Still need a hotel for your trip to Copenhagen?
Do you also start reciting ABBA’s classic whenever you enviously look at your friends latest vacation pictures? Then you might belong to those, who still believe that traveling is a privilege of the rich.
Money money money
must be funny
in the rich man’s world
money money money
in the rich man’s world
all the things I could do
if I had a little money
(ABBA – Money Money Money)
While money is a factor and I’m personally not a big fan of the whole “See the world on a shoe-string”-movement, I don’t think that traveling has to force you to live off of Ramen noodles for the rest of the year.
Even in places that are rumored to be exorbitantly expensive (such as the whole of Scandinavia) there are lots of simple ways to fully enjoy your stay without completely emptying your bank account.
So, here is everything you need to know to visit Copenhagen on a budget, from affordable accommodations and cheap but delicious food to absolutely free sights and museums.
Copenhagen is not only the coolest kid on the Nordic block, but also gets constantly ranked as the happiest city in the world.
The easiest way to safe on accommodation, regardless of your standard of comfort, is to visit during off-season. Off-season in Copenhagen is everything except the summer months (May to September) If you travel outside of these summer months you’ll have more options to choose from and, usually, considerably lower prices.
For that reason, I’d recommend visiting Copenhagen towards the end of April – spring is in full swing, which means better weather, warmer temperatures and beautiful colors, and all the attractions have just reopened after their winter hibernation as well.
Opening hours of museums etc. are still on their off-season schedule, though, so a bit more planing and research is necessary.
Generator Hostel Copenhagen
You can also save a lot of money by choosing the right hostel. While some travelers are as happy as a clam booking a bed in a 20-bed mixed dorm, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But traveling on a budget, doesn’t necessarily mean having to forgo all amenities.
Generator Hostel Copenhagen is, in my humble opinion, one of the best options if you want to visit Copenhagen on a budget. It feels like a hotel while giving you all the perks of a hostel. It’s huge (five floors with about 200 rooms in total), very clean, every room has an en-suite and the bar/restaurant on the first floor serves tasty food to very reasonable prices.
You can book a bed in a dorm room starting at 20€ per night or treat yourself to your own private room starting at 67€ per night (sleeps two people).
The only down-side is that there is no kitchen, so self-catering is not an option. But no need to fret, delicious tips for food on a budget are coming your way.
Food is usually the one cost factor that may be influenced the most. Self-catering is a great way to save money. When you’re on vacation (especially on a quick weekend get-away) preparing your own meals is, however, often an unwelcome task.
And you haven’t truly visited a place unless you had a taste of the local cuisine!
So, here are my tips on how to make the most out of every meal without spending a fortune.
Copenhagen is full of precious little bakeries (for example Meyers Bageri just around the corner of the Generator Hostel).
So get yourself down to one of those bakeries, grab a deliciously warm and succulent Kanelsnegle (cinnamon roll) and a freshly brewed coffee and start your day with a smile.
The keyword here is Smørrebrød. Basically, it’s the Danish version of a sandwich. If you’ve ever been dissatisfied with the content-to-bread-ratio of a regular sandwich, Smørrebrød is your dream come true.
It consists of a tini-tiny slice of dark rye bread that serves as the basis for a stack of food the size of the Tower of Babel. And there’s nothing that couldn’t serve as a topping: prawns, eggs, roast beef, chicken salad, salmon. You name it, they probably have it.
The Danes love their Smørrebrød so much, they’ve even created a Smørrebrød app full of interesting information, delicious recipes and, of course, the best places for your daily Smørrebrød fix.
Dining at Noma (the best restaurant in the world in four consecutive years) might be a treat for your senses but probably not for your wallet. One meal at the Scandinavian restaurant could easily cost as much as your flight ticket to and from Copenhagen.
So, for a more sensible option, do as the Danish do. Grab yourself some food from one of the street markets and enjoy the hygge atmosphere of Nyhavn or soak up the sun sitting in one of the deck chairs along the water front.
Make sure to check out Copenhagen Street Food on Papirøen (Paper Island) (only open Thursday to Sunday during off-season, every day during summer) and Torvehallerne (open every day but with varying closing times).
Copenhagen is the ideal place for sightseeing. It’s such a small city that, even though the public transport isn’t too bad, you won’t need to spend any money on transportation. Everything’s in walking distance.
