The best sights in Copenhagen when you travel with kids can be found all over the city. It seems everyone smiles at children, tries to entertain the crying baby, or shrugs their shoulders when your child inadvertently steps into the path of their bike. (Sorry to all of you cyclists, as our children were guilty of multiple offenses). The city is extremely pedestrian friendly, the transportation system is easy to navigate, and your children will not seem out of place in any restaurant. We found Copenhagen to be clean, charming, and one of the most bicycle friendly cities we have ever seen. We spent three nights in the city, but barely uncovered all the jewels this capital city of Denmark has to offer.
We had been told beforehand that our first priority upon arrival was to purchase a Copenhagen Card (found in the train station and tourist offices, or you can purchase ahead of time). This handy little card entitles the card holder to free admission to 72 museums and attractions in the Copenhagen area, free public transportation, as well as dining and other discounts. Also, up to two children under the age of 10 are free with each card. The card must be purchased in time increments (24, 48, 72, or 120 hours) and you are required to sign and time/date stamp your card when you first use it. There is also a Copenhagen Card App to set up on your phone which will provide you with a map and list of all the attractions available to visit with the card. We felt this was such a worthwhile investment and we definitely made the most of it during our 48 hour window of time.
Here are our favorite sights to visit with kids in Copenhagen:
Grand Tour of Copenhagen Canal Cruise
If it fits your schedule, we would highly recommend making a tour of the city by boat to get the lay of the land. A canal tour is included with your Copenhagen Card. There are different types of boats, some are closed roof, others are completely open to the elements, so if rain is in the area, be prepared. The tour guide on the boat will point out important buildings and attractions along the way, including the Opera House, the Little Mermaid Statue (not impressed), Amalienborg Palace, and other significant landmarks. There is also the option of listening to an audio tour in English, Danish, and possibly another language, but you must bring your own headphones. The tour lasts approximately one hour, and you can pick up a canal boat at Nyhavn or Gammel Strand. This was such a fun introduction to the city. We were able to immediately create a list of our sight-seeing priorities and make a game plan for our visit.
Stroll the Strøget and sample the street food
We rented an apartment just off the main shopping street, Strøget. The street is pedestrian friendly, no cars or bikes allowed, which is perfect for families to enjoy a stress free walk with their children while window shopping. There are plenty of restaurants along the Strøget, but some of the best fare comes from the stands they roll out in the morning and close up at night. Our favorite was the crepe stand, one of a few that line the street. It doesn’t matter which one you visit, they will all have long lines. The crepes were some of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and they fill them with various toppings: apples and cinnamon, strawberries and whipped cream, chocolate and bananas, and many more. It was definitely more of a meal than a snack. They even made an accommodation for our son with a nut allergy. They wiped down the crepe pan and were very careful to not cross contaminate his apple and cinnamon crepe. He was over the moon! Don’t forget to check out the huge Lego store if your kids are Lego fans.
Climb the Rundetårn (the Round Tower) and/or the Church of Our Savior (a.k.a. the Spire)
Admission to both of these buildings is included in your Copenhagen Card, but the climb to the top of each tower is quite different. The Round Tower is the oldest functioning astronomical observatory in Europe. To reach the top, it is a leisurely walk along a wide winding stone ramp. Most children will enjoy hiding around every bend and jumping out to scare you. There is no elevator, but it is very stroller friendly. There is a small museum and library, but the main reason people visit is for the panoramic city view. We were not disappointed when we arrived on the rooftop platform and saw this spectacular rainbow.
The other tower to climb in Copenhagen is known as “The Spire”, but it’s official name is the Church of Our Saviour. The top of the church is visible from most parts of Copenhagen and as you approach, you realize you can see people at the top of the tower enjoying the view. This climb is not for the faint of heart. There are over 400 stairs, wooden steps, a ladder, and the last part of the ascent is on the outside of the church for about 150 steps. We had every intention of making the climb, but when we arrived, the building was closed due to high winds at the top. In hindsight, I think the view from the Round Tower was more my speed.
Rosenborg Castle was built in the early 17th century for King Christian IV. There are several castles and palaces in Copenhagen (Amalienborg Palace, Christiansborg Palace) and nearby, (Frederiksborg Slot, Kronborg Slot) and all of them are included with your Copenhagen Card or have a discounted admission. Rosenborg is centrally located and small enough to be easily toured in less than an hour. The main attractions are the weapons room (my kids always go crazy for these), Denmark’s crown jewels, and the coronation thrones. It was all quite magnificent. Surprisingly, the kids never complained about exploring the castle and even asked to borrow the camera to make some of their own memories. Unfortunately, the castle does not have an elevator, so it is not practical for a stroller. Afterwards, take the kids for a stroll in the surrounding Kongen Have park and gardens. A great way for them to let off a little steam!
