While there is no “better” destination there are reasons why you personally would prefer visiting either one city or another during your holidays. If you are struggling to decide on where to go, there is nothing like getting to know your destination, in this case, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, a little better, so that you can measure your expectations and plan your visit according to your personal preferences.
Very similar, yet very different cities: if you are a Contemporary Art lover, Copenhagen is your city. If you love history, Medieval and Modern Art, go to Amsterdam. Copenhagen is a smaller city and more relax than Amsterdam. Even though both cities are expensive, Amsterdam is cheaper.
The Netherlands and Denmark are somehow easily comparable. The same happens with their capital cities, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, both main cities of their countries, yet green cities, surrounded by water and cultural buildings. If you want some help to decide where to go on your next holiday, keep on reading.
Amsterdam vs Copenhagen
There are a few questions that you should ask yourself to help you make up your mind and understand what you are expecting from your holiday destination. Here are the ones I came up with, answer with my personal experience as a tourist in Copenhagen and a resident of Amsterdam. Let’s see what city wins, Amsterdam, Copenhagen or both:
Where should I go?
BOTH. This one is already narrowed down. If your destination is Northern Europe, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are very attractive and popular destinations. Amsterdam tends to have many more tourists but both places are great choices if you like more of a cultural holiday.
For how long should I stay?
Amsterdam! Before booking your holiday you need to know for how long can you go abroad. In this case, it doesn’t really make a difference because both cities are great for a short stay as long as a long stay. Amsterdam in 48 hours is something easy to do: check out what to see in Amsterdam and what museums you can’t miss. And the same happens to Copenhagen: you can easily visit the city on a weekend or spend more time. Check out 15 things you can do there. HOWEVER, if you have more time, Amsterdam offers the possibility of going to any of the many towns close by the city. If you get bored of being in Amsterdam and you want to get to know more about the Netherlands, it is very easy to travel the country by train and do day trips (read more here).
Where Should I Stay in Amsterdam, Copenhagen?
In Amsterdam I would personally recommend checking out these hotels for the quality-price relationship and the walkable distance to the most important attractions in Amsterdam:
- Hotel Plantage (3 STARS HOTEL)
- Hotel Casa Amsterdam (3 STARS HOTEL)
- Leonardo Hotel Amsterdam Rembrandtpark (4 STARS HOTEL)
- Eden Hotel Amsterdam (4 STARS HOTEL)
My recommendation for Copenhagen with the same criteria are, close to the centre, good quality-price and nice reviews:
- Guesthouse Copenhagen Beach ( Guesthouse by the beach)
- K10 Apartments (Luxury Apartments)
- citizenM Copenhagen (4 STARS HOTEL)
- Nimb Hotel (5 STARS HOTEL)
How expensive is the city?
Copenhagen is more expensive. Both cities are expensive, and if you want to know why is Amsterdam so expensive, read this article. In general, both are not cheap destinations but Copenhagen, mostly because of their strong currency, is more expensive. Denmark is a wealthy country with a high quality of life, high salaries call for high prices and so their economy is maintained. The same happens in the Netherlands, with a rather high minimum salary and Government help but the currency makes it more bearable than the Danish krone.
How expensive is it to fly there?
BOTH. Both Kastrup (CPH) and Schiphol (AMS) are very well-connected airports. Flights from most European countries are direct and they cost the same (there are some very cheap ones and some very expensive ones, 40-300 euros). Both of them also have their own airlines, which also means great connections with the rest of the world for international flights. In Amsterdam, you also have the option of flying to Eindhoven, a little far away from the city but well-connected with the national train system and taxis.
Who should go?
Read this list and you will realise why I said that these cities are very similar. Of course, each of them has its own characteristics and maybe that is what it makes you choose one over the other. What type of tourist are you?
- Lover of Dutch art, Medieval Art, Golden Ages and Avantgarde: Amsterdam
- Lover of Contemporary art: Copenhagen
- Bicycle and nature lover: both
- Foodie: neither and both. Neither of the cuisines is famous because they have very few typical things, yet both cities are very international and have Michelin star restaurants as well as international cuisine, expensive but amazing quality.
