One of the things I get asked about a lot are options for day trips for people who have a bit more time to spend in Copenhagen. There are several easy options within one hour of the city, where you can discover castles, explore Viking history, and even head across the border to Sweden! If you have a Copenhagen Card, some of these attractions, including transportation, are included. Here’s my best advice for exploring outside the capital.
The scenic fishing town of Helsingør is my top pick for a Copenhagen day trip. The centrepiece of Helsingør (also known as Elsinore) is Kronborg Castle, on which Shakespeare based Hamlet’s castle. Kronborg sits right on the coast, and in fact started its life as a military stronghold used to collect tolls from foreign ships passing through the Øresund straight, which is how Denmark amassed a lot of its wealth. It was later given an extensive makeover into its current Renaissance style, with highlights including a sweeping banquet hall, ancient tapestries, and a statue of the sleeping Viking Holger Dansk in the casemates below the castle. Hamlet is performed at the castle during the summer months. The little town itself is quite charming and a nice place to have some lunch. If you have the time, you can even take the ferry across the Øresund to Helsingborg, Sweden, in only about 20 minutes.
Getting there: Take the Regional Train from Copenhagen Central Station towards Helsingør – the trip takes about 30-40 minutes.
If you’re interested in Vikings and want to experience more than the exhibit at the National Museum in Copenhagen, head to Roskilde and visit the dedicated Viking Ship Museum. You can even take a sail in a replica Viking ship for an additional fee. Another great spot for history buffs is the 12th-Century Gothic Roskilde Cathedral, burial place of the former monarchs of Denmark. The cathedral is huge, and the crypts elaborate, and you can spend a couple of hours exploring. Roskilde has a nice little main street where you can get a relaxing lunch or coffee.
Getting there: Take the Regional Train west from Copenhagen Central Station To Roskilde Station – the trip takes about 30-40 minutes.
Frederiksborg Castle is everything you would imagine a fairy tale castle to be; it’s stunningly beautiful, and is set on a lake, with its own sweeping gardens. It’s also The Museum of National History. From the incredible fountain at the entrance to the massive chapel, and the ornate Royal bedroom, this trip is the best choice for people who really want to explore every nook and cranny and absorb some history as well. The gardens are well worth a wander, and provide a great vantage point for exterior photos of the castle. You can also take the small ferry boat around the lake for a minimal fee. Hillerød’s nearby Slotsgade pedestrian street is quite charming, with some nice cafés, including Café Valentin for lunch, or Kaffebar Norman Blichtfeldt for a coffee break.
Getting there: Take the S-Train (commuter train), Line A towards Hillerød, all the way to the end. It’s a 45 minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Station, followed by a 10-to-20 minute walk from Hillerød Station to the Castle.
For something a bit closer to the city, you can head to Klampenborg and visit Dyrehavsbakken. It’s a unique area, where the nature reserve of Dyrehaven adjoins Bakken, the oldest theme park in the world. Dyrehaven was once a Royal hunting ground, but today is a protected home to hundreds of wild deer. Four types of deer live in the park, and a stroll through this huge natural area almost always guarantees several sights, often of hundreds of deer at once. There’s also a castle in the park, the Hermitage, and you can ride bikes or even horses. Bakken theme park dates all the way back to the 1500s and has the usual variety of rides, games, and restaurants. There is no entry fee, and it’s incredibly kid-friendly.
Getting there: Take the S-Train (commuter train), Line C towards Klampenborg, all the way to the end. It’s a 20 minute train ride from Copenhagen Central Station. The entrance to Dyrehaven is a 5-minute walk from the station, and Bakken is about 10 more minutes within the park.
If you want to check another country off your Bucket List, it’s incredibly easy to do by heading across the Øresund Bridge to Sweden. Malmö is quite a big city, but not as scenic or tourist-friendly as Copenhagen. However, its main pedestrian street is quite nice, with a beautiful City Hall and historic squares. The shopping here is also quite good, and cheaper than in Denmark. One stop further along is Lund, a small and charming university town with some very old, very photogenic buildings. There’s also a living museum, an indoor food market, and a Botanic Garden.
Getting there: Take the Øresund regional train towards the airport/Sweden to Malmö Central Station, which takes about 30-40 minutes. Keep in mind that due to new travel restrictions, you should bring your passport in case of border checks or you may be turned away. The historic centre of Malmö is about a 10-minute walk from the station. To reach Lund, continue on one stop from Malmö Central.