Only have 1 day in Copenhagen? We’ve covered everything including where to eat, what to do, where to stay, and more to make for the most amazing 1 day Copenhagen itinerary…
When we planned our most recent trip to Europe, we really had no intention of going to Copenhagen. Copenhagen was not our destination, it was really just a means of getting from California to Chamonix, France however, even though we only had one day in Copenhagen, it was a perfect opportunity for us to explore a new European city.
This guide will help you plan the most amazing 1 day itinerary in Copenhagen including everything you need to know from where to eat, what to do, transportation, activities, accommodation, and more.
Let me start by saying I spent at least 10 hours, I kid you not, planning just one day in Copenhagen! We had been to many European cities before like Paris, London, Florence, and Amsterdam so I knew the drill, but to be honest, I was a little overzealous with my planning, likely because I haven’t been to Europe in 2 years and was super excited to be back in the land of cobblestone streets.
Lesson learned, no amount of research compares to actually experiencing it firsthand and research for 1-2 hours would’ve been plenty and that’s what I’m going to do with this blog.
Not that it’s going to take you 1-2 hours to read but I’m going to wrap up every single thing you’ll need to know about visiting Copenhagen in 1 day in 1 blog post.
Before I get into the actual itinerary I’m going to be sharing some tips for visiting Copenhagen first. If you don’t care about these tips just use the table of contents below to jump to the itinerary.
Getting Around Copenhagen
Okay so biking in Copenhagen is kind of a big deal but I kind of think it’s overrated. See the next section to decide if you should rent a bike or not.
Copenhagen is filled with bike rentals but that statement is really vague and we had a hard time actually finding bike rentals.
There are 3 different way to rent bikes in Copenhagen:
- Rent from a bike shop or
- Rent from Donkey Republic or
- Rent from Bycyklen
In Shop Bike Rentals – Best for Full Day Rental
For the first option, you can easily Google search a bike shop near the accommodation you’ll be staying at, but personally, we weren’t staying anywhere near a bike shop so we didn’t even consider that option.
I know some popular bike shops in town are Baisikeli, Copenhagen Bicycles, Pedalatleten, WeCycle Copenhagen, Kobenhavns Cyclebors, and Christiana Rent a Bike. I haven’t done much research of these places but I know that Kobenhavns Cyclebors has some of the best, low price day rentals.
Note: If you have a family or group of 5 or more, this is the best option, and really the only option, for bike rentals in Copenhagen.
Donkey Republic – Best Overall for Daily & Hourly Rentals
I got the impression that Donkey Republic and Bycyklen were the same kind of thing where you could pick up a bike at a bike rental station and drop it off at a different station in the city. While this is true for Bycyklen, Donkey Republic is different.
Donkey Republic is the overall easiest way to rent a bike in Copenhagen for up to 4 people
Donkey Republic allows you to download an app where you can see the location of all the bikes that have been dropped off throughout the city.
You can go find the bike with the map, rent them for as little as 15 minutes or up to 14 days, and then drop them off wherever you want at one of the dozens, if not hundreds, of designated drop off locations. The longer you rent them the lower the rate.
If I’d known how easy it was to rent bikes from Donkey Republic, I might’ve actually rented a bike to get between far distances on this one day in Copenhagen. The irony is that I actually knew about the bike rentals ahead of time after reading similar info on other blogs but for some reason I didn’t even think to download the app (or that there even was an app) and once you download the app, it’s obvious how easy it is.
Bycyklen – In case you need all the options
Bycyklen is another easy option as long there is a bike nearby. Thankfully there’s an easy to use, interactive map where you can check locations of Cycle docks and see if there are any bikes available.
With Bycyklen the benefit is that you don’t have to pay for more than what you use. Instead of paying for an entire day, you can just pay for a package of 600 or 1200 minutes which can be shared among up to 5 people in your group. If you plan to use Bycyklen, save time by creating your free account ahead of time and I also recommend reserving bikes if there are multiple people in your group.
