Copenhagen, Denmark’s beautiful capital, is home to some of the happiest people on earth, but most people only know it is as one of the most expensive cities to visit. In reality, Copenhagen’s notoriously steep prices are easy to navigate around, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy your time there without spending a fortune.
From things to do, places to visit, how to eat and where to stay, here are some tips to help even the cheapest budget traveler afford a visit to Denmark’s capital.
1. Cruise the Harbor
Copenhagen is a maritime city, so it makes sense that one of the best ways to appreciate the old history of the town and its importance as a shipping harbor is to see the city from the water. A normal cruise around Denmark's’ harbor will cost you anywhere from 40 to 100 Danish Krones (DKK), but for only 24 DKK, or under $4, you can hop aboard a harbor bus for a cheaper way to see tour the city’s waterways. The city’s harbor buses are blue and yellow colored, and are free for kids 12 & under. The harbor buses run right past sights like the Royal Opera House and Christianshavn, and give you the perfect introduction into the harbor’s enchantment.
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2. See the Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is arguably one of the most iconic and remembered stories of Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish fairy tale author. Located at the end of Langelinje Pier, the actual Little Mermaid statue, over 100 years old, pays tribute to the tale, and gives everyone the chance to enjoy paying their respects to the maiden from under the sea. Seeing the bronze statue takes only a few minutes, and it’s not very impressive in size. But somehow the small size only adds to the charm, and a walk out on the pier is well worth the reward.
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3. Explore the World at Superkilen
Leave it to Denmark to have the world’s most diversity embracing park in the world. The public park is completely free and open to anyone, and is filled with objects from around the world and from a host of nationalities and cultures. The park is divided into three different sections, each with their own thesis. The Green Park is centered on the outdoors and healthy sustainability, while the Red Square is centered around recreational, modern life.
The Black Market connects the two in the middle, and is the perfect place for meeting with friends and family, like an outdoor living room. Every element of the park, from the plants to the garbage cans and manhole covers have been donated or shipped in from different countries around the world. It’s a perfect place to see the blending of the entire world come together in one environment, helping everyone to see the world for free!
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4. Watch the Changing of the Guard
London’s Red Coats are the only city to have an impressive and well trained royal army. At noon everyday at Amalienborg Castle, the winter residence of the Danish Royal Family, visitors and locals can enjoy watching the changing of the guard. You can tell which of the royal family members are in residence depending on the length and instruments involved in the march. The changing of the guard takes place in the courtyard; the Castle is actually four buildings built together surrounding a courtyard, and it’s one of the architectural highlights of Copenhagen.
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5. Traveling alone? Stay in a Hostel
Arguably the most expensive part of your trip in Copenhagen is the overnight accommodation. Hostels in Copenhagen will hands down be more expensive than almost anywhere else in the world, but you can still find a few hostels that are reasonably priced and offer free breakfast as well, which saves you a good $10 right there. Copenhagen Backpackers Hostel is very centrally located, offers free breakfast and WiFi, and a basic dorm room will only cost you about $15 per night. Copenhagen Downtown Hostel dorms start at $18 a night, but they offer plenty of amenities and a very filling breakfast as well.
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6. Take a Ride at the World’s Oldest Amusement Park
Bakken Amusement Park first opened its doors in 1583, and has been running for the past 400+ years, making it the world’s oldest operating amusement park. The park charges no admission for entrance, so you can still enjoy the park even if you don’t have a dime to spare. If you do want to splurge to ride some of the rides, go on a Wednesday, when you ticket prices are cut in half if you pay in cash at each ride.
You can even bring in your own food and drink, so you don’t get caught having to pay inflated carnival prices inside the park. Bekken is 10 minutes north of Copenhagen, but it’s very easy to get to via train; just hop on the C-line from Copenhagen’s main train terminal and get off at Klampenborg 10 minutes later!
7. Explore the Botanical Gardens
Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden is holds some of the most charming and oldest greenhouses in the world, dating back to the mid 1800s. There’s even a spiral staircase that leads to a passage at the top of the greenhouse, as well as several cafes and several thousand varieties of plants and environments. The gardens are open every day of the week year round, and are completely free to visit.
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8. Visit the National Gallery of Denmark
While art museums may sound stuffy and dull to some, Copenhagen’s National Gallery is a great find for pretty much any age group, solo traveler, or family. There’s plenty of classics to look at, as well as plenty of interactive displays and areas where kids and adults alike can learn more and embrace their own creativity. Copenhagen’s weather isn’t always blue, sunny skies, so if you find yourself with a rainy day, the National Gallery is a great place to head indoors and still enjoy the city.
There’s a great indoor cafe, and all the displays are in English and very traveller friendly. Admission is completely free, and the museum has a great collection of all kinds and styles of art from across the globe.
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9. Traveling with a Group? Rent a House
The most affordable way to see Copenhagen is to travel with a small group of people. You can rent out an entire house or small apartment on Airbnb, and after splitting the costs you can usually average around $10 a person. If you’re traveling with small children, you can usually find a small flat or apartment with one bedroom for around $60-70 a night, which averages around $15-20 a person, depending on how many kids you have with you.
