How to spend a fabulous 3 days in Copenhagen in winter. Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities in Europe. It’s super-cool with fabulous design elements, great food, cosy cafés and stacks of things to see and do. It’s hardly surprising Denmark’s capital is one of the happiest cities in the world.
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How to spend 3 days in Copenhagen in winter
With direct flights available from the UK and throughout Europe, Copenhagen is the ideal place to spend a few days. I’ve visited in all four seasons and I adore Copenhagen in winter. It’s magical. Plus you’ll find it much quieter with fewer queues for the major attractions. You’ll also find lower prices on accommodation during the winter months so there are a lot of bonuses for visiting during this time.
The biggest draws for me are the unique additions to a winter trip. The Christmas markets in Copenhagen are amazing, Tivoli goes overboard for Christmas and the annual Copenhagen Light Festival, which takes place for three weeks each February, lights up the city. There are ice rinks, mulled wine, cosy bars and heaps of hygge.
Today I’m going to share with you my perfect Copenhagen itinerary for visiting the city in winter. You’ll find some of my top tips for getting there and travelling around the city, as well as a guide for spending 3 days in Copenhagen.
Getting to Copenhagen
Copenhagen International Airport is located just eight kilometres from the city centre. You can fly direct from London and many other cities across Europe such as Paris, Oslo and Amsterdam. Flights from the UK are under two hours. Airlines to consider for direct flights include Ryanair, EasyJet, Norwegian Airlines and SAS. I’ve flown Norwegian and SAS and were happy with both – I actually got an upgrade with SAS.
If you’re lucky you’ll get a fabulous view of Øresund Bridge as you fly into Copenhagen.
How to get from Copenhagen Airport to city centre
Once you arrive at Copenhagen International Airport, the easiest way to reach the city centre is by metro. The metro station is in the airport and the metro runs 24-hours a day and takes just 12 minutes to reach the city. It’s very easy and a one-way ticket costs just 36 DKK. Alternatively, you can take a 35-minute bus journey, which is another good value option, costing the same as the metro. If you prefer to travel via taxi, these are also available but will cost between 250 and 350 DKK.
Getting around Copenhagen
One of the things I love about a Copenhagen city break is that it’s so easy to travel around the city. Most of the places we wanted to visit were easily accessible by walking. Alternatively, you can rent bikes or travel by train and metro between different attractions. You can buy a 24-hour city pass, which includes your airport travel, and costs just 75 DKK. Alternatively for 3 days in Copenhagen, consider the 72-hour pass, which is 190 DKK. These can be purchased at the airport or at any train station.
Public transport is also included on the Copenhagen Card so this might be a better option than walking if the weather’s particularly chilly.
Christianborg Palace, Copenhagen
The Copenhagen Card
If you’re like me and enjoy visiting as many attractions as possible on a short visit, the Copenhagen Card is definitely worth considering. The all-inclusive card allows you to visit no less than 87 different attractions in the city. It’s available in 24-hour increments, so you can purchase it for however long you need i.e. just one day in Copenhagen, two or three, which is perfect for this itinerary. If you’re only going to visit one or two attractions during your visit the card may not be worthwhile so do check.
You can buy two types of Copenhagen card. One includes unlimited travel on trains, buses, metro and harbour buses throughout the city, or if you prefer to walk you can buy a cheaper version without the transport. The card makes your trip hassle-free with all admissions paid for in advance. There’s also an app which you can download and use on your mobile phone.
All the attractions and sites on this 3 day Copenhagen itinerary are included in the Copenhagen Card.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
On our last trip to Copenhagen in winter, we stayed at the Admiral Hotel. I’ve also stayed there in summer and would stay again in a heartbeat. I love that this four-star hotel is located in a converted eighteenth century warehouse by the dock. It offers the perfect base for a short trip. Think huge wooden beams, exposed brickwork with a cool nautical vibe and wonderful Danish hospitality.
Admiral Hotel, Copenhagen
The hotel is located within walking distance of Copenhagen’s major attractions and shopping areas. In fact we walked to all the attractions in this Copenhagen itinerary from our base at the Admiral Hotel except for the visit to Kronberg Slot which requires a train journey.
Admiral Hotel, Copenhagen
The views from the hotel over the water to the Opera House, one of the most modern in the world, are spectacular. You’re within a couple of minute’s walk of The Royal Palace and the Little Mermaid in one direction and Nyhavn in the other. It’s the perfect location.
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How to spend 3 days in Copenhagen itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Copenhagen around lunchtime
After arriving in Copenhagen and transferring by metro to the city centre, check into the Admiral hotel. You’ll be able to admire some of the city’s architecture straight away. The Opera House is right opposite.
For lunch today, visit a nearby café or restaurant before heading out for an afternoon of sightseeing. My top choice near the hotel is The Union Kitchen, which offers an extensive menu and a laid-back atmosphere. They also have an excellent cocktail menu – perfect for a nightcap on your way back to the hotel at the end of the evening.
