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9 Days in Copenhagen with kids: Rick Steves Denmark or Scandinavia?

We will be traveling with our three kids (12, 10, 7 y/o) to Copenhagen the last week of May for about 9 days. We had intended to stay in and around Copenhagen the entire time but I'm beginning to wonder if we are going to regret going all that way and not squeezing in a few more destinations in Scandinavia? We like to travel on a budget and our kids are pretty good at going with the flow and long journeys by rail, etc., so we're open to a night train or other options that might save money short of getting multiple hotels (we were originally planning an Airbnb just outside of Copenhagen for the entire time). Before we delve deeper into fine-tuning our itinerary, I'd love to hear thoughts on whether spending all that time in Copenhagen with only a day trip or two added in is going to be overkill in Copenhagen and whether we should be planning to add in other Scandinavian destinations to make the most of our trip---in other words, should I be ordering Rick Steves Denmark or Rick Steves Scandinavia on Amazon in order to most effectively plan?

Any advice appreciated. Thanks!!

Posted by
971 posts

9 days might be a bit too much for Copenhagen and nearby day trips. Copenhagen should occupy you for 3-4 days depending on your interests. The most popular day trips are Roskilde with it's cathedral and Viking Ship Museum (great for kids!), Helsingør with Kronborg Castle (famous from Hamlet) a nice old town and an award winning Maritime Museum, and Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød.
You can check out travel times and schedules for all public transport in Denmark on www.rejseplanen.dk
I you feel that you have 2-3 days to spare, there are plenty of possibilities in the rest of Denmark or in Scandinavia. The kids might like Legoland near Billund in Jutland or you could take the overnight ferry to Oslo or the train or fly to Stockholm for more city experiences. In the end it is up to you and your interests. If you can elaborate on what you and your kids are into, I could come with more suggestions.

Posted by
3320 posts

About guidebooks......

Make sure you don't just limit yourself to a Rick Steves guidebook. I have received some great ideas from his books, but they are not comprehensive. Rick picks what he likes (or what the actual author likes) and focuses on just those things. You get in depth info about some very interesting places.

I have found that I have other interests as well and having 2-3 guidebooks to look through in travel planning is helpful. This need not be expensive. Check out your local library and the book section at thrift stores. Older guidebooks can be great to give ideas or general information. Just be sure to follow up anything that really catches your interest with current research via the Internet.

Posted by
11259 posts

I agree with both Morten and Carol. Copenhagen is nice, but it's not a London or Paris or Berlin, large and stuffed with many days of top-tier sights. Even doing all the popular day trips (Roskilde, Louisiana Museum, Frederiksborg Castle, Helsingør), 5-6 nights will allow you to see the sights at a relaxed pace. And you should always supplement Rick's books with other ones. Rick's books are deliberately selective - he goes into great detail about what he covers, and deliberately omits everything else. This is both a strength and a weakness, so it's good to see what less selective (but also less detailed) guides have to say.

One handy feature of Rick's website is direct guidebook comparison. If you go to a guidebook's page in Rick's Shop Online, you'll see "Is This The Right Guidebook For Me?" If you do that for Rick Steves Snapshot: Copenhagen & the Best of Denmark, you'll see that it is an excerpt from the Rick Steves Scandinavia guide, with nothing added or removed. Thus, if you order Rick Steves Scandinavia and end up going only to Denmark, you won't lose any information compared with getting his Snapshot: Denmark guide.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks! That's all very helpful. It sounds like we should definitely be exploring what else we could see for at least a weekend trip or a few days in the middle. As for interests, we love culture and art museums (my husband & I more so than the kids . . . (-;) & outdoor adventures--we do a lot of hiking, skiing, & mountain biking here at home in Salt Lake City---& always like quirky/artsy/unusual destinations--and of course the kids always love a pool, beach, or amusement park (we'll obviously do Tivoli (-;) if they can get one! And the Rick Steves advice is great. We've used his books on the Mediterranean & Paris and thought they were helpful & comprehensive for do-it-yourselfers like us but I've also always gotten books from the library & supplemented w/internet research to add in anything that might appeal to us particularly. Thanks so much for the helpful advice & info!!

