When I moved to Denmark, I was excited to show my friends and family around Copenhagen, but I wasn’t sure where to start. Now, after six years, I’ve developed my “Sprint through Copenhagen” for those who only have a day or so in the city. If you find yourself in this situation, here are my recommendations.

Morning: Take a tour

Arriving into Copenhagen the evening or day before, you’ve probably had a chance to wander around a bit. Instead of more aimless wandering (which can be fun in itself), you might want to consider giving yourself a different lay of the land. You’ll learn more about the city, what’s happening, and check off all those items on your tourist pic list. (Yes, you’ll see the Little Mermaid.)

Mikes Bikes

Mike giving safety instructions.

If you feel comfortable with your bike riding skills, you must take a bike tour of the city. Denmark is a paradise with its own Cycle Super Highway. I’ve had the opportunity to try a few different bike tours in Copenhagen, and I keep coming back to Bike Mike Tours. Go online to reserve your position for his daily 10am-1-ish tour.  Even when it is raining, this is a great way to see the city from a native’s perspective (9 out of 10 Danes own a bike). This is way better for me than riding on a bus with the headphones on, listening to dry historical reports on the sites.  You’ll get great stories from a Denmark native who has a passion for his home and biking.  Be sure to book early so you’ll have your spot.

TIP: When you go, bring a backpack and a bottle of water. Rain gear isn’t a bad idea either…just in case.

If biking isn’t your thing, you can also do a walking tour. I haven’t tried any at this point because I’ve been with visitors who were up for the cycle experience.

Of course, there are a large number of hop on and off bus tours available as well.

Lunch Time!

After all that biking (or touring) around, you will be ready for some serious lunch. A traditional Danish lunch can be a fun way to experience another aspect of Danish culture. It is really lovely, but not typical of what you’d eat on the run in the US.  Plan a couple of hours to enjoy the process, or just pick a few items to sample.  You’ll often see the following open-faced sandwiches (smørrebrød). The traditional lunch starts with sild (herring that is pickled, marinated, or curried).  My personal favorite is the curried on Danish brown bread (rugbrød).  Most places will do a 3 kinds of herring sampler spread.  Once you’re finished with that, the plates go away and you continue with other fish things. Fried fish fillets can be enjoyed with shrimp on top or a side of remoulade.  I really enjoy that as well.  If you’re a paté lover, you’ll dig the leverpostej with bacon.  I’m also a fan of frikadeller (Danish meatballs) with remoulade and a good flæskesteg (roasted pork) sandwich with pickled cucumbers and red cabbage.  You will be incredibly full at the end of this feast.  It is really helpful to have a group together so you can all have a taste of the various treats.  When I’m out, I usually have to just stick with one thing simply because it is all so filling.  I have been known, however, to take samples off of nearby plates….

Where to eat your smørrebrød lunch:

Restaurant Schønnemann – Reservations here are a MUST. If you’ve got a larger budget, you won’t be disappointed with the amazing food here. The menu is extensive and they have a huge schnapps list.
*Closed Sundays & Public Holidays | Summer Holiday 2017 is July 16-August 6
Hauser Pl. 16 | 1127 København K | Tlf. +45 33 12 07 85

Restaurant M – I had a great lunch here without doing the full spread.  It is positioned on a sweet little corner so you can see all the traffic going by.  It is a cozy place and a little hard to get a seat.  They are open only for lunch. Call ahead.
*Closed Sundays
Store Kongensgade 56 | 1264 København K | Tlf: +45 33 15 85 7

Cafe Sorgenfri – This is a legendary Copenhagen spot.  I usually take my friends here as it is a wonderful old school experience at a reasonable price. This place is also closest of these options to your bike tour with Mike. Book your reservation well in advance.
Open all days.
Brolæggerstræde 8 | 1211 København K. | Tlf. +45 33 11 58 80

Outside of Copenhagen:  If it is in the summer and you’ve got a car, don’t miss Skipperhuset.  It is right on a lake and a short walk from Fredensborg Castle.  Reservations are a must…especially when the weather is nice.
Skipperalle 6 | 3480 Fredensborg | Tlf 48481012 | info@skipperhuset-fredensborg.dk

Not Smørrebrød

If you’re looking for something hip and super fun, walk over the footbridge at the end of Nyhavn, take a left, and find yourself at Papirøen (Copenhagen Street Food). Inside this old warehouse is an amazing array of food trucks and shipping containers converted into food stalls. If you feel like you might be getting lost after you cross the bridge, just follow the stream of people. This place is packed with tourists and locals alike. If you’ve got a wide variety of palates, everyone will leave satisfied. Here are your dining options. This is not a sit-down meal kind of a place, but there area loads of picnic tables inside and out for your and your friends to sit, eat, have a beverage, and enjoy the view of Copenhagen and the water.

After Lunch: Canal Tour

You might notice that your legs are a little tired after the bike ride and walk to lunch. If you’re still up for seeing things without having to move yourself, hop on the canal tour leaving out of Nyhavn. There are two companies almost right next to each other. One is positioned at the end of Nyhavn and the other is just on the side (Nettobådene). Go with the funky looking one. The boat isn’t quite as nice, but it really doesn’t matter. They all say about the same script and show the same sites. The tour is about 45-50 minutes long and you get to see another side of Copenhagen that you don’t get with the bike tour.

*They have regular departures, so you don’t need to book anything in advance.

Happy Hour!

At this point in the day, happy hour might mean a couple of things to you:

ICE CREAM: I’ve been known to wander my way over to Vaffelbageren (right on Nyhavn) after the canal tour. It just seems like a nice way to toast a lovely afternoon. This isn’t going to be life-changing ice cream, but it is good and they make their own waffle cones. You can smell it from outside.

We have our favorite ice cream places in other parts of town, but this one is in the perfect location for enjoying the afternoon sun and some serious people watching.

ADULT BEVERAGES: If you’re looking for something more in the liquid variety, I have a couple of options for you.

  1. Illum Rooftop – This department store on Strøget has recently developed their rooftop area into an amazing food market and place for everything from coffee to wine, beer, and more. The view from above is wonderful. Be sure to check out the church steeples from your vantage point here.  If things get cozy enough, you can even get your dinner here. Østergade 52, 1100 København K
  2. Ved Stranden 10 – There is no wine card here, but this cozy wine bar will hook you up with a wine you’ll like. It has several rooms where you can chill on couches in a living room vibe. Outside, you’ve got a great view of the Parliament building and the canal. If you’re lucky enough to be here on a Wednesday, check out their Wednesday Tastings*Closed Sundays | Ved Stranden 10, 1061 København K

At this point in the day, I’m exhausted but happy. Your dinner choices might be geared more towards where you’re staying the night.

This quick day in Copenhagen only scratches the surface of what the city has to offer. Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments area below. I’m happy to expand my recommendations if you’re looking for other things to experience in Copenhagen and the surrounding area.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliations with any of the places or services I recommended. I just like them. I get no compensation from them.