When I told friends and family I was off to Copenhagen for a couple of days, the response was universal: “Copenhagen is amazing but it’s soooo expensive!” In fact, the advice from our Danish friends about dining in their beautiful city was to just “close your eyes, hand over your credit card and hope for the best”. Gulp.
Scandinavia is a notoriously expensive part of Europe to visit and Copenhagen is no exception. But there are ways you can cut costs to make your trip to Denmark’s stylish capital more affordable. Many of the city’s attractions are free to visit and Copenhagen is small enough that you can walk just about anywhere. If you hunt around, you can also find some great cheap eats and even some local beers that won’t break the bank.
So without further ado… here’s everything you need to know to visit Copenhagen on a budget (ish!)
A few things to know before you go
Currency: The main currency in Copenhagen is the Danish Krone. Some shops and hotels will accept Euros but you’ll want to make sure you have some Krone to hand to be on the safe side. Most places accept card payments, so you may wish to consider signing up for a Monzo card for zero-charge transactions and free cash withdrawals (up to £200 a month).
Tipping: I know us Brits have a reputation for being stingy tippers (!) but tipping is not customary in Copenhagen. In fact, service charges are included in your bill by law in Denmark, so tipping is not expected in hotels, restaurants or bars!
Copenhagen Card: If you’re planning to visit a number of different attractions and museums, you may find it more cost-effective to purchase a Copenhagen Card. Single and multi-day cards are available and include free admission to most of the city’s top sights, as well as discounts for restaurants and bars and free public transport (including airport transfers). We decided not to bother, as most of the things we wanted to do in Copenhagen were free anyway. But if you’re undecided, check out their handy online calculator to see how much you could save.
Getting to Copenhagen
Copenhagen is home to the largest airport in the Nordic countries, serving destinations right across the globe. Several budget and low-cost airlines fly direct from the U.K. to Copenhagen in less than 2 hours, including Ryanair, Easyjet and Norwegian Air.
We flew into Copenhagen and out of Stockholm, as part of an extended trip, and our single fares from Bristol airport to Copenhagen with Easyjet were just £36 per person in mid-June. But don’t be fooled… it’s once you get there that things start adding up!
Top tip: Set yourself a flight price alert on Skyscanner to bag the best deal.
Getting around Copenhagen
If you’re flying into Copenhagen Airport, then the cheapest way to transfer to the city is by train or metro. Follow exit signs from the arrivals gate and you’ll eventually arrive at a row of DSB ticket machines, where you can purchase your tickets to the city centre. Whether you use train or metro, the cost is just 38DKK for a single ticket (approx £4.50) and the journey into the city takes between 10-20 minutes, depending on where you’re based.
The metro connects to popular downtown locations, including Christianshavn (11 minutes), Nørreport (15 minutes) and Frederiksberg (20 minutes). A new line is due to open in September, with transport links to even more city-centre locations. But until then, if you’re staying centrally, you’re best to catch the 12-minute train to Kobenhavn H (Copenhagen Central) station and walk to your accommodation from there.
Copenhagen is a small enough city that you can walk pretty much everywhere. Or do as the locals do and hire yourself a pair of wheels! There’s a bike rental shop on every corner, or you can ‘pay as you go’ with one of the docked white bikes (‘Bycyklen‘) around the city for just 30DKK per hour.
Public transport is easy and cheap, if you do need to use it – I recommend downloading the Citymapper app, which will tell you exactly how to get from A to B, using all different methods of transport.
Where to stay in Copenhagen
We found hotels in Copenhagen to be extortionately priced – I’m talking £150-200 a night for basic accommodation in the city. Airbnb is a far more affordable alternative and gives you the option to cook for yourself. Dining out is an important part of the travel experience for me but I always love the flexibility of being able to prepare my own breakfast or snacks to cut down on costs, when I’m away.
