Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to Copenhagen in a day! Part of the reason that I travel is to experience things that I couldn’t experience at 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 Copenhagen in a day you will eat delicious street food, climb to the top of a tower, and attend a free concert.
I recommend that you do this Copenhagen in a day 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.
Copenhagen in a day
Where to Stay?
There are so many hygge places to stay during your Copenhagen in a day 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.
Copenhagen in a Day
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 that possibly come from the Ice Queen.
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.
Copenhagen in a day
Morning: Explore Christianshavn
Christianshavn is an adorable neighborhood separated from the rest of Copenhagen because it’s on its own cute little island. Christianshavn is a great place to explore because it is criss-crossed with charming canals and cafes, like so:
You can tell that this is in Copenhagen because of the bicycles everywhere. There’s a lot to do in this area, so why don’t why start with…
The approximately top 5: Christianshavn
1) The Danish Architecture Center
If you enjoyed the Danish Design Museum, don’t miss the Danish Architecture Center. It costs 60 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!
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.
2) see the twisted tower of Vor Frelsers Kirke
Everyone who visits 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.
3) See the views from Vor Frelsers Kirke tower
It costs 40 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.
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.
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?
Vor Frelsers Kirke also offers a service in English for tourists at 12:30 on Sunday during the summer. Even if you are not religious, the service is interesting because the minister explains the history of the church and its architecture. It’s almost more like a tour than a church service. You will also hear the gorgeous organ play a couple of hymns.
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.
24 Hours: Copenhagen in a day
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. Freetown Christiania 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.
24 HOUR TIP
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.
2) take a Christiania tour
During the summer, there are tours of Freetown Christiania in English that run every afternoon at 3 and cost 50 DKK. These tours are only given by a member of the community. 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.
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!
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 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.
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. 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. You 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.
Copenhagen in a Day
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.
24 hour treat: Colombian street food
Why not get dinner at Latienda, which is a vegetarian Colombian stand? 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.
As I was trying to decide what to order for dessert, I strolled past a stand called Cheese Cake. It claimed to have the best cheesecakes in the world. As a New Yorker, I felt duty-bound to test this claim. 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.
Further Reading: Copenhagen In A Day
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 on your Copenhagen in a day itinerary. 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 see Copenhagen in a day.
If you want to see Copenhagen in a day with the Vesterbro neighborhood, try here. If you’re looking to see Copenhagen in a day with Rosenborg Castle, go here. If you want to see Copenhagen in a day in Nyhavn, there’s this itinerary. And finally we have an itinerary with the adorable Tivoli Gardens.