Copenhagen is fantastic any time of year, but there's something special about summer in this vibrant city. The season may be short, but it can certainly be sweet, and when the temperatures rise and the days get longer, Copenhageners emerge from their winter cocoons and set out to enjoy the sunshine.

Though the weather is notoriously changeable, Denmark's capital can be an ideal place to enjoy the summer months, and there is no shortage of ways to make the most of it.

A view of a Copenhagen canals on a sunny day, with several pleasure boats filled with visitors © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
Copenhagen's canals offer an alternative way to see the city © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

Cruise the canals

The best way to see the city is from the water. Copenhagen has not only a harbour but also a series of canals to be explored. Canal tours with Strömma and Netto-Bådene take one hour and cover main sights like Christiansborg Slot and The Little Mermaid. If you want to explore on your own, GoBoat and FriendShips have boats for hire that can be taken out and about – each holds up to eight people. The boats have tables in the middle, so you can bring your own picnic to enjoy while you cruise. If you just want to relax instead of taking the helm, Hey Captain boats come with – naturally – a captain to navigate and show you the sights while you sip on a complimentary beverage.

Enjoy street food by the harbour

Located in a developing industrial area, the market of Reffen is perhaps not the easiest to get to, but with its harbourside location and mouthwatering array of food stalls, it's worth the trip. More than 30 vendors dish up a variety of cuisines, meaning that every taste is catered for. For a perfect summer treat, enjoy ceviche from Lima by Mercedes with a local Mikkeller craft beer and then cool off with a tasty treat from Tropical Shave Ice.

A view of Rosenborg Slot, with the King's Gardens (Kongens Have) in the foreground © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
Kongens Have is the beloved green space at Rosenborg Slot © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

Soak up the sun in the King's Gardens

Kongens Have (King's Gardens) is the most beloved green space in Copenhagen, and it's easy to see why. Stroll the tree-lined paths, admire the beautiful Renaissance-style Rosenborg Slot and visit the secret rose garden, bursting with colour and the scents of summer. Tuck into a picnic on the grass, and simply enjoy the atmosphere. If you manage to get your fill of Kongens Have, here are some more parks and gardens to explore in the city.

A herd of deer, just visible over the long grass at Dyrehaven © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
Dyrehaven is home to more than 2000 wild deer © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

Take a day trip to Dyrehaven

For a delightful day trip from Copenhagen, take the S-train (line C) to Klampenborg, where you'll find Dyrehaven. This sprawling park is home to more than 2000 wild deer, and has walking trails and the Hermitage royal hunting lodge, which opens to the public in the summer months. Visitors to the park can enjoy the scenery by bike, on horseback or by horse-drawn carriage. The oldest amusement park in the world is also found here: the nostalgic Bakken is free to enter and has rides for the whole family, as well as a range of restaurants. Other summertime day-trip options include trips to Sweden and the Danish delights of Fredensborg and Odense, the latter being the home of Hans Christian Andersen.

The colourful buildings at Copenhagen's Nyhavn, with boats moored along the harbour's edge © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
The iconic view of Copenhagen's beautiful Nyhavn © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

BYO drinks at Nyhavn

Nyhavn's views are iconic, but its prices reflect the fact many tourists are eager to experience them. Take a cue from the locals, and visit a nearby grocery store to pick up some drinks and snacks to have by the water's edge. You'll save money and have a more local experience.

Nitrogen ice cream sitting on top of a glass counter at Istid © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
Copenhagen isn't short on choice when it comes to ice cream, including nitrogen ice cream from Istid © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

Cool off with some homemade ice cream

Copenhagen is renowned for its incredible food scene, and even a humble scoop of ice cream lives up to the city's gastronomical reputation. In every neighbourhood, you can find delicious homemade ice creams in an ever-expanding range of flavours, including local favourites like elderflower, sea buckthorn and liquorice. Indulge at Isobar at Nyhavn, Is a Bella at Torvehallerne Market, Østerberg in Vesterbro and Bon Bon Ice in Frederiksberg. For something a little different, try vegan ice cream at Nice Cream or nitrogen ice cream from Istid, both in Nørrebro.

Take a dip

Did you know that Copenhagen's harbour is clean enough to swim in? Havnebadet (the harbour baths), an enclosed swimming area in the Islands Brygge area, is a popular spot to take the leap, but swimmers will often jump in wherever they please. If the beach is more your speed, take the Metro to Amager Strand, a 4.5km stretch of beach featuring a boardwalk and a 2km-long sandy island added to the park in 2005. The park has mini golf, kayak and kite-surfing rentals, and refreshment kiosks.

Tivoli at night, with colourfully-illuminated buildings and a water and light show © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet
The bright lights of Tivoli by night © Caroline Hadamitzky / Lonely Planet

Spend an evening at Tivoli Gardens

There's something especially enchanting about Tivoli during the evening hours: the charming park lights up as daylight fades, including illuminating the Arabian-style Nimb Hotel. There is a range of restaurants to enjoy an evening meal, from kid-friendly casual eats to fine dining, while Fridays Rock is a series of free open-air concerts in summer, featuring Danish and international artists, every Friday night at 10pm. As closing time nears, the lake hosts an impressive light and water display, with weekend nights ending with the bang of fireworks.

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