Visiting Copenhagen on a budget

Copenhagen on a budget

Colourful waterside townhouses, boats on the canals, Michelin-starred restaurants and miniature mermaids – Copenhagen is famous for a lot of things, but being a budget destination is not one of them. Scandinavia has some of the world’s highest prices, but Denmark’s are actually not quite as scary as those you find in Norway or Sweden. This pretty, laid-back city is worth the splurge – and it is possible to get a taste of Copenhagen’s high quality of life and designer style without spending big. Here are my top tips for making the most of your trip to Copenhagen while keeping to a budget (NB. 100 DKK = approx £12/€13/US$16).

Read more: Boats, bikes and beers: Copenhagen moments

Toldboden waterfront bar, Copenhagen

Toldboden waterfront bar

Things to see and do

For a great introduction to Copenhagen, there are a couple of companies that run free walking tours of the city, where you just tip your guide. Sandeman’s New Copenhagen Tours have a 2.5-hour tour through 6000 years of Copenhagen’s history departing from the Town Hall at 10am, 11am and 2pm each day. Copenhagen Free Walking Tours have a few different tours, with a 3-hour Grand Tour at 11am which leaves from the City Hall Steps and 90-minute tours of Christianshavn (3pm daily) and Classical Copenhagen (12pm Saturday/Sunday), both leaving from Bishop Absalon’s Equestrian Statue on Højbro Plads Square.

If you’re in the city in summer, there are harbour baths at Islands Brygge Harbour Bath and Sluseholmen Harbour Bath with pontoons for open-air sunbathing and swimming in the clear harbour water. There’s also a free city beach at Amager Strandpark, with two kilometres of sandy lagoons. There are plenty of free parks and gardens too, like the Frederiksberg Gardens, the King’s Gardens at the Rosenberg Castle and the Botanical Gardens, which have 10 hectares of gardens along with historic 1870s glasshouses.

As an alternative to the Tivoli Gardens (from 110 DKK entry plus rides), head to Bakkan, the world’s oldest amusement park. A 10 minute-drive north of Copenhagen, it has three rollercoasters plus ferris wheels, drop towers and other rides. There’s no entrance fee and you can bring your own food and drinks – a multi-ride ticket costs 269 DKK or 189 DKK for kids, with a 50% discount on Wednesdays if you pay in cash.

For culture on a budget, you can get a standing ticket at the Royal Danish Opera House for 75–125 DKK (you can also sometimes bag a seat of there’s one free after the first act). Other free music events include concerts by students from the Royal Danish Academy of Music on Wednesdays at 5pm in churches and concert halls, and there are various free performances during the city’s jazz and opera festivals.

Christiansborg Palace and Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

The Christiansborg Palace and Little Mermaid

Museums and galleries

Some of Copenhagen’s major museums are free to enter – like the National Museum, the National Gallery, the Brede Works (museum of industrialisation), the Post and Telegraph Museum, the Danish Music Museum and the Open Air Museum. Though some may charge extra for special exhibitions.

Other museums have free entry on certain days of the week, like the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek gallery on Sundays, the Museum of Copenhagen on Fridays and the Hirschsprung Collection, Royal Danish Naval Museum, Royal Arsenal Museum and Thorvaldsen Museum on Wednesdays.

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums and attractions, it might be worth investing in a Copenhagen Card. It covers 74 different places, including the Tivoli Gardens, Rundetårn, Rosenberg Castle, Zoo, Blue Planet aquarium, Carlsberg brewery and Christiansborg Palace, as well as a canal tour. You also get free transport by train, bus, habour bus and Metro, including to and from the airport. There are a few different versions – €53 for 24 hours, €74 for 48 hours, €89 for 72 hours or €120 for 120 hours – and you can bring along two children under 10 for free. You can buy the cards online, at the airport or visitor’s centre.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Along the waterfront in Nyhavn

Top city views

On a clear day, you can see all the way to Sweden from Copenhagen’s highest viewpoints. The tallest of them all is the Tårnet tower at the Christiansborg Palace – it has a whole 40 cm of extra height over the tower at City Hall, which is the second tallest. The Tårnet is free to visit and is open every day except for Mondays. Or if the steps sound a bit hard on the legs, head to the top of the Rundetårn or Round Tower instead. It’s got a spiral ramp instead of stairs, designed for horses to ride up, and twists its way up 42 metres to the top. Entry costs 25 DKK (5 DKK for children 5–15), or it’s free with a Copenhagen Card.

