14 Top-Rated Day Trips from Copenhagen
With all the tourist attractions in Copenhagen, you won't have trouble finding things to do in this exciting Nordic city. But plenty of interesting places are also within easy day-trip distance. You'll find tours offered to many of these, or you can use Denmark's excellent public transportation network to visit them. Some, like the lovely fishing town of Dragør, are an easy bicycle ride away. Denmark has some outstanding castles that you can reach from Copenhagen, the most famous of which is Kronborg Castle, the setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet. A new maritime museum and a world-class collection of modern art are nearby. Often included in a day tour to Kronborg Castle is Frederiksborg Castle, set in stunning gardens. Or you can cross the remarkable Oresund Bridge to Sweden to visit the exciting city of Malmö. Use this handy list to plan your day trips from Copenhagen.
1 Kronborg Castle (Kronborg Slot)
The castle that Shakespeare called Elsinore and used as the home of his fictional character Hamlet, has stood above the water at the head of the Øresund Sound in Helsingør since 1420. This was once one of the most important towns in Europe, controlling access to the Baltic and collecting tolls from passing ships. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Kronborg Castle you see today was rebuilt in 1640 after a fire in 1629. The Castle Chapel survived the fire, and its Renaissance interior and German woodcarvings remain intact. Tapestries in the West Wing and the Knights' Hall are the other main highlights. Various guided tours explore the castle's history, including the crypts deep beneath it.
Each summer, you can see performances of Hamlet at the annual Shakespeare Festival at Kronborg Castle. Helsingør is a 45-minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Station, or you can join a day tour from Copenhagen that usually includes nearby Frederiksborg Palace.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Helsingør
2 Frederiksborg Castle
Set in beautiful Baroque gardens and reflected in the lake that surrounds it, the Dutch Renaissance-style Frederiksborg Palace was built in the early 1600s by King Christian IV. A fire in 1859 destroyed much of the original, but it was rebuilt in its former style. The palace chapel survived the fire intact, and much of the rest of the palace is devoted to the Museum of National History, with exhibits on the history of the castle and of Denmark, along with a sizeable art collection that includes historical paintings, portraits, and modern art. The palace occupies three small islands, and all around the castle is the Palace Garden, a romantic landscaped garden that has been re-created from the original 1725 plans and drawings. In it is the Badstueslot, the small Bath House Palace built in the time of King Frederik II, and a summer café. Day tours from Copenhagen often combine a visit to Frederiksborg Palace with Kronborg Castle.
Address: Møntportvejen 10, Hillerød
3 Viking Ship Museum and Roskilde Cathedral
Five viking ships that were recovered from underwater are the focus of the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, spectacularly displayed in a hall that was built to showcase them against a full view across Roskilde Harbor and the fjord. Exhibits tell the fascinating history of these ships and their recovery and preservation, and throughout the several buildings that make up the museum, you'll learn more about these ships and the Nordic maritime experience in the prehistoric and medieval eras. As fascinating as the ships themselves is the shipyard, where you can watch the building of reproduction Viking ships and other traditional Nordic wooden ships. You can take a cruise of Roskilde Fjord on one of these from May through September. Other boats in the museum's collection include Nordic wooden boats from throughout Scandinavia. The museum includes a studio where adults and children can learn handcrafts of the Viking age.
While in Roskilde, visit the beautiful Roskilde Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The present brick church, begun in the 1170s and completed a century later, is one of the earliest examples of Gothic architecture in Northern Europe. Inside the medieval cathedral are buried Viking kings Harald Bluetooth and his son Sweyn Forkbeard and more than 35 kings and queens of Denmark. Roskilde is a 30-minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Train Station, and both the cathedral and Viking Ship Museum are often included in full-day tours of attractions around Copenhagen.
Without question one of the prettiest villages in Denmark, the fishing town of Dragør is the perfect destination for a 12-kilometer bike ride across the Amager Fælled moorland and along the coast. Once there, explore streets lined with small thatched cottages and visit the museum at the picturesque harbor. You can also tour a local farmhouse to learn about local life and traditions of this town settled by Dutch farmers, who were invited here to grow vegetables for the king's household. Dragør also has a strong fishing history. In the summer, art and music festivals are held here, and you'll often find open-air markets as well. Bring a picnic to enjoy overlooking the water or stop at one of the several cafés and restaurants at the harbor. You can also reach Dragør by bus from the city center.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dragør
It's an easy day trip from Copenhagen to the Swedish city of Malmö, across the spectacular Øresund Bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden. You can learn about Malmö's history on a scenic canal cruise; enjoy the lively atmosphere of Stora Torget; and browse in the boutiques on Lilla Torget, which is filled with outdoor cafés in the summer.
In Malmöhus Castle, Scandinavia's oldest preserved Renaissance castle, you can find exhibits on history and technology at the Malmö Museums or tour a submarine. Stop for a snack or lunch at the café in the adjacent Slottsparken, where there are brilliant gardens. For something more contemporary, visit the Moderna Museet Malmö and be sure not to miss architect Santiago Calatrava's spectacular Turning Torso building, 190 meters high with a 90-degree twist from base to top.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Malmo
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- 11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Malmo
6 Egeskov Castle
Among Europe's finest Renaissance palaces, Egeskov is also one of the best preserved moated castles, with the moat formed by a lake that surrounds the castle and gardens. The present house was completed in 1554, and in its furnished rooms and exhibit areas you can see fine period furnishings and art; a collection of historic toys; and the remarkable Titania's Palace, a sumptuous doll house filled with 3,000 miniature pieces of hand-crafted furniture and small art works from around the world. The gardens in the surrounding park are no less impressive, with formal gardens that include two mazes and hedges nearly 300 years old. More exhibits are in the castle's farm buildings, and in a museum of vintage cars. For children there is a Play Forest, with a 100-meter Tree Top Walk suspended 15 meters above the ground.