Posted by
21 posts

There are lots of fun family activities in Denmark outside of Copenhagen. My family (kids 3 and 6) spent nine nights in Denmark last August and had a great time. We stayed the first four nights in Odense, which we used as a base for day trips to Legoland in Billund and Egeskov Castle (not covered in Rick's guidebook). We also spent one day sightseeing in Odense, including a visit to the Danish Railway Museum. We didn't have time to see everything we wanted to in Odense, and I think two full days would have been better.

We rented a car when we landed in Copenhagen and drove straight to Odense (you can also fly into Billund). We stopped at Roskilde after leaving Odense and returned our car in Copenhagen. We rented apartments in both Odense and Copenhagen, and the one in Odense was a little less than half as expensive per night (and included parking).

Rick's guidebook covers Copenhagen well, but there are a lot of great playgrounds and things of that nature he just doesn't mention. We spent several hours at Amager Strandpark (beach), which is a short walk from the aquarium in Copenhagen. Other than Tivoli, the time at Amager was our kids' favorite part of Copenhagen.

We used the Lonely Planet Denmark guidebook as a supplement to Rick's guidebook. It has much better coverage outside of Copenhagen.

Posted by
103 posts

You could take the train to Stockholm for a few days.
Or you can take the overnight ferry to Oslo. It leaves Copenhagen at 4:30 in the afternoon and arrives the next morning at around 9:30 in Oslo. Then you could spend a few days in Norway.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for the replies and helpful info. We are leaning towards splitting our time between Copenhagen and Stockholm and surrounding areas. I think it would probably be too much to try to get all the way over to Norway and squeeze in the Norway in a nutshell, but I'm curious if anyone has strong opinions on heading to Norway and spending a couple days exploring the fjiords vs. going up to Stockholm and checking it and the areas around there out. We love the city stuff and outdoors stuff, although with kids the museums, eating, etc. in a big city gets expensive quickly, so that may be one consideration suggesting Norway might be a good option. We could always save Norway for a Baltic cruise another time when we could do the whole area justice, including Helsinki, Tallin, etc. I'd love to hear if anyone has strong opinions in favor of one or the other (Stockholm v. Norway coast). Thanks!! I'm realizing now that if we had a brain we would've flown into Copenhagen and out of Oslo or Stockholm but changing our tickets now will cost as much as the ticket price itself, so we're pretty much stuck with the logistics of getting back and forth from Copenhagen. We're currently thinking train to Stockholm Sunday, then night train back from Stockholm to Denmark arriving Thursday morning (the day we fly out . . .); we'll be in Copenhagen the preceding Wednesday to Sunday (May 23-27).

Posted by
971 posts

Both Stockholm and Norway with Norway in a nutshell are possible, it's just a matter of choice. With Norway you will get a taste of the outdoor experience, the norwegian fjords are superb in terms of scenery and you won't find anything comparable in the rest of Scandinavia. Oslo has fewer things to see than the rest of the Scandinavian capitals in my opinion, but a trip to Bygdoy museum island would be worth it with the kids. There is a viking ship museum (the ones in Oslo a re better preserved than the ones in Roskilde, but the museum in Roskilde is much better for kids), an open air museum and museums dedicated to arctic exploration and one about Thor Heyerdahls Kontiki expedition. There are cheap flights between Copenhagen and Oslo or Bergen and also the overnight ferry between Copenhagen and Oslo.
Stockholm will give you another city experience, where you could throw in a boat trip to the archipelago. Stockholm is a beautiful city on the water. Be sure to visit the Vasa Ship Museum, It is awesome and great for kids and adults alike. Both flights between Copenhagen and Stockholm and train tickets are cheap if bought in advance. If you decide to train back to Copenhagen for your return flight home, notice that the train stops at Copenhagen Airport on it's way to Copenhagen, so you could time your train journey with your flight instead of going into Copenhagen and back again.

Posted by
11259 posts

"We love the city stuff and outdoors stuff, although with kids the museums, eating, etc. in a big city gets expensive quickly, so that may be one consideration suggesting Norway might be a good option."

Norway is actually notably more expensive than Sweden, which in turn is more expensive than Denmark. So, don't go to Norway to save money!

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks, good to know on both fronts! I had been looking at a night train from Stockholm back to Malmo to quickly check it out before heading to the airport, but it may make more sense to go straight to the airport. I will investigate squeezing in Norway in a nutshell as well as Stockholm & Copenhagen. I had heard the same thing about Oslo, which was why we were leaning towards leaving Norway out this time, but I'll investigate itineraries with all three. Thanks for the good recommendations!!