Home to some of world’s best restaurants, famous for designer products, and stunning architectures, Copenhagen is a great city to visit. Thanks to marrying to a Dane, I have stayed and visited Copenhagen numerous times the last 5 years. In fact, I am starting to feel more and more like a local (minus the speaking Danish part that is). Copenhagen, being one of the Scandinavian cities, has a reputation of being an expensive city. Budget travel simply doesn’t associate well with Copenhagen. In fact, Copenhagen is one of the top 10 most expensive cities in Europe. While the city may be expensive to visit, there are many ways to see and visit Copenhagen on a budget. Here is a guide to Copenhagen on a budget to help you explore this beautiful city without breaking the bank.
Free Things to Do in Copenhagen
To get a comprehensive tour of the city for absolutely free, look no further than Sandemans which offers a free 2.5-hour city walking tour through 6,000 years of Copenhagen’s history. The tour meets at the Dragon Fountain next to Copenhagen City Hall (Rådhus) at 11 AM. The tour covers all the main sites and stories like Tivoli Gardens, Danish Royal Palace, Nyhavn, Strøget, and Copenhagen Opera House.
If you have seen pictures of Copenhagen, you probably have seen Nyhavn. With lots buildings in vibrant colours and historic tall ships, Nyhavn is a great place to take photographs and people watch. There are a lot of expensive restaurant in Nyhavn but you can always eat for free as there are lots of spots to enjoy a picnic if you pack a snack and some drinks.
If you want to soak in some Danish royalty traditions, look no further than Christianborg Palace, Chrisitanborg Kirke, and Amalienborg Palace. You can even catch a glimpse of the Danish royal guards.
For a sweeping view of the city, climb up to Christianborg Tårnet, the tallest building in Copenhagen. On a clear day you may be able to see across the water into Sweden.
Although I am not a shopper, I have always enjoyed taking a stroll through Strøget. At 1.1 km, Strøget is one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets with a wealth of shops. On any day of the week, rain or shine, you will see lots of people walk about on Strøget. It’s a great area for some people watching and window shopping.
While walking down Strøget, you may want to visit La Glace, a famous Danish confectionery. Be warned though, the cakes and drinks are not cheap. But it’s a great way to have hygge and La Glace’s hot chocolate (all you can drink by the way) is simply delicious.
A popular place to visit while in Copenhagen is Christiania. Occupied by hippies, Christiania is governed by its own law. It is also the only place in Copenhagen that has legalized marijuana. So a walk through Christiania usually involves some funny smell cigarettes. The main street area, Pusher Street, is home to many “vendors”. If you decide to buy anything, make sure you consume it before leaving Christiania as marijuana is illegal in Denmark. It is also recommended not to take any pictures while in Christiania (or at least on Pusher Street). While famous for pot, Christiania has some very interesting and colourful architecture. It is a visual treat if you have an interest in architecture.
Tivoli Garden is a well-known Copenhagen tourist attraction. While very worthwhile to visit, it is a very expensive tourist attraction. Entry to the garden will cost you 120 DKK, and that doesn’t give you access to any rides. A cheaper alternative is Bakken where you can enter the amusement park for free. At over 400 years old, Bakken is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. Make sure you catch Pjerrot the clown while in Bakken (He lives in the park and dresses in all white, kind of looks like a KKK member if you didn’t know better. These Danes have a funny sense of humor ha!)
Lastly, a visit to the Little Mermaid is always a great free way to check out one of the famous statues in the world. It’s a bit of a walk to get there so you may want to access the Little Mermaid by bike.
Copenhagen on a Budget – Accommodations
Hostels is probably your best bet in terms of a budget accommodation in Copenhagen. There are many amazing hostels to stay on budget. To reduce your accommodation cost, go for a dorm room. If you want some privacy you can always book private double or triple rooms.
If you want to live up a little, budget hotels may be a good choice. Personally I would avoid any hotels close to the central station because the nightly rates are expensive and the rooms are usually very small. Hotels.com is a good website to find budget hotels. I have also had some good luck using Hotwire.com.
Since eating out is quite expensive in Copenhagen, my personal Copenhagen accommodation preference is Airbnb. Why? Because often you can book a place with a kitchen so you can cook and reduce your overall food budget. Furthermore, staying at an Airbnb place allows you to get to know the local culture a bit better. I have always loved talking to an Airbnb host and get some non-touristy tips about the city. Use my Airbnb referral link to get $40 off your first stay.
Copenhagen on a Budget – Food
Let’s just say eating out in a Copenhagen restaurant will literally cost you an arm and a leg. I recall one time that Mrs. T and I ate at a restaurant in Copenhagen. We shared an appetizer, had an entrée each and shared a dessert and the total cost came out to be close to $200 Canadian. I nearly fainted when I saw the bill! (And that was the last time I took Mrs. T out for dinner in Copenhagen ha!). Even for what are considered “cheaper” food items by Canadian/American standard can still be expensive in Copenhaen. For example, one time Mrs. T got some salmon filled bagels for lunch and each bagel cost 70 DKK. That’s over $13 Canadian or almost $10 US! Holy moly!
So yes, eating out in Copenhagen can be expensive. That’s why for my recommendation for staying at an Airbnb to make your own meals whenever possible. If you do have to eat out, you can certainly stay on budget by hitting up food trucks or check out the city’s markets or food halls. There are also a handful of buffet restaurants near Strøget that might be worthwhile to check out for lunch. (Dinner costs significantly more).
If you want to increase your food budget a bit and enjoy Danish hygge, Copenhagen has a great coffee and pastry scene. Lagkagehuset has great pastry like frøsnapper and tebirkes, coffee is also good from Lagkagehuset. The Coffee Collective has great selections of coffee. As mentioned earlier, La Glace, a famous Danish confectionery, has delicious cakes and hot chocolate.
Copenhagen on a Budget – Transportation
Copenhagen is well known for its bike culture. It’s super easy to get around on bikes. For tourists, there are city bikes available for rental. Copenhagen is also very pedestrian friendly so you can easily walk everywhere.
For longer distance travels, buses and metro are good transportation choice. Single fares are good if you don’t use buses or metro that often. If you plan to use buses and metro often, Flexcard (good for 7 days) or Copenhagen Card may be a good choice.
Alternatively, Rejsekortet may be worth getting if you do longer travels outside of central Copenhagen. You can add money to the card and every time you travel, you check in and check out by scanning the card. The price for your journey is then withdrawn from your balance. Having Rejsekort typically give you a discount on fares. You can buy an anonymous card called Rejsekort Anonymt which does not require an address or any personal information. The card itself costs 80 DKK and you can buy it at a ticket office, one of the Rejsekort machines, or kiosks and supermarkets. You would then need to add money on top.
For budget travels within central Copenhagen, I highly recommend sticking to bikes or walking.
While Copenhagen is an expensive city to visit, there are definitely ways to check out the city without breaking the bank. Copenhagen on a budget is indeed possible and can be done incredibly easy. Having said that, definitely try to spend a little extra to enjoy the full Danish experience.