We narrowed our search down to Vesterbro, which seemed to offer the best value for money, in terms of location and overall vibe. The former meat-packing district has become super trendy in recent years, with plenty of hipster coffee shops and cool bars to explore, yet it’s still retained its local, edgy charm.
You can pick up private rooms on Airbnb for £70-80 per night, which is pretty good going if you’re sharing. We paid a little more in June but found a great spot in the heart of Vesterbro with its own sunny balcony!
If you’re on a tight budget or travelling solo, there are plenty of hostels in the city centre, too, with rooms starting from around £25 per night. Check out Hostelworld to see what’s available during your stay.
Free things to see and do in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is packed full of fun things to do but it’s also the kind of city where you can just wander the colourful streets, admiring the views and indulging in the Hygge vibe.
We had the benefit of a sunny visit, which meant we could explore most of the city’s outdoor attractions on the cheap. In fact, we only paid for three attractions during our entire visit (Church of Our Saviour Tower, The Round Tower and Tivoli Gardens) – the rest were completely FREE!
One experience that is definitely worth coughing up for is the Church of Our Saviour Tower. It costs 50DKK to climb the 300 steps to the top but it’s worth every last cent for the exhilarating experience of ascending the external spiral staircase and taking in the panoramic views from the top.
The Round Tower tends to be the more popular of the two viewing towers but doesn’t hold a candle to the Church of Our Saviour, in my opinion. Granted you don’t have to work so hard, as it’s a sloping walkway to the top, but the views are mostly obscured by railings and the whole place is a lot more touristy and crowded.
As for Tivoli Gardens, this is the most famous attraction in Copenhagen but also one of the most expensive at 135DKK a pop (not including any rides). We enjoyed exploring the beautiful gardens and grounds but it does seem a little over-priced, unless you’re planning on spending a whole day or evening there.
But now for those freebies I promised…
Probably the most iconic and Instagrammable part of Copenhagen, Nyhavn is a must-stop for any first-time visitor to Copenhagen. This pretty 17th century harbour is lined with colourful townhouses and traditional fishing boats and has a buzzing atmosphere. It is a bit of a tourist trap, though, so avoid the over-priced bars and restaurants along the waterfront and stick to the side-streets for food and drink!
The King’s Garden
Copenhagen is famous for its historic palaces but visiting these royal residences can come with a hefty price-tag. Many of the gardens and grounds, however, are free to visit and offer the perfect setting to relax on a clear day.
The King’s Garden is home to 400-year-old Rosenborg Castle and is characterised by scented rose gardens, perfectly sculpted flowerbeds and tree-lined pathways. It’s an oasis of calm within the city and the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing.
Relax in Christiansvahn
One of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Copenhagen, Christiansvahn is another must-stop on any Copenhagen itinerary. The charming canals and townhouses are reminiscent of Amsterdam but with a more relaxed, local vibe. There are plenty of cute cafes and restaurants to explore, including several little boat-houses – perfect for watching the world go by. Be sure to wander beyond the canals to explore the cobbled side streets, which are a photographer’s dream.
Visit the Freetown of Christiania
Within Christiansvahn, you’ll find the Freetown of Christiania – one of the most unique spots in Copenhagen. Today, around 900 people live within this independent commune, which has its own rules and regulations separate from the government.
There are two distinct parts of Christiania – you’ll enter via the more family-friendly zone, with funky market stalls and artsy workshops. But once you see the “no photography” signs and hanging lanterns, you know you’re entering a more seedy side, where drugs are sold freely and the atmosphere shifts ever so slightly. Definitely worth a gander; just keep your wits about you.
Amalienborg Palace is home to the Danish royal family and one of the most famous attractions in Copenhagen. You can pay to tour the palace’s stately rooms and collections, or you can visit the palace square for free. The famous ‘Changing of the Guard’ takes place outside the palace at midday every day.
Step inside Frederik’s Church
Just behind Amalienborg Palace, you’ll find the magnificent Frederik’s Church, also known as Marmorkirken (the “marble church”) The church is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10am-5pm and admission is free. Be sure to step inside and look up – the domed ceiling is absolutely breathtaking!
