Family Vacations to Copenhagen, Denmark

Family Overview - Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen, a landscape of picturesque homes and old wooden ships along with cafes, pubs, and restaurants. (courtesy, Wonderful Copenhagen)

Copenhagen Highlights

  • Bicycle through the city.
  • Pay homage to The Little Mermaid statue.
  • Get twirled and tossed on Tivoli Gardens' rides.
  • Ogle the crown jewels at Rosenborg Castle.
  • Shop for trendy Danish-designed items.

Despite being Denmark's largest city, Copenhagen ranks as one of Scandinavia's most family-friendly capitals, and is an incredibly manageable city. Stroll the parks, visit castles, discover world-class art, and bike past historic sites.

As in many other Scandinavian cities, bicycles rule as a preferred means of transportation in Copenhagen. Rent your own or roll through town on a free city bike during summer—the ones with ads painted on their wheels. Place 20 Danish kroner in the bike locker, pedal around town (not outside of it), and return your bike to any city rack to get your coin back. City bikes are such a part of Copenhagen's culture that when President Bill Clinton visited in 1997 he received a bicycle as a gift.

Another city icon: The Little Mermaid. Yes, she's the same one the Disney movie turned into a mega-star. But the bronze statue perched on a rock at the harbor's edge since 1913 gained fame long before her film debut. She first appeared in an 1836 Hans Christian Andersen tale. Later, an admirer of a ballet based on her story commissioned the statue. Ever since then, The Little Mermaid has been symbolic for the city.

Tivoli Gardens, established in 1843, is another popular attraction. Time your visit for late-afternoon or evening, when Tivoli literally twinkles with lights. Enjoy the rides, dinner, the flower-covered grounds, and, perhaps, a concert. Rock 'n' Roll rages on Friday nights in summer (check the schedule). Warn 'tweens and teens accustomed to hi-tech, gut-wrenching Disney and Universal Studios rides that Tivoli isn't that kind of park. The new Star Flyer—touted as the world's tallest carousel—does cause gasps as it spins the willing 262.5 feet in the air. Dragon boats, antique cars, a Ferris wheel, and other rides cater to young kids. Stay for the fireworks displays on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights (

What's a European city without a castle? Copenhagen has three. The Dutch Renaissance style Rosenborg Slot (, built in 1606 and set in Kongens Have (The King's Gardens), looks like a fairy-tale palace. The structure is under renovation until April 2008, but before then you can visit the temporary exhibitions and the treasury—home to the crown jewels, a dazzling collection of crowns, swords, and gems. Kongens Have features a children's playground and hosts concerts during the summer. Amalienborg, the residence of the Danish royal family, consists of four palaces surrounding a square. The Amalienborg Museet (Museum) houses more of the Royal Collection of gifts and treasures. The fortress-like Kronborg Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands watch by the sea in Helsingør, 28 miles north of Copenhagen. Legend has it that Shakespeare modeled his fictional Elsinore, Hamlet's castle, after Kronborg.

With teens who like to shop, browse Strøget, the pedestrian street, Købmagergade, and other avenues for sleek Danish-designed items from tableware to trendy clothing. Among names to look for: Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, Georg Jensen Silver, Georg Jensen Damask (for table linens), and Holmegaard for glassware. For one-stop shopping, head to Illums Bolighus, a department store. The Fisketorvet Shopping Center lures teens with clothing stores as well as Bang & Olufsen, top-end television and sound equipment.

Tip: Check out Copenhagen's many summer and fall festivals.

For more information:'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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