48 hours in Copenhagen

Having been pre-warned by friends that Denmark was expensive, I limited my time to around 48 hours in Copenhagen and crammed in as much as I could before heading back to the United Kingdom. However I didn’t think that food, accommodation and activities were quite as expensive as I recalled them being in Reykjavik or Stockholm.

Canal in Copenhagen with waterfront buildings and church spire visible alongside

If you’re looking to eat slightly cheaper Torvehallerne market has busy indoor and outdoor market stalls with a wide range of fresh produce, food and drinks, and I found the Copenhagen supermarkets to be an experience themselves with all sorts of items which not usually found in New Zealand supermarkets.

Copenhagen is a small and compact city making it easy to walk around. The public transport system is also efficient and easy enough to navigate. I stayed at Cabinn Copenhagen. the room was little but perfect for one person on a budget who was out most of the day and it was within a suitable walk of the railway station and city centre. Cabinn City, my first accommodation preference, was already fully booked.

Here are some things you should definitely see and do in your first 48 hours in Copenhagen.


Colourful buildings on Nyhavn waterfront Copenhagen

The beautiful coloured waterfront buildings of Nyhavn and old wooden ships moored on the sides of the canal are photo famous and had to be my first stop in Copenhagen. This 17th Century waterfront area was constructed by King Christian V and acted as the channel between the sea and the King’s Square. 

Nyhavn is certainly a touristy part of the city and is busy with people, cafes, restaurants and bars along the waterfront in the bottom levels of the buildings.

The Little Mermaid statue

Copenhagen’s famous bronze statue of the mermaid from the H.C. Andersen fairy tale The Little Mermaid was unveiled in 1913. A bit of a walk from the central city, it has become a major tourist attraction so get there early in the morning to take a photo of the Little Mermaid without swarms of people posing beside her. A must-visit during your first 48 hours in Copenhagen.


Kastellet is an old medieval fortress near the Little Mermaid with grounds worth spending a couple of hours wandering around. Kastellet was built to protect Copenhagen from attacks still an active military area and soldiers guard the entrance. There is plenty of green space and trees, paths to walk or run around, and points of interest which include a church, windmill and colourful buildings.

traditional wooden windmill on green grass surrounded by green trees


The Danish royal family live in the four identical 18th century palaces at Amalienborg which are situated around a central courtyard featuring a statue of King Frederick V of Denmark.

Originally built in the 18th century for wealthy Danish families, the royal family purchased the symmetrical residences in 1794 after a fire destroyed their palace.

Guided tours and exhibitions are available and a changing of the guard ceremony takes place outside every day at 11:30am.

statue of person on horse in Amalienbourg courtyard with royal residences and marble church visible in background

The Marble Church

Visible from the royal residences and an obvious next stop is Frederik’s Church (or the Marble Church). The first brick of the Marble Church was laid in 1749 however it proved extremely expensive to build and was not completed until 1894.

The Marble Church was closed for a wedding the afternoon I visited (apparently a popular activity on Fridays and Saturdays) but is open to the public daily and you can find the details of opening times here. It has beautiful rococo architecture and you can take a tower tour to view the city from the dome of the church at 1pm daily during the summer months and on weekends throughout the year.

Round marble church with four pillars at front entrance and green dome

Hire a bike

If you’re exploring areas a little outside of Copenhagen’s centre, I’d recommend renting a bike. The city is flat, well set up with bike lanes and there are bike stands everywhere. I signed up to Donkey Republic, a bike sharing app with orange bikes which are immediately identifiable around the city and each have their own name.

Kastrup Sea Bath

Copenhagen has some of the cleanest water in the world and there are public swimming baths in various parts of the the harbour.

Outside of the city is the architecturally designed Kastrup Sea Bath, the wind protection created by the structure makes it a great place to go swimming in the sea. You can even see Sweden from here.

circular wooden structure forming platform at sea for bathing in

There are changing rooms with showers and lockers and platforms for diving off. I’m not sure how warm the water would be outside of the summer months – it was certainly refreshing on an overcast day in July.

If you have more than 48 hours in Copenhagen

If I’d had more time I’d most certainly have visited Rosenborg Castle and it’s grounds, the Tivoli Gardens amusement park (I decided that would be more fun with friends!), and the Museum of Danish Design. I look forward to a longer return trip to Copenhagen in the future.