It’s no secret that I love to spend as much time as possible in Copenhagen. Luckily for me, my favourite city is a mere 90 minute plane ride away; and if I time it right, I can get return flights for under £35. That’s quicker (and cheaper), than the train ride from Nottingham to London!
The look on people’s faces though, when they ask me what I’m doing at the weekend and I’m like “Well, I’m going to Copenhagen on Saturday…”. But trust me on this one. Copenhagen is seriously doable in a day, and I often wonder why more people don’t take advantage of cheap and frequent flights to visit Europe over the weekend.
I’d say that I’m quite good at utilising what little time I have when it comes to travelling. And you should give it a go too! Got 12 hours to spend in Copenhagen? That’s plenty time – just do as I do…
I wake up, and quickly get dressed. I’ve lifted out a carefully co-ordinated all-black outfit the night before (I want to blend in with the locals, after all). I drive down to Luton airport blasting MØ out of my speakers. It’s what I do when I’m heading over to Scandi-land.
Once I’ve arrived at Luton, I head though security with my empty suitcase (this is where I store my shopping bags on the flight back!). I grab a cup of tea in departures – I’m saving myself for breakfast so that I can grab a Direktørsnegl (the most delicious chocolate pastry) at Lagkaghuset in Copenhagen.
My flight takes off for Copenhagen. I kid myself into pretending that I’m going to try and get some sleep. Facing facts here, I can NEVER sleep when I’m on the road (or in the sky, as the case may be). In my head, I’m mentally planning my dream purchases throughout the day.
We’ve just touched down at Kastrup airport (and are now officially on Danish time). I brace myself for the trek through to arrivals. There’s a WHSmith on the corner that offers bags of eight Kvikk Lunsj (essentially a Norwegian version of a Kit Kat, except it’s nicer because hey, it’s Norwegian!), so I stock up. That’s the first purchase in my case!
Having caught the ten minute train ride from the airport to the station, and stored my suitcase in one of the lockers; I savour the Direktørsnegl that I’ve been waiting so long for, and wash it down with a chai latte. I’ve now got the whole day ahead of me in Copenhagen, it’s just a case of deciding what to do…
Now I’m going to be honest here: if all I’ve got is 12 hours, then the best way I consider to fill the time is… shop, of course! Scandinavia is home to all of my favourite brands (and with everyone being my height here, it means I can easily shop for jeans/skirts/dresses etc without them verging on the indecently short side).
If you’re looking for the best places to shop, then all you need to do is head down Strøget: there’s Monki, Weekday, & Other Stories, Message, Illum (with a good selection of Samsøe & Samsøe and Wood Wood). Don’t forget to visit Norr on Pilestræde for lesser known Scandi brands.
However, I am fully aware that there are lots of people out there who don’t enjoy shopping as much as I do; and when faced with 12 hours in Copenhagen, would much rather see something other than the inside of shops!
If this sounds like you, then here’s what you should do…
Head down Strøget (resist going in shops), and take a left turn down Købmagergade, until you reach Rundetaarn (the round tower). It’s a seventeenth century tower that offers views of the city – except rather than climbing up stairs, you just walk round and round the steadily increasing spiral floor (kind of like a yellow brick road).
It only costs 25 DKK to get to the top (approx. £3), and is a nice introduction to the city.
Rosenborg Slot (castle) is up next – it’s located in a lovely green park right in the centre of Copenhagen, and it’s only a ten minute walk from Rundetaarn, so you’re in the perfect location!
You can purchase a ticket and visit the castle if you want. Personally, I haven’t been inside, as I’m happy to just wander around the grounds, people watching and pretending I’m from Copenhagen.
The park is especially nice in the summer, when the rose garden is in full bloom, and you can lie on the grass and sunbathe.
It’s still nice in the winter though, and worth a visit even if to just take some pictures.
If that Direktørsnegl hasn’t finished you off; then you MUST visit Mormor’s on Bredgade for possibly one of the best sandwiches you’ve ever tasted (I recommend the chicken pesto sandwich).
Mormor’s has a very cosy feeling to it – reminiscent of a quintessentially British tea room (‘Mormor’ means grandma in Danish, so it makes sense really).
There’s a fairly wide selection of sandwiches and cakes, but you don’t want to get here any later than 1.30pm. The Danes eat lunch quite early, and once the food is gone at Mormor’s, it really is gone! Trust me, I speak from experience (you can’t have a late lunch here).
Amalienborg Palace is just around the corner from Mormor’s. The official residence of the Danish royal family, it’s one of the most iconic buildings in the capital.