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10. Fill up on Hot Dog
Nearly every country has a cheap, go to street vendor staple that can sometimes constitute the sole diet of budget travelers (think street tacos in Mexico or currywurst in Germany). The Danish go to cheap meal that is easy to find from street vendors city wide is the hot dog. Each one will cost right around $2, and is a cheap, hot way to stay full and warm up as you wander around. If you can find a hostel with a free breakfast and eat a hot dog for lunch, Copenhagen prices can quickly become much more doable.
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11. Take a Free Guided Tour
Interested in learning more about Copenhagen? If you’ve never been to Denmark before, it can be a bit overwhelming to try to soak in so much of the city’s urban beauty and sprawling landmarks. During the summer months, the city offers free guided tours of Copenhagen. Each tour lasts for several hours, and starts at the City Hall at 11:00 am. The tours are free, and you can donate as much or as little as you can afford to your tour guide at the end of the tour.
If you’re visiting in the off season, you can also check out Copenhagen Free Walking Tour, which offers two different tours from different starting points in the city, and throughout the day. Each tour requires a minimum of 5 people, and is offered everyday of the year. They are both free, with an optional donation following your tour.
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12. Window Shopping
Copenhagen’s downtown streets are lined with rows of picturesque shops, galleries and corner cafes. Even if you can’t afford to go in, simply walking around and browsing the windows is a great way to see some of the local Danish markets and trends.
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13. Explore Christiania
Christiania is the most successful of the hippie movements for a search for a utopian government from the 1970s. Originally an abandoned military site, thousands of locals and even some foreigners joined forces and declared Christiania a free land exempt from Danish rule and without taxes. Of course the country within a city didn’t last long, but even today it remains a more offbeat and alternative cultural hub compared to the rest of Copenhagen. It’s easily one of the most fun neighborhoods to walk around in, with plenty of interesting street art, crazy architecture, and fun people to watch.
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14. Walk Around the Rosenborg Castle Gardens
The Rosenborg Castle Gardens is Copenhagen’s most popular park, and there are always plenty of free activities and things to explore there. You can enjoy stunning views of the Rosenborg Castle, visit the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, and walk to the famous Hercules Pavilion. It’s a great place for families as well, with a newly installed adventure playground geared toward kids, and free puppet shows during the summer months.
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15. Consider buying a Copenhagen Card
If you’re going to be in Copenhagen for a few days, you might want to consider buying a Copenhagen Card. The card gets you free admission to over 70 of the city’s museums and famous places to visit. You also get to use public transportation city wide for free, including buses, trams, and trains. The card is also a good investment if you’ll be going out to eat often, as it gets you discounts on several restaurants.
Prices vary, but a 3 day pass to the city will cost around $80 a person, so if you’ll be cramming in plenty of museums, restaurants, and utilizing public transportation, it’s a great way to save money in the long run. If you’re traveling, children are included on the card for free under 10 years of age, which doubles your savings in some cases.
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16. View the city from the Tower at Christiansborg Palace
The Christiansborg Palace Tower is the highest point in Copenhagen, at just under 350 feet tall. The tower is open to the public, and you can ride an elevator to the top for free. It’s by far the best place to view the city’s skyline, and you can stay as long as you like. You can get to the tower by the King’s Gate entrance.
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17. Explore the Open Air Museum
Want to travel back in time? Visiting Copenhagen’s Open Air Museum is a great starting place, especially if the weather is nice. There are over 50 buildings spread over 60+ acres from all time periods of Danish history. The tour guides dress in character, so you truly get to experience life as a Dane throughout different eras of history. There is no admission to the museum, and you can easily reach it from the city via public transportation.
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18. Bike the City
Copenhagen was the first city in the world to offer a free bike program open to the public over 20 years ago, and the practice still continues today after having spread across the globe. Copenhagen is very bike friendly, and there are plenty of cycle lanes across the city. While the city no longer offers free bikes, you can still rent one for just a few dollars an hour with a credit card or cash around the city.
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19. Visit the National Museum of Denmark
If you’re going to visit only one museum in Denmark, the National Museum in Copenhagen is the best one to visit. For one, it’s the largest, and it also offers completely free admission for visitors. The museum houses the best collection of Danish history and provides a great starting point for the all encompassing cultural history of Denmark and its people. If you don’t speak English, no worries; every sign and fact sheet in the museum is printed in both Danish and English, which is great for out of towners.
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20. Attend the Opera
A night at the Danish Royal Opera may sound exclusive and for the elite, and that’s because it is. The Opera House is easily one of the most impressive buildings in the city, and the ceiling alone is decorated with over 100,000 sheets of 24 carat gold. For a budget traveler, it may seem a bit out of reach, but believe it or not you, too, can enjoy a night out at the opera! The opera sells discounted tickets for those who are willing to stand, so if you can forgo a chair you can see a performance at the Royal Opera house for under $12 a ticket.
As you can see, while Copenhagen has a reputation for being pricey, there’s plenty of resources and ways to truly enjoy the city on a tight budget. Trekeffect has plenty of additional resources for everything you’ll need to plan your trip to Copenhagen!
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