Greetings, Internet Stranger and welcome to 24 hours in Copenhagen! Copenhagen is a small city, but it contains about a million things to do and see and eat. To my mind, a perfect 24 hours in Copenhagen would include Danish art, some smorrebrod, a tour of a palace, a relaxing cruise around Copenhagen’s beautiful harbor, and a delicious and creative tasting menu for dinner. Does that sound good to you? I assume it does, or why are you still reading, Internet Stranger? Is your day job that boring?
24 Hours in Copenhagen
Where to Stay?
There are so many hygge places to stay in Copenhagen that one hardly knows where to start. But Copenhagen, like the rest of Scandinavia, can be extremely expensive. That’s why I was happy to stay at Wakeup Copenhagen Borgergade. It was in a convenient location, it was affordable, and it had a clean private room with a bathroom. Plus breakfast was included! That’s really all I can ask for.
24 Hours in Copenhagen
What to Pack?
The weather in Denmark is unpredictable, and it definitely rained several times during my one day in Copenhagen. So the two most important things you’ll need to bring are an umbrella and some rain boots. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Copenhagen.
For rain boots, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them on a stroll about Copenhagen without feeling like some gauche American with gross feet.
Finally, if you’re not from Europe, you need a universal adapter if you’re going to plug in electronics. European electrical outlets don’t work with either American or British plugs. I suggest the NEWVANGA travel adapter. It’s usable with any electrical outlet in the world, so you won’t need to keep buying new adapters. I always carry two with me, just in case something happens to one.
24 Hours in Copenhagen
Morning: Danish Museum of Art and Design
I was so excited when I arrived at the Design Museum to learn that they were having a special show on Scandinavian design for children. Two of my favorite children’s authors, Astrid Lindgren who wrote Pippi Longstocking and Tove Jansson who wrote the Moomintroll series, are Scandinavian, though neither one is Danish. So it was a real treat for me to see their books on display, as well as all of the other adorable playthings that the Danes have prepared for children around the world.
THREE FUN FACTS ABOUT DANISH DESIGN FOR CHILDREN
1) Why are Danish toys so cute?
I know how excited you all are to learn along with me about Danish design! And to get you even more excited, I have provided you with this adorable photo of toy Danish penguins, Scotties, and elephants to illustrate the fact that Danish design is characterized by primary colors, simple clean lines, and functionality. Also I really want to pinch that green elephant’s face.
2) Why is LEGO special?
The museum really sold Lego as a progressive toy both because there are no rules for playing with it and because the building sets are meant to be appropriate for both boys and girls. (As evidenced by that apple-cheeked little Cotterpin Doozer-in-training pictured above.) I never liked playing with Lego as a kid myself, but as a teacher I do think that they are great for encouraging kids to build and experiment.
3) Um, what is this crazy bike?
It’s not at all uncommon to see moms with their little ones riding through Copenhagen on a bike using the aid of some contraption or another. I always think that bikes are super dangerous, so this sight terrified me, but the Danes and their rosy-cheeked blond babies didn’t seem to mind.
24 hour treat: smorrebrod
After soaking up all this knowledge, you will probably feel a little peckish. Don’t worry because the museum has an excellent cafe at which you can chow down on a couple of beautiful open-faced sandwiches. The smoked salmon was my personal favorite, especially with the dark bread.
24 Hours in Copenhagen
Afternoon: Amalienborg Palace
Denmark is a famously progressive country, so as an American I was surprised to remember that they still have a monarchy. But of course, their monarchy doesn’t actually rule the country any more than Queen Elizabeth II rules the United Kingdom.
Of course, no matter how much power the royal family does or doesn’t have, the country still needs palaces in which to put their Margrethes and Frederiks and Hamlets and whatnot, which is why there are so many palaces to visit in and around Copenhagen.
PS. If you’re having a hard time finding one of these palaces, remember that “Slot” is the word for palace in Danish. That way you won’t spend your entire 24 hours in Copenhagen looking for it.
We’re going to visit Amalienborg today, as it is the home of the Danish Royal Family. I will get you started with…
The approximately top 5: Amalienborg palace edition
1) Changing of the guard
Amalienborg Palace is famous for being the home of the Danish royal family, but it is even more famous for being the home of the funny-hatted Royal Guards. The big changing of the guard ceremony happens at 12 PM every day, but you can watch a smaller version that takes place in the same spot every two hours.
They’re so cute with that serious look on their faces! But don’t worry, Danish Royal Guards! I’m sure you’d be more than ready if someone did decide to rob the Danish royal family.
2) pillow talk
Anyway, either before or after the guard changing, you get to explore the castle and see the many different treasures and rooms that have belonged to the Danish royal family. I was terribly enamored of this pillow with Louise embroidered on it. If anyone wants to make me a pillow like that with my name written on it, I am more than happy to accept!
3) danish historical facts
Please don’t forget to read the detailed English signs posted all through the castle. You’ll learn a lot of interesting historical goodies this way. For example, I already knew that King Christian X was admired for defiantly riding his horse through the streets of Copenhagen even after the Nazis had occupied the city. However, I did not know that Hitler got mad at King Christian because apparently the king didn’t write him a nice enough message on his birthday. Sadly the castle does not share what the king’s message to Hitler was, but I assume it was along the lines of:
Thanks for occupying my country and killing my citizens. I hope you have the birthday you deserve.
King Christian X
4) a dead polar bear
This polar bear rug is the greatest thing I have ever seen. When I finally become a full-time evil genius, I’m going to steal this rug and put it in my den. You’ve been warned, Danes! Just let your Royal Guards and their giant hats try to stop me!