For something a bit different, visit the Green Roofs at Rigsarkivet. Over 2700 square metres of cycle and skateboard space has been built above the city on the top of the National Archives.

Round Tower, Copenhagen

Views across the city from the Rundetårn

Eating and drinking

If you’re self-catering, look out for Netto, Fakta or Aldi supermarkets for discount groceries. For a takeaway breakfast head to a bakery for Wienerbrød (aka Danish pastries). There are lots of different varieties including Spandauer (circular flaky pastry with custard or jam in the middle) or Ondagssnegle (cinnamon ‘snails’). For a quick snack there are plenty of stalls selling hotdogs topped with crunchy onions, or for something a bit more Danish grab a Smørrebrød, an open sandwich that’s piled high with fillings. Steer clear of touristy Nyhavn and head to studenty areas like Nørrebro or Vesterbro for lower prices.

On Papirøen (Paper Island), Copenhagen Street Food (reopening May 2018) has lots of international street food stalls – everything from Brazilian BBQ to English pancakes as well as bars and coffee stalls. Prices vary from 50–75 DKK and each stall always has at least one dish for 50 DKK. Stalls are open from 12pm to 9pm (10pm from  Thursdays to Saturdays). There’s also the weekly Kødbyens Mad & Marked food market in the city’s Meatpacking District which is open from 10am–6pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

If you want a drink by the canals in Nyhavn, the bars can be expensive but you can buy a takeaway from a supermarket and sit along the water’s edge with the same views, or find a spot in one of the parks. Or check out this list of Copenhagen bars which have two-for-one happy hours on cocktails.

Kastellet gardens Copenhagen

Reflections in the water at the Kastellet gardens

Travelling around

The centre of the city is fairly compact so it’s easy to walk around. You can get a free city map at the Visitor Centre on Vesterbrogade 4, near Copenhagen Central Station and the main entrance to the Tivoli Gardens.

One of the best ways to see the city is from the water. You get a free boat trip with a Copenhagen Card, but otherwise the cheapest canal trip is on the Movia Harbour Bus. These public barges run between the Royal Library at one end of the harbour to the Little Mermaid at the other, passing Christianshavn, Nyhavn and the Royal Opera House. A single tickets costs 24 DKK for adults or 12 DKK for children, or a 24-hour ticket costs 80 DKK – you can get on and off as many times as you like and it also includes bus travel.

Or you can make like a local and get on your bike. Copenhagen has a city bike scheme called Bycyklen, where you can hire a bike for 30 DKK an hour. You just pick them up from one of the docking stations and drop them off at another. Each bike has a touchscreen tablet with a built in GPS that marks places of interest. You can create an account in advance on their website or by using the tablet.

Canal trip in Christianshavn

Boats on the canals in Christianshavn

So those are my tips for seeing Copenhagen on a budget – do you know of any more Copenhagen bargains or have any money-saving tips?

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How to save money on sightseeing, museums and galleries, food and drink, city views and transport – showing you can see Copenhagen on a budget.

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  • Reply
    Henry Da Eighth
    August 23, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    I only got to spend a 7.5 hour layover in Copenhagen, but I got to briefly appreciate the beauty that Copenhagen has to offer. I hope to return to Copenhagen, and I guarantee this post will serve as my guide for what I should do and where I should go.

    • Reply
      August 26, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks so much – hope you do get to make the return trip sometime soon and see some more of this lovely city.

  • Reply
    August 24, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Great post, Lucy! Copenhagen is such an expensive city, but it is totally possible to visit on a budget. I found a lot of restaurants offering lunch buffets around 100 DKK. Just a small tip, you should really check out the TripAdvisor reviews beforehand, my friends picked a random restaurant and it just happened to be one of the worst in town and I’m not even exaggerating, haha.

