Last week we spent 4 days in Copenhagen with our teen daughters and found the city to be a remarkably teen-friendly place to visit.
Here are some recommended activities fun for parents and guaranteed to get a smile out of even the grouchiest teens.
1. Rent bikes – we found Copenhagen to be much easier to bike with kids than Amsterdam. In Amsterdam, biking with semi experienced bikers was stressful. You were in constant danger of moving trams, cars and unpredictable people. Copenhagen is smaller, doesn’t have trams, and due to a 180 percent tax on automobiles, there are remarkably few cars. The fact that the Danes are generally an organized, law abiding folk, where everyone just naturally follows the rules, also helps improve the experience. I did not see one single jay walker the entire visit.
2. Tivoli Gardens – I knew my teens would love Tivoli Gardens, that was an easy one. What surprised me was how much my husband and I enjoyed it. We arrived at Tivoli around 4pm and left after the Saturday evening fireworks ended at midnight and the park closed. The clean, beautifully designed and well organized layout was a safe place to let the kids roam free for a few hours while we enjoyed a nice stroll and a relaxing meal in one of the many restaurants on the grounds. Though not an inexpensive evening, it was the highlight of our visit to Copenhagen! We recommend the Mines ride for a bit of fun family competition.
Things to know: if you plan to do the canal boat tour in the city, you can get reduced price entrance fee tickets to Tivoli at the same time for 30% less, and avoid the line at the entrance. Once you get in the park, you will still need tickets for the rides.
Tip: If you plan to go on at least 3 rides, the unlimited pass is the way to go.
3. Harbor Baths – we were lucky enough to experience some warm weather in Copenhagen. In fact, it was a bit of a heatwave. The thermometer in the center of town doesn’t go above 82 degrees (28 Celsius) and for a few days, it got pretty darn close! Eighty degrees in Copenhagen felt much hotter than 80 degrees on NYC so we set off looking for water. The city’s residents, young and old (but so many young!) come out in droves to cool off in the canals on warm summer days. Formerly industrial areas, the city has created all sorts of fun bathing spots along the canals complete with diving platforms and lagoon like pools where young adults jump in, dive in, splash around and even set up tightropes along the water. The water is tested regularly for cleanliness in the official Harbor baths (which are free but have a lifeguard).
Tip: Because summer is such a short season in Copenhagen, the Harbor Baths can get pretty crowded on warm days. Across the harbor from the city run Harbor Baths are less formal lagoons and diving platforms which do not have lifeguards and attract a young and fun crowd. This is where my teens wanted to be!
4. Boating in the Canals – While the traditional and touristy canal boat ride is the go-to choice for most visitors, I would recommend a slightly different approach with teens. Both of my teenagers used the boat ride to catch up on some sleep! A more fun way to see the canals with teenagers, would be to either rent your own boat through go boat.dk . Here all the boats are solar powered and you don’t need a special license to operate them. There is a picnic table in the center of the boat so it’s a terrific afternoon on the water with a packed picnic lunch from a local deli. For the more active family, rent a kayak and tour the canals on your own by expending a little energy. The kayak rental depot has a fun little bar with music and activities right alongside the water. Note that you must be 18 to rent a kayak but many of them fit two people so one adult and one child can easily fit.
5. Paper Island – Trying to please the tastebuds of all family members can sometimes be a pretty big challenge. That’s why we loved having a few of our meals at Paper Island, sitting alongside the canal watching the boats go by. Located just on the other side of the kissing bridge, Paper Island was once a paper storage facility for the Danish Press. Now it is a giant warehouse filled with hollowed out shipping containers and food trucks from around the world and is very popular with the locals. You can get Mexican, Italian, Columbian, American, French, Spanish, Japanese, and more! Give the kids some Kroner and let them wander around and choose their own meal. Then meet up outside and either dangle your feet in the canal, sit in one of the lounge chairs or gather at one of the many picnic tables to enjoy your meals. The best part: all the food must be homemade, and sustainable (meaning locally produced). Bonus: It could be your cheapest meal for the whole trip!