Both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is a wealth of information about both cities, but little stating which is the better destination and more suited for your trip.
This website will provide our unbiased opinions, and hopefully help you to choose the best city to visit. The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the underlined links:
1) Introductions -
2) City scores -
3) Which one should I, friends, or family visit? -
4) When to visit and weather -
5) Who is the city suited for? -
6) The perfect 48hours (with map) -
7) Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
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.
Which city would I go to? Copenhagen
Which one would I recommend to my parents? Amsterdam
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Amsterdam (Copenhagen is too expensive for him!)
Which for my food obsessed friend? Amsterdam
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.
3 days is ideal to get a good flavour of Amsterdam, and in this time you could include a quick day trip out of town. Much less and it might feel a bit rushed, especially if you are visiting for the first time.
If you can afford more time, there are a surprising amount of places worth visiting in the surrounding area. Many people like to visit Keukenhof in spring, the largest flower garden in the world. There are also the Zaanse Schans Windmills and fairy-tale castle ‘Kasteel De Haar’ not too far away.
Lots of people also like to visit one of the numerous planned cities built on land reclaimed from the sea such as Almere or Lelystad, a short 20-minute train ride from the central train station. Because these cities are so new, they have prided themselves on drawing on the latest innovations in architectural design.
Copenhagen can be seen in two days of sightseeing. 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. Copenhagen is a very endearing city where staying longer is very tempting…
A popular day trip is to visit the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. Malmö is on the opposite side of the Sound Estuary (the Öresund) and can also be visited as a day trip.
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.
Spring is the best time of year to visit Amsterdam before the summertime high tourist season hits, and you can catch either the King’s Day festival in April or awe at the sea of tulips at Keukenhof.
The warmest month in Amsterdam is August with average temperatures of around 22 degrees (71F) which isn’t that hot! It gets pretty chilly in winter, down to just above freezing. The weather is generally very changeable all year round so we recommend you be prepared for all weathers at all times! It could easily rain or be windy for at least one of the days you are there.
There’s something for everyone in Amsterdam.
While it has historically attracted hipsters, it also has a lot to offer to those looking for a peaceful and relaxed place to getaway. It’s easy to follow one of the canals out from Rembrandtplein in the centre to a quieter neighbourhood such as Jordaan or Prinsengracht either on foot or by bike, or even better, floating along by canal boat.
Believe it or not, Amsterdam is also an incredibly family-friendly city. The relaxed approach to parenting permeates its museums, sights and events and the city is home to hundreds of playgrounds and child-friendly cafes.
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.
48hours in Amsterdam
Start on day 1 in the Museum Quarter where some of Amsterdam’s world-class museums are. Rijksmuseum where Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ is held can be found here, as well as the Van-Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum, which contains a huge collection of everything from sculpture to painting to photography by artists such as Picasso and Warhol.
In the afternoon, head to the artisan area of Jordaan. It has a homely charm to it with all the houseboats along the quays and old crooked buildings.
If you’re looking for a night out, head to the areas of Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein in the evening.
Spring at Dam Square with the Royal Palace in the background.
On day 2 head to Dam Square and the Royal Palace then the red-light district.
A visit to the Anne Frank House is a fascinating and sobering experience but this can get very busy so we recommend booking ahead online for a specific time.
If you are looking for something a bit slower paced in the evening - a great photo opportunity is from the Magere Brug. After dark, this bridge is illuminated by over a thousand lights and due to its location, it makes for a good vantage point where you can see 15 bridges at the same time.
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.
Begin the first day in the Rådhuspladsen, and wander up the Strøget, a bustling shopping street, to the Latina Quarter. Next is the Nyhavn district, with its 17th-century canals and traditionally painted houses, a favourite with tourists. Departing from the docks in Nyhavn are canal boat tours.
For lunch head to the Bridge Street Kitchen for a popular street food market. Christiania is a unique bohemian commune which is worth visiting, but pushy drug dealers and influx of tourists slightly detracts from the original ideals. Afterwards, head to the Vor Frelsers Kirke church, the Christiansborg Slot palace and the Slotsholmen island district.
Tivoli park is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and an enjoyable location for early evening. For the later night spend time in the trendy Vesterbro district.
The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore
Start the second day in the magnificent Rosenborg Slot palace, which can easily take a couple of hours to explore. Crossing the river leads to the diverse Nørrebro district with the uber-cool Superkilen Park - great for your Instagram posts. For lunch, visit the Torvehallerne street food market.
In the afternoon head into the historic Frederiksstaden district, with the Amalienborg Palace, and the Frederiks Kirke church both beautiful examples of grand Rococo style.For a cultural end to the day visit the SMK museum (the Danish National Gallery) or the Nationalmuseet Museum.
All cities have their perils but with regards to Amsterdam, probably the main ones to consider are bike safety and caution in the "coffee shops". As well as the usual bike safety rules you’d expect at home, keep an eye out for nippy scooters on the bike lanes and avoid rush hour if possible. In terms of the coffeeshop visits – don’t underestimate the effects of the products, as the varieties sold here are more potent than elsewhere.
Amsterdam is typically an extremely safe city for solo female travellers but it’s not advised to visit the Red Light District at night as the area does have a seedier vibe.
The “Indre By” area of Copenhagen is the best location to be based in due to its central positioning, but it does sell out. The Vesterbro district is an up and coming area, which is trendy and a touch edgy. Frederiksstaden is a more refined area of the city and contains many of the smarter hotels. For a lively trip be based close to the Latin quarter.
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.