48 Hours in Copenhagen - Highlights Itinerary for Two Days
Spending 48 hours in Copenhagen will give you a real taste of Danish culture. On top of that, you can expect to have a lot of fun in this exciting European capital.
Copenhagen is wonderful to visit at any time of the year. Depending on when you visit, you can have completely unique experiences. When’s the best time to visit Copenhagen? Well, there’s no bad time of year to spend two days in Copenhagen, just different activities available in different months. This Copenhagen itinerary will include the best things to do in Copenhagen that are available year-round.
Getting to Copenhagen is simple. The airport is a hub for all of Scandinavia and it’s very easy to navigate. Copenhagen public transportation is modern, efficient and clean. The city center is a 15-minute metro ride from the airport and there are regional trains to Sweden and elsewhere in Denmark.
Renting a car is not required for your 48 hours in Copenhagen. Public transportation is adequate for moving around the city and even for day trips. There is so much to see and do in Copenhagen, but here is an ideal 48 hour itinerary to deliver the highlights.
Day 1 Morning: Nyhavn and Canal Tour
You should begin your 48 hours in Copenhagen at one of the most iconic symbols of the city – Nyhavn. That’s the gorgeous harbor with the pastel houses and outdoor cafes lined with moored sailboats.
You’ll have to start the day with a classic photo there and then a coffee or tea nearby. There are a plethora of coffee shops and cafes to start your morning. The eateries located directly on the harbor are a bit more expensive than nearby alternatives. If you wander some of the sidestreets you can find a cheaper morning pastry and cup of coffee.
From Nyhavn, you can easily locate the second must do Copenhagen activity of the morning, the canal tour. There are two docks in the harbor for canal tours from two different companies. They’re conveniently right next to each other and display information on their routes, prices and additional tours. Compare, choose and jump into a boat. They run at a fairly continuous pace so the wait time is never long.
The tours are 90 minutes long and give you a fabulous overview of Danish history and the architecture of Copenhagen. You boat through each of the main canals in Copenhagen and through the harbor. If you have only two days in Copenhagen, this allows you to quickly see the most important buildings and landmarks before lunch.
The Little Mermaid statue is also part of the canal tour. I don’t think it’s worth trekking to on its own because it’s in a remote area of the city, very small and swarmed with tourists. The canal tour gives you the chance to see the statue without wasting time getting there. You can also snap a picture from the unique angle of the harbor without battling other sightseers.
Day 1 Afternoon: Christianhavn
If you begin and end the canal tour in Nyhavn you will be perfectly positioned for an afternoon in Christianhavn. That’s the canal zone that King Christian IV was inspired to build after visiting Amsterdam.
To reach the neighborhood, cross the Inderhavnsbroen (Inner Harbor Bridge), also known as “the kissing bridge”. After crossing the bridge, you should walk to “the spiral church” or Church of Our Savior. It’s a lovely 15-minute walk across the bridge and down the canal to reach the gorgeous baroque church with the famous helix spire.
When you reach the church, you can buy a ticket to climb to the very top of the spire. Once inside, you’ll climb a few flights of stairs and reach a room with a short video. There you can sit, rest your legs and learn about the history of the church. The short video is in Danish and English. After viewing you can continue your climb to the landing of the spire. The spire is circled with a winding staircase and safety rail and offers you a stunning 360° views of Copenhagen.
When you climb back down and exit the church grounds, you’re a short walk to Christiania. This is the area of the city where an international commune has existed since 1971. The 1,000 residents coexist on a formerly abandoned military barracks that they occupied decades ago. They consider themselves autonomous and are known for selling hash and marijuana on the main street, Pusher Street. It’s very safe and there are no hard drugs. Most visitors stop for a beer or a bite to eat at one of the cafes and admire the street art in Christiania.
From there, you can continue your 48 hours in Copenhagen by taking a bus or walk to a point along the harbor called Reffen. It’s a fantastic urban playground that hosts musical acts, skateboarding and most of all Copenhagen Street Food. There are rows and rows of food stalls from various cuisines and bars with seating on the harbor. It’s a wonderful place to stop for a bite to eat and even nicer to stay and enjoy the sunset.
