How to spend a 5 hour layover in Copenhagen

How to spend a 5 hour layover in Copenhagen

I was recently visited by an old friend from my grad school days, who lives in the USA and was flying into Europe via Copenhagen. He was set to land at around 3:30pm and catch an overnight train to Germany that same night, so that left us a total of about five hours to spend in the city. That got me thinking about how to best spend that short of a time frame and still get to tick off some of the “must see” boxes in Copenhagen.


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Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn

Hotel d'Angleterre at Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen

Take the metro from the airport straight to Kongens Nytorv, which takes about 15 minutes. Kongens Nytorv is one of the most prominent squares in Copenhagen, with the big shopping center Magasin and the beautiful Hotel d’Angleterre. Walk down the beautiful old harbor Nyhavn and its colorful houses, all the way down to the Royal Playhouse.

If you don’t like walking, you can always take a canal tour (weather permitting) – they take 1 hour and will take you by some of the key sights in the city, like the Opera and the Little Mermaid. They start at Nyhavn every 15-20 minutes.

Christianshavn and Christiania

Catch a harbor bus (line 993) from Nyhavn to Papirøen, which is only one stop and takes all of 5 minutes. The bus goes back and forth between Nyhavn, Papirøen, and the Opera on weekdays from 8-18h and between Nyhavn and the Opera from 18-23h.

Now, here I suggest two options.

  1. If you’re up for it, pay a visit to Freetown Christiania, about a ten minute walk from the harbor bus stop. It’s definitely a special and fun place to visit in the city.
  2. Alternatively, you can spend some time at Copenhagen Street Food and try some of the amazing food from all over the world.

From either Christiania or Copenhagen Street Food, continue towards the city center and across the iconic Knippelsbro bridge, either on foot or taking bus 9A, which you take to Christiansborg.

Christiansborg and Gammel Strand

Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen

Take some time to admire the oldest part of Copenhagen, Gammel Strand (the “old beach”) and the parliament building, Christiansborg (colloquially called “Borgen” and the namesake of the famous Danish TV show). It also hosts the royal stables as well as reception rooms. If you want to allot some extra time, you can take a guided tour through the castle, or go up the tower and enjoy the view over the city.

Shopping street and rundetårn

Round tower (Rundetårn) in Copenhagen

From Christiansborg, continue towards Højbro Plads square, which is famous for its water fountain, Storkespringvandet, located on Europe’s longest shopping street Strøget. Walk across the square and continue in the direction of Nørreport station, which will take you past Rundetårn, the round tower. This is also a great spot to spend some extra time – walk up the ramp (it has no stairs) and enjoy a view over the city.

Optional: The lakes

From Rundetårn, make your way towards Nørreport station – if you’d like, you can take a little detour past Rosenborg castle, the home of the Danish Royal Guard, and Kongens Have, a beautiful large park right next to it.

From Nørreport, walk further north towards the lakes, an absolutely beautiful part of the Copenhagen cityscape and definitely a must-see. Take a stroll along the lakes, if you are up for more walking.

Dinner (or lunch)

Dinner at Höst, Copenhagen - New Nordic cuisine

After that marathon of a tour, you’re bound to be hungry. I’d always want to allocate a bit of time for a nice dinner. Again, there are a couple of options here.

  1. If you’re a beer aficionado, you’ll most definitely want to check out Nørrebro Bryghus, located near the lakes on Ravnsborggade. You’ll be seated in the brewery and can try all of their delicious beers.
  2. If you’re into New Nordic, head to Höst on Nørre Farimagsgade. You might need a bit more time here, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
  3. Finally, if it has to be quick, pick up a couple of mini burgers at Sliders – you can even get them to-go, and their flavor combinations are unusual and very tasty.

Yet another alternative is to hop on a bus at Nørreport (take 6A to Vesterbros Torv) and stop for a beer at Mikkeller Bar (my favorite is number 1 – Vesterbro Pils) before heading to Foderbrættet for some amazing gourmet hot dogs.

Back to the airport

Seeing as you’re already near Nørreport station, the airport is just another 15 minute metro ride away. If you’ve opted for the Vesterbro dinner, it’s only a 10 min walk from Foderbrættet to the Central Station, from where you can take a regional train to the airport. Not much time to rest your tired feet, though!

How would you spend 5 hours in Copenhagen? Which are your must-sees? Let me know in the comments below!

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9 thoughts on “How to spend a 5 hour layover in Copenhagen”

  • One of the hop on hop off buses is also an option. Only takes about an hour and half and you get a tour of the whole city.

  • Laura, This is such a great list! I had a friend asking about this the other day! I’ve shared your post with them. I know I’ll keep it in mind if I’m ever flying through Copenhagen.

  • Hi Laura, this is extremely helpful! I have a 5hr layover coming up in September on my way to Spain. Sounds like this will be my route. What is the weather usually like in September? I am not sure if you still monitor this or not, but would love to learn more about your trip there. Thanks!

    • Hi Connor, so glad you found this useful! September is usually really nice, it tends to be sunny and relatively warm (though this is Denmark, so definitely bring a jacket!). Hope you have a great trip :)

  • Flying from Amsterdam to Gothenburg, on either the 7th or 8th of Sept, had a 5 hr layover in Copenhagen and was concerned if I could catch anything in the city, the above is quite descriptive thanks, seems like I can see a bit of the city and still make it back to the airport on time.
    My only concern is I have a suitcase which may or may not be checked in till Gothenburg, do they have a luggage holding place or lockers at the airport, as I can’t drag it along with me !

      • HI Laura, I did stash my suitcase and took the train to the city and stopped at Kongens Nytorv, from there on everything fell apart ! I had 3 hours to be in the city and then leave for the airport, I started walking behind the station towards the Tivoli Garden in hope of catching at least three tourist spots, this and the castle and the little mermaid, It was raining a bit and the walk from around the canal took some time, by the time I reached there it was closed and trying to get to a bus or the nearest tourist spot I went around in circles and couldn’t catch anything else ! so had to head to the nearest station and took the train back to the Airport, it was a bit dissapointing to be there and not get to see anything :( so it was like I was never there ! I hope I can get back to the city again to experience it better next time… I hope you have a better vacation !

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