Nyhavn is quintessential Copenhagen. Sidewalk cafés, colorful architecture, boats bobbing gently in the water, and people strolling along the boardwalk. It is a charming place to stop and enjoy lunch or coffee, or grab an ice cream and sit on the dock on a pleasant sunny day. Nyhavn translates to “new harbor”, but in fact it is very old, dating back to the late 1600s, when it was the harbor connecting the city to the sea. We ducked into Vaffelbageren for ice cream (Nyhavn 49) and sat on the dock to enjoy the generous scoops and hand made waffle cones. The ice cream was probably “tourist priced”, but the views were free.
We are not fans of visiting amusement parks when we travel overseas, especially since we made a trip to Great America a week before we left on vacation. However, we were willing to make an exception for Tivoli Gardens since admission was included with the Copenhagen Card (CC) and it happens to be the world’s second oldest amusement park (the oldest, Bakken, is just outside of Copenhagen). The park is located right across the street from the central train station, so you really can’t miss it. Your CC includes admission to the park, but rides and games are extra. We felt the rides purchased individually were rather expensive (around $5-$10 US per ride), but if you are planning on riding multiple rides, there is a day pass that makes pricing more reasonable. The park itself is visually stunning, especially at night. There are various stages with musical and theatrical performances, restaurants, and gardens to enjoy as well. We found plenty to entertain us for a couple of hours, but if we had more time, we could have spent at least half a day at the park. For more information on the gardens, you can read about our visit here.
If you say the word museum, my kids are skeptical at best. Admission to the National Museum is free (even without the CC), so I was willing to take a chance and see how long they would let me explore. Thankfully, I didn’t need to worry, as there were plenty of fascinating artifacts to excite my kids. Their favorites were the creepy bog people, horned helmets of Viksø, the sun chariot, and the rune stones. While we were there, an announcement was made that the children’s museum would be closing within the hour, so we headed directly to that section. The kids loved trying on costumes, mounting wooden horses, climbing through a castle, and pretending to be archers. We could have stayed for hours at this museum, but unfortunately we arrived too close to closing time. This is definitely a wonderful overview of Danish history, just remember the museum is closed on Mondays.
Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-Tale House
My kids were completely against visiting this small museum just off Strøget at Rådhuspladsen 57, because they wanted to visit the Ripley’s Museum next door (not free, sorry kids). Once inside the house, they were enchanted. Visitors walk through the hallways and various exhibits will tell one of Andersen’s stories in the language of your choice (however, if someone in front of you has pushed the button and walked on, you will need to wait for the story to finish before you can start over). They also have a copy of each story hanging from a chain next to each “live” exhibit. My kids read (or listened to) every story in the place. I think there were ten in all. At the end of the exhibit are some of H.C. Andersen’s belongings. Since we were unable to visit his childhood home and museum in Odense, this would have to suffice. We thought it was a great introduction to the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen and worth the half hour we spent on the self guided tour.
Sample the Danishes
There seems to be a bakery on every corner, you really can’t go wrong just choosing one, going in, and pointing out a danish that calls your name. We sampled several bakeries: Weinerbageriet, Meyers Bageri, and Conditori La Glace. They were all delicious and we tried every danish you can imagine. Chocolate, cinnamon, with or without frosting, we really weren’t picky. Find one near you and be sure to stop in for a delicious treat.
Take a day trip to Roskilde’s Viking Ship Museum
Probably one of the highlights of our visit, was taking a trip to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde. Using the CC, it is approximately 40 minutes by train and then a 15 minute walk to the museum from the station. The museum has five different Viking ships from the 11th century on display. In the boat yard, there are builders creating boats, metal workers forging, and other craftsmen making a variety of boat related items. It is truly an interactive experience and if you are so inclined, you can even row a Viking ship replica out into the water. The museum has very informative displays and we learned a ton about the Viking ships and the early explorers in the area. If you wish to take a boat on the water, be sure to arrive early as the tours fill up quickly. Check the website for times and plan accordingly.
Copenhagen is one of the most charming places we have ever visited. Climbing the tower, touring the Viking museum, and savoring the crepes will be some of the experiences we will carry with us for a long time, yet we hardly feel we scratched the surface in exploring this beautiful city. A return trip is definitely in our future and if you have never been, what are you waiting for?
Have you been to Copenhagen? Do you have anything to add to this list?
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