My family was lucky enough to have a great friend to visit and crash with in Østerbro. We spent ten days touring around Copenhagen and can condense our highlights into a tidy little week of fun with toddlers and preschoolers.
Copenhagen is baby-friendly to a degree I couldn’t even comprehend before visiting: the attractions either accommodate strollers or provide easy parking; changing tables abound; most restaurants provide child-friendly menus and highchairs. For real. When I left Copenhagen, it made me feel like by comparison America hates babies.
Copenhagen is a mix of super-expensive and totally FREE activities so it takes a little planning to balance the fun with the budget.
Holden’s favorite thing about the Experimentarium was “all the things” and we had to agree with him. If you have a geeky streak and imagine the coolest hands-on science museum you could ever go to, it might look like the Experimentarium. Can you fit inside a bubble? Measure the strength of your scream? Feel the force of an earthquake? Yes, yes, yes.
If you have a toddler, I recommend the membership. It will pay for itself after a couple visits. The cafe was only ok. You can bring your own food (recommended) and eat it downstairs.
Tuesday: Remisen indoor play area
Visit this totally FREE indoor play space to let your toddler run off his energy near Trianglen (at Blegdamsvej 132). An enormous climbing structure — that likely would not pass stringent safety laws in the U.S. — dominates the room. Older kids can climb up the sky and descend through the swirly slide. Younger toddlers can climb underneath and find plenty to explore. Other cool features: a pirate ship, zipline, fireman’s pole, ride-on toys, balls and separate rooms for crafts, dolls, and Legos.
Again, you will find ample stroller parking, changing tables, and cubbies for your belongings. Did I mention it is FREE? Tuesday and Thursdays are the days open for the four and under set. You’ll probably want to come back again and again.
There is no food or beverage in the Remisen complex but if you walk over toward the lakes, you can find a super delicious hamburger at the Franco-Danish café, Den Franske Café. Toddlers will also enjoy watching the ducks year-round.
We took the 14 bus north toward the coast to Charlottenlund to visit the Denmark’s Akvarium. The Aquarium (Akvarium, get it? Just say it out loud) is a short walk from the main road (away from the water). Cool features include sea turtles, sharks, and all the characters from Finding Nemo in one tank (for reals!)! The petting pool is open after 10:30.
No need to pack your own food. The cafe is decent and we enjoyed hot dogs (polse m/ brod or “sausage with bread”) and cocoa. And yes, there is a cloak room with stroller parking and plenty of changing tables in the men’s and women’s restrooms.
Admission prices are reasonable (kids under three are free and many reciprocal arrangements exist with other museums). At the end of the day, my sons loved the bus ride and seeing piles of snow then fields of snow (“c’mon boys, we’re in Europe! we have snow in California” oh well, the heart wants what it wants).
Thursday: Louisiana Museum
Take a 30 minute train ride out of town and visit the amazing Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. You will also need to take about a 20 minute walk (so bring a stroller for tired legs).
You might think that a toddler shouldn’t mix with a modern art museum. Talk to me after you visit Louisiana.
The art museum is arranged in a labyrinthine loop making the children’s wing tricky to find when you arrive. But oh my! Once you find it, you will be blown away. And don’t stop at the first level, there are three levels of DIY art projects with each floor focusing on a medium and artist. We got entangled on the Calder mobile level for a half hour using scissors, glue sticks, and bendy wire to create our very own mobiles and attach them to the display wall. In fact, our family of four was so immersed in this project that we forgot our plan of “divide and conquer” to see the rest of the museum in solo shifts.
Luckily, in a moment of selflessness, Holden declared that “we should do what you want since we spent so much time doing what I want.” After a delicious and pricey meal in the cafe, we strolled around the remaining exhibits. I mentioned that the layout is a little confusing (see excellent use of the word “labyrinthine”); eventually we had to ask a security monitor how to find the exit.
On the plus side, this is a fantastic museum and we all enjoyed our visit.
On the down side, the Louisiana Museum is expensive. We used our Copenhagen Card to get admission and train fare and this is a good way to go. Since it is quite a hike to reach, I recommend it for little babies who will nap on the go or preschoolers who can skip a nap.
Friday: National Museet
The National Museum of Denmark, or NatMuseet, is a FREE gem of a place to take toddlers and preschoolers. If you can get your kiddos to look at piles of bones and armor, then you might stand a chance of seeing the national artifacts before you discover the great play area.
On the other hand, the kids’ zone is FREE and chock full of interesting historical items that you can climb on and wear in the name of play. We climbed aboard a pirate ship, a small viking boat, a huge horse, a medieval wall, and into a Pakistani market. We tried on armor and swung wooden swords.
The cafe is pricey and the menu did not look kid-friendly. We left hungry and cranky. Oh well. I’d love to know in the comments if there are good food options nearby.
Saturday: Statens Museum for Kunst
The day we went to the National Gallery of Denmark, or Statens Museum for Kunst, we did it all wrong, so let me help you do it right. To take advantage of the hands-on children’s workshop (for a small fee), you must go on a weekend. During the week, it is used by school groups [we went on a week day].
Adjacent to the workshops is a bouncy mattress that allows little ones a chance to get their jumpies out [my kids wouldn't leave]. Try to discover this fun surprise at the right time in your visit so you might have a moment to see the art.
We had some luck looking at the cool timeline of art and then doing a scavenger hunt to find the various pieces. Holden was particularly happy to find the installation below.
Also, the cocoa looked wicked good, but neither of my kids would share. So, order your own.
Since the museum has FREE admission, our failure was a cheap one.
Sunday: Swim at DGI-byen:
DYI-byen is simply the most amazing swim complex that I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit. It features many levels of swimming and splashing with family-friendly amenities at every turn (stroller parking, baby carriers and tubs, changing table at the pool).
The main kids’ area has spray fountains and a water table for older preschoolers as well as an inches-deep level for infants. Kids will also enjoy watching parents and big kids jump from the diving board with a ground-level viewing window.
The cafe is run by ChiliMili and it is delicious and healthy.
Admission prices are not cheap, but it is totally worth it. A few tips: bring your own towel and come early! We saw many families lined up to enter as we were leaving around lunchtime.
Other tips and observations:
- Danish demeanor. Folks in Denmark don’t queue up, they push to get ahead. Also, if you need help, you better ask for it; locals will give you helpful and direct advice (and are very quick to point out when you’re “doing it wrong”) but will let you stand around all day simply looking clueless. So, speak up.
- Biking.Copenhagen has a beautiful biking culture. If you don’t already have a cycle, borrow or rent a bike so you can feel the freedom and the joy. Another friend lent me her cargo bike and we had a fantastic adventure cycling from Charlottenlund to Østerbro in the dark.
- Food. All of our food was delicious and most of it was very expensive. Danish families do not eat at restaurants as much as Americans do. Yet, all restaurants we visited and cafes were family-friendly.
- Cold. We planned our visit to coincide with our friends’ availability. Brrr. If we come back — and I hope we do — I want to visit in the summer. There’s even more we could see and do when the weather is above freezing. Then again, I think my boys would miss the snow.