12 Best Things to Do in Copenhagen, Denmark

Colorful Traditional Houses in Copenhagen

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Copenhagen, Denmark is the largest city in Scandinavia, with lots to see and do for everyone. Copenhagen is also a very popular port of call or embarkation point for cruise ships sailing to the Baltic capitals.

Copenhagen is a great city to walk in—it has flat terrain with no skyscrapers and few automobiles. So whether you have just a day in the city or are there for a vacation, you'll enjoy the traditional sights, like the Little Mermaid Statue, along with contemporary attractions like walking and shopping the Stroget pedestrian-only street.

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Play and Dine at Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens

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Tivoli Gardens is Copenhagen's most popular tourist destination. Millions of people fill the gardens, dine in the 40 restaurants, enjoy the entertainment, ride the amusement rides, play the games, or just sit and eat ice cream and people-watch from mid-April to late September each year.

Tivoli was opened in 1843, and it was once on the western edge of the city. Today it is in the center of Copenhagen and, for those on a cruise, it is only a short taxi ride from the Langelinie cruise ship pier.

The entertainment varies each day, so be sure to pick up a map and schedule when you pay the entry fee at the gate. Tivoli is at its best at night, when over 100,000 colored lanterns light up the gardens.

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Visit the Little Mermaid Statue

Little Mermaid statue

TripSavvy / Maria Ligaya

The iconic Little Mermaid statue is a must-see for visitors to Copenhagen and is only a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship pier. At less than five feet tall, the little statue is much smaller than most people expect, and she sits on a rock near the shore, not in the middle of the harbor.

Hans Christian Andersen wrote "The Little Mermaid" fairy tale in 1837, and in 1909 the founder of Carlsberg Breweries, who was fascinated by the story, had the statue built.

The Little Mermaid statue has sat on her boulder since August 23, 1913, but has had a very turbulent life, with at least eight vandalism attacks. She has been dowsed in paint numerous times, had her right arm amputated, been decapitated three times, and even pushed from her rock in 2003. Fortunately, the sculptor made a mold, so the Little Mermaid's "parts" have been re-created by recasting the bronze using the original mold.

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City Hall Square

City Hall Square

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The City Hall is near Tivoli Gardens and the Stroget pedestrian mall and is a good place to start a tour of Copenhagen. The lobby has a good selection of tourist information and maps. The City Hall is free except for the 300-step climb to the top of the tower, which will cost 40 DKK (or free with the Copenhagen Card). The large atrium of the City Hall was inspired by the City Hall in Siena, Italy.

On the exterior front of the City Hall are large polar bears that symbolize Greenland, which is still a protectorate of Denmark.

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See the Weather Girl

The Weather Girl

Marco Zanferrari / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Before starting a stroll down the pedestrian mall of Stroget, look at the top of the Philips (or Richshuset) building on the opposite side of City Hall square. The golden weather girls used to tell the weather before the mechanism broke. One girl on a bicycle would rotate to the front when it was sunny, and the second girl with an umbrella would rotate to the front when it was rainy. Below them is a long, neon thermometer, also from the 1930s, which still works today.

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Stroll the Stroget

Strøget Shopping street

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One of Europe's longest pedestrian streets, the Stroget is home to shops ranging from budget-friendly chains to some of the world's priciest upscale brands. The Stroget is just over a kilometer in length and runs from City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv, the largest square of the city.

You can shop 'til you drop at stores like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Mulberry. Shops like H&M, Vero Moda, and Zara are found closer to City Hall Square. As you walk, enjoy the street entertainers.

The Stroget pedestrian mall is also a wonderful place to experience some of the sights of Copenhagen. The Stroget is actually a series of streets that weave through downtown Copenhagen from the City Hall to the Nyhavn harbor. You can walk the length of Stroget in 30 minutes, but it will take you a half-day if you take in many of the side streets.

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Sit on the Lap of the Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Hans Christian Andersen statue next to the Copenhagen Town Hall

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This statue of children's author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), known best for his fairy tales, is located in King's Garden. Visitors of all ages love to sit on his lap and have their photo taken. Note how shiny his knees are!

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See the Fountain of Charity in Old Square

Fountain of Charity in the Old Square of Copenhagen, Denmark

Linda Garrison

This Fountain of Charity in Gammel Torv (Old Square) is only one of the fascinating sites on the Stroget. Although the statue has been in Gammel Torv since the 1600s, the two figures were considered controversial during the Victorian era, and the statue was put high on this pedestal so that the pregnant nude woman and the young boy would not be so noticeable.

Near Gammel Torv is the marvelous neoclassical Lutheran church, the Cathedral of Our Lady. It looks much like a Greek Temple, with all the Apostles in Roman togas. The church has marvelous acoustics and free organ concerts each Saturday at noon.

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Explore Colorful Nyhavn Harbor

Nyhavn Harbor

TripSavvy / Maria Ligaya

Nyhavn Harbor in Copenhagen, Denmark is a good place to eat outside and enjoy a summer day. The old sailors' quarters have been converted into colorful trendy cafes, bars, and jazz clubs.

Inside the bridge area, the harbor is actually a museum and historic ship harbor where only members of the Association of Wooden Ships are admitted or guests with vessels of special historical interest.

The Nyhavn canal is filled with sailboats and is also the best place to take a tour on one of the many Copenhagen harbor cruise and canal cruise boats.

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Tour Christiansborg Castle Square

Christiansborg Castle

TripSavvy / Maria Ligaya

Christiansborg Castle Square in Copenhagen, Denmark is the site of a complex of government buildings, including the Parliament, Supreme Court, and Prime Minister's office. The royal family has not lived at Christianborg for over 200 years but uses the palace for special occasions. You can't wander around the palace alone, but the 50-minute English language tour of the palace is well worth the cost.

To find the entrance to the Christiansborg Palace tours, enter the wooden door behind the equestrian statue, go past the entrance to the Christianborg ruins, then into a courtyard and up the stairs on the right. A tour provides great information on the Danish royal family and its connection to the royals of other European countries. The highlight of the tour is the collection of modern wall tapestries given to the Queen which were made by Gobelin of Paris and are some of the most spectacular you will ever see.

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Enjoy the Music at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Memorial Concert for Bass Player Hugo Rasmussen at Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2016.

Ole Jensen / Getty Images

The Copenhagen Jazz Festival is held each July in Copenhagen. The balloon in the photo was used in one of the parades for the Jazz Festival. Jazz musicians from around the world perform practically non-stop at Tivoli Gardens and around the city both indoors and outdoors. Many of the performances, many of them family-friendly, are free.

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Visit the Amalienborg Palace

Facade of a palace, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

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The Amalienborg Palace is the home of the Danish Royal family. The Amalienborg Museum allows visitors to see the private interiors of the most recent past kings and queens and an exhibit on the monarchy today.

Amalienborg is famous for its Royal Guard (Den Kongelige Livgarde). The changing of the guards takes place daily. See the guards march from their barracks in 100 Gothersgade by Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen and end up at Amalienborg, where the changing of the guard takes place at 12:00 noon.

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Cross the Famous Oresund Bridge

Oresund Bridge. Linking Malmo, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark.

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The Oresund Bridge links Denmark and Sweden. Constructed less than 20 years ago, the bridge is touted as providing this connection for the first time since the end of the Ice Age over 7000 years ago. The $4 billion bridge/tunnel project was completed in 2000 and consists of a 5-mile bridge, 2.5-mile tunnel, and a man-made island.

Malmo, Sweden, the third-largest city in Sweden, is just 35 minutes away from Copenhagen via the train across the Oresund Straits. The bridge toll for a car is about 45 euros.