Copenhagen with kids
Oh man, did we have fun in Copenhagen! It was the perfect city vacation for my two high energy toddlers. Of course, I love to be near a coastline so this was a pretty perfect family vacation for all 3 of us. If you’re thinking of taking a family vacation, consider Copenhagen with kids!
Why I choose to visit Copenhagen with kids
Is it just me or is choosing a place to visit sometimes the most difficult part of traveling? I mean, besides the toddler meltdowns and unplanned flight delays of course. For this trip, my requirements were:
- Not too hot (trying to get a break from the hot summers in India)
- Great public transport
- Walkable City
- Plenty of kid-friendly activities
- Easy to get around, order food, etc. as an English speaker
- Opportunity for lot’s of outdoor time
Copenhagen ticked all those boxes! Before our trip, I researched online how Copenhagen would be for toddlers and every single review and blog post I could find all said the same thing. It’s amazing. Well, here is one more to add to the growing glowing collection of how great it is to visit Copenhagen with kids.
Things to do in Copenhagen
I was surprised that they just let me waltz right onto the palace grounds. Changing of the guards happens every day at noon. The Den Kongelige Livgarde march from their barracks in 100 Gothersgade (near Rosenborg Castle) through the streets of Copenhagen all the way to Amalienborg Palace. Since there’s no gate, you can really see it all! Certain areas inside the palace are open to public tours as well.
Along the grounds of Rosenborg Castle are several walking trails and plenty of green space for a picnic or for kids to run around. If you’re doing the castle tour with young children, I suggest prioritizing an active outdoor play session first so they can burn off some energy.
Strollers are not allowed inside of the castle but there is a place you can park it just outside (right behind a guard). I fashioned a makeshift “please don’t make me chase you through a castle” devise by clipping a leash to an anti-lost cuff. I was told three times inside that I was a genius and well, I have to agree because it worked SO well! Click on the video in the top of this post to see it in action.
Now, if you want to see the crown jewels you have to head outside and then downstairs. There is actually a sound alarm so if someone sneezes – or your baby starts crying it will go off. If I tell my toddlers there’s a baby sleeping they won’t make a peep, (except to shush random strangers) so we were good. We practice putting baby dolls to sleep at home and staying quiet for a bit after. Then I randomly tell them babies are sleeping in public areas when I need them to be quiet. If you can’t trust your baby or toddler to not set off the alarm, you can still head downstairs just don’t enter the crown jewel vault.
Kids (16 and under) are free at both Amalienborg and Rosenborg.
Kastellet looked underwhelming online during my research. An old military base that now is a historical site and popular jogging trails for locals? Well, it was pretty awesome. That’s the beauty of not blazing through each destination while traveling, you have the time to do the things you weren’t too sure about.
Kastellet is a star-shaped fortress that was built to guard the entrance to the port. Be sure to orient yourself first and find the drawbridge to get in so you’re not walking around for 30 minutes trying to find how to get in. Although the walking trails around the moat are really nice. They’re gravel though, so not great for the double umbrella stroller I had with me.
Once you cross the moat into the fortress there are several beautifully maintained buildings. My toddlers found the historic cannons particularly interesting. If you go up the hill, you will see many locals jogging along the looped trail. I love historic windmills so we headed towards that (which I only knew existed because we walked along the entire exterior of the fortress trying to get in so I guess things worked out.) My toddlers also loved seeing all the geese walking around.
Little Mermaid Statue
This is the most famous attraction in Copenhagen. To be honest, I don’t get it. You walk a ways, run into a huge tourist crowd and then wait your turn to take a picture with the little mermaid statue. I’m not saying she isn’t beautiful, she is. It’s certainly not the best thing to see in Copenhagen, unless you’re like, a huge little mermaid fan or something. It’s one of the only crowded tourist sites in the city. I think it might be a conspiracy to keep all the actual cool things to do and see in Copenhagen from being overrun with tourists. Well played, Copenhagen. Well played.
Besides the little mermaid statue, this was the only other crowded area. The colorful canal and entertainment district is quintessential Copenhagen. I loved it! There were tons of ice cream shops, restaurants, even a random climbing wall. My kids loved watching the boats go through the canal. You’ll find that this is THE place for selfies and Instagram photos.
You can’t go to Copenhagen with kids and not do a boat tour. It’s such a great experience. There are huge boats you can book. They are very affordable and popular with regular departure times. These boat tours are even included in the Copenhagen card. I was worried my kids wouldn’t sit still and didn’t like how far away they could get from me in a crowd of over 100 people so I looked for alternatives.
I discovered Hey Captain. They offer boat tours with “hygge.” Onboard a posh looking boat, you’ll find comfy seats, free drinks, and blankets to stay warm. My toddlers were even welcome to sit with the captain and help drive all they wanted. Our American tour guide was really great, informative and entertaining. Even though it was a lot more expensive than the huge boat, I am so glad we did it. They do need to provide more assistance to people traveling with small children when getting on and off the boat. I’m not so secretly hoping they’ll catch onto the family traveler demographic and provide snacks and juice boxes on-board in addition to the many alcoholic options they had on board. It was certainly the highlight of our trip!
