Copenhagen for kids: a Scandi family escape

Keith Drew

written by
Keith Drew

updated 17.06.2019

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen is a bit of a conundrum. On the surface, a city that is known for its designer shops and foraged foods, in a region that is often eye-wateringly expensive, might not seem the most obvious family weekend getaway. But the Scandi capital of cool just happens to be pretty cool for kids, too.

Cute and compact, this "friendly old girl of a town" is packed full of things for children to do – and often for a lot less than you might imagine.

The unmissable Changing of the Guards at Amalienborg, for example, is free, as is taking a (summer) dip in the harbour pools at Fisketorvet, Islands Brygge and Sluseholmen. Plus, many other attractions are free for children under the age of eight.

Next year sees the opening of the Experimentarium, a hands-on science centre that will boast the world's first interactive cinema when it re-opens in a new location just north of the city in January 2017. So with that in mind, here are five more great things to do in Copenhagen with the kids in tow…


Copernhagen, Tivoli park © Shutterstock

Enjoy park life

No one comes to Copenhagen without visiting Tivoli – the leafy pleasure gardens are by far the most popular attraction in Denmark. They're conveniently located slap bang in the centre of the city, and their blend of old-fashioned fun and harum-scarum rollercoasters means they should appeal to children of all ages.

You pay to get in (though children under 8 are free, and you get free entry with the Copenhagen Card) and then again for each ride you go on (25–75kr); this can quickly mount up, so it usually works out cheaper to buy a pass that gives you unlimited rides. It's worth making a day of Tivoli, as the evening illuminations that light up the park are quite magical.

Going to Denmark with your children? Also, check out our guide to Aarhus the “city of smiles”, here you'll also find an amusement park and much more.

Play the slots

One of the most attractive buildings in central Copenhagen, Rosenborg Slot is a Disney-esque Dutch Renaissance castle set in in the beautiful surroundings of Kongens Have.

Of most interest to children are the lavish Great Hall, where three prowling silver lions guard the king and queen’s elaborately carved thrones; the far plainer throne that is Christian IV’s simple drop toilet; and an impressive armoury of ceremonial weapons.

Rosenborg’s crown jewels, though, are exactly that: the sapphire-studded Crown of the Absolute Monarchs and a sparkling set of jewellery that belonged to Queen Sophie Magdalene, all of it mounted with emeralds and encrusted with diamonds.


© Evikka/Shutterstock

Take to the water

One of the best introductions to the city, the hour-long canal tour is a great way to explore the intricate network of waterways that make up central Copenhagen.

Tours leave from a pier opposite the island of Slottsholmen or from picturesque Nyhavn, a cul-de-sac canal lined with brightly painted merchants' houses, and weave their way through the old town, around Christiansborg Palace and out into Indrehavn, where the diminutive statue of the Little Mermaid gazes out to sea from a rock in Copenhagen Harbour.


© Allard One/Shutterstock

Introduce your kids to hygge

Copenhagen is a great place to try your hand at hygge, the appealing, quintessentially Danish concept of cosiness. Various components contribute to a well-rounded feeling of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gir”), including spending time with family (tick), coming in from the cold and lighting lots of candles (the Danes use more candles than anyone else in Europe apparently), and, most importantly of all, good food.

For a maximum dose of hygge, take your children to Grød, a mini chain of porridge bars who serve up soul-strengthening bowls of steaming oats for breakfast (sweet) and lunch (savoury) in trendy Torvehallerne market.

In the evening, nothing beats a communal dinner at Absalon, a colourfully converted old church in Vesterbro, where locals, young and old, come together to share hearty home-cooked meals (50kr, free for under-9s) check-by-jowl around rows of squeezed-together tables.

Find Dory

The sleek, futuristic-looking Blue Planet, located on the waterfront in the suburb of Kastrup, just five minutes by metro from Copenhagen Airport, is Northern Europe's largest aquarium and a great ending to any trip.

The Coral Reef is perennially popular thanks to its clownfish (Nemo), surgeonfish (Dory) and other exotic reef creatures.

The stars of the show, though, are the Amazonas section, home to shoals of gigantic catfish and some 3000 red-bellied piranhas, and the enormous Ocean Tank, where a walkthrough tunnel leads beneath circling hammerhead sharks and stingrays.


© Evikka/Shutterstock

Need to know

Flights: Norwegian flies direct to Copenhagen from London Gatwick, New York (JFK) and Los Angeles.

Accommodation: The self-catering apartments at the centrally located Kong Arthur Hotel (sleeping 4 or 6) are perfect for a family break: they're spacious and stylish and have access to the adjoining hotel's facilities, including a fantastic Nordic buffet breakfast.

Also, you can find some family-friendly accommodation options in our guide about the best places to stay in Copenhagen. And if you're not planning to stay just to explore the Danish capital, find useful travel ideas in our guide to the best things to do in Denmark.

The Copenhagen Card: If you're going to be doing a fair bit of sightseeing, it's probably worth investing in the Copenhagen Card. Cards last up to five days and include free public transport throughout greater Copenhagen, plus free entry to the vast majority of the city's attractions (including all the places mentioned above), as well as some tours and activities, such as the Canal Tour.

Featured image: Copernhagen, Tivoli park © Shutterstock

Keith Drew

written by
Keith Drew

updated 17.06.2019

A former Rough Guides Managing Editor, Keith Drew has written or updated over a dozen Rough Guides, including Costa Rica, Japan and Morocco. As well as writing for The Telegraph, The Guardian and BRITAIN Magazine, among others, he also runs family-travel website Follow him @keithdrewtravel on Twitter and @BigTrips4LittleTravellers on Instagram.

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