Phil and Garth > Destinations > Europe > Denmark > A Weekend Break in Copenhagen & Visiting Fairytale Castles

A Weekend Break in Copenhagen & Visiting Fairytale Castles

by Garth

Last updated: 25th January 2022

Watch Copenhagen, Denmark in 1 minute or read our travel guide.

Watch Copenhagen, Denmark in 1 minute or read our travel guide.


Chic Copenhagen

We decided to take a trip to the cosmopolitan design capital of Copenhagen (or København in Danish) We discovered it really is chic, arty with a laid back vibe and full of fairytale gems, perfect for a weekend break from the UK.  Denmark is not a cheap country as the Danes have a very high standard of living, so it was to be another of our budget weekends. We booked some cheap flights with and paid for some budget accommodation, so we could splash out on eating out instead.



Getting to the city – Read and double check!

Ok so note to self, don’t assume you know how to get from the airport to Copenhagen.  We took the Metro to the city centre and got our final destination completely wrong. No idea how that happened seeing as the metro map is not exactly complicated! Coming out of the Metro station we decided to walk to our hotel as there were no taxis outside. We soon realised how compact Copenhagen was, it was actually on of those happy mistakes, great for getting our bearings and a flavour of street life with a few sights along the way.




The first sight we went to see was Nyhaven meaning ‘new harbour’ home to Copenhagen’s iconic, colourful and historic buildings from the 18th century. The buildings line the harbour canal on each side (you’ll have seen this place in all the glossy travel brochures). It used to be a busy trading port where ships would come to dock, and was a notorious red light area where sailors and prostitutes mixed.  Nowadays it’s perhaps the most picturesque part of Copenhagen. It has lots of intimate restaurants and cafes selling seafood dishes, we didn’t eat here, but a few beers instead. We loved the people watching! there were plenty of people chilling out and sat on the jetty edge soaking up the summer sunshine.


Garth and Phil in Nyhaven


Soaking up the sun with a beer at Nyhavn’s waterfront

The famous Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen made is home in this area. He lived at No.20 where he wrote ‘The Princess and the Pea’. Despite Nyhan being a bit of a tourist trap, it has a lovely ambience. There are tons of photo ops here too, we were so lucky to capture the brightly coloured houses with perfect blue skies!


18th century historic homes line the canal

Nyhaven is where we boarded a sightseeing canal cruise which gave us another perspective on the city. We headed out to into the channel to see the Trekroner Island Fort, and other sights like the Little Mermaid along the way, it’s about an hour long trip.



The (really) Little Mermaid

Ok when they say ‘little’ they really mean it!  Copenhagen’s iconic bronze statue sits just 4 feet tall. She is a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale about a young mermaid. It was commissioned by the brewer Carl Jacobsen who gave it as a gift to the city in 1913.

The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is nowhere near as big as it looks in this picture!


This saucy pose was popular with some tourists!

We noticed this was a popular saucy pose with the Little Mermaid, but she got her own back on one guy we saw making his way back from the stones – he fell in water!


Photobombing tourist photos, behind the Little Mermaid from the river

Another view from a river boat cruise we took, I think we photobombed all these people’s photos!



Attractions around Copenhagen

The main thing that first strikes you about Copenhagen is the number of bicycles everywhere and how well the city is set up to cater for cyclists just like Amsterdam. Just shows when you have a good infrastructure like Copenhagen, people really ditch the cars and make use of it. You can hire bikes everywhere too, we didn’t instead mostly walked the city and also used a hop on and off sightseeing bus to get our bearings, which was good for getting to the Little Mermaid.


Copenhagen bicycles


Strøget for shopping in Copenhagen

If you want some mainstream retail therapy then Strøget is the place to go.  A large pedestrianised street lined with department stores, high street fashion and high end boutiques.  It’s really popular with tourists and families. We loved looking around the flagship contemporary design and homeware store located here called Hay House, sadly couldn’t find anything to buy, as much as we wanted a little Danish souvenir, but it was great for browsing. This is also where Garth took the above photo of Strøget.


The 17th century observatory tower – The Rundetaarn

As we walked down Strøget we came across The Round Tower (or Rundetaarn) built in 1642. It has Europe’s oldest functioning observatory at the top.  Instead of stairs or a lift we made our way up to the top via a huge spiralling ramp which spirals round the hollow core 7 1/2 times. The ramp was built for the King so he could ride his horse all the way to the top!  The tower is 34.8 metres tall and the views were cool from the top as it is the highest point in the city.


