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Copenhagen or Madrid; a city comparison and tourism travel guide

There is a buzz going about Copenhagen. The city’s always had fascinating tourist attractions and a welcoming people, but now the city is flourishing and the artisan scene is blossoming. Once deprived areas are being transformed into creative hubs, while trendy bars and independent business are springing up throughout the city.

Copenhagen is a dynamic city, which effortlessly excels at tourism. There is a public transport that actually works, a rich diversity of cultural attractions, along with a distractive, quirky character. It is no secret that Copenhagen is expensive, but borne from this is a growing street food movement, and an attitude to savour and enjoy.

About this guide: We understand that selecting a destination is challenging and sometimes overwhelming, especially when every web guide or travel book makes each city seems so incredible and memorable.

Choosing a destination is not just about the famed sights of the city, it is also the ambience of the city, the suitability of the weather and if it aligns with your passions and interests.

High-level summary

Summary
Which city would I go to? Copenhagen (really tough decision)
Which one would I recommend to my parents? Madrid
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Madrid (Copenhagen is too expensive for him!)
Which for my food obsessed friend? Madrid
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map). The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city. We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip.

Destination details

How long to spend in the city?

Copenhagen can be seen in two days of sightseeing, while a third day provides time for a slower pace (and flexibility to avoid rain) along with a chance to explore the artisan districts (Vesterbro, Latin Quarter and Nørrebro) in great depth. A popular day trip is to visit the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. It is very tempting to stay longer but often, the depleting budget is the real reason to leave.

For Madrid, the length of stay greatly depends on how much you would like to visit the three big museums (Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía), and immerse into Spanish culture. The city itself can be seen in two days of sightseeing, and a third day is often devoted to the museums. There are many outstanding day trips from Madrid, which include medieval Segovia, charming Toledo, and magnificent El Escorial.

When to visit?

Copenhagen’s weather is not as dismal as most visitors initially presume, and not cold as the other Scandinavian countries it is often mentally lumped with. The summer will always provide the best weather, and this aligns with the peak season, late spring and autumn can also offer decent sightseeing weather. The winters are cool and wet, but as many of the city’s sights are indoors, it is still possible for a better value (relatively!) city-break.

The major consideration for Madrid, is to avoid August, when the entire city shuts down (most restaurants, cafes and independent shops) and everyone heads to the coastal towns. Late spring and early autumn (Jun/July and September) are the best seasons. Madrid can be surprisingly chilly in the winter, but is comparatively dry to the rest of Europe. As Madrid is in the centre of the Iberian Peninsula it tends to get more extreme weather than the coastal cities.

Is it for me?

Madrid is one of the finest cities in Europe. The city may not have the iconic monuments and attention-grabbing tourist attractions, but in reality, there is a lot to see during a city break.

Much of Madrid’s tourist literature focuses on the museums and galleries (which are world-class), but this should not deter you; this is a fun-loving city, which has the best nightlife in Europe. No matter your style of trip, there will be something to love about the Spanish capital.

Madrid excels as a long-stay destination, and if you are able to work here, the city offers perfect work/life balance.

There is a lot to love about Copenhagen, there are funky art installations, wonderful tourist attractions and a great vibe about the city. Copenhagen is a tolerant and inclusive city, which is popular with all ages, diversities and tourist types.

The main consideration is the astronomical price of everything. For context, the price of a glass of large beer in a touristy bar, is around 60kr (€8/$9), is the same you could pay for a lunch in southern Europe. If you have the money or can budget well, you will adore Copenhagen.

The perfect 48hours

Copenhagen offers so much for a fun-packed 48 hours. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow.

Being in the Rådhuspladsen, main plaza of Copenhagen, and wander up the primary shopping street the Strøget. This leading into the Latin Quarter, and a highlight is the Rundertaarn (Round tower) and view. Nyhavn is the 17th-century canal district with traditional painted houses, and a favourite with tourists. Departing from the docks are canal boat tours and are an enjoyable way to experience the waterways and view the overrated Mermaid Statue.

For lunch cross the canal to the Bridge Street Kitchen for a popular street food market, and relaxed location for lunch. Next is Christiania, a once bohemian commune, but pushy drug dealers and influx of tourists slightly detracts from the original ideals. The tower of the Vor Frelsers Kirke church provides some of the best views of Copenhagen. Next visit the Christiansborg Slot palace on the pretty island of Slotsholmen. For the evening return to the Rådhuspladsen and visit the Tivoli amusement park, which is characterful and charming in the evening. For the evening find a funky restaurant in the Vesterbro district.

Latin Quarter Copenhagen

The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore

Start the second day by visiting the magnificent Rosenborg Slot palace, where it is easy to spend a couple of hours exploring. Nørrebro is a diverse community with Assistens Kirkegård park and at the far end is the Superkilen Park great for your Instagram posts. For lunch, visit the Torvehallerne street food market.

In the afternoon head into the Frederiksstaden district, with the Amalienborg Palace, where the Danish royal family reside, and the Frederiks Kirke church beautiful examples of grand Rococo style. If you insist on visiting the Den Lille Havfrue (Mermaid Statue), continue northwards past the Kastellet fort. For a more cultural end to the day vis the SNK museum (the Danish national gallery) or the Nationalmuseet Museum.

48 hours in Madrid is not just the sights but also the atmosphere of the city.

Begin in the Puerta del Sol, then wander through charming streets of the El Madrid de los Austrias, which is the oldest section of the city. This leads to the Palacio Real, surrounded by its formal gardens and the Catedral de la Almudena to the south. For the last part of the day explore the La Latina district and have a delicious tapas meal at one of the restaurants along the Cava Alta or Cava Baja. La Latina boasts numerous bars and is always a great place to start a night in Madrid.

Gran Vía madrid

The Gran Vía is the bustling main avenue of Madrid

The morning of the second focuses on the three art-museums, the Prado Museum, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofía. Close to the museums is the pretty the El Retiro Park. For the afternoon head down the Gran Vía, the main shopping street of Madrid, and visit the Malasaña district, with its artisan vibe, independent shops and trendy nightlife. For sunset watch it at the Templo de Debod, and then head back to Malasaña for a memorable meal and evening.

Tourism Practicalities

Always book accommodation in advance. When considering where to be based anywhere within the Indre By (the central location) is great. Vesterbro is an up and coming area which is trendy and touch edgy, Frederiksstaden is a bit more refined and Latin quarter is a lively. If you are further away, try to be close to a metro station.

There is excellent public transport but often hiring a bike is the easiest way to ravel around, as there are extensive cycle paths and the city is flat.
The currency used is the krone (dkk), which is pegged to the euro at €1=7.46dkk. You must exchange to krone, as Euro is rarely accepted, except in the airport.

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