It's time for a one day visit guide to Copenhagen. If you missed my previous "one day guides" you can find them on the following links: Visit Florence in one day and Visit Rome in one day.
I actually think that tourists rarely visit Copenhagen for just one day. Or maybe not. Swedes from Malmø will definitely come by often just like we Copenhageners like to cross the bridge and go "abroad" for an afternoon of shopping and cafe visits in the charming Swedish city.
During summer cruise ships will often stop by Copenhagen leaving their guests a limited amount of time to visit the Danish capital. And Danes from outside Copenhagen may of course visit. So hey, maybe a one day guide isn't such a bad idea after all!
Copenhagen isn't a city which can be seen in just one day. There are simply too many gorgeous neighborhoods outside the center worth visiting. That said it sure is possible to spend one very lovely day in Copenhagen and if that's all you have, here is what you should do.
Usually I am all about recommending the unusual and local little places, but I will have to say that with only one day in Copenhagen there are certain things you need to skip and other more traditional things which you need to try.
I do however recommend skipping the real tourist stuff. When you only have one day in a place you should try your best to just live the city and take in all the impressions. Forget about The Little Mermaid (Really, forget her!), forget about the Royal Castle and Tivoli. These are things you can go and see when you have some more time. On a one day visit you should try and enjoy Copenhagen as the Copenhageners do it every day.
A walk down Strøget, the main shopping street in Copenhagen, is a must. Here you will find lots of great shops, but don't forget to also explore the little streets running parallel to Strøget.
Don't be afraid to have lunch or coffee at Cafe Norden which is the biggest cafe on Strøget with the best view to street life. You may feel a bit like a tourist sitting here, but trust me, the Danes come here as well, and the food is really great.
If on the other hand you would like to be a little more local try one of the many many cafes located in Stræderne, which are the little streets running parallel to Strøget starting from Amagertorv (Where Cafe Norden is located).
Prices are cheaper and the atmosphere is a bit more calm and relaxed. I particularly like Wanna B, Zirup and Kreuzberg, but you will find so many other great cafes here as well.
Generally speaking I would never waste time or money on going to a real restaurant in Copenhagen if I only had one day available. The cafes are so good and reasonably priced. You can easily have both dinner and lunch at a cafe and leave fully satisfied.
You must also pay a visit to the so called Pisserenden a charming and very bohemian area right behind Strøget. Here you will find plenty of alternative shops and little cafes.
Another area I would go and visit on my one day Copenhagen trip would be Nørreport. While the train station is currently chaos because of a big makeover, there are a several places you should visit in this neighborhood.
First of all the new in and outdoor market Torvehallerne. Here you can grab a coffee and sit outside in the square or you can have lunch from one of the many delicatessen shops.
Another place around Nørreport which is great for lunch, economic and super cozy is the book cafe Paludan. I come here every time I'm in Denmark. I am especially in love with their vegetarian brunch, which I share with my daughter.
If you need to get away from the city for a while and be surrounded by plants and lots of green take a walk around The Botanical Garden. Entrance is free and it's located right on the corner of Nørreport train station, so you won't need a lot of time to visit the garden.
One place I always mention when I have to recommend my favorite spots in Copenhagen is the Organic hot dog stand in Købmagergade. I am such a fan. Have an ordinary organic hot dog or choose a vegan or vegetarian one. They are delicious and everything is made from the best ingredients. This is such a brilliant solution for a quick bite when you are in a hurry and don't want to sit down but still want to eat something delicious and not too unhealthy.
Now you may want to see Copenhagen from the sea. At this point you can of course take one of the traditional tourist boats on the canals. A cheaper and faster alternative however is to take the water bus.
You can get on in Nyhavn and take it a few stops around the harbor. Get off at The Opera House or at The Playhouse and enjoy some fabulous modern Danish architecture. Taking the water bus will also allow you to see some of the traditional tourist stuff from the outside such a the Royal Palace and I believe it also passes by our dear little mermaid.
As for the shopping Copenhagen is really paradise. This city has so many great shops and although it's famous for not being exactly cheap I actually find shopping pretty non expensive in Copenhagen, at least compared to Italy where I live.
If you are in a hurry and need a bit of everything in the same place you should visit the two department stores Magasin and Illum which both have everything in terms of Nordic design, fashion, accessories etc.
Illums bolighus is a department store with several floors exclusively dedicated to interior design, mainly Nordic of course. For stationery and interior design you must visit Hay House on Strøget.
For great fashion and shoes have a look in Kronprinsensgade and the other little streets around here. Strøget is mainly high street shopping (which isn't necessarily bad, you will find many great and very cheap Nordic labels), but this is also where you find another one of my favorite shops, Companys Original with some of the best Nordic and international designers.
Copenhagen is a city which has changed so much during the past 10 years. It has become a superb center for design, fashion (we even have our fashion week now) and architecture. The Scandinavian minimalistic style and the Nordic efficiency and functionality is present all over the city, in the streets, in the shops, at museums, cafes and restaurants.
Trust me, you won't be disappointed and my guess is that if you come to visit Copenhagen for just one day you will be back again. Sooner or later.
Read my complete Copenhagen city guide HERE.