Magstræde – the oldest street in Copenhagen

By chance we stumbled upon Magstræde which is the oldest street in Copenhagen, lovely and again characterful and colourful old buildings dating back to the 1520s.


Phil outside one of Amalienborg Palace’s 4 identical mansion houses

Here’s Phil outside Amalienborg Palace, the official residence of the Queen. The palace is made up of four identical mansion houses (Christian IX’s Palace, Christian VII’s Palace, Frederik VIII’s Palace and Christian VIII’s Palace) all facing each other in a courtyard. The Christian VIII’s Palace has a museum with lots of insight into the monarchy. We learnt Denmark has Europe’s oldest monarchy, who knew?  Phil thought it was amazing you could walk almost to front door of the palace houses, well apart from the couple of guards!  Get here at 12 noon and you can witness the changing of the guard.


Garth at Nyboder homes

Nyboder is a lovely area of the city where there are rows of terraced houses painted in a distinctive saffron-yellow colour.  They were built in 1757 as Naval barracks for the expanding Royal Danish Navy, today they are still owned by the Navy.  We loved the symmetry and colour, Garth went mad here taking lots of photographs of the residents bicycles resting against the distressed plaster work.


Christiania off limits to cameras.

Freetown Christiania is an ex military camp that was taken over by hippies, about 800 people still live an alternative lifestyle here.  We thought we’d take a look, after a short stroll we were hit with the smell of weed everywhere!  People were selling it very openly in what we later found out was called  ‘pusher street’.   We’ll leave it you to decide whether you visit, but it’s unlikely you’ll come across anywhere like this again.  We went for a brief look, but didn’t stay that long. It’s located in Christianshavn, which is really nice area of the city with lovely canals and homes, it’s here you’ll also find Copenhagen’s Noma voted the world’s best restaurant. (PS you have to book months in advance, sadly we didn’t and we missed out!)


Phil with the Hans Christian Andersen statue

We found the bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen holding a book. He’s just outside the impressive City Hall, not far from Tivoli, well in fact he looks over to the Tivoli amusement park. Anderson was a prolific writer of plays and novels, but was best known for his children’s fairytales.



Our Favourite place in Copenhagen – Vesterbro

Vesterbro is a great area to visit, where the hipsters hang out in the area’s independent shops and cafes. The street pictured in our photos here is Værnedamsvej, it’s really nice. We loved wandering the market stalls as they had some really unusual items for sale, like old theatre lamps. Garth went to a specialist graphic design store here called Playtype but sadly for Garth didn’t buy anything even though he was desperate to!  The area is also home to antique shops which specialise in Danish interior design, and there’s plenty of classic furniture design to choose from. We LOVE Danish 20th-century pieces, and have some at home including a sideboard, dining table and chairs.

Vesterbro market stalls

Vesterbro market stalls

Market on Værnedamsvej

Market on Værnedamsvej

Plenty of simple photo ops along Værnedamsvej

Plenty of simple photo ops along Værnedamsvej


Yum yum Danish pastries!

We arrived at Værnedamsvej in the morning and had delicious Danish pastries at a lovely little bakery at the end of this street.



Probably the best museum in Copenhagen?

Also in Vesterbro is The Carlsberg Tour.  The Carlsberg family had a massive influence on the Copenhagen. Founded by J. C. Jacobsen, his son Carl Jacobsen made many contributions to the city, including fine works of art which you can see in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek gallery and of course The Little Mermaid sculpture as mentioned earlier.

We walked to the Carlsberg tour located at their old brewery and passed old workers cottages on the way. It was quite interesting seeing their history, which you can do self-guided. Garth enjoyed the museum geeking out seeing old typography and how the Carlsberg brand has developed over the years including losing a swastika logo in 1945.  The museum also has a fantastic collection of beers, behind glass on rows of shelves, claiming to be the world’s largest collection of unopened beers!  We tried to work out how just many different ones we’d tried!  Phil loved the stable block and seeing the horses.


The Carlsberg Tour


The Carlsberg tour and museum buildings

The fun bit was when it came to tasting some booze! we got 2 free beers each, so that was probably worth the entry price. Outside in the courtyard was a horse drawn cart and a nice cafe serving you guessed it more beers!



Smørrebrød & Eating Out

We wanted to try the Danish speciality of Smørrebrød, which translates as ‘open sandwich’  We chose Husmann Vinstue, if you go here you won’t be disappointed!  Opened in 1888 it’s small and traditional with wood panelled walls, and full of locals. We had a few different beers and tried their signature smoked eel and herring.

