48 Hours in Copenhagen: The Ultimate Itinerary

Copenhagen, Denmark. New Harbour canal and entertainment famous street. Aerial shoot view from the top
CHUNYIP WONG / Getty Images

The food-and-design-obsessed Danish capital is one of those cities you instantly feel like you’d give up your native passport for and it will have you Googling “apartments in Copenhagen” by the end of the weekend. There’s world-class art, beautiful architecture around every corner, canals so clean you can (and should!) swim in them—all with an eye towards a greener future; Copenhagen has pledged to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. To get your 48 hours started on the right two wheels, here’s a sample itinerary packed with expert-led tours, outstanding meals, and time for shopping.  

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

9:30 a.m.: After arriving at Copenhagen Airport, take a short, efficient ride on the city’s driverless Metro to the city center, known as Indre By, so you can drop your bags at your hotel. The Danish proclivity for rule-following means your room likely won’t be ready until your exact check-in time. If you need a coffee pick-me-up, Coffee Collective has spots across the city and Prolog Coffee Bar in the Meatpacking District are among the best spots in town. 

11 a.m.: Now that you’re settled and have a caffeine fix, you’re probably ready for something other than airplane food. There’s no better introduction to Danish cuisine than Aamanns 1921, a bright and welcoming space where smørrebrød, the traditional open-faced sandwich, is king. 

If you’re ready to hit the ground running or trying to make the most of a few short days in town, a great alternative to a sit-down lunch is to let the good folks at Foods of Copenhagen give you the lay of the land while you fill your belly. Walking tours start at 11 a.m. or join the 11:30 a.m. foodie bike tour. There are a few seasonal tours, including a festive Christmas foods and market tour, that are worth checking out if your visit aligns.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

traval cruise with tourist in canal at Nyhavn, colorful building
K'Nub / Getty Images

12:30 p.m.: It’s time to get some sightseeing done and you’ll want to book a tour to make the most of your time. There are a few options beyond the tourist-packed canal boats that leave from Nyhavn. While harbor boat tours are often cheesy, cramped, and filled with reusable headsets, Hey Captain is the antithesis of all that, and we can’t recommend it enough. Small, 12-person tours leave from the city center, and the one-hour Landmarks tour (200 Danish kroner; $32.50 per person) or the two-hour Hidden Gems tour (400 Danish kroner; $65 per person) each offer a relaxed primer to the city filled with humor and insider tips. 

If you took the Foods of Copenhagen lunch tour, you’ll end that around 3 p.m. and will want to fill the rest of your afternoon at one of Copenhagen’s great museums or go for a whirl at Tivoli Gardens. 

4:30 p.m.: Ready to see what all the buzz about natural wine is about? The Danish capital is among the best in the world for natural wines and no matter where you are in the city, you’re never too far from a wine bar. Den Vandrette, near Nyhan, is ideal any time of the year, thanks to their cozy indoor space and an outdoor cafe on the water with excellent people-watching. The summertime pop-ups and weekly tastings at Rosforth & Rosforth’s under-the-bridge location are informational but not fussy, and their stock list is one of the best in Europe. 

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

6:30 p.m.: It’s worth having a few reservations in place before arriving, especially during the summer busy season. (If you’re wondering where to go, we’ve got you covered.) Across the pedestrian bridge from Den Vandrette and an easy walk from Rosforth & Rosforth is Restaurant Barr. In a dining room that once belonged to Noma (a Michelin-starred restaurant that serves world-class food in 20-course meals), the menu features comfort food inspired by Northern Europe’s beer belt—think German schnitzel, Belgian waffles, and Danish meatballs. Raise a glass from their extensive beer menu (there’s also great aquavit and wine, too) as you say "skål" to a great first day in Copenhagen. 

10 p.m.: Head back over the bridge to Ruby for a top-notch cocktail. In the 17th century, this part of town was once home to dive bars (called bodegas) for fisherman and farmers but today is in the shadows of Parliamentary buildings. Odds are good that you won’t be able to resist a spin on Ruby’s dance floor before calling it a night. 

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Copenhagen at Christmas
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9:30 a.m.: God morgen, København! If you’re feeling fresh this morning, consider renting a bike from your hotel, or use one of the city’s handy app-based rentals and craft a DIY pastry crawl. Start with a cardamom bun at Juno the Bakery, ride to Hart Bageri for Danish rye bread, and end at Democratic Coffee for their famous almond croissant. If you end at Democratic Coffee, you’ll be right by the Round Tower, the geographical center of Copenhagen.

If you’d rather sit down for breakfast, head to Atelier September for small-batch Swedish coffee and avocado toast or track down the savory French toast at Mirabelle Bakery.

11 a.m.: It’s shopping time! From minimalist and modern design and hip homewares and everything from beauty to raincoats in between, here is where to go for souvenirs and beyond. Hay House is known for contemporary Danish design and homeware and their two-story showroom has a bird’s-eye view of the charming Amagertorv square. From Hay House, stop by Georg Jensen for home goods and jewelry loved by the Danish royal family, and step into the Royal Copenhagen flagship store for fine plates and porcelain goods. Don’t miss Illum, the city’s oldest department store dating back to 1891. It’s the kind of place you could spend half a day exploring everything from fashion to furniture.

Randers Handsker has been making butter-soft leather gloves since the 1800s, and Conditori La Glace sells omg-worthy Danish butter cookies in ready-to-gift tins (or linger longer for high tea). Bloom&Bloom sells natural and organic beauty products loved by locals. And Res-Res, which stands for Respect Resources, is home to responsibly sourced homewares, clothing for men and women, and products from local artisans. If you’ve found yourself admiring the dishes used at restaurants around town, they probably came from MK Studio.

If you’d prefer to wander without much of a plan, Jægersborggade 27 is a cooler-than-cool street with local shops and wine bars, and it’s right near Assistens Cemetery, which has a beautiful garden and is the final resting spot for Hans Christian Andersen and other famous Danes.

When hunger strikes, consider popping over to Popl Burger to try Noma’s fermentation on the cheap or try the butter burger at Gasoline Grill—the original location is in a gas station but there are a few spots around town.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

Pop Up Urban Beaches
Moment Editorial/Getty Images / Getty Images

3 p.m.: One thing visitors quickly learn is that the Danes are down for a dip any time of year. It can be alarming to see half (or fully) nude Danes popping out of the canal for a pre- or post-work dip when the weather is warm or sprinting from a hot sauna in a bikini and diving into the chilly waters for a “winter swim.” If it’s summer when you visit, consider grabbing your suit and joining the locals at Islands Brygge, where everyone is in a great mood, sunning themselves and drinking out of the dock. Remember Copenhagen has generous open-container laws, if you want a drink. When the temperatures are colder, head out to Reffin for a dip at CopenHot, where floating hot tubs and saunas await.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Noma

Courtesy of Noma

7 p.m.: Tonight point your focus towards the New Nordic movement. With the budget-friendly lunch of a burger, use tonight’s dinner to splash out at one of the city’s top tables. Reservations will need to be made three to four months in advance for Noma, Alchemist, Kadeau, or Geranium—all of which are bucket list restaurants. But if you’re not a book-months-in-advance kind of traveler, outstanding dinner spots in town that can be booked on shorter notice. Top among the choices is AOC, an under-the-radar innovative restaurant set in a 17th-century vaulted cellar. The baked onion with caviar and elderflower sauce will knock your socks off.

9 p.m.: End the evening with live music at La Fontaine, Copenhagen’s oldest jazz bar. The scene is especially vibrant on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, when things get going around 9 p.m. and won’t stop until late into the night. 

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