We’re back! We just spent ten days on our first big family trip across the Atlantic. We were in Copenhagen, Denmark for five days and Bergen, Norway for four days (with an extra day split up for travel), but I’m going to focus on Copenhagen for this post.
Our Copenhagen itinerary was planned by the Copenhagen Tourism Board so we had real insider knowledge of what to do there, especially the activities geared towards families with young kids.
I can say with certainty that if we hadn’t been invited, it never would have occurred to Mike and me to take our kids to Copenhagen, especially at this young age. But the trip was FABULOUS (as you probably saw if you’ve been following me on Instagram and Snapchat) and now I will totally recommend it to parents who want to test the sightseeing waters with their kids.
The best thing about this trip is that it totally reminded me how much I love traveling. I’ve always enjoyed touring a city more than sitting on a beach, but I figured beach resorts were more practical with little kids. This Copenhagen trip really opened my eyes to what is possible now that Mazzy and Harlow aren’t babies anymore. I feel like I got one of my favorite hobbies back!
Copenhagen was the perfect spot for our first international vacation for a number of reasons.
1) Copenhagen is really family-friendly, with tons of things for kids to do. Even if the attraction seemed more geared to adults, there was usually something extra to make it fun for children.
2) This is not a huge tourist destination like Paris or Venice, so there was never any waiting on lines or struggling to find a spot to see the view.
3) The daylight hours in Copenhagen during the summer go until 10pm so adjusting to the time difference wasn’t a big issue. We simply went to bed later and got up in the morning later, without feeling like we missed the day. Actually, I think the long daylight hours made the whole experience much more relaxed. We never felt rushed to get somewhere before it closed and the days seemed to stretch on as long we needed them to; like time was always on our side.
4) There is no language barrier. I don’t think we encountered a single person who didn’t speak perfect english.
5) Food is pretty similar to the US and most restaurants had kid-friendly options that included pizza, pasta, chicken fingers and burgers.
6) All the taxies have built in booster seats that pop up after you unzip a portion of the backseat. They also all carry around various carseats in their trunks for smaller kids and seem to take kid car safety pretty seriously.
Below is a detailed itinerary of our entire five day trip, which you could follow to the letter and be very happy. It’s really long because I really wanted it to useful for families planning a trip. We crammed a lot in there though, so please don’t feel the pressure to do everything!
When we landed at around 11am, we drove straight from the airport to Kokkedal Castle, about an hour outside of Copenhagen. Spending a night at a castle was one of things we used to get the girls excited about the trip.
After getting settled, we had lunch at the castle and explored the hotel and the grounds.
We took a car to Frederiksborg Castle, where we got a guided tour.
The church, the ball room, the baroque garden and a long hallway which people would walk down (bowing three times along the way) to see the King were all stand outs.
That is, until we ended in the basement which was set-up for the best pretend play experience ever. They had numerous replicas of princess dresses and royal outfits seen in the art work around the castle hanging around the room. Mazzy and Harlow were allowed to try on anything they wanted.
These were very ornate costumes and the girls could not believe they were allowed to touch them, much less put them on. I couldn’t really believe it either.
At night, we went to the Rungsted Harbor for dinner, which was lined with sailboats and lots of modern restaurant choices. Mike had his heart set on the sushi place but it was booked so we ate at Club Riva instead, which probably worked out much better for the kids.
After breakfast at the castle (which we pretty much missed because we slept late), we drove to the Louisiana Museum of Art in Humblebaek, which might have been my favorite thing on our entire trip.
If there is anything that can show you how much the Danish value children and their experiences, it’s the multi-level kids’ space with three floors of art projects in different mediums that will interest kids at all levels.
All the projects and the decor is themed with the current artist on exhibit, which in our case was Poul Gernes.
That meant colorful patterns and letters and flags. There was Lego building on the second floor and painting and clay sculpting downstairs.
We spent a ton of time moving from one project to the next.
The downstairs also had a big picture window looking out to the most beautiful green garden. In fact, art meeting nature was a major theme of the museum, with the lots of the gallery spaces eschewing white walls for windows.
Mazzy, Harlow, Mike and I explored the back gardens which had just enough overgrowth for the girls to call it “an adventure!”
We even found a huge slide built into a hill (unfortunately too muddy to slide down from a recent rainfall) and numerous paths in the woods sprinkled with fun discoveries like a tunnel created by a fallen tree.
On the opposite side of the museum, the grounds are a lot more manicured.
There is a big sculpture garden with tons of grass to runaround.
The best part is right off the museum cafe, when you first come outside and realize the whole museum is situated on a cliffside overlooking the water.
Mazzy and Harlow immediately spotted the large wooden pyramid across the way and ran down the hill to climb to the top before I could even get my camera out.
The Louisiana is about a half hour outside of Copenhagen but it is not to be missed. It is an incredibly special place.
After lunch in the museum, we headed to Deer Park for a horse and carriage ride. Mazzy was particularly excited about this.
Deer Park is what the Danish call a “peace park” which means the trees and grass grow unchecked without human intervention.