The other restaurant we tried and recommend was Schønnemann, it’s a Copenhagen institution as it’s been open since 1877 serving smørrebrød.


Husmann Vinstue Smørrebrød

But our favourite meal was at the Michelin-starred Kødbyens Fiskebar located in the meat packing district, just a short walk from Central Station. We chanced it and managed to book a table that night, normally you have to make a reservation well in advance.  The meat packing area is very hip and there’s other good looking restaurants, including BOB in the old Bosch factory, so we’d recommend heading here for eats.

If you don’t want any of this fancy stuff, good news – the Danish love hotdogs and it’s their favourite street food. You’ll find hot dog stands all over Copenhagen and they even have a cheap hot dog fast food chain called Steff-Houlberg.


Garth in one of the deckchairs outside Kødbyens Fiskebar


The incredible presentation of food at Kødbyens Fiskebar



Fairytale Borgs – The Rosenborg Castle

‘Borgs’ are essentially palaces. Rosenborg Castle was once the summer home of the Royal family.  Today it’s home to the Royal crown jewels.  We didn’t go in, instead we walked around the castle’s stunning grounds, which are also public parks.


The Rosenborg Castle


Phil in Rosenborg’s Rose Garden


Chilling out in Rosenborg’s castle grounds



Day Trip from Copenhagen – Castles & Palaces Tour


North Zealand homes

On our last day we took a coach trip to see some other fairytale castles and gardens, an hour or so away to North Zealand so not too far from Copenhagen.  Along the way we passed through life in Denmark and some really cute villages with quaint looking cottages.



Frederiksborg Castle

Located in Hillerød is Frederiksborg Castle, once the royal residence for King Christian IV of Denmark & Norway.  Today it’s the country’s National History Museum.  Looking like something straight out of a children’s fairytale book, the castle is built on an island in the middle of a lake. It was easily our favourite of all the palaces we visited.


The impressive 17th century Frederiksborg Castle


Garth and Phil at Frederiksborg Castle


Frederiksborg Castle chapel and ceilings

We toured the opulent rooms with incredible ornate and elaborately painted ceilings and walls covered in historic paintings. The chapel survived a fire in the 1859 and was the probably our highlight as well as The Great Hall.


Garth and Phil at the Frederiksborg Castle gardens

But it was the Baroque garden at the back of the castle that we really wanted to see. The box hedges were crisp and immaculate, with perfectly clipped pyramid shaped yew trees. We read the designer drew inspiration from Versailles and it’s famous garden designer André Le Nôtre.  One of the hazards of taking a coach trip is that you are really short on time, Garth wanted to explore the romanic looking avenues more, but Phil being a stickler for time mean’t we had to head back to our seats. 🙁



Kronborg Castle

Kronborg Castle was our next visit and famous because Shakespeare set his play Hamlet here. He called the castle ‘Elsinore’ the castle is built in the town of Helsingør which translated is ‘Elsinore’


Phil and Garth at Kronborg Castle


Kronberg Castle


Snipe pie

Inside the castle, we learnt where the word Snipers comes from.  On a banqueting table was a display with a snipe pie. The pie covered with pastry and would have had a real live snipe bird inside, the snipe was known to be one of the fastest birds around. The pie would be cut open and the snipe quickly flew out, where guests around the table would shoot at the it, these people then became snipers and the word is still used today to describe those that are quick with a rifle.



Fredensborg Palace

Fredensborg Palace is used by the Danish Royal family to receive visiting heads of states and to celebrate important events such as wedding anniversaries.  The palace is also used as a home by the Queen and Prince Henrik for three months in the spring and autumn.  We watched the changing of the guards, you can also walk around the huge palace gardens, sadly we didn’t have the time.

Garth and Phil at Fredensborg_Palace

Garth and Phil at Fredensborg Palace


Fredensborg Palace guards



Tivoli Gardens

We ended our last day in Copenhagen with fun at Tivoli, Europe’s oldest amusement park that opened in 1843. Unusually its located right in the middle of the city.  There is all sorts of entertainment on offer from a 100 year old rollercoaster called Rutschebanen to classic fairground games.  There is also a theatre, Moorish styled hotel, restaurants and plenty for children.  The grounds are immaculate and have beautiful flower displays everywhere which gives the place a real romance.  We had loads of fun as it brought out the big kids in us, who doesn’t love an amusement park?