This afternoon, walk to the Amalienborg Palace, which is just a couple of minutes away from the hotel. This is the home of the Danish Royal Family and consists of four identical palaces around the courtyard. Enjoy exploring the museum in Christian VIII’s Palace, where you can see the chambers of previous kings and queens. If you get a chance over the next couple of days, return at noon one day to see the changing of The Royal Danish Life Guards.
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Frederik’s Church and the Little Mermaid
West of the Palace, head to Frederik’s Church (aka the Marble Church). Known for its architecture, it’s a major landmark in this part of the city. It’s well worth going inside to see the impressive dome structure. After visiting the Church, it’s time to see one of the most popular attractions in the city – The Little Mermaid. Located on the waterfront, you may be surprised by how tiny she is – the clue’s in the name after all. She might be diminutive but she’s still a must-see on any first-timer’s Copenhagen itinerary.
Little Mermaid, Copenhagen
To finish off your first day’s sightseeing, continue walking to the Kastellet Fortress. This star-shaped fortress dates back to the seventeenth Century and has a museum on site. Check out the Kastellet website before visiting, as they host free events and concerts throughout the year.
Dinner at SALT
After a busy day of travelling, I’d recommend having dinner at SALT in the hotel. The restaurant focuses on modern Danish cuisine, with a menu highlighting the essential elements.
If you’re in Copenhagen in February during the light festival there’s usually an installation right opposite the Admiral Hotel. From November you’ll find skating and curling at Broens ice rink with food stalls from Broens Gadekøkken also outside the Admiral Hotel.
The Christmas Market at Nyhavn
Photo Credit: Nyhavn Christmas Market by Angie from Where Angie Wanders
Nyhavn is just one of many Christmas markets in Copenhagen to enjoy. The Christmas market at Nyhavn is beautiful, full of festive aromas and heaving with hygge. The bars, cafes and retaurants along the canal are adorned with seasonal decor. The outside seating is cosy with blankets, glowing lamps and warming fires so take a seat and warm yourself with a glass of gløgg or two. It’s the Danish version of mulled wine infused with spices, raisins and almonds – all the festive flavours. The market stalls along the canal are lit up with fairy lights which reflect in the water. It’s absolutely magical.
Day 2 – A full day exploring Copenhagen
Canal tour from Nyhavn
Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark
Start your day by taking a Copenhagen Canal Tour. Boats depart from Nyhavn or Gammel Strand and the tours take one hour in total. Highlights of the boat tour include the Amalienborg Palace, Opera House, Christiansborg Palace and Nyhavn. This was one of my favourite Copenhagen activities – I loved getting a different perspective of Copenhagen from the water.
Strøget for shopping and Danish design
Finish your Canal Tour at Nyhavn, where you’ll want to take some photos of the colourful buildings lining the water. From here you can walk to Strøget, which is the main shopping street. You’ll easily be able to pass some time here admiring the architecture, the famous Stork Fountain and popping in and out of the shops. Look out for Danish design at Georg Jensen, Royal Copenhagen, Illum department store and some of the smaller shops.
The Round Tower (Rundetaarn)
Next, head to the Rundetaarn or Round Tower, located just off Stroget on Købmagergade. It’s one of the most prominent landmarks in the city centre. Head up to the top of the tower for fantastic views over the city. There are no stairs and no elevator to get to the top. I’ll leave you to discover how you reach the viewing platform for yourself – or you could just check out the picture below. Admission (but not skip the queue) is included in the Copenhagen Card.
For lunch today I recommend Smørrebrød aka smorgasbord. Head to Restaurant Kronborg you’ll find it at Brolæggerstræde 12 DK – 1211 Copenhagen, just off Strøget. Choose from a variety of traditional local dishes; hot and cold meats, smoked and pickled fish, cheeses, salads, relishes. Definitely try the Smørrebrød (open sandwiches).
After lunch pay a visit to Christiansborg Palace. Located just a couple of streets away from Restaurant Kronborg, you can enjoy touring the royal palace’s rooms and stables. The basement museum shows the original foundations of the previously destroyed palace. Your visit is included in the Copenhagen Card, which is great value if you are planning to visit all the attractions mentioned in this Copenhagen itinerary.
Magstræde – one of Copenhagen’s oldest streets
Magstræde, Copenhagen, Denmark
As you leave the palace it’s worth making a quick detour to Magstræde on Christianshavn. Magstræde is one of Copenhagen’s oldest streets and probably the most photogenic. The curved, cobblestone street is lined with brightly painted houses in hues of rich reds, ochres and orange. We were especially lucky to catch it without any parked cars and just as the setting sun cast a golden hue over the cobbles. Totally gramworthy!
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Head back to your hotel for a short rest and to freshen up before dinner. There are plenty of great eatery options near the Admiral Hotel, however, we’re heading to Tivoli Gardens so you might want to check out Tivoli food hall which opened in 2017. You’ll find more than fifteen food stalls with various offerings as well as a large dining area with views into Tivoli. The atmosphere is buzzy and the food delicious with local offerings as well as more international cuisine. If you’re looking for something less lively there are a number of restaurants to choose from within Tivoli Gardens itself.
