What To See In Copenhagen | Backpacking Europe

Nyhavn Copenhagen

København | Denmark

Copenhagen has a special place in my heart. It's the city where I tried smørrebrød for the first time, drank my entire bodyweight in beer, and got engaged!! So, I may be a bit biased, but I do believe Copenhagen should be very close to the top of the list when thinking about making a trip to backpack Europe. 

Whether you're just making a quick stopover before the rest of your journey, or you're spending a few weeks in this Scandinavian mecca, you will have plenty to do. This list is to act as a guide to get you started, and give you a brief glimpse into what you must see while visiting the Danish Capital! 


Nyhavn sunset

Copenhagen's Must-Sees & Activities!

Nyhavn (New Harbor)

By far the most iconic and one of the incredibly envied areas of the entire city. Nyhavn is a 17th century waterfront that was used as a harbor for boats entering and leaving this historic section of Copenhagen. The brightly colored buildings lining either side of the harbor truly make this street remarkable. Additionally, there are plenty of nice restaurants, boutique hotels, tasty ice cream and waffles, and hotdog stands to choose from! The street is bustling at nearly all times of the day, filled with tourists taking selfies and locals getting from one place to another. It's lively, it's beautiful, and it's everything that I would hope to see in Copenhagen. Grab a hotdog, sit on the side of the harbor, and enjoy any amount of time watching boats sail in and out!

 Enjoying a snack on the edge of the harbor overlooking historic Nyhavn.

Enjoying a snack on the edge of the harbor overlooking historic Nyhavn.

Copenhagen Canal Cruise

A glorious way to see this magical city by boat! Boats leave every 15 minutes from Gammel Strand, Nyhavn. Sometimes, there is no need to reserve tickets in advance - but during peak seasons you may wait a while as the longs can get quite long. The tour offers views of the Copenhagen Opera House, The Little Mermaid statue, The Black DiamondDenmark's National Museum, Kastellet, and sails right through the heart of the Christianshavn area. In total the tour takes about one-hour, and makes a stop off on Gammel Strand right across from Christiansborg Palace, Denmark's Parliament (just incase you'd like to see a different area)!

Main canal in Copenhagen

Exploring Freetown Christiania

The 'hippie paradise' of the world, characterized by its counter-culture that advocates for looser drug regulations and a freer, more democratic market. It is the home to inexpensive eateries and alternative art galleries. You are free to walk around the eccentric and eclectic neighborhoods, utilizing recycled materials for art and homemade housing, built into the hills and forest of the area. However, for safety, it is strongly advised not to take photos or video within the district. Unlike the rest of Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania is governed under it's own set of societal rules. An agreement was reached in 2012 between Foundation Freetown Christiania and the Danish Government. Even though Freetown is considered independent, it is still considered illegal to deal hash within the district, which occurs extremely commonly in the neighborhood - hence the ban on photo and video while visiting. There are a set of rules posted at the entrance to Freetown, and we advice to completely adhere to them!

 Rules listed at the entrance of Freetown, with what appears to be some disagreement back and forth on the last one listed!

Rules listed at the entrance of Freetown, with what appears to be some disagreement back and forth on the last one listed!

Stroll down Magstræd (Shit Street)

This quaint picturesque street, as a smelly past. Commonly referred to as Shit Street, Magstæd is known for previously being a runway for a large amount of central Copenhagen's sewage, especially during times of flood long ago. The lower overall elevation of the street compared to the surrounding streets created the perfect funnel for sewage to take over commonly. Granted, the sewage problems have long been fixed, but the name sticks! Stroll down this historic cobblestone street lined with colorful houses and quaint cafés! It's beautiful, and you'll want to stop to take a few photos.

 View of Magstr æd with wonderful "Gorm's" in sight! Check it out for a delicious cellar pizzeria experience, but make reservations!!

View of Magstræd with wonderful "Gorm's" in sight! Check it out for a delicious cellar pizzeria experience, but make reservations!!

Shopping on Strøget

One of my favorite places in all of Copenhagen because, of course, all the shopping! Fair warning, if there is anywhere in Copenhagen to be crowded, this would be the place. Crawling with tourists and locals trying to just push through, be cautious to either embrace the chaos or avoid this area completely during peak tourist times. Filled with budget friendly chains and some of Europe's most expensive shops, Strøget is over a kilometer long stretching from Copenhagen's City Hall Square to Kongens Nytorv Square.

 Restaurants and cafés just off the beaten path from Strøget.

Restaurants and cafés just off the beaten path from Strøget.

