Copenhagen is a city of dreams, rich in history, with a functioning monarchy right in town (um, yes, we did see The Prince & Me, thank you). As the capital city of Denmark, it’s a fun blend of centuries-old buildings and modern architecture, brimming with locals and tourists from all over the world. While you could certainly spend more than 48 hours here — and if you can, you should! — this guide will help you get most out of the city when you’re short on time. So whether you’re backpacking around Scandinavia, taking a luxury wellness vacation or going on a grand European road trip, here’s what you should know about Copenhagen.

Where to Stay

Colorful buildings line the Nyhavn waterfront in Copenhagen

Besides being a stunning structure to look at, Nimb Hotel puts you in the heart of must-see attraction Tivoli Gardens. And with more than a century of excellence in food at their restaurant, you’d be hard pressed to find more luxury than at Nimb. For a trendy spot, located right on the waterfront across from the Opera House, Admiral Hotel allows you to watch the comings and goings on the waterway and is a short walk from the colorful and popular Nyhavn.

If you’re opting for more affordable accommodations, also near Nyhavn is Bedwood Hostel, a cozy spot to relax after running around the city.

What to Eat

A market in Copenhagen offers a selection of Smørrebrød, traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches

For breakfast, grab a healthy porridge at the nearest Grød. There are a few in town, so you’ll be sure to find one close to where you’re staying. It’s inexpensive, tasty, and the menu changes monthly.

If you head toward Freetown Christiania or the Cultural Center, you’ll also stumble upon a square of different eateries by lunchtime. Grab a hot dog from Kejser Sausage and pull up a foldable chair (they’re everywhere) to snack by the waterfront. Want something rooted in traditional Danish fare? You can score a modern twist on smørrebrød — or open-faced sandwiches — at Aamanns 1921, just a few blocks from The Round Tower.

If you’re looking for something a little fancier, Corner 108 is right outside the square. This is a small cafe attached to Michelin-starred restaurant 108, which, unless you have a reservation and a bit of money to spend, probably won’t make it onto your itinerary. But the cafe has delicious snacks you’re unlikely to have tried before, like a fried mushroom and egg yolk sauce dish.

What to Do

Amalienborg and Frederik's Church rise into the Copenhagen sky

Get ready to do some walking, which means prioritizing comfortable shoes in your packing — the cobblestone streets can be rough on the feet. To get the iconic waterfront view of Copenhagen, you’ll be looking for Nyhavn, once a busy commercial port but now catering mainly to canal tours. You can get a tasty meal and a warm coffee (or cold beer) and take a wander by house number 20, where author Hans Christian Andersen used to live. Get a picture with the Little Mermaid, a must-see statue inspired by Andersen’s fairytale and modeled after a ballerina. But don’t miss also meeting her cousin, the Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, a twisted, abstract rendition meant to draw attention to GMOs, which is just a few minutes’ walk away from the original.

Next, make your way to Amalienborg Palace, where the royal family still lives. And you won’t be kept on the outside, either — visitors can wander through the large courtyard and get up close with the buildings, and you can often be admitted into the Gala Hall. You’ll, of course, see your fair share of guards, particularly if any of the royals are home; the changing of the guard takes place at noon, and it’s worth the sight if you can time your visit to it.

If your feet are up for it, cap off your first day by walking a little over a mile from the palace to Tivoli Gardens to take a ride around the historic amusement park. Grab a snack (after the rides, of course), and catch a bus or taxi back to your hotel — there aren’t any Ubers around.

Start day two with a morning stroll to Freetown Christiana, an 84-acre commune or “intentional community” that was established in the 1970s and today is home to about a thousand people. There are DIY homes, workshops, and art galleries. If you’re able, pay for a tour to gain more insight on the community.

For an excellent view of the city — and your daily cardio — visit Church of Our Saviour. One of the most famous churches in Copenhagen, Our Savior dates back to the 18th century. More than 60,000 people a year climb the 400 steps to the very top of the building, but the vista is not for the faint-hearted — the last 150 steps wind around the outside of the spire.

Finally, spend what’s left of your weekend exploring the most appealing of Copenhagen’s many wonderful museums and galleries, such as The National Museum of Denmark (a 20-minute walk from Church of Our Saviour) or national gallery SMK (which you might want to catch a bus to).

If you could head anywhere next weekend, where would it be? Tweet us your pick @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)