You can watch the changing of the guards if you get there earlier at 12pm, but personally, I don’t think it’s essential.
Stand in the centre of the courtyard to take in all of the buildings – you can get much closer than if you were visiting Buckingham Palace!
You absolutely have to spend some time at Nyhavn. Whenever you google Copenhagen, the colourful Lego-like houses are the first things to crop up – it’s just so picturesque!
Whether or not you grab a drink at one of the outdoor cafés is up to you. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely place to go for a walk and soak up the atmosphere.
Cross over the bridge to where the Opera house lies, near Papirøen (a hipster type street food venue – perfect for cheap eats).
If you want to take a boat tour of the city, then Nyhavn is where you start your journey. The tours will take you past the tiny (and underwhelming) Little Mermaid statue. To be honest, this is the best way to see the statue – otherwise, a twenty minute walk to this small statue will not seem worth it when you’re four rows behind tourists who are all clamouring into the water to have a picture taken with her. What a waste of time (to quote MØ).
OK, so now you’ve got two options here. There are two ways the afternoon can go, and the choice is yours…
Catch the metro from Kongens Nytorv (right outside Magasin Du Nord) and head out to Amager Strand.
It’s a 4km stretch of man-made beach, just ten minutes away from Copenhagen. It’s another great place to go for a walk (even if it’s cold), and you can seriously get your step count up!
Look out and in the distance you’ll see the Øresundsbron, which is the bridge connecting Copenhagen with Malmö. On a clear day, you can just about make out the Turning Torso (aka the most famous beach in Sweden’s third biggest city!).
If you’re brave in the summer, you could always try dipping your toes into the Baltic Sea, but beware, it’s freezing (I attempted this on the opposite side of the sea in Malmö, and managed to make it up to my waist!).
If you’re not good with cold temperatures, then perhaps it’s best stepping away from the water!
If you don’t have a suitcase with you that you’ve left at the station, and want to spend the rest of the afternoon at Amager Strand, then you may as well, because you’re only three metro stops away from the airport.
However, if you do want to head back to the centre, then that’s fine too! Make like me, and spend your last hour in Copenhagen sipping a nice cocktail. I’d recommend 1105 or K-Bar if you’ve caught the metro back to Kongens Nytorv – they are after all, amongst my favourite bars in Copenhagen!
Oh, and before you get on that train, pick up some pastries from Lagkaghuset for tomorrow’s breakfast. Trust me: you may be stuffed now, but you’ll seriously regret it if you don’t!
So, that’s option one. Now for option two…
This is dependent on the time of year you visit Copenhagen; but Tivoli Gardens is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city, and it’s somewhere you need to visit!
Tivoli is a theme park in the heart of the city (it’s next door to the train station, so it’s very handy if you need to make a quick escape back to the airport!).
The doors are open from April until December. The entrance fee is approximately 120 DKK. You can buy ride tickets individually once you’re in; but if you plan on going on any more than two rides, then buy an unlimited ticket for an additional 230 DKK, otherwise you’re wasting money.
The aeroplane ride is my personal favourite – you get great upside down views of Copenhagen!
It’s not just all about rides at Tivoli: there are lots of shops, and themed gardens with peacocks and a hotel which is basically a replica of the Taj Mahal. It’s just a nice place to walk around, and you soon forget that you’re in a capital city!
Sadly, it’s time to catch the train back to the airport. One of the many great things about Copenhagen, is that the airport is only ten minutes away – so if you’ve got limited time, then you can really make the most of it!
Kastrup is a great airport when the shops are open. However from my experience, whenever I catch a late night flight, everywhere but Starbucks is shut.
I spend my flight back to Luton mentally planning my next trip back to Copenhagen. I then remember the Kvikk Lunsj that I packed in my case, so have a quick snaffle on one, whilst consoling myself about the sad fact that I’m not yet living in my favourite city (why can’t my bank balance just double already?!).
The plane has touched down in Luton, and I’m now back on UK time. I literally fly through the airport as I don’t have any luggage, and then start my trip back to Nottingham (listening to MØ, obviously).
Once I’m back home, I give my cat a quick stroke, then abandon my suitcase in the middle of the room, ready to unpack tomorrow. It’s time to sleep.
Obviously the more time I have in Copenhagen the better, but it’s nice to be able to spend a weekend (or even a day!) there, whenever I can.
So to everyone who was rolling their eyes at the beginning of the article, doubting that 12 hours is worthy of a trip to a foreign city: it seriously is, and with a bit of planning, you can pack plenty of stuff into a day.
See you at the airport, yeah?