    • Reply
      August 26, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Haha, oh dear you were very unlucky there – I always worry a bit about picking somewhere at random! Hope you managed to find some better meals for the rest of the time.

  • Reply
    Lisa (Travel Loving Family)
    August 27, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Lovely post! I love Copenhagen and have enjoyed many a visit to Tivoli Gardens. The Christmas markets there are lovely

    • Reply
      August 30, 2015 at 11:22 am

      The Tivoli Gardens were great – would love to see them at Christmas too!

  • Reply
    August 29, 2015 at 4:45 am

    I so wanna visit Copenhagen now!! Amazing post. Beautiful pics 🙂


    • Reply
      August 30, 2015 at 11:23 am

      Thanks so much, hope you get to make the trip there someday soon!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Thanks for the tips! I’m planning a weekend break and this article is really useful 😉 And I love the photos!

    • Reply
      September 9, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Thank you – hope you enjoy Copenhagen, it’s a great city!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Very nice. Copenhagen’s a terrific city, isn’t it? Love the photos.

    • Reply
      September 13, 2015 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks, yes it’s a great city – and seriously photogenic!

  • Reply
    November 12, 2015 at 2:57 am

    I’m a little behind and just catching up on this great post! Copenhagen looks fantastic and your photos depict it exactly as I imagined.

    • Reply
      November 12, 2015 at 2:46 pm

      It’s such a pretty place, and a great one to wander around and get lost in!

  • Reply
    January 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

    This is so perfect! Just found it on Pinterest as I’m heading to Copenhagen in a few weeks. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

    • Reply
      January 4, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      Fantastic, hope you have a great trip!

  • Reply
    May 18, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve just come across this post on Pinterest and I’m heading to Copenhagen next weekend so it’s been really useful. The card sounds like a great idea, I think I will get one of those. Thanks for all the info! X

    • Reply
      May 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Hope you have a fantastic trip, Copenhagen is such a great city!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Lovely write up!

    • Reply
      July 3, 2016 at 12:20 am

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    July 5, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I just went to Copenhagen and I’m already planning my next trip! Can’t believe I missed out on some of these places!!

  • Reply
    Devansh Chandak
    November 14, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Hi i am visitng Copenhagen from 22nd Dec to 17th Dec 2016 with two other friends from Milan. I loved your blog…and hope to get in contact with your if i need any more help.

    • Reply
      November 14, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Hi, hope you have a great trip – and do let me know if you need any more help (either comment here or you can email me at

  • Reply
    February 27, 2017 at 11:08 am

    Very informative – thank you! Can’t wait to visit Copenhagen next month 🙂

    • Reply
      March 2, 2017 at 11:41 am

      Hope you have a great trip!

  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Aw I really have to go back in the summer, your pictures look amazing! I went there last weekend and it was freezing cold but totally worth it. Had a beer (or a couple) at Toldboden and it’s such a great place for the end of a touristic day 😀 Great tips!

    • Reply
      February 5, 2018 at 10:19 am

      Bet it’s so different in winter! Would love to and compare sometime.

  • Reply
    Sammi Tan
    March 29, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Dear Lucy,

    I stumbled in your blog and thank you for an excellent travel guide to Copenhagen. I would like to ask you how much as an estimate we should tip the guide for the Sandeman free walking tour?

    Thank you.

    • Reply
      April 2, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      Hi Sammi, I’d usually give around 60 krone (equivalent to $US10/£7 per person).

  • Reply
    Jennifer Grey
    May 5, 2018 at 3:26 pm

    Walking tours are extremely popular in Copenhagen, though I have never been to, I heard a lot about Denmark, happy people with great content. Most wonderful place to visit on a vacation. Thanks for sharing such informative post. Your post literally helps people like me, looking for helpful tips, before planning a vacation.

    • Reply
      May 8, 2018 at 10:34 am

      Thanks – great to hear it was useful!

  • Reply
    Maria Rental
    May 15, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for this useful information! I like your posts!
    Good job!

    • Reply
      May 18, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      You’re very welcome!

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