Tivoli’s immaculately presented gardens

Graphic design around Tivoli

Graphic design around Tivoli

Garth loved the 1950s graphic design patterns and Art Deco designs.  Phil loved the smell of candy floss in the air and the screams from terrified riders!


The Dæmonen rollercoaster and Chinese Pagoda at night


Copenhagen will go down as one of our favourite cities to visit.  We loved the compactness making it ideal to walk around, which means you can do a lot in a weekend. We loved how cool and ridiculously stylish the Danes are, friendly and helpful too, no wonder they’ve have been voted the happiest people on earth.



Copenhagen Facts, Information & Advice


Phil and Garth at The Little Mermaid

Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Copenhagen Tips

  • Tip #1: Love Lego? then head to it’s flagship store in Strøget where they have a free playroom!
  • Tip #2: Even though Denmark is in the EU, Don’t forget they kept their own currency – The Kroner
  • Tip #3: Have a cheap picnic in a park – Buy your food at Netto, Demark’s low cost supermarket (like Aldi)
  • Tip #4: Got a more time? You can pop over the river and visit Malmö in Sweden.
  • Tip #5: Love Nordic tv dramas like The Killing or The Bridge? try a tour to see the locations used.

How We Did It

  • We booked some cheap flights with Easyjet.
  • Our budget accommodation was at Wake Up Copenhagen.
  • We took the ‘Royal Castle Tour’ a guided bus tour by Stromma. Its starts and returns from the city centre.

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Midori 17th January 2017 - 9:21 am

omg!!!! I wish I had known your blog before my trip to Copenhagen! You guys have such amazing pictures! LOVE IT!!!!I will make sure of checking your blog before any trips! xxx

Becky Padmore 26th August 2016 - 9:08 am

Ooh lovely photos of one of my favourite cities in the world, there’s just something about Copenhagen!

Anisa 16th August 2016 - 12:28 pm

I enjoyed Copenhagen too, although I didn’t have much time there. One thing that I noticed right away was how beautiful the women are, especially there skin! I really liked the Little Mermaid statue even if it was little. That must have been funny seeing the guy fall in the water! I hope to go back some day so thanks for all the other suggestions.

Travel Lexx 12th August 2016 - 8:45 pm

I just love your photos! I went to Copenhagen in November so it was pretty cold and not as colourful as in your pics but I loved it! You’ve managed to see quite a bit more than me! Loved the Carlsberg tour as well. Great stuff as always!

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) 12th August 2016 - 4:42 pm

Love the video of your adventure in Copenhagen. You have showed me a beautiful city with places to visit and restaurants to eat at. Love your photographs as always. The guy deserved to fall in the water the way he touched the little mermaid. lol Great article and thanks for sharing! Another wonderful place to add to my buck-list.

Anna Schlaht 12th August 2016 - 3:32 pm

*sigh* Copenhagen looks like a place out of my dreams. We would LOVE to go to Denmark someday (and Sweden, and Finland!). Maybe this should be next on our incredibly long list. 😀 Thank you for sharing! I love your photos, as always. Copenhagen has incredible charm. If we ever do manage to go, we’ll definitely be using your post for reference!

Also, who put stickers on poor Hans Christian Andersen’s hat? For shame! 🙂

Lisa 12th August 2016 - 1:11 pm

Your pictures ( as usual) captured the city perfectly. I would so love to visit there. Even the touristy spots look fun. The gardens & castle are beautiful. Thanks for sharing, it will definitely come in handy!

Angie (FeetDoTravel) 12th August 2016 - 11:18 am

I visited Copenhagen on a day trip when visiting a friend in Malmo “just over the bridge” and I wish I had this guide when I was there … and a better camera! Since my return, I have seen friends photos of the beautifully coloured houses and I just didn’t seem to capture their charm – but you certainly have! This makes me want to visit my friend again very soon … Cilla, if you’re reading this, fancy a visit from your English friend ???

David 12th August 2016 - 10:22 am

Another excellent and informative post guys. I spent a half day there while waiting for a flight out and only saw a fraction of this. It’s also possible to fly into Malmo and take the quick train trip across.

Nyhaven really is a beautiful tourist trap and while I was underwhelmed by the mermaid, the gardens and fort nearby were neat. The Carlsberg Tour is now on my list for next time, cheers!

Sarah 11th August 2016 - 9:42 pm

I loved this article! Especially the photos. I’ve been to Copenhagen two years ago and you gave me more reasons to revisit. Keep up the good work!

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