Copenhagen: Things to do during a layover

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Few months ago while travelling from Turkey to Canada, I had a layover in Copenhagen. For some reason, that flight through a European hub was cheaper than a direct flight from Istanbul to Toronto. I was excited to see this Danish city and a day’s layover sounded just right to scratch the surface.

Let me walk you through some of the things I did, and maybe you’ll get some ideas too. 🙂

↑ Downtown train station (København H) is fifteen minutes away from the airport.

Logistics and planning

Is your layover long enough?

With getting tickets and waiting for the train, I’d suggest planning about 30 minutes each to get into the city and back to the airport. Add a couple of hours for airport formalities. So if your layover is anywhere more than four hours, an excursion to Copenhagen is definitely doable and worth it.

↑ Behind the library on a foggy night. Bicycles everywhere!

From airport to downtown Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport (CPH) is the hub for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). The airport is known for its efficient design and function. I was in and out of this airport quickly, with easy to read signs leading straight to ground transportation options.

Being in Europe, the airport is very well connected to the city by public transit – by a commuter train as well as a metro line.

↑ Train station at about 7pm

It takes about 15 minutes by train to get from the airport (Kastrup Station) to the Central Station (Hovedbanegården, or København H) in the city centre and the historic area. This is where I suggest you go if you only have a few hours to spend.

Ticket costs 36 Kr (approximately 3.8 EUR or 4.2 USD) and can be purchased from one of the automated vending machines or the ticket counter located inside the atrium of Terminal 3 directly over the railway platforms. I like an opportunity to talk to real people so I stood in the line to get tickets (credit cards accepted). The train platforms are accessible and the journey is very comfortable. Hearing Danish English accent was also interesting!

Subway connection to Copenhagen City or Frederiksberg costs the same and takes almost the same time.

↑ City hall and main square

Where to stay? Where to eat?

If you only have few hours to spend, I’d suggest you hit the Indre By “Inner city” neighbourhood. As the historical center, it is the home of most of Copenhagen’s attractions, nightlife options, and hotels. A direct train from the airport makes it convenient to visit.

↑ Sale! Shopping district in beautiful old historic brick buildings – a sight you don’t see often.

Strøget, a network of connected pedestrian-only cobblestone streets in the heart of the old city, is known for shopping and hanging out. Numerous cafes and little restaurants, clothing and apparel stores, bars and nightclubs etc. located inside historic buildings is a much pleasant experience than the mall culture predominantly seen in North America.

I stayed at a hostel close to the train station (there are plenty of options) and walked to the pedestrian zone at night for a pint over dinner. It was foggy and cold, but quite lively nevertheless!

Things to do

↑ A market plaza with the statue of Absalon facing the Christiansborg Palace in the background. This building is the seat of the Danish Parliament, Prime Minister’s Office, Denmark’s Supreme Court and other Royal sections.

At the train station, I stopped by a tourist information kiosk and picked up a free map of the city. This tourism map is available at the airport near the ticket offices, at the train station, hotels, and also at the pedestrian section of the city.

The map recommended a walking tour which was perfect for the amount of time I had. You can do the walking tour in 2 hours, or 4 hours or 8, depending on how far you go and what you do (e.g. a canal tour, or sit in a cafe, eat, etc.)

The fastest and most flexible way of seeing Copenhagen is on a bike. My hostel had few bikes guests could use, and I also found numerous city bikes stations from where you could rent a cycle for few hours.

↑ Cyclists in dedicated bike lane. Forty percent of Copenhageners use their bike everyday and the city has been designed to cater for cyclists with separate bicycle lanes on most larger roads.

↑ Bike parking at Nørreport, a major subway station. I hope one day we will have this level of sophistication in Toronto, and elsewhere North America – at least during the non-peak winter months.

↑ Dog-themed (or is it a cat?) bike parking racks. Nice little touch of life to cold metal objects.

There are a number of tour companies that can arrange a custom tour. I simply used a map produced by VisitCopenhagen, the official tourist website, and it was easy enough to follow it.

↑ Walking along the canals at Ved Stranden

↑ Between these official-looking buildings, you’ll spot apartments, offices, bakeries, and even gay bars. Cph is one of the most progressive and liberal cities when it comes to LGBT rights.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very pleasant for my visit. Oh well, there’s always a next time. 🙂

↑ Street signs

↑ Historic red brick buildings

↑ The pedestrian-only path crisscrosses through larger streets

After a thoroughly satisfying evening, night and morning in the city, I wanted to stay longer. Hope to visit another time, Copenhagen! Farvel, ses senere!

↑ Thus concluded my pleasant visit to Copenhagen. A train back to Copenhagen airport.

Do you have any more tips or other experiences? Go ahead, let me know in your comments below.

Denmark travelogue | Read other chapters – See photo gallery