- Night-life, party person: Amsterdam. Even though there are nice festivals in Copenhagen, Amsterdam offers party and entertainment all week long, all year long.
- Free spirits: or those interested in substances and other activities, Amsterdam. The Red Light District and the consumption of substances is something very common in Amsterdam, something accepted. That is not the case 100% in Copenhagen.
- Water and water history lovers: both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are interesting cities in this aspect. Sadly, I don’t mean water activities or beaches, something not very popular in these Northern countries. It is well-known that Amsterdam and the whole Netherlands would be underwater, making their engineering water system very interesting (read more about the history of Amsterdam here). In any case, the harbors and relaxing spaces by the water that the Danish capital has it is something worth seeing.
- Shopping lovers: both cities are interesting. Amsterdam has Kalverstraat, as well as many other small shops and being the headquarter of many international fashion brands, Bijenkorf and other luxury shopping areas.
- Royal Enthusiasts: Copenhagen. Even though both countries are old European Kingdoms, the Dutch Royal family has their residence in The Hague. That is easy to solve with a day trip but the truth is that Copenhagen is the Royal city for excellence.
- Coffee lovers: both cities are great for coffee lovers. I could recommend a post with my favourite place in Amsterdam (read here) but I have to say that Danish coffee has nothing to envy the Dutch coffee. Northern European countries were very bad when it came to coffee, a couple of years ago. However, they seem to have changed the direction of the coffee market in these countries, even more in their capital cities.
- History lovers: both. Amsterdam and Copenhagen date from the 12th Century and before. Both cities have developed parallel yet very different and interesting tracks. The cities have been well-preserved and they count with several museums such as the National Museum of Copenhagen or the Rijksmuseum or the Amsterdam Museum.
- Families: Amsterdam. Even though both cities are family-friendly I would personally suggest Amsterdam because after living there I have realised how many things there are for families. First of all, everything is family-friendly, even museums. Most museums don’t charge for kids up to 18 years old and they also prepare activities and interactive exhibitions for children to enjoy. NEMO, Artis and many others.
When you should visit the city?
Let’s face it, if you are looking for a sunny holiday your chances of getting tanned in the Netherlands or Denmark are very low. Both Amsterdam and Copenhagen are cities for cultural tourism, they are both cultural capitals but neither of them have great beaches.
In any case, the weather in Amsterdam is a little bit milder than in Denmark. There are a lot of activities to do in both cities during winter anyway. For instance, in Amsterdam, you have several Christmas markets as well as many other activities. It snows in Amsterdam but only a week or so a year.
Copenhagen weather is a little bit less warm than the Dutch one (if I can consider it warm with a whole January of below 0 temperatures all month long) but there are amazing activities: more Christmas markets, shopping, fairy lights everywhere and more.
Both cities have great ice skating rinks and many outdoor activities throughout the winter months.
My opinion? If you don’t love cold weather, Amsterdam is a tad more enjoyable during the winter month, whereas maybe it is worth visiting Copenhagen during the summer months for a milder experience.
How can I visit the city?
Bikes! Both cities are bike-friendly and if you think you can enjoy the experience, I would recommend renting a bicycle in both cities. Amsterdam and Copenhagen are always competing for the first position in world rankings of the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. They are always in the first two positions.
I don’t know what this ranking depends on but the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by two wheels is there in both capitals. The best way for visiting both cities is definitely grabbing a bicycle and getting lost looking at the architecture and stopping wherever you want to make the best pictures. I would much recommend it!
Both cities have good public transportation (expensive), taxi and Uber service (once again, expensive!) and bikes (super eco-friendly). Renting a car is a better option in Denmark (cheaper parking, bigger distances) than in Amsterdam, due to the fact that most hotels don’t have parking (read here those who include it in the price) and the high parking fees inside the city: both cities are eco-friendly.
- Car: Copenhagen
- Bike: both
- Public transportation: both
- Walking: both are walkable, even though Amsterdam is bigger! (88.25 km² vs 219.3 km²)