In this post, you'll learn about what to see and do in Copenhagen, Denmark and then I'll explain why a day trip to two cities in southern Sweden is highly recommended. The ability for free movement between Denmark and Sweden is both admirable and simple. It is not uncommon for people to live in Malmö, Sweden and commute to Copenhagen, Denmark for work everyday.
Copenhagen (written as København in Danish) is one of those cities that isn't enough for a week long trip, but spending a weekend here simply isn't enough. I recommend anywhere between 3-5 days. A trip closer to five days in Copenhagen is highly recommended if you're going to spend a day in Sweden.
Must Do's: If you've seen pictures of Copenhagen before, it's a safe bet what you saw was Nyhavn. With its multicolored row house buildings along the canal, this is easily the most internationally recognizable and famous area of Copenhagen. It's here you'll find low rise bridges, docked house boats, restaurants and bars. It's a bit pricey but worth the experience to sit and enjoy a good meal while people watching.
After you take your time getting the perfect photograph(s) of Nyhavn I recommend doing the canal boat tour. Especially on day one of your stay in Copenhagen. The canal boat tour is a great way to see what's what in the city. A great way to see what may or may not interest you during the rest of your stay. It's also a great way to get information on the city and to get your bearings on the layout of the city to make the rest of your stay more efficient. The canal layout and different districts can be a bit confusing if you don't understand the city.
What comes next isn't anything special, it's just been a major tourist attraction for decades and a trip to Copenhagen isn't complete without at least saying you've seen the Little Mermaid Statue. It also makes for great Instagram photos. Expect there to be crowds by the statute so when you're there, you might have to wait a few minutes to get the perfect photograph.
On your way to the Little Mermaid Statue from downtown (going south to north), you can walk through Amalienborg. This is the home to Christian VIII's palace and areas of the complex are still used by the royal family to this day on certain occasions. For 125 Danish Krone you can see Christian X's study, see the Fabergé Chamber and the Gala Hall. Entry to the Amalienborg Museum and the Queens Library is also possible.
Personally, I just walked around the square and watched the Royal Guard do their formal back-and-forth pacing.
Continuing on your way north past Amalienborg you'll soon end up at Kastellet. This is one of the most well preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. It's shaped like a pentagon with each point having a defensive bastion. Today it is more of a park where families, couples, and people with pets walk around or even jog. At the entrances there are Danish military guards and in the center there are some buildings. *If you want to spend some time there enjoying a nice walk or run, there are public bathrooms.*
It's at the northern point of Kastellet you'll find the Little Mermaid Statue. Just follow the crowds!
Another place worth visiting is the Christiansborg Palace in the heart of Copenhagen. What you see today is the third such palace on the site. The first was started in 1167. Due to a serious fire, the second had to be built in 1794 and another fire meant the current version was built on the site in 1884. The current version has stood untouched since 1928 because, yet another fire, but, a smaller fire, damaged parts of the palace in 1907 and the restoration was finished in 1928.
Christiansborg Palace is the only building in the world to house ALL THREE branches of a country's government. Tours of the complex are possible.
I would highly recommend doing a free walking tour. The two tour guides were very knowledgable, friendly, local Aussies. While the tour is free, they definitely accept donations and tips at the end of the tour. Please sign up beforehand as they have a limit on the number of attendees of each tour.
During this tour they'll show and explain to you these buildings in Copenhagen they like to call, "NQR" or "Not Quite Right" buildings because there's a noticeable miscalculation in the foundation architecture.
The tour will end where they will set you up to go in and explore Freetown Christiania. The residents of the autonomous town do not appreciate tours going inside the town but you're free to enter and leave at your own free will. There is an area called, "Pusher Street" where marijuana can be bought and sold legally. The town has a very strict no hard drugs policy but marijuana purchasing and use is completely legal. Pictures are strictly prohibited on Pusher Street and there are large signs displaying this. You will encounter problems if you attempt to take photos of Pusher street. Photos are allowed anywhere else in Freetown Christiania.
Freetown Christiania is a "hippie commune" in the center of Copenhagen. They don't abide by city laws and regulations. They do their own policing as well. The people that reside here truly believe that they are not Danish and a part of their own country. Just expect everyone to be high and there will be a strong stench of marijuana.
Copenhagen City Hall and the Square where it resides is also very much worth a visit when in Copenhagen. Especially at night when the square and its buildings are so beautifully lit up. It is free to go inside the City Hall and see what's on display.
Tivoli Gardens is a must if you are a connoisseur of amusement parks. Personally, I'm not one of these people so I didn't enter the amusement park but it is arguably the most famous amusement park in the world.
Where To Stay: I stayed at a hostel called Copenhagen Downtown. It was a really nice hostel with great amenities that is right by Tivoli Gardens. Downstairs is the reception and it has a really nice bar that gives off good vibes. People who aren't even staying at the hostel frequent the bar downstairs. As a matter of fact it's one of the most well known hostels in Europe.
How To Get Around: Like all major European cities, Copenhagen has a great public transportation system with a mix of buses and trains. However, I never personally used the system as Copenhagen is such a walkable city.
The airport is a bit outside the city to the south east. But there is a reliable and very easy to use train going from the airport to the city center.
After having visited Copenhagen, I can almost assure you, as well as everyone else that visits, will want to live there.
Day Trip To Sweden From Copenhagen
A day trip away from Copenhagen into southern Sweden is something that I recommend given the close proximity and relationship between the two countries. There are multiple tours and tour operators offering such tours but I recommend one that goes to Hamlets Castle in Denmark, Lund, Sweden and finally Malmö, Sweden before returning to Copenhagen.
In Helsingør, Denmark you'll be able to visit the castle where Prince Hamlet, of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy, lived. It dates all the way back to the 1420's. Hamlet's Castle has five areas in which you can visit. The basement being, what I suppose is, the most unique. In the basement is where you'll find Holger The Dane. Upstairs are larger rooms with tapestries and paintings.
There are other things to do during this first stop, including the Maritime Museum, but I would recommend Kronborg Castle for all the history lovers.
The next part is taking a 20 minute automobile ferry ride from Helsingør, Denmark to Helsingborg, Sweden. There is no stopping here. You'll carry on for a bit of a bus ride (~one hour) to Lund, Sweden.
Lund, Sweden is a small town complete with a famous cathedral and a university. If the university is in session you might enjoy seeing the students occupying the town. If the weather is nice you'll likely see them out and about enjoying the day.
Here in Lund you'll get some free time to do as you please. You have the option of going into the cathedral or simply walking around the town. I was hungry so I first chose to get a bite to eat and then explored this beautiful, classic Swedish town.
I recommend going behind the cathedral to see the classic Swedish houses like the one below
After your time in Lund, you'll make the short drive to Malmö, Sweden which is the country's third largest city. While in Malmö you'll again get to do whatever floats your boat. I used my time to walk around the city a bit and see what it had to offer.
Make sure to stop by the famous "Knotted Gun" statue. This statues message is a message of non violence. Malmö is known to be Sweden's city with the highest rate of crime.
The tour will then take you to the Malmö's famous Twisted Torso residential tower for some pictures. This building was built in 2005 by a Spanish architect named Santiago Calatrava. It is 54 stories high and boasts 147 apartments.
Finally, the last stop of the tour will be viewing platform for the The Øresund Bridge. This is the 16 kilometer bridge that connects Malmö to Copenhagen. It is both a bridge and a tunnel and both cars, buses, trucks and trains are able to cross this bridge. It was opened in 2000.