Things to do in Copenhagen, Denmark with kids.
One of our best family vacations was our first trip to Europe with kids for a Baltic cruise on the Emerald Princess which started and finished in Copenhagen, Denmark. We arrived in Copenhagen three days prior to our cruise and spent another day there post-cruise.
We stayed in a family room at the Radisson SAS Royal (now known as Radisson Collection Royal Copenhagen). The hotel was designed by Danish architect Arne Jacobsen and is located across from the city’s main train station and practically next door to Tivoli Gardens. The room was spacious by European standards and very central for sightseeing in Copenhagen.
This was the first trip to Europe for our daughters, who were 12 and just turned 6 at the time, so they were very excited and had troubling settling down on the overnight flight from Toronto to Copenhagen via Frankfurt. There were also babies that cried all night on the flight so we arrived in Copenhagen mid-afternoon on August 1st not very well-rested but eager to drop our luggage and see some of the city. We had a walk around the neighbourhood and the fresh air and exercise helped to keep us awake until a normal bedtime ensuring that we could get switched over to Danish time as quickly as possible.
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The Little Mermaid
The next morning we got up ready to hit the streets of Copenhagen and see as much as possible. We decided to catch the Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus across the street from our hotel. The HOHO bus is a good way to orient oneself to Copenhagen as it provides commentary in a number of languages while driving in a loop around the central part of the city.
There are a number of stops where you can hop off the bus for as long as you like and hop back on another bus later making it an efficient means of transport. We went directly to the stop for The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen harbour. I had read that children are often disappointed by the diminutive nature of the mermaid but Emma was delighted to see her.
Our next stop was Amalienborg Palace which has been home to the Danish royal family since 1794. The complex consists of four palaces built around a courtyard with an equestrian statue of King Frederik V at the centre of the square.
The Danish Royal Life Guards were outside the palace when we visited which means that the Queen is in residence, but alas we saw no sign of her. We went on a tour of Amalienborg Palace where the highlight was a tiara exhibit that left Emma wishing she was a real princess.
Our next stop on the HOHO was Rosenborg Slot and Kongens Have. The Rosenborg castle is open to the public and houses an exhibit of the crown jewels but we spent our time there in the royal gardens (Kongens Have) with everyone else who was out enjoying the beautiful summer’s day.
Gefion Fountain, St. Alban’s Church and the Museum of Danish Resistance
Our last stop of the day was on the harbour front to see the Gefion Fountain (Gefionspingvandet) which was donated to the city of Copenhagen by the Carlsberg Foundation on the occasion of the brewery’s 50th anniversary. The bronze statue represents the tale of the goddess Gefion ploughing enough land to create the island of Zealand where Copenhagen is located. The fountain is located in Langelinie by St. Alban’s Church.
A monument to Winston Churchill and the Museum of Danish Resistance are also located in the same park. The museum provides a chronological illustration of how the Danish resistance movement developed during the Nazi occupation of 1940-45. The exhibits are in English and Danish and are fascinating but of limited appeal to children.
Nyhavn and Canal Cruise
The morning of our second full day in Copenhagen was drizzly but we proceeded with our plan to take a canal cruise from Nyhavn (New Harbour). We walked to Nyhavn by way of Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square).
The Nyhavn canal area is the most picturesque in Copenhagen, full of chic, colourful houses and charming bars and restaurants. The canal and harbour tour is a lovely way to see the city of Copenhagen from the water – even on a rainy day.
Strøget Pedestrian District
When we finished our canal cruise we walked back toward our hotel through the pedestrian shopping district Strøget. It was a bit wet to be very enjoyable but we did stop to see the Lego store.
Despite the weather we headed to Tivoli Gardens for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Tivoli Gardens was founded in 1843 and is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney to establish his own theme park in Florida.
We soon discovered that visiting in the rain had it’s advantages as crowds were non-existent and it was easy to enjoy favoured rides over and over again. The Hans Christian Andersen Flying Trunk ride was a favourite.
Rådhuset (Town Hall)
August 4th was embarkation day for our cruise but we still had a few hours to spend in Copenhagen before heading to the port. We spent our time walking and shopping a bit as it was once again a clear day.
We took some photos outside Rådhuset (Copenhagen’s Town Hall) and with the statue of Hans Christian Andersen. We also walked through Strøget again and discovered that it was much livelier on a dry day with street entertainers and crowds of shoppers.
Post-Cruise in Copenhagen
We disembarked from our cruise ten days later and spent one final day in Copenhagen before flying home. Prior to our departure on the cruise I had planned that the day we returned we would take a day trip to Roskilde, Denmark to see the Viking Museum there. However, after 10 days of cruising and touring in Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk and Oslo we were just too tired to do much of anything.
We did finally ride the Wheel of Copenhagen, a ferris wheel similar to the London Eye, which provided a bird’s eye view of the city. We also walked back to the King’s New Square and Nyhavn to take some pictures in the sunshine, strolled through Strøget once again and went back to Tivoli for a few more rides before wrapping up our time in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen is a vibrant capital city that provided a wonderful introduction to Europe for my children. Copenhagen’s centre is compact and can easily be seen on foot which makes it much easier to get a sense of the city.
Copenhagen is very bike-friendly and the kids were amazed by the number of people riding bikes in the city. We even saw a woman riding to work in the morning dressed for work and with a latte in one hand. There is a wide bike lane between the roadway and the sidewalk making it important to look before getting out of a car just in case you are stepping in front of a cyclist. The cycling probably made as big an impact on the kids as anything else that they saw in the city impressing upon them the difference between European cities and North American cities.
We had a wonderful vacation in Copenhagen and on our Baltic cruise which left me longing to plan a return trip to Denmark, Sweden and Norway to explore more of these beautiful, friendly Scandinavian countries.