Greetings, Internet Stranger! Want to know what you should do with one day in Copenhagen? If you are a child, or merely, like myself, a child at heart, you cannot miss the magical Tivoli Gardens. It is the second oldest amusement park in the world, full of rides, music, and candy. However, the one thing Tivoli Gardens is missing, in this writer’s humble opinion, is gourmet treats to eat.
So to spend a perfect one day in Copenhagen, I recommend starting with a mouthwatering food tour of some of Copenhagen’s most delectable goodies, following that with a trip to a museum, and then whiling away your evening at the amusement park.
One Day in Copenhagen
Where to Stay?
There are so many hygge places to spend your one day 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.
One Day 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.
One Day in Copenhagen
Morning: Copenhagen Food Tour
Until fairly recently in human history, Denmark was not internationally known for its food, unless by food you mean butter cookies. Then in the early 2000s, a restaurant named Noma opened in Copenhagen and changed all of that. Noma is regularly ranked one of the best restaurants in the world, and it did more to put Scandinavian cuisine on the map than anyone since the Swedish Chef.
There are lots of wonderful “New Nordic” restaurants following in Noma’s footsteps, doing the haute Scandinavian cuisine thing, but to my mind the most exciting result of this interest in Danish food was the opening of insanemazing food hall Torvehallerne in 2011. This delightful temple to Danish gastronomy contains everything from venison sausages to pizza and it is here that your food tour will begin.
24 Hour TIP
Definitely don’t eat breakfast before coming on this tour–you’re getting more than enough food to keep you full. But I do recommend coming to Torvehallerne a little before the tour starts so you can feast your eyes on the deliciousness and get a cup of coffee. I can’t stress enough how good the coffee in Copenhagen is.
Don’t worry if you’re not a coffee drinker! They have lovely tea lattes at Torvehallerne as well.
Now it’s time for the food tour to begin! Our guide was an upbeat French-Danish young woman. She expertly educated us about the wonders of Danish food all the while helping us stuff our faces like there was no tomorrow. I will be happy to introduce you to…
Approximately top 5: Danish eats
1) food from bornholm
Bornholm is a bucolic island located off the east coast of Denmark, and we kicked our tour off here with a plate of jams, crackers, and sweets from this magical place. Apparently there’s also a fantastic restaurant on Bornholm called Kadeau, but I couldn’t go there when I was in Denmark because the restaurant was on summer vacation. I don’t understand that! In New York City, we never go on vacation when there’s an opportunity to make money!
2) Snacking in the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens in Copenhagen are gorgeous even on a day when it is about to start pouring rain, like the one pictured above. Our guide–let’s pretend her name was Marie–bought us some cherries at a pushcart at the entrance to the gardens. I really believe that no one who has fresh cherries to eat on a summer’s day can ever be sad.
Later, she gave us some tastes of honey made with the Botanical Gardens’ very own bees! I think that is so logical for a botanical gardens to make its own honey. After all, what else are you going to do with all those flowers to make money? At last, the Danes are thinking practically.
3) Danish Candy
We stopped at a historic shop to get sucking candy. I don’t mean candy that is really terrible, but rather delicious candy that you suck on until it disappears, leaving you with a sticky tongue and beautiful memories.
Danes are excellent at making candy. We are going to get plenty more at Tivoli Gardens this evening, so don’t fill up here!
4) Danish craft beer
Everyone knows that Carlsberg beer comes from Denmark. However, since you can get Carlsberg anywhere, I don’t really think you want to go all the way to Copenhagen just to taste it. But did you also know that craft beer is on the rise in Copenhagen?
We sampled three different beers at the adorable Norrebro Brygghus, and you can see from my picture above that the sample size was decently large. As a New Yorker, my favorite was the flavorful Kings County Brown Ale. (Kings County is another name for Brooklyn, which is where some people say the craft beer revival comes from.)
5) Danish hot dogs
This part is probably me showing my ignorance, but I had no idea that hot dogs were extremely popular in Copenhagen. I basically thought that Danes subsisted off of herring, aquavit, and bicycles. Boy was I about to get an education in Danish hot doggerel because those tasty beasts are all over the city.
We stopped at a promisingly crowded cart called Hanegal Hot Dogs, which is actually an organic hot dog stand. That is definitely not something you see a lot in New York City unless the dirty water they store the hot dogs in is made from organic bacteria or something.
You can even choose the meat you want on your hot dog or get it vegetarian. I had mine Danish style with mustard and pungent pickles, but no ketchup (and definitely not vegetarian).
My favorite thing that we ate on the tour was actually the last stop on the tour when we returned to Torvehallerne: a Danish sweet called a flodeboller, which is a chocolate-covered ball that can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, though often marzipan is part of it. Marzipan is my absolute favorite candy so this plump ball of goodness was right up my alley.
I’ve been made aware that some people in this world do not like marzipan. Unless they are actually allergic to almonds, these people have very bad taste and do not deserve to read my blog.
Of course, no Danish food tour could be complete without the wonders of smørrebrød! In Denmark, these open-faced sandwiches are considered a real art form, and I can certainly say they are more nutritious and delicious than any Jackson Pollock I have ever eaten.
I actually got to eat all four of these sandwiches by my lønesøme: a fish with lemon caper sauce, a herring salad with bacon, a shrimpy, and a roast beef. Some people might be scared of trying herring, but I am here to tell you that bacon makes everything better.