Before leaving the area around Amalienborg Slot, I strongly suggest you visit the Marble Church, also known in Danish as the Marmorkirken. This is the prettiest Lutheran church I have ever seen. Be sure to go inside so you can gawk at the giant dome from the interior.
Afterward, walk down to the harbor area, also known as Nyhavn, so you can snap pictures of those beautiful little colored houses by the port that are on the cover of every travel guide to Copenhagen. You know what I mean.
Yup! Those are they, exactly! I took this picture myself, and you’ll want to take your own just like it.
24 Hours in Copenhagen
Late Afternoon: Harbor Tour
Well, now that you’re at the harbor, you might as well go on the water! Stromma has very reasonably priced harbor tours that last you for about an hour and are accompanied by a live guide who gives the tour in both English and Danish. Don’t worry about being able to understand her. My guide’s English was flawless, like the English of most people in Copenhagen.
24 Hour TIP
The biggest reason I recommend doing this tour is that it’s the easiest way to see the Little Mermaid statue. The Little Mermaid statue is not near any other tourist attractions, so unless you’re in Copenhagen for two weeks or something I don’t recommend taking the time to go out there just to see her. You can get a pretty good view of her from the boat. Sadly she does not appear to be brushing her hair with a dinglehopper.
24 Hour TREASURE
Our guide did a great job identifying all the architecturally important sights around the city. I was glad to have her there because I never would have guessed that this was the Opera House on my own. I would have assumed that it was a lair for a bald, cat-loving, all-white-wearing, polar-bear-rug-having supervillain. MWAHAHAHAHA!
24 Hours in Copenhagen
Evening: Dinner at Host
So I did spend a little more than I usually do in my 24 hours in Copenhagen on food, but I couldn’t help it! There are so many amazing restaurants in the city. Some girls like fancy shoes, but I’d rather eat a gourmet dinner.
I couldn’t quite spring for Noma on this trip, so I decided to check out the New Nordic cuisine at Host instead. I was treated to an insanely delicious avant-garde tasting menu, all for less than a third of the price dinner at Noma would cost. Instead of making you drool at every single thing I ate, I’ll just stick to
Approximately top 5: dishes at host
1) a beet amuse bouche
This “down in one” sized treat takes the familiar taste combination of beet and horseradish and turns it sideways by turning the beet into this sleek bonbon and the horseradish into this Dada-esque schmear on a cold, black plate. (It tastes just as good as beet and horseradish together always does.) Also it was accompanied by a glass of Champagne, which I will never say no to.
2) scallop with cucumber granita
This was another one-bite dish. I love one-bite dishes. I would rather have a tasting menu consisting of a million different one bite dishes than a giant portion of one thing, even if that one thing is my favorite food in the world. (It’s pasta with pesto sauce if you must know, Internet Stranger.)
I love the plating of this dish. It almost makes you think that the scallop is still hanging around on a beach somewhere, instead of dead and about to be eaten by me.
3) homemade bread and butter
This was to die for. I can still taste that light and buttery popover. Sometimes I wonder why restaurants bother serving other types of food when nothing really tastes as good as homemade bread and fresh butter.
4) Corn soup, norwegian lobster, a chicken foot
So this is the oddest combination of dishes I have ever been presented with. The waitress told me that the ingredients are all taken from the same region, so the dish was a way to see how combining fish, meat, and produce from that area would taste. The food was all served with a burning pine, also taken from the same area, to really evoke the sense of the Norwegian countryside.
I liked the idea of using a dish to transport the eater to a very specific location. I felt so Norwegian by the time I was done eating that I could practically hear “In the Hall of the Mountain King” playing in the background. One of the tenets of the New Nordic cuisine is that a dish should use ingredients that naturally grow near each other.
I had never eaten a chicken foot before. It tastes like chicken.
5) white fish with seaweed and corn
Seasonality is another important concept in New Nordic cuisine, and you can probably guess that I visited Host in the summer because the corn was as high as an elephant’s eye. I’m glad that I didn’t visit Host in October because I assume they would have tried to feed me a Pumpkin Spice Latte.
I had never thought of combining sweet corn and seaweed before, but the saltiness of the seaweed and the sweetness of the corn went perfectly together. I wonder what would happen if I tried to flavor some buttered popcorn with seaweed chips. Probably only good things.
6) white chocolate and licorice ice cream with birch
I had never tasted birch before, but I know in some places, like Russia and Ukraine, they use birch syrup like we use maple syrup, so it makes sense to put it in a dessert. It’s not as sweet as maple syrup, though. Anyway, this dessert is as Danish as it gets. Danes LOVE licorice. I even bought a pair of licorice shaped earrings in Denmark once, but that is another story and shall be told another time.
Further Reading: 24 Hours in Copenhagen!
Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Copenhagen? Then let me help you get started with some more resources to help you get started. I like Lonely Planet’s guide to Copenhagen. They divide their suggestions according to neighborhood, which makes it easy for planning purposes.
If you’re a fan of mystery novels, like I am, you already are familiar with Peter Hoeg’s atmospheric mysteries set in Denmark. His most famous book is Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, which makes Greenland politics seem like the most exciting thing on earth. But right now I’m reading and enjoying The Quiet Girl, about a clown who may or may not be evil.
It’s a crime against both Denmark and humanity to visit Copenhagen without reading Hans Christian Andersen. These stories are romantic, gorgeous, and heartbreaking. Read them again as an adult: you won’t regret it.
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 24 hours in Copenhagen.
If you want a 24 hour itinerary with the Vesterbro neighborhood, try here. If you’re looking for 24 hours in Copenhagen with Rosenborg Castle, go here. If you’re interested in 24 hours in Copenhagen with Freetown Christiania, there’s this itinerary. And finally we have an itinerary with the adorable Tivoli Gardens.