Scooters – Best for an Occasional Commute for 1-3 People
In addition to bikes, Lime scooters litter the streets here. These Lime scooters (there are also other brands but all the scooters look same and I can’t remember the other brand names) are spread out all over the city of Copenhagen. Surprisingly, these aren’t any cheaper than bikes unless you’re riding them for a very short period time which could be helpful if you only plan to cut off 1 or 2 sections of walking.
Rental rates comparison
- In store bike rentals: As little as 90 DKK for 1 day, hourly prices vary
- Donkey Republic: 18 DKK for 30 min, 30 DKK for 1 hr, 50 DKK for 2 hrs, and 100 DKK for 1 day
- Bycyklen: 30 DKK for 1 hour, 60 DKK for 2 hours, or pre-paid packages of 600 minutes for 300 DKK and 1200 minutes for 500 DKK
- Scooters: Usually 5-10 DKK to unlock then about 3 DKK per minute, around 40 DKK for 15 minutes, 80 DKK for 30 minutes, etc
10 Danish Kroners equal about 1.5 US Dollars and about 1.33 Euros
Should You Rent a Bike: Bikes Vs Public Transportation
So the big question, should you even pay for a bike rental in Copenhagen?
Everyone makes a big deal about biking in Copenhagen and I get it. It really is pretty amazing how you can ride bike paths on every single street of town from the tiny canals to the major streets. They are efficient and I suppose an experience like no other BUT I personally wouldn’t recommend it for 3 reasons:
Reasons You Shouldn’t Bike in Copenhagen
- Due to the amazing bike friendliness of the city, most people commute everywhere via bike and there are 600k people that live in Copenhagen. Needles to say, the bike lanes in Copenhagen can be crowded and some bikers fly past you really fast. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it if you have kids because I’d be worried that they’d get hit by another bike.
- You have to stay on your toes when you’re biking in Copenhagen and that’s kinda fun in some ways however the biggest reason I didn’t want to rent bikes in Copenhagen was for photography. You can’t really just stop on the middle of a bike path around here and I want to be able to capture photos of scenic streets and the city.
- Bikes are not that cheap as in it’s not like you rent bikes because it’s cheaper than public transport. You rent bikes for the experience of biking through Copenhagen.
Reasons You Should Bike in Copenhagen
- If you’ve never been to another European city or have never had the experience of biking through a city before (Vancouver, BC is the number 1 place for that), then you absolutely should rent bikes and explore.
- If you are not a photographer, are really comfortable on a bike, and you aren’t traveling with a big group or kids you should rent bikes.
Public Transportation in Copenhagen
Early on, we concluded that we didn’t want to ride bikes in Copenhagen which left us searching for
- If we needed to pay for public transportation and
- How we should pay for public transportation
In this 1 day Copenhagen itinerary, you’re going to want to either rent a bike or pay for public transportation. You have to use one of them.
Assuming you’re not renting a bike, if you’re staying far from town, you’re definitely going to want to use the bus/train system to get to and from central Copenhagen.
Like all bus/train networks, you can pay for single tickets, which are 24 DKK, or city passes.
While I normally recommend for people to opt for single tickets to save money, if you only have 1 day in Copenhagen, you really need to pay for a City Pass unless, of course, you decide to go with bike rentals.
City Pass price:
- Adult 24 Hour pass – 75 DKK (approx 11 USD or EU)
- Child 24 Hour – 40 DKK (approx 5.50 USD or EU)
- Adult 48 hour pass – 150 DKK (approx 20 USD or EU)
- Child 48 Hour pass – 75 DKK (approx 11 USD or EU)
Getting to Copenhagen from the Airport
If you are flying into Copenhagen, which is likely, you will need a way to get from the airport into town.
The airport lies in zone 3 which means travel to and from the airport is included in the City Pass.
If you’re staying an entire day AKA 2 nights in Copenhagen, you will have to pay for a 48 hour pass in order for your tickets to be valid long enough to get to/from airport. If you are visiting for 1 night or less then a 24 hour pass is suitable.
If you don’t pay for the City Pass and plan to just bike around Copenhagen or you plan on purchasing a Copenhagen Card (see below), you should just pay for single tickets to and from the airport.
