Copenhagen, Denmark Travel Guide: Visit Copenhagen in One Day
I spent one day in Copenhagen, Denmark on a cold winter weekend in January. To be honest, spending one day in Copenhagen really wasn't part of my plan. I was visiting Rome and knew that I eventually had to make my way back to Stockholm for my flight home to the U.S. I ended up coming across a $19 flight to Copenhagen. Who am I to pass up a flight that costs less than an average dinner in San Francisco? Better yet, the timing of the flights all worked out perfectly and would give me a little over a day in Copenhagen.
Arriving in Copenhagen
Like most others who are traveling to Copenhagen, I flew into Copenhagen Airport on a budget airline. The trip into Copenhagen from the airport couldn't be easier. You can get on the metro in Terminal 3 at the Copenhagen Airport. The metro ride into the city was approximately 15 minutes. For reference, I was staying at a hotel near Nyhavn, so I got off the metro at Kongens Nytrov station. From Kongens Nytrov station, it is less than a 10 minute walk to Nyhavn. I love when airport transportation is this easy!
Where to Stay in Copenhagen
I often like to try and stay in residential neighborhoods when traveling—my attempt at pretending (wishful thinking) that I live there. Since I only had one day in Copenhagen, and two nights of sleep, I decided it would be best to stay in a location that was convenient to reach most of the things I wanted to see. I stayed at the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel for two nights and could not be more satisfied with my stay. Luckily I was able to book the room with credit card points and since it was the dead of winter, the nightly rate was only one-third of the price that I've seen it advertised for during the summer.
If you're wondering what the hotel experience was like, it was incredible. To this day, my boyfriend and I talk about the bed at the Copenhagen Admiral Hotel. We seriously loved this hotel so much, I'd stay there again in a heartbeat. The location is excellent and within walking distance from the metro station to the airport. The property is also only two blocks from the colorful Nyhavn Canal, where I spent plenty of time in awe with my camera, as I'm sure most travelers want to do in Copenhagen.
When to travel To Copenhagen
If you've read everything prior to this section, then you already know that spent one day in Copenhagen in the middle of winter. It was the last week of January, to be exact, and it was cold. It rained on the first night after arriving in Copenhagen, the kind of rain that is so cold it's about to be snow, but it's not, it's just miserably cold rain. Luckily, the rain cleared up by morning so we had clear weather for our one full day we had to explore the city. Overall, I'm a big fan of off-season travel for a number of reasons, depending on which location we are talking about. But we are talking about Copenhagen here, duh, so here are my thoughts on traveling to Copenhagen in the winter:
Copenhagen Winter Travel Pros
- Really cheap hotel rates
- Easier to get reservations at top restaurants
- Sights and points of interest are less-crowded
- Copenhagen is full of cozy vibes and it's pretty magical—all about the hygge! Google hygge if you have no idea what I'm talking about.
- A good excuse to pull out all of your cutest winter gear that, if you're like me, you hardly get to use
Copenhagen Winter Travel Cons
- It's really f-ing cold, not going to sugar coat it
- Daylight hours are limited
One Day in Copenhagen: Where to Eat
It's hard to find a better foodie-stop for one day in Copenhagen than Torvehallerne. With over 60 stalls, Torvehallerne is the ultimate food market, offering everything from fresh fish to locally made products. I fell madly in love with Torvehallerne and the food options it has. Show up hungry, because you need to have the stomach space to try dishes from more than one vendor.
My favorite: Duck confit sandwich from Ma Poule
Love food markets as much as I do?! Read more about more of my favorites at Torvehallerne
Cofoco is a restaurant group in Copenhagen, and Restaurant Cofoco is the first of their dining establishments. If you know anything about dining in Copenhagen and the wave of new Nordic cuisine, then you might know many of the city's best restaurants are not cheap. Restaurant Cofoco is the more affordable option when it comes to this extremely popular style of restaurant, but they do not sacrifice quality. The dishes come in small portions, so they are perfect for sharing, allowing you to try a few different things.
My favorite: Cockerel nuggets and potato fries
Mayers Bageri is a bakery in Copenhagen, and there are multiple locations scattered around the city. The bakery specializes in items you'd expect, such as fresh bread, cakes and other pastry-like items. I loved stopping in here for an early morning treat and coffee.
