carlsberg Brewery. Carlsberg is a beer that is ubiquitous around the world and for good reason, it’s delicious. Being in its home, it’s only natural you should visit the brewery that it calls home. Here you can learn about the beer and its origins, how they make it, have some food, and of course, sip a Carlsberg straight from the source! From the brewery you can make a short walk to Frederiksberg Have, one of Copenhagen’s most popular and beautiful parks. The park also lies right outside the Copenhagen Zoo, which is another amazing attraction in and of itself. If the zoo doesn’t fit your timeframe or interests, there’s still plenty of everyday life and beauty in the park to soak in through a leisurely stroll or just laying down and basking in the weather and the sun.
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