When I travel, I often try to avoid the all-too-touristy things. I don’t go to every museum and landmark, or at least I’m doing my homework before to find those places I really do want to see (even though there may be other tourists there). In my experience, touristy places can be a hit or miss. Example? The Musée Rodin in Paris is one of my favorite places, even though it’s frequented by tons of tourists. On the other hand, the Mona Lisa is pretty much the biggest disappointment ever – I really don’t feel like standing in a huge crowd of people to look at a painting the size of a small poster.
After about two and a half years of living in Copenhagen, I consider this place my home. And it’s easy to get annoyed by all the tourists and travel groups, flocking to the Little Mermaid in droves, climbing around on the rocks to try and get the best snap shot. But while some things are really boring or disappointing, others are actually quite fun and definitely worth trying out. This list is both for Copenhageners – being a tourist in your own town is actually a fun experience – and those planning a visit – it’ll help you cherry-pick the best stuff to do! So let’s dive in and find the best five touristy things that are actually worth doing in Copenhagen!
Take a canal tour
It took me waaaaay too long to get around to doing this! I have taken the boat bus (“havnebussen”) plenty of times, as it conveniently goes to Nyhavn, the Opera and up to Kastellet right from where I live. But when some friends were visiting last summer, we decided to take advantage of the great, sunny weather and hop onto one of the canal tours. They normally take about one hour and take you to some of the most popular places in Copenhagen, including Nyhavn, Christianshavn and Christiansborg. But even for me, who had seen these places before, it was really great to experience Copenhagen from a different perspective – the water! Sitting on a boat, enjoying the sun, and casually cruising through the charming canals is something you definitely shouldn’t miss! Tours will cost you around 70-90 DKK and start either at Nyhavn or Gammel Strand (e.g. here).
Alternatively, you can also rent a small boat to go cruising through the harbor and the canals on your own. For example, GoBoat or Copenhagen Boat Rent near the Fisketorvet shopping center rent out small motorboats on an hourly basis.
Eat smørrebrød at the Royal Smushi Café
When visiting Copenhagen, of course you want to eat some local food, too! You should try a nice hot dog for sure (see below), but if you want something a bit more fun, why not head to the Royal Smushi Café, right at Højbro Plads on Strøget? Their own invention, and their staple, is “smushi” – Danish smørrebrød in sushi-size portions! Personally, I’m a fan of anything that comes in small portions, since that will allow me to try different things before being full. And their smushi is really yum. The cute café is attached to the Royal Copenhagen porcelain store, and everything is served on their beautiful, classic tableware. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll also find delicious cakes and pastries here. Mind that the prices are quite steep, though (around 140 DKK for three smushis), but it’s a fun experience nonetheless.
Watch the changing of the guards at Amalienborg
Okay, I might be biased here, with my boyfriend being an ex-garder. But much like the guards at Buckingham Palace in London, the royal guards at Amalienborg are a big part of the city scape – and in my opinion, you don’t have to be a fanatic for all things royal in order to appreciate this cool spectacle! It happens every single day of the year, but the scale will vary depending on which members of the royal family are there. But even if nobody’s home, 12 guards will be stationed at the castle. You can either go to Amalienborg castle around 12pm, or you can be at Rosenborg castle around 11:30am, and then follow the guards on their march through the city, up Strøget and to Amalienborg. If you’d like more info on the royal guards, here‘s a previous post I wrote about them.
Walk up Rundetårn and see the city from above
Admittedly, Copenhagen is not famous for its skyline, but I always love to get up to high points and see cities from above. It gives a whole other perspective on things – and often helps me massively with orientation (which I am generally challenged with!). In Copenhagen, few buildings are higher than 5 or 6 stories, so you don’t actually have to get very high up to get a good bird’s eye view. I recommend Rundetårn, the Round Tower, in the center. It was built by King Christian IV and instead of stairs, it has a wide, spiral walk-up. Legend has it that the king was quite fat and wanted to be able to ride up the tower on a horse – in reality, the tower used to house the university library and the spiral walk was designed to make sure that horses could transport all the heavy books up there. I like the story of the fat king better, to be honest, so that’s what I tell my visitors! Once you’ve made it up the 209m long walk, you’re rewarded with a 360 degree view from the observatory platform.
Eat a hot dog
Let’s face it – you can’t go to Copenhagen and not eat a hot dog! It just doesn’t work, sorry. I have an entire post on the different types of hot dogs and where you can eat them, but here are my two favorites: if you’re looking for a street feast, head to Den Økologiske Pølsemand (DØP) by Rundetårn. They have great, whole wheat bread, delicious sausages – even a vegan one! – and also other yummy condiments like root vegetable mash. If you’re feeling fancy, I recommend a visit to Foderbrættet in Vesterbro to try their delicious luxury hot dogs – best enjoyed with a glass of champagne! It’ll show you a whole new approach to one of Denmark’s most popular quick eats that I’m sure you’ll love.
What are your favorite things to do in Copenhagen? What’s a must-do for all tourists and visitors? I’d love to hear your feedback – share in the comments below!