The word ‘wonderful’ is paired up with the Danish capital for a reason, says Katherine Price; it makes for a wonderful family city break
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Claus Randrup
A magical city of canals, cobbled streets and fairytales; the home of Hans Christian Anderson and Lego – how could it not be family-friendly?
What to do
One of the oldest theme parks in the world, if Tivoli seems familiar there may be good reason – Walt Disney visited Tivoli on several occasions and based his own on the 19th century pleasure park. And what’s more, it’s thoroughly tot-friendly.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Ty Stange
From Viking ship merry-go-rounds and a ferris wheel to dragon boats and an old-fashioned carousel, it has all the usuals you’d expect. But in fact two-thirds of the rides are suitable for younger children – and there’s even a drop ride scaled for toddlers.
If you want to make the most of Tivoli, get there early. Weekday mornings are your best bet – weekends can be rammed and especially Friday and Saturday nights when the park often plays host to concerts and performances that would be far too loud and busy for sensitive little ears. And what’s more, there are more than two dozen restaurants ranging in theme and price to suit all little tummies (and budgets).
The extensive Copenhagen botanical gardens are a beautiful way to while away a few hours on a sunny day, and children will love wandering through the indoor rainforests in the palm house.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Christian Lindgren
The Frederiksborg gardens are just one of the palace gardens in the city, a huge winding park where you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll find around the next corner.
For example, the Frederiksborg gardens and Copenhagen Zoo intersect at the elephant enclosure – shh, don’t tell the tots, just watch for the look on their faces when they round the corner and see elephants in the middle of the park! It has 260 species from across the globe and a Children’s Zoo where they can meet rabbits, pygmy goats and even snakes.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Henrik Sørensen
Where to sleep
If you’re keen to get to Tivoli before the crowds, then there’s no better place to start and end your day than at Tivoli Hotel. Just behind the amusement park with wonderful views over the city. There’s a circus-themed playroom, a pool and an outdoor playground on the second floor.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Tivoli Hotel
Alternatively, only two stops north of the city centre are the luxurious home-from-home Charlottehaven apartments. And if you’re travelling with tots in tow, then they’ll throw in toys and high chairs as well. There’s even an enclosed playground with a wooden dragon.
Where to eat
What better way to start the day than with a hot tub of porridge? Grød will hit the spot – it serves porridge, and only porridge, but in so many wonderful varieties with a huge menu of different toppings and additions. Our favourite is the porridge topped with vanilla-apple compote, thick and creamy Icelandic-style yoghurt, liquorice sugar and almonds. Yum!
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Sofie Amalie Klougart
Hunger tantrum coming on, sore feet and everyone wants something different to eat? And that’s not even mentioning the children... We’ve got you covered. Papirøen, or ‘paper island’, is an island street food market just across the water from Nyhavn and the Royal Danish Theatre.
With benches in the food hall amindst the hustle and bustle and deck chairs outside overlooking the city’s waterfront, you’ll never struggle for sitting space, and it’s a great place to chill and recoup.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Maja Tini Jensen
Whether you want to try some traditional Danish open sandwiches (Smørrebrød) or you just need to fill tummies with some fish and chips, it’s got everything. And what’s more it’s all local produce and made from scratch, with a focus on sustainability and authenticity.
There’s even the Experimentarium hands-on science and technology museum right next door – perfect for older tots.
Photo: copenhagenmediacenter.com/Christian Alsing
If you’ve got a few extra days, take a day trip to the coastal city of Roskilde. An old Viking port and site of several Viking ship excavations, it’s a dream for any kiddies who live Vikings and boats (who are we kidding, which tot doesn’t?).
The Viking ship museum itself has two ships the children can board, play about in and there's Viking fancy dress provided. Outside in the ‘living museum’ boatyard, they can observe the workers reconstructing Viking ships using old techniques and tools, and in the right season even set sail onto the Roskilde Fjord and become a member of the crew.
Got an overexcited tot who won’t sit still? The National Gallery is there for you. It’s got art exhibitions designed especially for children and workshops to keep sticky fingers busy with paint, pencils and clay, and every first Sunday of the month focuses on activities for children.
Past exhibitions include a giant mattress for children to ‘experience art with their body’ – we don’t know about ‘experience’ but sounds like a great way to wear them out at the end of the day!