7 The Cliffs of Møn (Møns Klint)
Off the coast of Zealand, south of Copenhagen, are a set of islands that the Danish call their South Sea Islands. One of these, Møn, ends at Denmark's highest cliffs, a 300-foot drop above the Baltic Sea. Møns Klint are all the more spectacular for being formed of white chalk, and the surrounding protected area is habitat for unique flora and fauna, including 18 species of wild orchid. Fanefjord Church, close to the neighboring island of Bogø, is known for its chalk wall paintings.
On the way there, south of Køge, make a detour to Stevns Klint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site listed for its geological significance. The 15 kilometer-long coastal cliff shows exceptional evidence of the impact of a meteorite that crashed to earth about 65 million years ago near Mexico. This cataclysmic event caused the extinction of about half of life on earth, and Stevns Klint preserves a record of the ash cloud created by the impact, as well as a complete fossil record showing the succession of fauna throughout the recovery from the mass extinction.
8 Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Not far from Helsingør, in Humlebæk, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art holds a collection of major works by some of the greatest names in modern art: Jean Dubuffet, Max Ernst, Francis Bacon, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and more. Several major exhibitions each year feature their works and those of new and emerging modern artists.
Address: Gammel Strandvej 13, Humlebæk
The largest of Denmark's "South Sea Islands" is the pancake-flat island of Lolland, in the busy waters between southern Denmark and Germany and about a 90-minute drive from Copenhagen. A number of top attractions make a tour around Lolland worthwhile. Along with its historic churches are the beautiful dune-backed beaches from Maglehøj Strand to Drummeholm. The popular Knuthenborg Safari Park, Scandinavia's largest manor-house park, has more than 900 resident animals, including antelope, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, elephants, and tigers. The town of Maribo is popular for its beautiful setting by Sønder Lake, and in nearby Hunseby is a 12th-century church with a Romanesque interior and a Gothic tower. Alholm features a 12th-century castle that now houses a vintage car museum.
10 Maritime Museum of Denmark
This unique underground museum, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group architects, makes dramatic use of the former dry dock not far from Kronborg Castle in Helsingør. Exhibits in this innovative museum space tell the story of Danish shipbuilding and illustrate the country's rich maritime history. Along with static exhibits are large video projections that take full advantage of the museum's unique architecture.
Address: Ny Kronborgvej 1, 3000 Helsingør
11 Den Blå Planet (National Aquarium)
Northern Europe's largest aquarium, Den Blå Planet - The Blue Planet - is surrounded by water, increasing the feeling visitors have of being in the sea. The 50 aquariums and exhibit areas, which are divided into several wings patterned after a vortex, can be viewed from above or from water level. The most colorful is the Coral Reef, where brilliant tropical fish swim in a garden of coral shapes and colors. Amazonas creates an entire ecosystem, not just the underwater life, with tropical forest inhabited by bright butterflies and birds. The largest is the Ocean Tank, four million liters of seawater alive with hammerhead sharks, moray eels, and other ocean creatures. Den Blå Planet is near the Danish end of the Øresund Bridge, within walking distance of the Kastrup Metro station, a 12-minute ride from Copenhagen's Kongens Nytorv station.
Address: Jacob Fortlingsvej 1, Kastrup
12 Lyngby Open-Air Museum (Frilandsmuseet)
A little more than 15 kilometers from Copenhagen is the Open-Air Museum, part of the Danish National Museum, and a must-see for many visitors. Nestling amid 35 hectares are farmhouses, dwellings, and mills from all parts of Denmark and some from the Faroes. Each building is furnished with old fittings and utensils. Particular treats are the ancient breeds of domestic animals in the fields and beautiful historic gardens. You'll also find atmospheric old houses from Schleswig-Holstein and Sweden as well as beautiful picnic sites. Exploring the site in a horse-drawn carriage is an unforgettable experience.
Address: Lyngby, Kongevejen 100, Copenhagen
13 Nykøbing, Falster
From Lolland, a ninety-minute drive from Copenhagen, the Frederik IX Bridge traverses Guldborg Sound to Nykøbing, the largest town on the island of Falster. Towards the end of the 12th century, a fortress was built on a peninsula in Guldborg Sound to defend against an attack by the Wends. Later, it became Nykøbing Castle. The town evolved around the castle, although the ruins of a tower are all that remain of the castle today. Nykøbing is now home to a marina and several tourist attractions. Highlights include the Czar's House, dating from the 1690s; the Middle Ages Center (Middelaldercentret), a living history museum; a small zoo; the City Museum (Bymuseet); and Ejegod Windmill, which displays antique toys.
14 Church of Our Lady, Kalundborg
A little more than an hour's drive from Copenhagen lies the town of Kalundborg with its famous five-towered Church of Our Lady (Vor Frue Kirke). Built around 1170, the church echoes the form of a Greek cross with four arms stretching out from its center. Its walls stand on a granite base, and five towers rise high above - an octagonal one on each arm of the cross and a 41-meter-high square tower in the center. Pointed spires cap the towers, four of which are named: St. Gertrude, St. Catherine, St. Anne, and St. Magdalene.
The interior is impressive. Highlights are the sunken semi-circular columns, the Baroque-style altar-piece (1650), and the granite font adorned with palm motifs, which dates from the 12th century.
Other tourist attractions in Kalundborg include the medieval Old Town and the Kalundborg Museum with period costumes and Viking artifacts.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Kalundborg