Since the park is very old, there are tons of fallen trees and branches left on the ground creating a very unique landscape and a home to lots of forest animals. We spotted several deer and a fox on our ride.
After Deer Park, we headed to the Scandic Hotel to check in, unpack and take a bit of a break. Our room was on the top floor and had a stunning view overlooking the lakes and much of the city.
For dinner, we walked to the meatpacking district which is a refurbished industrial complex with lots of restaurants spilling out into the parking lot with seating.
We went to a pizza place called Mother which had been recommended by more than one person. It did not disappoint.
The server even brought Mazzy and Harlow dough to make their own pizza while they waited.
Copenhagen is known for it’s bike culture with more than 50% of the city residents pedaling to work and around town. We had a guide from Cycling Copenhagen meet us at the hotel with bikes, one with a cart attached to the front for Mazzy and Harlow to ride in.
Our guide said it takes a little practice to maneuver the cart so he drove the girls around while Mike and I followed riding regular bikes. We rode along the lakes, down main streets and side streets, all which had clearly marked or separate lanes for bikes. Plus, you are always surrounded by other cyclists.
Our first stop was at a pastry place called Leckerbaer’s for cookies, cupcakes and coffee.
Leckerbaer’s is owned by a husband and wife team, who put together the most beautiful platter of goodies for us to sample. I mean, it was almost too pretty to eat.
And believe me, I tortured Mazzy and Harlow by taking millions of pictures before I allowed them to get their grubby little hands on them.
Most of the pastries are for more sophisticated pallets and I’m afraid the girls didn’t appreciate them nearly as much as Mike and me, but they did love the ice cream sandwiches, the chocolate cupcake and the black and white sandwich cookies. They also loved that they were allowed to indulge before lunch.
Next we road down to the Little Mermaid, a tribute to Danish born Hans Christian Anderson. It’s a very famous statue, but it’s small and not that exciting. Perfect to pass by on a bike or a boat but no need to make a special trip.
I did learn that Hans Christian Anderson was bisexual and the Little Mermaid was written about a man he loved but couldn’t have, which totally puts a new spin on Ariel and Eric’s courtship, but makes total sense.
After the Little Mermaid, we stopped at the Gefion fountain where I snapped a few photos while the girls made wishes and tossed coins in the water.
Mazzy wouldn’t tell me her wish (“Then it won’t come true!”, but Harlow was happy to oblige. She said, “I wish the summer house was painted” which is hilarious because it totally needs a new paint job and Mike and I have been agonizing over the right shade of gray.
Perhaps her wish will force us to make a decision. And then maybe she’ll honor us by sitting next to us in our family photo.
We also road through the Kastellet, a preserved fortress in the shape of a pentagram.
Then we stopped at the Amalienborg Castle, the home of the Danish royal family. We arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards, which Harlow insisted weren’t real people.
I would have loved take some photos of the girls there— the surrounding buildings and the cobblestone patterns on the ground would have looked EXCELLENT on Instagram, but the kids were cranky and one look at Mike told me to put the camera away and make sure we moved on to lunch in Nyhavn, the most famous and touristed canal in Copenhagen.
It has colorful houses and a long row of restaurants with sidewalk seating right on the water.
We ate at the Cap Horn which had pretty traditional fare of burgers and salads.
After lunch (can you believe we did all that before lunch?) we met our next guide in front of the large anchor, a popular meeting spot in Nyhavn. She took us a few blocks over to a sidewalk that has built in trampolines.
This is what I mean when I say Copenhagen is great for families. It is so great to break up sightseeing with kid-friendly activities that just happen to be on the way.
After we all jumped our hearts out (yes, me included), we walked through the city over to the Rosenberg Castle.
The castle is surrounded by the King’s Garden, which our guide described as the Central Park of Copenhagen. Hundreds of people lying out and picnicking on the lawn.
Mazzy and Harlow hadn’t quite gotten all their energy out on the trampolines so Sine took us to a beautiful playground within the garden, which had different wood obstacles, rope courses and sandboxes in four quadrants of a circle with a big silver egg in the center.
Not to mention the climbable wooden dragons.
After lounging with a cup of coffee while the girls ran around, we headed over to the Rosenberg to see the crown jewels. These particular crown jewels are the only collection in the world available for viewing by the public that a living queen still raids like her regular jewelry box.
After selecting which piece we would steal if given the opportunity, we walked over to Stroget, a large pedestrian walkway with tons of shopping. There is great shopping to be done in Copenhagen but we don’t find that to be an activity the kids have much patience for, so we bypassed most of it.
Instead, we headed to the Round Tower, a building similar to the Guggenheim in that instead of stairs, you get to the top using one long winding walkway. I was told they have unicyclist races up to the top and down every year.
By this point in the day, Harlow was exhausted and fell asleep on Mike’s shoulder.
Mazzy and I walked to the top on our own to check out the 360 degree of Copenhagen.
Once there, I tried my best to take a few “we got to the top!” selfies but Mazzy would barely crack a smile.
It’s okay, I like these better.
That night, we ended late and the kids were starving so we just took them to a random place on the way back to the hotel for a quick bite. I cannot tell you the name. Then we tried our best to get the kids to sleep all in one room with us. You know how that went.
