Let’s be realistic – trying to see all that Copenhagen has to offer in under 12 hours is wayyy too ambitious. I spent a good 3 weeks in this city of happiness and planned my itinerary in a modular structure that can be used for short and long duration visits. Because I love exploring anywhere on foot with the help of Google Maps – I spent a lot of time walking instead of taking public transport. Luckily, Copenhagen is a compact city that allows walking from point A to B easily – but of course, you can choose to get around with your own transport of choice (except the taxis – even if you have some spare cash to spend, it’s not a financially wisest transport option).
If you’ve only got 12 hours in Copenhagen, here are my 5 picks of places you should visit. They’re not in hourly order so plan your trip accordingly to your needs! Plus, I’ve added location links that you can easily pin on your Google Maps.
Frederiksberg Palace via Frederiksberg Gardens
Not to be confused with Frederiksborg Castle, the Frederiksberg Palace is located in the district of Frederiksberg and lies on the top of the Frederiksberg Hill. Adjacent to the Copenhagen Zoo, this palace overlooks the beautiful Frederiksberg Gardens. You don’t have to spend monies to enter the palace if you don’t want to – stroll through the garden to catch magnificent views of the palace exterior while appreciating the landscaping and wildlife. And, certain parts of the garden allow you to catch a glimpse of the zoo too.
If you have a couple of hours to spare, pack your own snacks and settle for a morning picnic during summer to appreciate your surroundings and the people who you’re traveling with. Such hygge.
Pin Frederiksberg Palace on your Google Maps
Værnedamsvej Street or, ‘Little Paris’
Nestled in between the posh neighbourhood of Frederiksberg and the urban Vesterbro, this narrow street is lined with all-things-French. From wine and cheese stores to cozy cafés and flower shops, take a stroll through Værnedamsvej Street to get to Vesterbro or sit outside one of the cafés for a break during warmer seasons and watch people pass by with a glass of wine like the Parisians do.
Also, some of the cafes here offer free WiFi that makes it an ideal spot for freelancers and remote working professionals to get work done.
And unless you live in France, gourmet travellers can bag home a bottle of wine or French delicacies from Le Gourmand. All items from this upscale French grocer are imported from France and specially picked by its owner making sure that every product retains its highest quality.
While this street may not be the most touristy spot, it offers a glimpse on the life of the locals. In the evenings and weekends, you’ll see this street filled with both Danes and expats catching up on each other’s affair, running errands or just passing, pushing their bikes through to get to the end of the street.
In my 3 weeks stay in the city, I remember walking through this street countless times and yet, not a single photo was taken. I can vividly remember how it feels to be walking through it even at midnight – safe and easy.
Pin Værnedamsvej Street on your Google Maps
Nyhavn (pronounced as New Hound and not New Haven) is one of the famous and must-visit places in Copenhagen. You will never read a travel-tip-related article about Copenhagen without having seen this place mentioned.
This 17th-century canal district was built to connect Kongens Nytorv to the harbour and is known for its colourful lined townhouses that are now bars and restaurants. Did you know that Hans Christian Andersen wrote The Princess and the Pea while staying at one of the houses here?
During the festive season, the winter market pops up along the canal where you can get Danish souvenirs, winter clothes, and food. Get warmed by a cup of gløgg (spiced mulled wine) and Æbleskiver (apple pancakes) that are easily sharable – though honestly, I could have them all to myself! There will be a couple of stalls selling gløgg but no two brewers make them the same! So go ahead and drink them all. Skål!
If you dislike crowds, don’t worry about having to push yourself through the market. The Danes are an extremely polite bunch and if you’re a tiny person like me, you’ll see that Danish men (and women) will stop their way so you could get ahead! I wonder if this placing-others-first-behaviour is one of the reasons why Danes are the happiest people on earth.
Pin Nyhavn on your Google Maps
Skuespilhuset (Royal Danish Playhouse)
Located around the bend of Nyhavn facing the harbour is the Royal Danish Playhouse. Why is this even a top pick you ask? That’s because this theatre for the Royal Danish Theatre boasts a stunning, panoramic view of the harbour and in the evening, see the Copenhagen Opera House lit from afar when you take a walk on its promenade. The glass-encased exterior of the playhouse reflects the stunning water and buildings situated across the waters.
Architecture enthusiast will notice how aesthetically functional this playhouse is – which is the very core of Danish Design. And that’s no wonder since it was designed by Danish architecture firm Lundgaard & Tranberg.
Pin Skuespilhuset Playhouse on your Google Maps
Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid)
Another one of Copenhagen’s famous tourist spot is The Little Mermaid or Den Lille Havfrue, a character in Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. To be honest, I was extremely disappointed when I saw it. To me, it was just another true-to-life statue – meh. But like every first-timer to Copenhagen, Den Lille Havfrue is a must-visit so you can check out other worthy places on your subsequent visits.
But besides being an unimpressive statue, this beauty that guards the harbour is also a continuous target of vandalism, unfortunately. She has gotten her head sawed multiple times, became a victim of protest and other unfortunate events since it was unveiled in 1913.
Take a stroll along the Langeline to catch a different perspective of the harbour. From here, you may enter the Kastellet, a star-shaped military fortress or walk all the way out heading to Amalienborg and Skuespilhuset to continue with your sightseeing.
Pin Den Lille Havfrue on your Google Maps
So, here are my picks on the 5 places you can visit while in Copenhagen for under 24 hours! If you’re visiting during spring and summer I highly recommend starting the day slightly later around 9am, otherwise, the days are shorter in winter. I visited from late December to early January which explains the gloomy weather and winter attire but I do believe these places can be visited at any time of the year. I started most of my days as early as 7 to 8 am to catch the sun and when the temperature was still bearable.