24 Hours: One Day in Copenhagen
We’ve already talked about Carlsberg beer, now let’s talk about the slightly less famous Carlsberg art collection. The Glyptotek Museum is dedicated to the art collection of the (now deceased) Carl Jacobsen, who was the son of the founder of Carlsberg Brewery. You could spend many hours in this museum, but we don’t have many hours because Tivoli Gardens is waiting for us. Let’s limit ourselves to
The approximately top 5: glyptotek edition
1) The Winter Garden
Even if you are one of those tedious people who hate museums, the Glyptotek is worth it just for its stunning Winter Garden. There are palm trees inside! That means even in winter in Copenhagen, you can pretend you are relaxing in a tropical clime. I think all museums should have a Winter Garden like this.
2) The Roman Gallery
The Glyptotek has an amazing collection of Roman sculptures. One of my favorite television shows is the miniseries I, Claudius, so I was exactly as excited to find this place as you might be to see a hall full of busts of Breaking Bad characters, Internet Stranger!
Here’s Claudius himself, looking very handsome. (The real Claudius was apparently not so physically appealing, but I guess one benefit of being Emperor of Rome is that people don’t post unflattering busts of you on Facebook.)
And here’s Agrippina the Younger, aka the sister of Caligula. In the miniseries, Caligula does a lot of really bad things to her. Like, whatever you’re imagining now, I promise you that what he does is way worse than that.
It seems like lions are kind of a thing at the Glyptotek. There are two statues of green lions posed at the entrance. They have this face of the Egyptian lion goddess Sakhmet in their ancient sculpture collection.
Then there’s this guy guarding the Egyptian wing. I feel like a lion is a fine symbol for a museum because at night when all the statues come to life, a lion or two could do a really good job scaring away intruders.
4) Van gogh roses
The Glyptotek doesn’t only have aged sculptures of emperor heads and lion heads. It also has some contemporary art, and by that I mean Van Gogh. I can always recognize a Van Gogh painting right away. There’s something about these roses that screams, “I’m going to paint some pretty flowers, and then I’m going to cut my own ear off.”
5) Romeo and Juliet by Man Ray
I must admit that the first time I saw this work, I didn’t see how the title could suit the piece. Romeo and Juliet look like Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, not a yellow curtain suspended over two giant teeth floating in the night sky next to a napkin ring, or whatever this abstract nonsense is.
But then I started looking at it more closely and it reminded me of all the quotes about moon and stars in R + J. I wondered what it would look like to cut someone who died up up in little stars and put them into the sky, like Juliet says should be done with Romeo. Is that supposed to be “th’inconstant moon” in the background?
Surrealistic art, like Shakespeare, can be very preoccupying. They’re like my iPhone in that respect.
One Day in Copenhagen
Evening: Tivoli Gardens
It’s time to finish our one day in Copenhagen at Tivoli Gardens! Tivoli Gardens is about 175 years and still as pretty as a picture. You can definitely tell that the park dates from the Victorian Era because the architecture either looks like The Crystal Palace or a copy of famous Asian buildings. Asian copies were all the rage in Europe in the 19th century.
The park is even prettier lit up at night!
24 Hour TIP
I bought my admission ticket and an unlimited ride pass for Tivoli Gardens online. That way all I had to do was show my printout at the ticket office instead of waiting on a long line.
If you like amusement park rides, bite the bullet and get the unlimited ride ticket. It will save you time and money because you won’t have to keep buying tickets inside Tivoli Gardens. You just show your Unlimited Ride Bracelet to the attendant at the entrance of each ride and you can go right on through. Then you’ll have time for…
Approximately top 5: TREASURES OF TIVOLI GARDENS
1) Go on The Flying Trunk!
The Flying Trunk is Tivoli’s answer to “It’s a Small World”, except instead of going through different countries, you go through scenes designed to look like different Hans Christian Andersen tales. Also, there’s no annoying music. The ride moves slowly enough that you can really appreciate the details in each scene and even take photos. Look! Here’s Elsa!
I promise all my parent readers out there that “Let It Go” is not played on this ride even once.
2) Ride the Roller Coasters!
Since Tivoli is so old, I was shocked to find that the roller coasters will satisfy any thrill junkie, and I am not just any old thrill junkie. I have been loving roller coasters since I was about five years old.
My favorite ride was Vertigo, which puts you in a little seat and whips you around back and forth until you apparently experience 5G, which means that your body feels five times heavier than usual. I usually only feel that sensation after Thanksgiving dinner.
3) Eat the Candy!
The food at Tivoli Gardens isn’t remarkable except for the candy stores. They have an infinite number of bins to choose from, and you just stuff the ones you want in your little bag and take it to be weighed and paid for. There’s everything from gummy colas to cherry flavored vampire bats to famous Danish salted licorice. (Only try the salted licorice if you are an adventurous eater because it’s really strong!)
4) See a Concert!
There’s music of some sort going on every day at Tivoli Gardens, from classical to international. Most concerts are included with the price of admission, but some aren’t, so check first. I was lucky to be there on a Friday in the summer, which is when rock concerts are given–these are included with the price of admission. Just keep in mind that it gets really cold in the evening, even in the summer, so dress warm!
I was really excited to see my Belle and Sebastian concert because on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, Ted Mosby dated a girl who was really into Belle and Sebastian, sock monkeys, and krav maga. Belle and Sebastian were most entertaining. You could tell they’d done some research on Copenhagen because they kept making jokes about Malmo, a Swedish city not far from Copenhagen. I am always impressed with a rock band that knows its geography!
Further Reading: One Day 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 Greenlandish politics seem like the most exciting thing on earth.
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 one day in Copenhagen.
If you want one day in Copenhagen with the Vesterbro neighborhood, try here. If you’re looking for 24 hours with Rosenborg Castle, go here. If you’re interested in one day in Copenhagen with Freetown Christiania, there’s this itinerary. And finally we have an itinerary with the adorable Nyhavn neighborhood.