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.
Kongens Nytorv and Nyhavn
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.
- 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.
- 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
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
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)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!