And even better, many of Copenhagen’s best sights are absolutely free! Take a selfie with The Little Mermaid, enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Copenhagen’s parks and historical buildings or relax in Freetown Christiania where everything smells like weed and freedom (IMPORTANT: Freetown or not, cannabis is still very much illegal in Denmark!).
Free walking tour
If you’re not satisfied with simply seeing the sights, but would actually like to learn something about them as well, why not join one of the Sandeman’s free walking tours?
No, it’s not a ruse, they are completely free – technically.
They work on a tips-only basis which means you can pay as much as you can afford and as much as you thought it was worth (they also accept a thank you and a hand-shake as payment).
I’ve already joined at least 10 of these tours all over Europe and they’re always a blast!
High above the ground
And it doesn’t stop there: You don’t even have to pay a dime to enjoy the city from a bird’s-eye view! Tårnet, the tower of Christiansborg Palace, is the highest tower in all of Copenhagen and absolutely free of charge.
If you’re thinking that you’ll have to pay plenty in sweat and tears climbing all those stairs, then you’re wrong, my friend. A lift takes you quickly and comfortably all the way to the top of the tower.
Testing the Water
Copenhagen used Amsterdam as a model when planning the harbor. So it’s no wonder that one of the best ways to see Copenhagen is by boat. Float gently through the canals and marvel at the beautiful houses of Christianshavn.
While these boat cruises aren’t free (the Danish generosity has to end somewhere), there’s a simple way to safe a lot of money.
There are two companies that offer these canal and harbor tours. They both start at Nyhavn, they basically have the exact same boats, they make the exact same route and both include an English audio guide.
Canal Tours Copenhagen is the popular one with the big, flashy booth at the very beginning of Nyhavn. Yes, you might have guessed it already, don’t choose that one if you’re trying to get the most bang for your buck.
Just a couple of steps down the right side of the canal, you can see the inconspicious booth of Netto-Bådene. As mentioned before, they both offer the exact same tour, but Netto-Bådene will cost you only 5€ instead of 10€ (money you can spend on your next Smørrebrød).
Copenhagen isn’t just a gorgeous city with beautiful buildings and stunning parks, it also has plenty to offer for the museum lovers among you.
The Copenhagen Card gives you free access to 73 attractions and museum and lets you use the public transport free of charge. Unless you plan on visiting 10 museums in one day, though, the card is rather pricey, costing you 51€ for 24 hours.
However, it doesn’t have to be this expensive. With a couple of simple tricks you’ll get to enjoy more culture and art than you can shake a stick at, all without spending a single krone.
(IMPORTANT: most museums are closed on Monday, so you have to plan accordingly.)
The National Museum shows you the entire history of Denmark spread out on three beautifully organised floors. Learn more about the first brave settlers, the belligerent Vikings and the prosperous Danes of today – and the entrance is always free!
You can easily spend an entire day exploring this fascinating museum and it’s a great activity for a rainy day.
Make sure you grab the information leaflet at the entrance of the museum. It shows you all the must-see exhibits, offers some additional information and is proof that the Danes have a great sense of humor.
National Gallery of Denmark
This is an absolute must for all the art-lovers among you. And just like the National Museum, the National Gallery is absolutely free.
The exhibit features mainly European and Danish pieces from the 1300s to the modern age and includes works from artist such as Picasso, Rembrandt, Matisse and Rubens.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
No, despite the name, this is not a beer-museum. If you’re more into the art of beer than art itself, there’s Visit Carlsberg, The Copenhagen Exbeerience (their pun, not mine).
The Glyptotek in Copenhagen started as the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg breweries, and has grown into an impressive sculpture museum.
If you visit Copenhagen on a budget but don’t want to miss out on this fascinating museum, you should schedule it for a Thursday. Once a week on Thursday, the museum opens its doors to all art aficionados at no cost at all.
Den Hirschsprungske Samling
For a more local take on art, you should visit Den Hirschsprungske Samling. This museum puts a focus on Danish art from the 19th and early 20th century.
It is located just around the corner of the National Gallery and is free of charge every Wednesday.
Do you have any more tips on how to visit Copenhagen on a budget?
Share them in the comments.