Last Updated on August 18, 2023
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I arrived by train after an eight-hour trip from the Norwegian capital, a very comfortable journey despite its length. And I found Copenhagen’s Central Station precisely as I remembered it from decades earlier, a meld of Old World architecture and Danish efficiency.
Concerned whether 2 days would be enough time to spend in Copenhagen, after arriving, I set straight off for my hotel, about a 15-minute walk.
2 Days in Copenhagen At The Cabinn Hotel
It was also in the central city (it has six properties in the Danish capital) and had high ratings on TripAdvisor. A big Continental breakfast added another $17 to the daily bill.
It was basic but exceptionally clean, modern, comfortable, and safe. It had two small basic beds, a small bathroom/shower, excellent Wi-Fi, and a television, which I couldn’t get to work. However, it lived up to its motto, “All you need to sleep.”
I didn’t need to sleep, so I dropped my bag in my room and headed back towards the station. I wandered around the central city for a while along streets where bicyclists greatly outnumbered pedestrians.
The Black Diamond and Royal Library
The following day I began a quick tour of the city on a red hop-on / hop-off bus. After just a few minutes, I got off at the Black Diamond and the Royal Library. I was surprised that no one else had gotten off since it’s such spectacular architecture.
The Black Diamond name comes from its irregular shape and black granite exterior. It’s the first of a series of cultural buildings built along the city’s waterfront.
It’s beautifully wedded to the old Royal Library, which you can visit upstairs. And it also contains a concert hall, cafeteria, and some offices. When I walked out onto the waterside plaza in the rear, I was surprised to find reclining chairs. Many people were sitting in them, having their lunch and sunning themselves.
The World’s Longest Pedestrian Street
I left the Black Diamond and set off, walking towards Strøget, the longest pedestrian street in the world. Along the way, as I passed behind Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish Parliament, I viewed the waterways and copper-clad steeples that peppered the skyline.
It made me think that Copenhagen’s architectural style is likely influenced as much by Amsterdam to the south as by its Scandinavian neighbors to the north. Or perhaps it was vice versa.
In a few minutes, I was on stylish Strøget. I window-shopped for a little while and then visited the Royal Copenhagen store, its flagship. Exiting 10 minutes later, I found a dozen Danish officials chaperoning the First Lady of Vietnam on a shopping trip. After watching them depart in their royal limousines, I hopped aboard the next red bus to Nyhavn. I was determined to see much more during my 2 short days in Copenhagen.
Lined with colorful, 18th-century gabled townhouses along a harbor-side promenade filled with sailing vessels, Nyhavn attracts plenty of visitors. (These included, some years back, Hans Christian Andersen who lived in several houses along the waterway.)
It’s one of the most picturesque streets in Scandinavia, and it’s an excellent place to have lunch, dinner, or an afternoon beer in one of its many cafés or restaurants.
While walking along through the crowd in the afternoon sunshine, we were all caught in an unexpected torrential downpour. With a few others, I took refuge in a covered alleyway that led into Fyrtojet (The Tinder Box). I discovered it’s a restaurant named after the fairytale of the same name by Andersen, written in the same decade as the building was built.
When the storm abated, I continued up the street to the corner of Lille Strandstraede, where I found a small ice cream shop. It was four steps down from the road in an open basement of a little corner building.
What attracted me to it was the man in the window making ice cream cones on a small waffle-like griddle. On the other side of the shop, a young woman was doing a brisk business, filling them for waiting customers. I wasted no time getting in line.
Iconic Copenhagen, Denmark in 2 Days
Cone in hand, I set off for Amalienborg Palace. Home of the Royal Family, it was only a short walk away.
The palace has four identical rococo buildings, quite stately and looking as palatial as any regal residence should be. Unfortunately, I missed the formal changing of the guard at noon. But that was a blessing in disguise, however, since I now had nearly the entire broad cobbled square to myself.
The lack of a crowd also provided an unexpected benefit – I could converse with one of the guards as he stood at his post. Surprisingly, I learned he’d only been in the army six months after signing up for eight months and could extend his tour if he desired. He was also interested in my tour of duty in the U.S. Army.
Must-see: The Little Mermaid
After our conversation, I took the bus to see the Little Mermaid, which looked even better than I remembered. Behind her, the canal-tourist cruise boats were sliding in one right after the other with precision timing.
I met a German family who was having their small son climb across the rocks to get next to the Mermaid so they could take a photo of him. Perhaps the look on my face unexpectedly telegraphed my feelings, for the father turned and told me they weren’t crazy. “This is something we do all the time when we travel,” he told me.
Tivoli Gardens for Lunch
The following morning I left my hotel and returned to the railway station. My 2 days in Copenhagen were ending, and I wanted to leave my luggage for my evening departure since I was going to nearby Tivoli Gardens, one of the city’s most famous attractions that’s entertained young and old since 1843. Luggage storage in the station’s basement costs 75 kroner (about $10) for a small suitcase and 85 for a large one. They will also ship your luggage to the airport where you can pick it up for check-in.
I enjoyed Tivoli during my visit years ago. Still, some of it now seemed more carnival-ish, which I soon realized was due to me visiting in the morning rather than in the evening when myriad lights transform it into an enchanting wonderland.
I was in the park about two hours when I again bumped into the First Lady of Vietnam, who, this time, was traveling in a much slower motorcade, a little Tivoli trolley moving along at walking speed with a phalanx of police officers around her.
Soon afterward, I decided to stop for lunch. After looking at the menus posted at several restaurants and the number of Danes, not tourists, dining inside, I finally settled on a comfortable little place under the trees. I ordered a dark Carlsberg beer and then mistakenly ordered a mini-smorgasbord of a half-dozen small dishes, all of which I ate except the herring, which I don’t like. It all was delicious but left me stuffed.
Visiting Rosenberg Castle to End My 2 Days in Copenhagen
With another four hours before my departure to Brussels, I decided to walk over to Rosenberg Castle, the former summer palace. The beautiful castle, whose design was influenced by the Renaissance architecture of the Netherlands, is home to the Royal Treasury, which includes regalia and jewels.
Most Danes, however, come to Rosenberg because of its attractive parkland, which includes a beautiful, well-maintained moat around the castle, broad lawns, and a lovely rose garden.
There, amid the garden sculptures, people were sunning themselves among the perfectly squared and trimmed hedges, just reading a book or viewing the majestic scene about them. It was a beautiful panorama you expect to only see on the Hollywood screen.
With settings like this throughout Copenhagen, it’s little wonder Denmark continues to be such a happy place. It has, in fact, finished at the top of the United Nations World Happiness Report several years in a row.
If you haven’t yet visited, put it on your list. You’ll thank me.
If You Go:
DK-1165 Copenhagen K
Tel: +45 3325 7400
Tel: (888) 438-RAIL (7245)
1568 1568 København V
Tel: (+45) 33 46 16 16