After a hectic few months, Flea and I wanted a short break at half-term. We wanted something that was a short flight away, affordable, and with plenty to keep us entertained over three or four days.
A bit of Googling later and we settled on Copenhagen.
It’s just a 90-minute flight from Manchester to Copenhagen and return flights cost a shade over £200. That meant after an early start on Friday, we were in Copenhagen by 10am, and ready to explore!
It’s a perfect city for kids – easy to walk around, plenty to see and virtually everything is in English as well as Danish – from restaurant signs and menus to museum instructions and travel timetables.
Here’s our pick of the best things to do with kids in Copenhagen – and a couple of things you can safely skip!
Nyhavn (New Harbour)
The harbour is lined with colourful buildings, many of which used to be home to shipping and boating companies – now they’re mostly restaurants and bars, serving a range of local cuisine. Although it was below zero when we visited, there were plenty of hardy guests sitting outside the cafes, which provide lanterns and blankets on every table to ensure you don’t freeze while you’re drinking your coffee!
Take a Cruise
Weirdly, I never really knew that Copenhagen is built on a canal system. But it is. You can pick up a canal cruise at Nyhavn, although it’s busy there, so the queues are non-existent at Gammel Strand – head there on busy days.
The cruises take place on long, low boats which are mostly covered. Different tours cater for different languages, and the whole tour takes around an hour. You’ll get a great view of lots of Copenhagen’s spectacular architecture old and new, and Flea loved skimming under the bridges (the boats are designed to the exact height of the city’s bridges).
The Round Tower
In the heart of the city, you’ll find the Round Tower, a seven-storey high tower, which you climb via a dizzy cobbled pathway that sloped up the inside of the building. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views around the city. At certain times of the week you can visit the Observatory inside, and there’s a spot halfway up where you look down the hollow centre of the tower and see the spot from which the kingdom used to be measured.
Small note – don’t lean on the walls. The back of your coat will instantly be covered in chalky white paint residue. Sigh.
Flea’s favourite part of this attraction, though, was watching the local kids who skateboarded back down, listening the wheels ratting over the cobbles and the inevitable crash and yell as they fell over. Hilarious.
Visit Castles and Palaces
Copenhagen’s architecture is fascinating. There are some amazing new buildings to walk around – the opera house and the national library were spectacular highlights, but Denmark does castles particularly well.
Right in the heart of the city, we stumbled upon the Rosenborg Castle, which has a treasure chamber in the basement, and fab gardens to explore. You can also see Amalienborg Castle, the residence of the royal family, which was actually splat next door to our hotel. Flea loved seeing the royal guards and thinks every family should have a guard called “The Order of the Elephant”.
Go (Window) Shopping
Among its claims to fame, Copenhagen is home to the longest pedestrian street in Europe – Stroget is home to pretty much every major store you can think of, including a really fun flagship LEGO store. But be warned – Copenhagen is wicked expensive and almost everything you see will be substantially more expensive than the equivalent in the UK. We saw some DM boots that we bought recently in the UK for £65 selling for £170 in Copenhagen.
Visit the Experimentarium
Just across the water from Nyhavn you’ll see a huge warehouse-style building called Papieren, or paper island. Within the building is the Experimentarium, a hands-on science museum for children. Actually, calling this a kids’ museum is misleading because so many of the activities and exhibits involve entire families. When we visited, there was a fitness-themed exhibition where families register as a team, and then log-in to each exhibit using an RFID wristband.
Each interactive exhibit is designed to show kids something about being active, and your family team accumulates points at each exhibit, depending on how well you do. It’s a bit like being part of a giant Japanese TV game show, but less painful. Our highlights were the bathroom where you have to bust a move to some disco tunes while cleaning, and the kitchen where you have to jump from one giant kitchen utensil to another without touching the floor.
I really love that each exhibit takes a photo of you, and then emails it to you. Genius!
One note – there’s no cafe to speak of here and you can easily spend all day, so consider bringing a picnic or heading next door to Copenhagen Street Food. Speaking of which…
Copenhagen Street Food
Situated right next to the Experimentarium on the water-front, Copenhagen Street Food is home to 38 pop-up food stands serving almost every sort of food you can imagine – Colombian vegan street food? Check. Surf and turf on a burger? Check. Mexican wraps? Oh yes indeed. We opted for fresh burgers and those of us who had got up very early and were feeling the need had a cold beer.
Prices are reasonable (in Copenhagen terms) and there are drinks stands aplenty and lots of benches for seating. It’s all very informal, and a lot of fun.
One of my favourite things about Copenhagen is that it’s perfect for just wandering. On our first afternoon, we simply hit the streets in Nyhavn, and walked from there.
We found the Stock Exchange, the Parliament, walked along the water front to see the new National Library, the Opera House, and so much more. Wrap up warm, and when you’re hungry, stop at one of the countless hot dog stands (the Danes LOVE their hot dogs) or check out one of the Vaffelbegeren for a hot, fresh waffle with ice cream or chocolate.
If you take a boat cruise, you’ll see the Little Mermaid from the back – and honestly that’s enough. The statue is small, surrounded by crowds of people an apparently it’s not even the original statue, which was stolen yonks ago. Maybe it’s just me…