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Copenhagen Airport | © Daniel / Flickr
Copenhagen Airport | © Daniel / Flickr
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What to Do on a Layover in Copenhagen

Picture of Aliki Seferou
Updated: 10 October 2017

If a layover keeps you in Copenhagen for a few hours, why not take the opportunity to explore the capital of Denmark? After all, it only takes 17 minutes to get to the city center by metro.

Three hours

Three hours may not sound like much time, but for a small city like Copenhagen it is quite enough for a short stroll around the city center. It takes only 17 minutes by metro to get to Nørreport station from the airport. Once you get there, you can roam around Strøget, the city’s shopping street, and get a glimpse of Scandinavian fashion at Henrik Vibskov‘s boutique and Mads Nørgaard‘s store. Once you’re done window shopping, walk towards the canals and see some of the city’s most important historic buildings: Børsen, Thorvaldsens Museum and Christiansborg Palace. If you’re there on a Friday or Saturday from April to October, keep your eyes open, because Thorvaldsen’s antique market will be taking place right next to the museum.

If the weather is good and you don’t want to spend too much time in the metro, you can get off at Amagerstrand station and take a stroll along Copenhagen’s 1.8-mile (3-kilometer) beach. On hot sunny days it is usually packed. Grab an ice cream and enjoy the fresh air.

Five hours

Five hours is enough time to get a real taste of Copenhagen, especially if you rent a bike. Again, your starting point should be Nørreport. Take a stroll down Fiolstræde, a pedestrianized alley with bookstores and cozy cafes, and then enter the Latin Quarter, which consists of Sankt Peders Stræde, Studiestræde and the surrounding streets. The neighborhood brims with stores, secondhand shops, and cafes and is one of the most vivid areas of the city. Strøget, Copenhagen’s famous shopping street, is just a stone’s throw away, so you shouldn’t miss the chance to get a glimpse of the elegant Scandinavian boutiques. Besides, at the end of the street you’ll be seeing Kongens Nytorv square and the Nyhavn (waterfront district). If you feel like grabbing a bite, but don’t want to break the bank at Nyhavn’s restaurants, find Inderhavn Bridge, also known also as “the kissing bridge.” It will take you to the city’s street-food market, where more than 40 stalls serve delicacies from all over the world.

Seven hours

A seven-hour layover offers plenty of choices, so if you make good use of the time you’ll have the chance to go sightseeing, indulge in a warm cup of coffee, and enjoy a Scandinavian meal. You only have to find the harbor buses (lines 991, 992, and 993). Havnebusserne are boat-buses that sail through the city’s canals and pass by some of the most well-known tourist attractions. Architecture lovers will be thrilled to get a glimpse of the Opera, the Royal Library, and the Knippelsbro, while one of the harbor-bus stops is just six minutes’ walk from the famous Little Mermaid statue. It takes about 50 minutes to get from the first stop to the last one, and the good news is that there isn’t a special fee for taking this harbor bus; you only need a normal bus ticket. You can see the complete route here and choose which stop you’ll get off at.  The one at Nyhavn will leave you close to the historic city center, so you’ll still have plenty of time to walk around, lie back at King’s Garden at Øster Voldgade, check out the Botanic Garden, and visit the National Gallery.

The area offers plenty of choices for a meal, depending what you’re in the mood for. For plenty of food at reasonable prices, check out Dalle Valle; for real Scandinavian delicacies, try Det Lille ApotekKalaset’s juicy burgers definitely fill your belly; and if you’re looking for a quick bite, try the favorite snack of locals, red sausage hot-dog from the street stalls.

12 hours

After a 12-hour layover you can officially add Copenhagen in your visited-places list. You may not be able to gain a total insight into Danish culture, but still you’ll have visited some of the most well-known attractions and neighborhoods. Take the train (lines 029, 1057, 1059, and 1061) to Copenhagen Central Station. The moment you get off, you’ll see the impressive Tivoli Gardens within shouting distance. If you want to explore the amusement park that inspired H C Andersen to write his fairytales and Walt Disney to create an amusement park with the same atmosphere, this is your chance. Just make sure it’s open during at the time of the year you’re there. Culture buffs who want to get a taste of the Danish Golden Age or archaeological objects from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Rome should look for the Glyptoteket museum. It shouldn’t take long to spot, it as it is just opposite Tivoli Gardens.

The Piratery | © Lasse Salling / Courtesy of Tivoli Gardens

Once you’re done with ancient civilizations, and if you feel like taking a taste of life in Denmark nowadays, head back towards the Central Station and in a short time you’ll reach the Meatpacking District. This is the meeting point of the city’s hippest crowd. Restaurants, cafes, and galleries are on every corner. It’s a great place for a pitstop before heading towards Istedgade and Vesterbrogade, Vesterbro’s main streets. Vesterbro has been named one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world and a stroll in its streets will persuade you that it worthy of the title. Rummage at the secondhand stores and see the some of the city’s best tattoo studios; warm up with a tea at one of the cozy cafes, and taste an organic meal at one of the numerous restaurants.  

Grab the train (lines b, c, and h) from Carlsberg Station and leave the hipster neighborhood behind for the touristic city center. In 15 minutes you’ll be at Nørreport station, which means you’ll be close to Strøget and Nyhavn. For more art exhibitions, the National Gallery of Denmark and Thorvaldsen’s Museum are the places to look for.

If you have more time and energy, walk or grab a bus (line 5A or 350S) from Nørreport station and head towards Nørrebro, the city’s multicultural neighborhood. Even if you don’t have time to see much of it, a walk around the lakes is well worth the shot.

Meatpacking District, Copenhagen | © Aliki Seferou