Single tickets from the airport cost around 36 DKK and are valid for 1 hour on any train or bus within the zone range that you purchase.
Where to Get Public Transportation Tickets
City passes and single tickets are both available at the ticket machines in the airport (shown above). In addition, you can easily purchase city passes or tickets at Kobehavn Central Station and other train stations. Single tickets can also be purchased from a bus driver.
Do you Need the Copenhagen Card?
I do think that Copenhagen Card is good for some people but if you’re like us and don’t feel the need to see every single museum and just want to experience the city then you do not need a Copenhagen Card for this 1 day itinerary I’m about to share.
There is are 4 locations on this 1 day itinerary where a Copenhagen Card could be used, however, 2 of the attractions are optional to pay for and 2 of them are so cheap that you could just pay for each one individually.
Hence, if you care about the museums a lot, you should get the Copenhagen Card but if not, then you’ll save a lot of money by passing on it.
In this itinerary, you’ll get to see all the coolest spots in the city without having to spend a ton of money.
If you decide the Copenhagen Card is best for you, you’ll get access to 75 museums/attractions and get unlimited access to public transportation.
Copenhagen Card prices:
- Adult 24 Hour Copenhagen Card – 400 DKK (approx 60 USD or EUR)
- Child 24 Hour Copenhagen Card – 200 DKK (approx 30 USD or EUR)
- Adult 48 hour Copenhagen Card – 600 DKK (approx 90 USD or EUR)
- Child 48 hour Copenhagen Card – 300 DKK (approx 45 USD or EUR)
Since this is a 1 day Copenhagen itinerary I recommend getting just the 24 hour card and then paying for single tickets to and from the airport if necessary.
Do You Need More Than 1 Day in Copenhagen?
In my opinion, no, you really don’t need more than a day in Copenhagen.
Sure it’s a pretty city but I gotta be honest, I probably wouldn’t go back. It seems like a really great place to live, but there’s not much draw for us but that could just be because we’re outdoor-obsessed travelers.
If you really love upscale food and just strolling along streets, then yeah, maybe you should stay longer, but for us, a day of that is enough. There’s only so many times you can eat in a day in my opinion.
1 Day Itinerary Copenhagen
The first thing I’m going to say is to be prepared to drink a lot of coffee. I must say that if Copenhagen were to have a specialty it would be coffee. Coffee is really the best way to experience hygge. What is hygge, you ask? Hygge is a Danish word and lifestyle meaning a quality of coziness that creates contentment. Hence, the surplus of coffee shops in Copenhagen.
In order to make the itinerary complete, I’ve made this a loop of sorts that starts and ends around or near Tivoli Gardens. It’s the location of Copenhagen’s Grand Central Station which makes it a good starting point plus, if you decide you want to visit Tivoli Gardens, nighttime is the best time to go so by finishing here you can enjoy the amusement park at it’s finest hour.
Brunch at Atelier September
Atelier September isn’t just your cozy cafe. This place is more along the lines of a boutique cafe. To some, the clean, upscale atmosphere may seem less welcoming than other cafes but with friendly employees and a bright interior, I found the environment to still be very welcoming.
What sold me on this coffee shop was the wild mushrooms we found an employee preparing for the next day’s brunch. The mushrooms looked like they were just picked and the woman told us about their how their brunch was their specialty at the cafe and that they use fresh, seasonal products for the meals.
I was sold. I highly recommend getting your morning coffee, which is fantastic here by the way, and staying for brunch unless you’re aren’t a morning eater. If so I’d still recommend stopping for the coffee here or you can start this itinerary at Democratic Coffee (more info on this later in the blog).
Explore Colorful Nyhavn + Take a Canal Tour
Nyhavn is crowded and touristy but it’s still pretty and definitely worth seeing. Honestly, there are few buildings as beautiful as the ones that line this iconic canal. Chill along the harbor and enjoy some people watching here.
It’s a big thing in Copenhagen to take a canal tour and while I normally opt out of things like this, I really wished we had taken part in this low cost excursion. The tours tell you a lot about the history of Copenhagen and you get to see the city from a unique perspective.