Eating on Papirøen (Paper Island)

This island across from the Danish Opera House formerly stored the paper from all the Danish Press Association. Now, this island contains an enormous indoor structure filled to the brim with food carts and street-food. Within walking distance of Nyhavn & central Copenhagen, the variety of dishes is insane. You won't want to miss out on the relaxed and happy vibe within Papiøen. Come hungry, and willing to try a few different options!

 A bit grungy, yet an exceptionally lively atmosphere on Papirøen as crowds of people find space to eat!

A bit grungy, yet an exceptionally lively atmosphere on Papirøen as crowds of people find space to eat!

Catching the View Atop Rundetårn

For an incredible view of Copenhagen's old town, take on the challenge of climbing to the top of Rundetårn! It is connected to the beautiful 17th century Trinitatis Church, and includes an art gallery midway up to the top. This is the oldest functioning observatory in Europe. Walk up to the top for a memorable panoramic view of central historic Copenhagen.

 View during high noon from Copenhagen's Rundetårn.

View during high noon from Copenhagen's Rundetårn.

Selfies at The Little Mermaid Statue

It's likely that you may have already heard about this fishy statue as you've looked into visiting Copenhagen. So what is so special about The Little Mermaid statue? Well, it's famous of course! The statue has been a main tourist attraction since it's unveiling in 1913! Join a crowd of tourists around this statue and take a mandatory selfie. If you aren't up for the trek all the way out to the Langelinie promenade, you can view this statue from the water by way of Copenhagen's Canal Tour!

Copenhagen's Free Walking Tour!

I will say that I was a little suspicious, dedicating some of my precious tourism time to a tour that wouldn't cost me a thing. I thought, perhaps the tour guides might be terrible, or this is some sort of scam. I was in for a great surprise! This was one of the best and most memorable experiences I had while visiting this fantastic city! You can find out all you need to know about this tour HERE. I participated in the Grand Tour of Copenhagen which meets every day in City Hall Square at 11AM, though please show up 15 minutes early. I was impressed with the guide's knowledge of the city, and how incredibly entertaining it was! The tour lasts about 2.5 to 3 hours, and you'll see a multitude of sights as you go about!

 Like honestly, the walking tours are amazing you have to do it.

Like honestly, the walking tours are amazing you have to do it.

Christiansborg Palace (Danish Parliament)

This is the house of Danish Parliament. Take a lift up The Tower (free of charge) for a beautiful view of Copenhagen. The Parliament is open from 11am-9pm, and can be accessed by walking from Gammel Strand, or stopping off from Copenhagen's Canal Tour! You can access royal interior rooms by various fees-per-room, or you can purchase a full pass for 150DKK that will get you access to all locations inside the palace.

Botanical Gardens (Botanisk Have)

The indoor gardens contains over 13,000 species! It is also completely free to access for adults and children. Monday through Sunday, the gardens are open to the public from 8:30AM to 6:00PM. The garden is absolutely huge and will take some time to fully explore! 

Get Drunk at Carlsberg Brewery

How could you visit Denmark without trying a few beers?! This original brewery dating back to the 1800s offers a variety of activities suited for anyone (yes, children too are welcome)! From guided tours, to horse carriage rides, to beer tastings, you'll want to dedicate some time to really experiencing Carslberg Brewery! The facility is open everyday from 10AM to 5PM. Adults can pass in for 100DKK, students & youth for 70DKK, and children 5 and under for free!

Explore Tivoli Gardens

This enormous park is home to the 2nd oldest amusement park in the world, founded in August of 1843. It is also one of the most popular visited seasonal parks in the world. Tivoli includes a variety of attractions apart from its rides. Wander the grounds and discover stunning architecture, beautiful peaks into the surrounding city, and an all around magical experience. 

Marvel at the Church of our Savior

For another stunning view, check out the spire at Church of Our Savior which includes a 400-step outdoor staircase! This baroque church is extremely characteristic with it's helix spire. Make a visit to the church to tour the inside as well, or get a glimpse of it passing by on the Copenhagen Canal Tour!

Michael and Matthew in Copenhagen

And of course, I couldn't talk about Copenhagen without at least bringing a little attention to the romantic draw of the city. Many think Paris is the most romantic city in Europe, but I beg to differ. Yes, I'm biased - but here's a little video documenting our time in Denmark's capital, including a very wonderful proposal in Copenhagen's infamous Nyhavn.


Whether it's your first time visiting Copenhagen, or you've visited this city a 1000 times, I hope you've enjoyed reading along and perhaps learning about a little something new to do in the city! Thank you so much for joining me!! For more articles on travel, photography, and other worldly adventures, please sign up for my mailing list below!

Matthew Schueller

Matthew Schueller Photography, Lincoln, NE