A Perfect 12 Hours in Copenhagen

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Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to 12 hours in Copenhagen! If you’re anything like me, you travel to experience things you couldn’t experience back home. Being from New York City, this can be a little tricky because there are so many people to meet and things to do in my hometown.

Nevertheless, no matter where you come from, I am confident that you will find visiting Christiania to be a unique experience. On top of that, during this 12 hours in Copenhagen you will eat delicious street food, climb to the top of a tower, and attend a free concert. What could be better?

I recommend that you do this 12 hours in Copenhagen on a Sunday. Sunday’s the only day that the free concerts are available in Freetown Christiania, and you can attend the little service/tour at the Vor Frelsers Kirke as well. But this itinerary will still work on most other days.

A Perfect 12 Hours in Copenhagen 2

12 Hours in Copenhagen

Where to Stay?

We’ve got a jam-packed 12 hours in Copenhagen ahead of us, so you’ll want to get a good night’s sleep the night before. And that means staying at a comfortable hotel. I suggest staying at Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade.

If you’re looking for a place in Copenhagen that’s both comfy and affordable, this is the place for you! In fact, nothing in this 12 hours in Copenhagen itinerary is particularly expensive, so you can save your money for dining at Noma during a different 12 hours in Copenhagen.

If you like saving money on boring things like hotels so you can spend more money on cool things like restaurants, click here. And if you don’t trust any hotel that will help you stay on a budget, you can explore deals on over 1000 other hotels in Copenhagen if you click here

A Perfect 12 Hours in Copenhagen 3

12 Hours in Copenhagen

What to Pack?

  • A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos of odd Christiania street art all day.
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, or British like I am not, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics in Denmark.
  • My favorite guide to Copenhagen.
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by some evil little mermaids on your 12 hours in Copenhagen.

12 Hours in Copenhagen

Morning: Explore Christianshavn

Let’s kick off the morning of our 12 hours in Copenhagen with one of the city’s cutest neighborhoods. Christianshavn is an adorable neighborhood separated from the rest of Copenhagen because it’s on its own wee little island. This area is a great place to explore because it is criss-crossed with charming canals and cafes, like so:

12 hours in copenhagen

You can tell that this is in Copenhagen because of the bicycles everywhere.

You can either explore Christianshavn on your own or on a guided tour with a knowledgeable local. (You can book a walking tour with excellent reviews here.) There’s a lot to do in this area, so why don’t we start with…

The approximately top 5: Christianshavn

12 hours in copenhagen
1) The Danish Architecture Center

If you enjoyed the Danish Design Museum, don’t miss the Danish Architecture Center. It costs 95 DKK to go in, and you can explore several floors all dedicated to the Danish and Scandinavian influence on modern architecture.

In case you think that a tiny country like Denmark couldn’t have much influence, don’t forget that the famous Sydney Opera House was designed by a Danish architect!

12 hours in copenhagen

According to the Architecture Center, Danish design principles dictate that any structure, whether it is a gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, or doghouse, must fit in organically with the surrounding environment.

We can see this principle in the design of the Sydney Opera House, which looks like a boat covered in sails filled with wind on top of the blue waters of Sydney Harbor.

I personally think it’s amusing that Copenhagen was started by Vikings, who are not famous for blending in harmoniously with their surroundings, and is now a green city dedicated to promoting environmental wellness.

12 hours in copenhagen
2) see the twisted tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke 

Everyone who spends at least 12 hours Copenhagen wants to come here because you get the best views in town from the top of that insane tower. Legend has it that the architect killed himself by jumping off the tower because a mistake was made in its construction.

Fortunately for the architect and any Danes who may have liked to stroll below the tower, this rumor is an utter fiction, and according to the church website the architect died peacefully in his bed.

12 hours in copenhagen
3) See the views from Vor Frelsers Kirke tower

It costs 65 DKK to ascend the twisted beast. Of course the stairs are rather windy and steep, so if you hate walking up things or have vertigo, this attraction might not be for you.

But I think it’s worth the workout for the amazing sight that greets you when you poke your head out of the top of the staircase. You can even see the dome of the Marmorkirke from up there.

Look, I’ll show you again from another angle.

12 hours in copenhagen

Just be careful because there are a lot of kids wiggling around here trying to get the best view, so don’t push any of them off. That will probably annoy their parents.

12 hours in copenhagen
4) check out the Vor Frelsers Kirke organ

Once you’re done with the tower, don’t forget to go inside and take a look at the church itself. It’s open from 11-3:30 for sightseeing unless there is a service. I loved the carved pews with fancy doors that you can actually shut on the sides. I’ve never seen pews like this before! Were they meant to keep the riffraff out? They must work because I’m sure any riffraff would be scared of these benches.

12 hours in copenhagen

But this stunning organ is really the church’s masterpiece. What is particularly impressive about this organ is that it can make sounds like a bird chirping. At least, that’s what the minister said, but I suspect they keep an actual live bird in the organ and use it to trick unsuspecting non-Lutherans.

12 hours in copenhagen

12 Hours in Copenhagen

Afternoon: Explore Freetown Christiania

Freetown Christiania is one of the most famous and unusual communities in the world. It was formed in the early 1970s by a group of squatters who occupied a former military barracks and started living there. This unusual spot is a great place to go if you like street art, military buildings that have been converted into souvenir stores, and hanging out with stoners. (And if you don’t like those things, I’m not sure I want to know you, Internet Stranger!)


Under no circumstances should you take a photo of any person in Freetown Christiania, especially on pot-filled Pusher Street. Selling marijuana is illegal in Denmark, so it’s a good way to get your camera broken if you even accidentally catch a deal in action. Fortunately, there are a lot of other things to do here that won’t get your nose broken.