If it wasn’t so cheap I wouldn’t even consider it but the tours are only 100 DKK (15 USD/EU) for adults and less for kids. Book your canal tour by clicking here.
Note: If you pay for the Copenhagen Card a canal tour is included but it doesn’t depart from Nyhavn. Instead, you’ll wait until after Christianshavn to take your canal tour.
Optional: Kastellet + The Little Mermaid
It’s a statue of a mermaid…I don’t really get it. Any typical 1 day itinerary in Copenhagen includes the Little Mermaid statue but I have not included it because it’s literally just a statue.
If you want to see what it looks like, by all means take a detour after Nyhavn and go check it out.
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On the way you’ll pass Kastellet, Amalienborg Palace, and Designmuseum Denmark. You may even time it just right for the changing of the guard at Amalienborg at 11:30 every day. If you’re under 24, you can’t pass up free admission to one of Denmark’s most popular museums.
Personally, we opted out of all of these things and headed across the bridge by Nyhavn and headed to Christianshavn.
Walk along the Christianshavn Canals
After Nyhavn (And The Little Mermaid), head across the big bridge over to Christianshavn. From the bridge, you have a pretty view of the canal and you can see the popular summer hangout, a swimming platform. You’ll see these platforms all around the canals of Copenhagen. They’re built for swimming access to the waterways and are definitely worth checking out, and maybe even going for a swim yourself, in the summer.
If you do as suggested and partake in a canal tour, Christianshavn will be the same area that you tour by boat however, it’s so nice over here that it’s worth exploring by sidewalk as well.
While a local recommended for us to walk along the Sydhavnen canals, I found the Christianshavn canals to be far more quaint and beautiful. I loved how quiet and scenic it is over here.
The canals are quite narrow, reminding me of Amsterdam, and the building along the streets are wonderfully colorful.
Supposedly eating out is cheaper on the Christianshavn side however, we didn’t find any restaurants in particular that we loved.
Optional: See Freetown Christiana
Freetown Christiana, once a Danish military base, is now known as the “Green Light District” of Copenhagen. This small neighborhood is a commune with its own set of laws independent of the Danish government which is what allows for its most well known rule of open cannabis trade.
I can’t tell you how many people told us that “we just had to see” this area of Copenhagen. We went, we saw it, we didn’t like it, we left. Supposedly the food trucks are good and the community puts on some great live music but we weren’t interested. There are definitely some people who would like the “free spirited”, hippie vibe of it all but if you’re like us, then I’d recommend passing on this “cultural experience.”
Note that up until a year ago photography was not allowed in Freetown Christiana and there was a sign that displayed this message upon entering but now photos are somewhat acceptable if you ask permission for people to be in your photo.
Considering visiting Freetown Christiana? Read up on these things you should know before visiting.
After exploring Christianshavn, you have a few transport options depending on how tired your feet are. You can hop on the 2A, the 9A, or the 37 bus and since there are 3 different bus lines, they come pretty often. A bus cuts off 20 minutes of walking but this is a really scenic section of canals so it’s probably a good spot to just hop on a scooter for 10 minutes. Also, by walking or scootering, you can also check out the pretty Christiansborg Palace which is on the way.
Got the Copenhagen Card? Right next to Christiansborg Palace you’ll find Ved Stranden Harbor which is where your canal tour will depart for.
Stroll along Magstræde
Magstræde is easily one of the most beautiful streets in the world and even better, it remains to be a hidden gem that fulfills all your European dreams of quaint, cobblestone streets. This turned out to be one of my favorite parts of our day in Copenhagen.
This short street is beautifully colorful, lined with yellow, pink, and purple buildings. There are 2 really adorable restaurants along this street. If you’re already ready for brunch or lunch, I suggest indulging at one of the street front stores otherwise, do as we did and admire the buildings and grab some photos for the Gram.
Play a Game at Bastard Cafe
This cafe is the place to go to relax with a drink, friends, and a game after all that walking.
Located in my favorite, less touristy corner of Copenhagen, Bastard Cafe is one of the coolest