My favorite: Cinnamon roll—so good!
One Day in Copenhagen: What to See
Nyhavn is the iconic and picturesque waterfront area in Copenhagen that is lined with colorful buildings. If you've ever seen any photos of Copenhagen, you've most likely seen Nyhavn. Buildings in just about any color you could imagine line the famous canal. You can take boat rides, or simply hang out, people watch and admire the postcard-worthy scene. As touristy as the area might be, I just couldn't pull myself, or my camera, away from it.
Rosenborg Castle is a renaissance castle located in the heart of Copenhagen. On the castle grounds there is a stunning royal garden. With over 400 years of history, Rosenborg Castle contains a museum housing the crown jewels, which was really cool to see in person. I've been to my fair share of European castles, but really enjoyed the charm and character of this one in particular. I loved the design and all of the castle characteristics in the interior. It feels and looks like you'd imagine it to.
Christiania, also referred to as Freetown Christiania, is a car-free, self-proclaimed autonomous district that was founded by hippies in the 1970s. Christiania is a way of life for the nearly 1,000 residents who live there. The colorful area is home to vibrant artwork, music venues and homemade houses.
Note: Visitors are advised not take photos once entering Pusher Street due to the sales of hash. When I visited, there was a sign that made it clear not to take photos after a certain point. I've recently heard that they now allow photos, but this was not the case when I was there. Be aware of this.
Located in central Copenhagen, Christiansborg Palace is a government building and is used by the royal family for events. The palace tower is the highest tower in Copenhagen, which means one thing—views for days! I'm a sucker for a good view, so this was a must-stop for me. Even better, entry to the tower is completely free for visitors. Free? That's practically unheard of. You do have to go through a security and get your bags, and yourself, checked before being let in. They only allow 50 or so guests to go up at once, so you may need to wait a bit if it's a busy day.
One Day in Copenhagen, Denmark: My experience
Despite the chilling temperatures, Denmark's capital city still felt very much alive with warm, cozy cafes and bright, colorful buildings. Luckily I came prepared with plenty of cold weather gear. After I forced myself into layers of wool thermals and three pairs of socks, I set off for a full day of wandering along Copenhagen's canals and cobblestone streets.
I started with an early morning walk along Nyhavn, the city's picture-perfect canal. If you've ever seen a photo of Copenhagen, you've most likely seen Nyhavn. The canal is lined with brightly-colored restaurants and homes and is filled with beautiful, historic ships. The cafes offer outdoor seating with an awesome view, although not many patrons take up that offer when the temperatures are in the low 30s. I'm sure this area is an awesome spot to have your morning coffee in the summer.
It was a Sunday, so I found that many of the must-visit cafes and restaurants I wanted to visit were closed. After a few failed attempts, the next stop was a success. Hot coffee and a delicious Danish pastry helped bare the ice-cold wind that was blasting my face. I must say, being fully functional with four layers of clothing and hands covered in thick mittens is quite the challenge. I'm happy that this isn't something I have to deal with annually, but would be happy to do it again in order to explore more of this wonderful city.
The nice thing about coming to Copenhagen unexpectedly is we had no plan—we just walked, not knowing what we'd find next. We came across a lovely park that led us to Rosenborg Castle. I had no idea what Rosenborg Castle was, but it was about to open for the day so we decided to check it out and get out of the cold for a bit.
Castles are pretty awesome, and Rosenborg Castle is no exception. I truly loved the interior of Rosenborg Castle, the detail, furnishings and overall character had me feeling like I was walking through the 18th century. But I'm going to keep it real—after touring castles in nearly every major European city I've been to, you start to get burnt out on castles. So my castle-patience wore thin much quicker than everyone else's seemed to. It's definitely worth a stop, but since I only had one day in Copenhagen I had to hustle through my visit here.
One thing I really had my heart set on doing was going to the top of the tower at Christiansborg Palace. It's free to visit the viewing platform at the top of the tower, although they only allow 50 people to be up there at a time. It's worth the wait, if there is one. The tower offers a 360-degree, panoramic view of Copenhagen. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Sweden!