A city with many parts, surrounded by water on most sides, and home to possibly the best ice cream in all of Scandinavia. Denmark can be a little bit of a pricey city for someone transferring from the U.S. dollar, so 48 hours isn’t that bad of a deal to see some of the more famous and magical parts of the city. And if you can hold out for lunch in Nyhavn, then that ice cream I mentioned earlier makes the perfect mid-day fill up.
Your first half of the 48 hours, after arriving into town at the central station and finding your way to a hostel, can be dedicated to Tivoli (Tiv-oh-lee). From a little research and the personal hostel experience at Urban House, the hostel is cheaper than a hotel, hip, and clean–making it a little bit of a better deal. Urban House is just a block over from the train station and a couple of blocks over from Tivoli making it a good starting and ending point.
Speaking of Tivoli — the most magical place on Earth — a lot of people don’t actually know this 19th-century amusement park exists or don’t know that the elaborate inside makes it a must on your list of things to see in Copenhagen. You read that right, 19th-century, and it’s still cooler than most 21st-century amusement parks. The magical feeling there is settled in every piece of the park, from an aquarium to an oriental theater to roaming peacocks and danish waffles with whipped cream and jam. Just standing in the park is worth it. You will feel as if you’ve been transported to a different time. . . or place. . . or world.
After you’ve had your relaxing first evening spent wandering around Tivoli with bright eyes, you can easily spend the second full day walking around and sight-seeing everything else. At first, especially when mapping out the location of The Little Mermaid statue in relation to Tivoli, walking might appear impossible — don’t fret, though, it’s not. Especially if you work your way up beside the water towards the mermaid statue then back down towards the Botanical Gardens. If you start the day early, you’ll have plenty of time to, well, take your time.
First stop? Christiansborg Palace, the current home of the Prime Minister’s office and more. This castle is the newer one. You can pay for a tour or you can just take a gander around the outside and visit the tower located inside for free. Not only is it free to go up in the tower, the view of the city is one worth paying for. This is a good way to get an overview of where you’ll be walking around afterward (from a distance).
Leave the palace and you’ll be walking towards the water for your next stop. It’ll start looking more and more like a port town until you’ve reached your colorful destination — Nyhavn. Take some time here. Just sitting by the boats can be enjoyable. However, if you want to quadruple your happiness sitting by the boats, pick yourself out your favorite flavor ice cream for a gammeldags, or “old-fashioned”. My favorite place? Conveniently located on one of the corners of the waterfront — Vaffelbageren. Why it’s a favorite? The smell of freshly baked waffle cones, waffles, and homemade ice cream. You get what you pay for here, jam and whipped cream included.
Onward, to the furthest point away in this adventure. But, hey, at least you get a straightforward easy walk all along the water to reach her– The Little Mermaid statue. Before you head her way, you’ll come to a beautiful park, keep going. You might be surprised if you didn’t know how little the statue was. She’s situated by concrete stairs, almost hidden, looking with despair into the ocean. You can sit and reflect, feeling sullen for this little mermaid, but then you can start to feel a little better when you go to leave and explore the park area I mentioned in the previous line. If you decide to stray from the path a bit you’ll find scenery that’s out of a Danish feel-good Hallmark movie…which I don’t think exist. Tall grasses, dark-colored trees, wooden footbridges with bicyclists and a breathtaking view of a stone church, an old barrack area, and even an old picturesque windmill on a hill. A good place to wander, I’d say.
So far you’ve been doing free things, so when you arrive at the Rosenborg Castle spend the money for a tour. I’ve been into a few different castles and palaces around Europe, some remind you of each other, while others are completely different. Rosenberg reminded me distinctly of Denmark in its dark wood, stone, and decor. A great way to get a feel for the small nation from the 17th-century. Bonus: there is a beautiful garden to the side of the castle with benches to stop and literally smell the roses.
Just a block over from the castle you will find the Botanical Gardens. You’ll find plants, flowers, and trees native to Denmark as well as many other beautiful places in the world. You could walk around for hours here. Note some of the tropical palm buildings have a closing time, but the rest of the gardens are open much later for an evening stroll.
The final stop is the Round Tower. It used to be free but has recently gained about a 2 dollar admission fee. If you visit at the right time of the year you can use the tower for its original purpose — an astronomical observatory. Which, how cool would it be to view the universe from a 17th-century observatory. If it’s not universe observing season you can still go up and find some special exhibits and a cafe before reaching the top, which offers a beautiful central view of the city.
Again, Copenhagen might be a little pricey coming from the U.S. dollar but 48 hours is a perfect amount of time to enjoy some city highlights and not go broke.
Favorite Sights/Activities: Nyhvn, Tivoli
Favorite Food/Drinks: A traditional gammeldags from Vaffelbageren.
Transportation: Train (From the airport to town), Walking
Secret Suggestions: An evening in Tivoli IS worth it (especially if you’re into places that look like they’re out of storybooks), this is where you’ll find colorful peacocks roaming about and elaborate decor. Copenhagen is famous for The Little Mermaid Statue, however, if you’ve made the trek all the way to see it from the train station then you can’t forget to enjoy the star fortress and views from the park close by. It is very possible to walk the entire city in a day and still enjoy all the sites. A good bit of the “sites” are free to visit and see, so take advantage–The Rosenborg Castle and Tivoli are really the only two places you have to splurge.
Travel Tips: Unless things have changed or you’re extremely into privacy, the available hostel options are a better choice than an Airbnb or Hotel for what’s included as well as location. As someone traveling on the American dollar, Copenhagen was the one place I had to pay attention to my budget because things add up quickly, even just for a coffee.