Tivoli Gardens is like Copenhagen’s Disney World except much smaller and right in the city center. It is a magical place with tons of rides for big and little kids as well as an awesome playground called Rumpus Klump.
Every bit of Tivoli is an assault on the senses in the best way possible— from the giraffes on the old school carousel to the Hans Christian Anderson inspired fairy tale ride to the colorful wooden boats spinning around to drunken sailor music.
There were also tons of old school games, funhouse, rides like bumper cars and wack-a-mole.
I’ve always loved rides and it was so fun to go on stuff with Mazzy and see her experience them for the first time. Watching her face on her first real roller coaster was beyond amazing.
Harlow road her first ferris wheel and screamed, “I’m touching the sky!” every time we got to the top.
On the day we were there, they were performing the dress rehearsal of the Cinderella ballet at their main theater. The Queen herself had designed the sets and was there with all the sailors from her ship to watch the rehearsal. If you go, you should definitely check out the performance schedule.
Rumpus Klump could be an activity all on its own— probably one of the best playgrounds I have ever seen. In the center is a big sinking ship for the kids to climb on and lots of fun rope mazes with some serious climbing challenges.
There are also tons of food options along with lots of stalls for candy, ice cream and sweets. When given the option to pick one, Mazzy and Harlow selected a Slushie Sushi station which made the sweetest concoctions I have ever tasted.
The only bad part of the day was telling Mazzy it was time to leave. Harlow had definitely hit a wall by 5pm. A word of caution— there is a big Build-a-Bear right outside the park and Mazzy got doubly mad when I told her we would not be going inside. You might want to prep your kid for the “no” ahead of time.
That night, we had the tourism board arrange a sitter (but you can also do it through the concierge at the hotel) and Mike and I had our first kid-free evening. We went to Amass, which is known to be one of the best restaurants in Copenhagen and reserved a table way before our trip.
If you want to go to Noma, which is officially one of the top five restaurants in the world, there is a six month waiting list. Amass is from a Noma trained chef and the food was AMAZING. We got a nine course meal with everything fresh from their garden right next to the restaurant.
That night was the longest day of the year in Copenhagen, which the residents usually celebrate with bonfires all over the city. Unfortunately, there was a big downpour so all the bonfires were canceled, but definitely something to keep in mind if you visit the same time next year.
We started the day at the Copenhagen Zoo which was an easy ride from our hotel on the bus. The Zoo has all the usual suspects— monkeys, lions, elephants, giraffes, tigers, but seemingly much closer than I’ve seen elsewhere.
A few of the highlights were the areas where you could actually walk through the animal enclosures like with the goats and the kangeroos.
But the biggest standout is definitely the new polar bear exhibit where you can watch a polar bear swim underwater from inside a glass tunnel.
In addition to the animals, there are a lot of places to play, like a big playground shaped like a maze, a kid’s exploratory area where you can touch the furs, bones and skulls for each animal at the zoo and a place to pet the bunnies.
You can definitely spend the whole day here but since we had other things we wanted to see and do, we rushed through faster than we normally would.
After the zoo, we took a taxi back to Nyhavn where we boarded a boat tour of the canals. But not before Harlow put on a little show.
The canal tour is the one thing we did that probably wasn’t the best idea for the kids. It was hot and the boat tour is pretty long and slow, looking at mainly the architecture along the water. Awesome for adults to scope out the city, but not so great for antsy kids who probably should have eaten lunch already.
After the tour, we headed over to Paper Island for Copenhagen Street Food, which was one of my favorite spots on the trip.
It’s on the other side of the canal and definitely where all the cool people eat and drink. There’s a big warehouse full of all different cuisines (Indian, Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Korean, etc.) and a big outdoor space along the water with tons of tables and lounge chairs.
Mazzy got pizza, Harlow got pasta, Mike got sushi and I got Indian food at various vendors.
Then Mazzy spotted a swing hanging from a converted storage container and we sat there for a good long while eating and drinking, while Harlow napped in her stroller.
That night we got the sitter again and Mike and I went back to Tivoli Gardens to go to dinner at Kahler’s Design House.
I was a little skeptical of amusement park restaurants but the food at Kahler’s was delicious.
In fact, we ate one of the best desserts I have ever tasted— strawberries, white chocolate and cookie crumble finished with dry ice.
Tivoli is really magical at night so I was glad we came back and got to see it. The whole place lights up and we had fun strolling through the park after dark, especially since there happened to be a huge concert going on (Sarah Larsson) with about 33K people in attendance. Mike and I almost lost each other in that crowd!
Once we found each other, we got our second dessert of night. We couldn’t leave Copenhagen without our daily dose of ice cream.
Well, there you have it. That was Copenhagen. It was wonderful. The kids loved it. And I will seriously recommend it to any family contemplating an overseas trip.
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Please feel free to ask me any questions you have in the comments!
Our trip was sponsored by the Copenhagen Tourism Board and Norwegian Airlines but our love of the city (and the fact that I have been talking off everybody’s ear about it since) is as genuine as it gets.