The approximately top 5: Christiania Tour

1) Eat some corn

You will probably be hungry when you arrive in Freetown Christiania, so I suggest you pick something up from one of the many food vendors near the entrance. The prices are not expensive, especially for Copenhagen, and the fresh corn on the cob seemed like the most popular thing to get.

12 hours in copenhagen
2) take a Christiania tour

During the summer, there are tours of Freetown Christiania in English that run every afternoon at 3 and cost 60 DKK. (During the Not Summer, they run only on weekends.) These tours are only given by a member of the community, and they are a great way to learn about Freetown Christiania firsthand. I highly recommend it.

Our guide was a woman in her fifties who had moved with her family from Sweden to Freetown Christiania as a kid. She did a great job teaching us about the community and also yelling at any intoxicated tourists who were making too much noise and wearing stupid Guy Fawkes masks.

12 hours in copenhagen
3) shop for flag-related souvenirs

People who live in Freetown Christiania consider it an autonomous community, and it even has its own flag–a red background with three yellow dots. However, according to our guide, in the last couple of decades, the Danish government has been more concerned with setting rules that govern Freetown Christiania.

Recently, the people of Freetown Christiania and the government worked out a deal so that Freetown Christiania could stay as long as the community began to pay for some of the land. So proceeds from the guided tour and many of the shops go to helping the community stay afloat.

If you want to show your support for Freetown Christiania, why not buy one of the little tchotchkes with the flag on it at a souvenir shop? You won’t be able to find these things anywhere else and you’ll help these oddballs keep the lights on in Christiania a little longer.

12 hours in copenhagen
4) enjoy the imaginative street art

Some places, like Buenos Aires or Berlin, are famous for their professional level street art. Looking at the street art in Freetown Christiania was interesting, but it also made me wonder how many drugs you have to take to come up with these ideas. I mean, is that a blue alien landing on a shoe? What is the waterfall doing to that poor dog? Are those three weird guys at the bottom all high?

Of course, the first thing many people who visit Freetown Christiania want to know about is drug use. As I said earlier, marijuana is illegal in all parts of Denmark, including Freetown Christiania.

However, it’s apparently very easy to buy pot on Pusher Street–the sellers just hide their faces behind a curtain. Please note that this isn’t a recommendation from me. I don’t do drugs.

Anything harder than marijuana is a different story. Our guide told us that hard drugs are completely forbidden in Freetown Christiania–it’s one of the nine laws that the citizens of Christiania have made for themselves.

She did mention that she smoked pot for the first time at the age of 12, which cracked me up. I guess it’s the Freetown Christiania equivalent of French parents giving their kids wine.

12 hours in copenhagen
5) see the Stadsgraven Canal

There’s much more to do in Freetown Christiania than smoke up and eat fresh corn. You can also take a nature walk by the lovely Stadsgraven Canal that runs through the neighborhood. We found lots of interesting people set up here.

There was even a jewelry maker who sold me a cool pair of earrings made out of fools gold. She told me that the earrings were speaking to me, so I should buy them. This made me giggle because even I know that earrings don’t talk.

6) attend a concert

There are free concerts given in Freetown Christiania every Sunday in the summer at Nemoland, which is the concert stage in the neighborhood. One is at 6 PM and one is at 8, and if you’re anything like me, y

ou probably won’t have heard of the bands. Nevertheless, on a nice day it’s great to sit here with all the hippies and enjoy the music. Just keep in mind that some of your neighbors will be a bit high on life, and some other things. There’s a reason I didn’t take a photo of the concert.

12 Hours in Copenhagen

Evening: Dinner at Reffen

Reffen is a totally fantastic collection of food stands that sell everything from pizza to smorrebrod to chocolate cake. It is truly a street food lovers paradise. Because of the temporary nature of the stalls, I can’t guarantee the ones I tried will be there, but I’m sure all the options are equally tasty.

12 hours in copenhagen
24 hour treat: Colombian street food

I stopped at the Colombia vegetarian street food stand Latienda, which no longer exists. I am the least vegetarian person in the world, but I loved this meal. I ordered the above plate of numminess. It came with a fried egg, salad, spicy-but-not-too-spicy-beans, rice, and plantains with salsa on top.

Colombian food is starting to be quite popular where I’m from in NYC, but I’d never tried it before. It amused me that I was eating Colombian food for the first time in chilly, blond Denmark.

Even though you can’t go to Latienda yourself, I’m sure you’ll find something just as yummy at Reffen.

12 hours in copenhagen

As I was trying to decide what to order for dessert, I strolled past a stand called Cheese Cake that claimed to have the best cheesecakes in the world. As a New Yorker, I felt duty-bound to test this claim, so I got a piece of lemon cheesecake and challenged the dessert to step outside with me and prove its worth.

Pretty sure I got the better of the cheesecake because I ate it all. I don’t know that it was necessarily better than a New York cheesecake. However, it was appropriately rich and creamy and the lemon added a nice zing to the cheese. I went to bed that night with a full stomach and no complaints.

12 Hours in Copenhagen

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest open-faced sandwiches. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to Copenhagen.

But I can tell you that you can use a lovely airplane to get from many cities to London, and then take a shorter flight to Copenhagen. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to Copenhagen at the best time of day.

You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your 12 hours in Copenhagen ASAP.

That’s a Perfect 12 Hours in Copenhagen!

What would you do with 12 hours in Copenhagen? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Copenhagen? And have you ever bested a cheesecake in single combat? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 12 hours in Copenhagen.

If you want to spend 12 hours in Copenhagen with the Vesterbro neighborhood, try here. If you’re looking to see 12 hours in Copenhagen with Rosenborg Castle, go here. If you want to see 12 hours in Copenhagen in Nyhavn, there’s this itinerary. And finally we have an itinerary with the adorable Tivoli Gardens.

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