The Royal Danish Playhouse
I’m sure the entertainment is fantastic, but I went for the views! The playhouse occupies seriously amazing real estate and also has a great on-site restaurant. With completely unobstructed views, it is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat. In addition to the restaurant at the playhouse, there are several food trucks parked nearby. Plenty of locals can be seen sitting on the dock having packed lunch as well. Unlike in the US, there are no railings or anything to hinder your view. There are built up edges though so my kids sat right against that. I have strict knees on the ground, no leaning rule which my kids are pros at following by now. Of course, not a single local batted an eye, but an American (she could have been Canadian) tourist felt compelled to come over and tell me that my kids were “making her nervous.” I just reminded her that I knew my kids better than she did and went about my day. To reach the Royal Danish Playhouse, walk along the Nyhavm canal until it dead ends at the water and then turn left.
The Gefion Fountain is adjacent to Kastellet, features animal figures being driven by the Norse goddess Gefion.
The Blue Planet
The Blue Planet was amazing. We spent an entire day there (although we could have seen everything in less time). The exhibits were immaculate and we enjoyed regularly scheduled like the shark feeding. They take out a boat and feed the small sharks – note that it is very educational and suitable for all ages not at all gory or anything like that. Tip: If the main viewing area is full during the shark feeding, head over to the viewing tunnel – its a different angle of the same aquarium so you can still see the feeding while having the place all to yourself. The only thing I didn’t like was the no strollers rule in the tunnel, my kids kept running away from me in opposite directions (of course). If I had to do it again I would just ignore that rule, I’m sure they’d rather have a stroller in the tunnel than two lost toddlers.
There’s an indoor and outdoor picnic area for anyone who brings their own lunch – which seems to be a big thing in Denmark. There is also an on-site restaurant with reasonably priced menu items. Be sure to head outside where you will find a massive sandbox with toys, a playground, a water play zone and a floating dock with lounge chairs. Not to mention stunning views and the outdoor seal exhibit.
The Copenhagen zoo houses over 3,000 animals. The elephant area is considered one of the best elephant facilities in the world. Unfortunately, we didn’t have have to visit the zoo but I have heard great things.
Said to be the inspiration for Walt Disney World, this original theme park is a must visit in Copenhagen! In fact, for young children who lack the patience to wait in lines for hours of their day, Tivoli might even be a much better option. Despite being constantly compared to Disney world, however, they’re not much alike. Tivoli is much smaller and has more of a charming feel than a theme park one. The playground in the back is AMAZING and included in the entry fee. I can’t get enough of these innovative playgrounds in Denmark! For dining, you’ll have your pick of anything from a quick bite to a fresh strawberry cart to fine dining.
You pay a small fee to enter but then need to also purchase an unlimited ride pass or pay per ride. For smaller kids who will not meet the height requirement for most rides, its best to buy individual tickets. You can go to the box office at the main office afterward to refund any tickets that you didn’t use. If you’re doing Copenhagen with kids you absolutely must make time for Tivoli!
If you want to shop in Copenhagen, you want Strøget. Strøget is one of Europes longest pedestrian streets and you’ll find everything from Prada to Lego. It’s also where you can find Royal Smushi Cafe.
Royal Smushi Cafe
This world famous, kid-friendly cafe is an experience of its own. Smushi’s combine traditional open-faced Danish sandwiches and sushi.
The playgrounds in Copenhagen are second to none. None of that take three steps and get rewarded on a fun slide. Nope. If you want to go down the slide, they make you work for it. Many playgrounds don’t even have slides. Instead, they make use of slanted surfaces, bars, and rock walls to spark creative play and calculated risk-taking.
Not only are the playgrounds amazing, they’re everywhere and thanks to Denmarks fabulous parental leave policies, small kids are accompanied by their parents on weekdays. Danes prefer to let kids play alone or with other kids at the park so the most playgrounds have seating for parents lining the outskirts of the playground, often with their backs to the (fenced in) play area so their kids can really play independently. Both my kids came home as pro climbers and more confident risk takers.
Best time to visit Copenhagen
Summers are the best time to visit Copenhagen. Unless you’re super into cold weather. We went in June and only a warm sweater or jacket (if that) was needed for most days. Summers are so beautiful there and there are only a few hours each night where the sunlight disappears.
Getting around Copenhagen
When I booked my trip, I had my heart set on biking around the city on a Christiania Bike. In case you don’t know, Christiania bikes are amazing. They have 3 wheels and a carriage in front where you can sit 2 kids. But I could ride on public transport for a whole week for the same price of renting that bike for a single day. (Bikes with one baby seat on the back are only slightly more expensive than regular bike rentals.) But that wasn’t the only issue. Most bike rental places don’t keep them around. The only places to pick them up were really far out of the way and it would have been a pain to pick it up and drop it back off.
Anyhow, the public transport is amazing. There are elevators at every metro and you can easily take your stroller or bike onboard. Note that bikes aren’t permitted during rush hour.
How many days in Copenhagen?
How many days you should spend in Copenhagen depends on a lot but I would say 3-4 days+++. We were there a week and didn’t fit everything in – but keep in mind I prefer leisurely, simplified daily itineraries when traveling with toddlers. I probably would have been happy to stay a month! If you are short on time you can still do a lot in say, just 2 days in Copenhagen.
2 Days in Copenhagen
If you only have 2 days in Copenhagen, I would say:
- Morning boat tour with Hey Captain
- Changing of the guards at Amalienborg (noon)
- Dinner at Smushi Cafe
- Gefion Fountain
- Little Mermaid Statue (if that’s your thing)
- Tivoli Gardens
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