After dinner, enjoy the historic Tivoli Gardens for the evening. You can buy a pass just to enjoy the grounds or one that includes unlimited rides. Even if you are not interested in the attractions, I’d highly recommend a visit here. It’s a large site that is wonderful for walking around, and during the winter in Copenhagen, you can enjoy the beautiful lights and scenery which are guaranteed to get you feeling Christmassy. Tivoli is included in the Copenhagen Card.
Tivoli lights up for Christmas 2020 from 13th November 2020 – 03 January 2021. During the festive period Tivoli turns into a fairytale with beautiful decorations around the gardens, Christmas stalls with festive souvenirs and foods, illuminated parades and Christmas music. Tivoli at Christmas is guaranteed to give you all the festive feels.
Tivoli Christmas 2020 open hours: Monday – Sunday: 11.00 – 22.00. On 31st of December Tivoli is open from 11.00 – 00.30.Tivoli is closed on December 24 and January 1.
Day 3 – A visit to Kronberg Slot and Helsingor
Kronborg Castle, Helsingør
For your final morning, take a visit to Kronberg Slot (Hamlet’s castle) which is just a 45-minute train ride from the city centre. Located in Helsingør, the Rennaisance castle is known for being immortalised as Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an impressive fortification ringed by moats and protected by star bastions with towers and spires topped with green copper. William Shakespeare wrote the story of the Danish prince, Hamlet, and his tragic fate over 400 years ago. The play was inspired by the legendary Danish hero Amled and the castle at Kronborg.
Helsingør, or Elsinore in English, is situated at the north-eastern edge of Zealand Island. It sits at the narrowest point of the Sound (Øresund) right where Denmark faces its Swedish sister town of Helsingborg. You can take the ferry over to Helsingborg from here.
There are various guided tours which are included in the entrance price. Check the website for details as times change depending on the season. During your time at the castle you can see the apartments, the chapel, the king’s tapestries, the canon tower and the casemates, which are located in the basement. You’ll see parts of Hamlet, the play, acted out during your visit to the castle.
If you visit at Christmas there’s a Christmas market in the grounds although not in 2020. The castle will, however, still be decorated for Christmas.
The town of Helsingør
If you have time it’s worth exploring the town of Helsingør during your visit. You’ll discover ancient alleyways, colourful half-timbered buildings and some unique street art. Visit the glass-walled Culture Yard, Kulturværftet, in the old shipyard. It’s a good place for a bite to eat and stands overlooking the harbour. The Maritime Museum of Denmark, which illustrates 600 years of Danish seafaring history, is worth a visit if you have time. On the pier is “Han,” a polished steel sculpture of a man aka the Little Merman.
You could easily spend a whole day in Helsingør so you might want to swap it out with day 2 of your Copenhagen itinerary depending on your interests.
How to get from Copenhagen to Helsingør
Kronborg Castle is in Helsingør which is 46 kilometers from Copenhagen. The easiest way to get there is to take the train from the central station in Copenhagen to the town of Helsingør (Elsinore) and then walk to the castle. The train ride takes 45 minutes and the walk is about another 15-20 minutes although it’ll take longer if you explore the pretty streets near to Helsingør station. Find the train timetable here.
As this is your last day you might want to leave your luggage at Copenhagen Central station ready to collect on the way back to the airport. Lockers are located by the exit to Istedgade street. The luggage storage is open: Monday-Saturday 05:30 – 01:00. Sunday and bank holidays 06:00 – 01:00.
Small locker (35 x 45 x 90 cm) costs DKK 70 per 24 hours (around €10)
Large locker (35 x 60 x 90 cm) costs DKK 80 per 24 hours
After your castle visit, and before heading to the airport this afternoon or evening, make sure you indulge in a moment of Hygge. After all when in Denmark… Spend an hour or two in a cosy bar or café, enjoying a hot chocolate or coffee. My top choices in the city include The Living Room and Paludan Bog & Café – both less than 20 minute’s walk from the station.
Cafe on Nyhavn
This brings your fabulous 3 days in Copenhagen to an end, and you’ll be heading back to the airport later this afternoon or evening. Leave plenty of time to take the metro and relax before flying back home this evening.
Denmark’s capital is a fantastic city to visit at any time of the year, but Copenhagen in winter offers a magical trip with illuminations and decorations which light up the city. While it can be cold, by wrapping up warm and enjoying cosy moments of hygge, you’ll still be able to enjoy everything the city has to offer while it’s quieter and cheaper.
Sightseeing map of Copenhagen
Tips for visiting Copenhagen in winter
- Copenhagen can be very cold in winter, so prepare yourself by packing a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves. If you decide to walk the above itinerary then comfortable shoes or boots will make your trip a lot happier.
- Factor in coffee shop breaks to keep warm after visiting outdoor attractions. Many provide outside heaters and cosy blankets.
- The Copenhagen Card is a great option for anyone looking to save money while visiting multiple attractions on your trip. It also allows peace of mind by paying for everything upfront.
- Check opening times before visiting any attractions. In the winter it’s common for some venues to close a little earlier, so make sure to double check their websites so you don’t miss out.
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