Start with the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, which happens to be only about a block from Central Station. This theme park has the usual rides and food stands, but also upscale restaurants, game booths, and an outdoor stage for Friday night concerts and pantos. Even if you, like this reporter, are way too sissy to get on that roller coaster, there’s a ferris wheel that offers beautiful views of Tivoli and downtown. Despite being thoroughly Danish, Tivoli has some strong connections to the US; Walt Disney got many of his original theme park inspirations here, and Michael Jackson liked Tivoli so much that he tried to buy it. Can you imagine if that had happened? Yikes.
Just across the street from Tivoli is Radhusplasen, the Town Hall square. Almost every day at 11 AM and 1 PM, free English-language tours of the city begin from here. The tour will take about three hours (including a coffee/bathroom break in the middle) and is a great way to cover a huge chunk of the city by foot. It won’t take you everywhere (the Little Mermaid is a notable exception), but it’s a great way to see Copenhagen from a local’s perspective and without dropping much dough. Tour guides work exclusively for tips, so do remember to be generous in this respect.
Even after all that walking, you can make it to Amalienborg Palace, which is about a fifteen minute walk north of Radhusplasen. Around 11:30 AM, you can watch an important and interesting local tradition for free: the Changing of the Guard. The guards in front of Amalienborg and Rosenborg Castles trade places, kind of like at Buckingham Palace except we're talking about two historical sites here, not one. Since the palaces are near each other, the guards begin walking at 11:30 down the public streets of the city and swap places with each other by noon. Once that’s finished, Amalienborga working palace, where the members of the royal family still liveis partially open as a museum, and it definitely won’t take you as long as Buckingham Palace.
Tomorrow: Delving deeper, to the north side of town.