Take a photo at Magstraede
Magstraede is one of the oldest streets in Copenhagen and one of the most beautiful. The colourful houses, cobbled streets and perfectly positioned bikes all make for the quintessential photo stop!
Once the city’s seedy red light district, today Vesterbro is Copenhagen’s coolest neighbourhood. Famous for its designer stores, independent coffee shops and lively nightlife scene, Vesterbro is popular with locals and tourists alike. Check out the quirky street art, browse the art galleries, and sip on a cocktail – all signs of a day well spent in Copenhagen’s creative quarter.
Take a canal-side walk
Canal tours are a hugely popular (and expensive!) attraction in Copenhagen but you can save your pennies and wander the city’s waterways instead. Start your walk outside Fisketorvet shopping centre. Cross over the bridge and follow the scenic path along the canal for 30 minutes, past modern, glass-fronted buildings and traditional Danish architecture, until you reach Christiansvahn.
If it’s a sunny day, why not join the locals and take a dip at one of the city’s harbour baths? These open-air swimming pools along the canal are hugely popular in Copenhagen and are completely free to visit!
Cheap places to eat and drink in Copenhagen
Eating and drinking in the Nordic countries is often the thing that burns a hole in your pocket. Copenhagen is home to some of the world’s best and most expensive restaurants, after all, and finding decent cheap eats can be a bit of mission.
Luckily I’ve done some of the hard work for you! Here’s a few of my top-rated finds for cheap food and drink in Copenhagen.
This cosy little cafe, located in the heart of Vesterbro, is the perfect place to start your day. Byens is a publishing house, famous for its “bookstores on wheels” that sell books and coffee on-the-go throughout the city. Bogcafe is their first permanent bookstore and coffee shop, where the writers themselves serve up the coffee while guests sit and leaf through a book. Bliss! A coffee and breakfast pastry here will set you back by around 51DKK (£6).
For a cheap and tasty lunch, look no further than Hos Nicola – an authentic Italian deli tucked away down the pretty side-streets of Christiansvahn. You can grab a foot-long hot sandwich to take away for just 33DKK (cash only) – a real steal in this part of town. Find a bench along the canal and enjoy the peaceful views while you eat!
If you prefer something more traditional, Rita’s Smorrebrod is a lovely local spot serving up Denmark’s famous open ryebread sandwiches to eat-in or takeaway. Prices start from just 14DKK (only £1.50!) and there’s plenty of veggie, meat and fish options to choose from or you can even style your own.
This outstanding pizzeria is another local favourite in the heart of Vesterbro. You know it’s going to be good when there are no other tourists in sight! Pizzas start at 105DKK (£12) and are delicious and HUGE! The friendly staff will even set you up a doggy bag for whatever you can’t finish – perfect for breakfast or lunch the next day.
I’ve been obsessed with Vietnamese food ever since visiting a few years back and am always on the hunt for authentic cuisine. From the coloured plastic chairs outside of District Tonkin, to the delicious fried spring rolls and bun bo nam bo, it’s almost like being back in the bustling streets of Hanoi.
Main dishes range from 56 – 96DKK (£7-11) and sides from just 45DKK (£5.50) Throw in a refreshing Tiger beer and you can have yourself a main, side and beer, all for under £20, which is pretty good going for one of the most expensive foodie cities in Europe!
And for drinks:
Located next to the most adorable colourful plaza in Indre By (Copenhagen Centre), you’ll find Xocovino – a cute, little chocolate and wine tasting bar. Need I say more?
You can buy wine by the glass here for just 45DKK (approx £5.50) and beer for just 25KK (£3). Make yourself at home at one of the cosy tables outside and enjoy your bevvie al fresco, whilst listening to live music on the plaza.
The words “Copenhagen” and “budget” may seem like an unlikely combination but I hope I’ve convinced you that there are ways to enjoy this beautiful city without breaking the bank!