Day 2 Morning: Castles
The second of two days in Copenhagen should include visits to Rosenborg and Amalienborg Castles. You can purchase a 24-hour combination ticket for about 20€ and see both castles for a discount.
Rosenborg is a Renaissance-era castle that has been restored and converted into an exhibition of Danish Royal history. The tour starts in the basement of Rosenborg and exhibits artifacts from the earliest days of Denmark. Eventually, you make your way to the stunning Danish Crown Jewels. The tour continues as you maneuver through the castle from room to room, ending on the top floor. There you find the modern Coronation Thrones of the current Danish Queen.
From Rosenborg, you can exit into Kongens Have, “The King’s Garden”. It’s the most visited park in all of Denmark. In the warm weather, you see citizens relaxing and enjoying picnics every afternoon.
Next up on this 48 hours in Copenhagen itinerary, make your way to Amalienborg Castle. It’s actually a collection of 4 identical palaces surrounding an octagonal courtyard. In the center is a statue of King Frederick V, who founded the royal palace. Most notably, it’s the current residence of the Danish Royal family. While you cannot enter their private quarters, you can tour large areas of the castle and learn about the current Royal Family.
Day 2 Afternoon: Tivoli Gardens
No 48 hours in Copenhagen is complete without a visit to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli opened in 1843 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world. The grounds of Tivoli Gardens are gorgeous and just walking through the park is a great afternoon. If you enjoy a thrilling ride, Tivoli has some very intense ones.
One ride you have to try is simply called The Roller Coaster (Rutschebanen). It’s an old wooden roller coaster that was originally opened in 1914. This authentic roller coaster requires a hand brake operated by a staff member who rides on the train with visitors. It’s like walking back in time and experiencing old-world charm at its best.
Tivoli has plenty of food and drink stands as well as formal restaurants, so you can make a whole evening in the park. You also want to stay for their evening Illuminations Light Show. It takes place on the bridge over the lake in the center of the park. Check the showtime when you enter the park and arrive at the bridge 15 minutes early for a good spot.
Evenings in CPH:
Nightlife in Copenhagen is a lot of fun. Danish bars are usually small and cozy with tasty beer and good conversation. There are some night clubs and cocktail bars, especially in the hip Kødbyen (meatpacking) neighborhood.
Your 48 hours in Copenhagen should also include one New Nordic meal. New Nordic cuisine is a great way to experience Danish food in a gourmet style. It’s traditional Danish ingredients and recipes made with modern culinary techniques. Copenhagen has the most Michelin stars of any city in Scandinavia and you should treat yourself while in town.
Bonus 48 Hours in Copenhagen Attractions
- If you enjoyed the King’s Garden, check out the Botanical Garden across the street. It’s built around the former moat and ramparts of the city and has exotic plant species from all over the world.
- If you’re looking for a museum, don’t miss the Danish National Museum. It’s a comprehensive dive into 14,000 years of Danish history. From Ice Age reindeer hunters to the Viking age and modern Denmark – this museum covers it all.
- If you’re a fan of beer, check out the Carlsberg tour and tastings at their Copenhagen brewery. You can get a history of beer in Denmark as well as tour the historic facility that gave us “probably the best beer in the world”.
- If you’re traveling with kids don’t miss out on the Copenhagen Zoo. It’s also near the playground at Superkilen Park in Norreboro neighborhood.
- If you’re visiting in the summer, the harbor pools are a must-do during two days in Copenhagen. Copenhagen has spent the last 20 years preserving and restoring the harbor. It’s now clean and perfect for swimming in the harbor pools located up and down the city.
- One of my favorite day trips from Copenhagen is to Helsingor and Kronborg Castle, made famous in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the summer there are Shakespearean actors, but every day there are free tours.
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About the Author: Derek Hartman is an American travel blogger from Philadelphia. He has been living in Copenhagen, Denmark since 2017. Derek loves to explore new destinations, experience new cultures and spend time with his partner in Copenhagen and beyond. Derek has been to 34 countries and founded the blogs Robe Trotting and Everything Copenhagen.