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Visiting Copenhagen on a budget

Visiting Copenhagen on a budget

Colourful waterside townhouses, boats on the canals, Michelin-starred restaurants and little 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 not as pricey as Norway or Sweden. This pretty, laid-back city is worth the splurge – and it’s 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 Copenhagen on a budget (NB. 100 DKK = £11/€13/US$15).

Read more: Highlights of Copenhagen: boats, bikes and beers

Toldboden waterfront bar in Copenhagen

Toldboden waterfront bar

Things to do in Copenhagen on a budget

For a great introduction to Copenhagen, take a free city walking tour, where you just tip your guide. Sandeman’s New Copenhagen Tours have a 2.5-hour tour through 6000 years of Copenhagen’s history leaving from City Hall Square at 10am, 11am and 2pm. Or Copenhagen Free Walking Tours have a 3-hour Grand Tour departing from the City Hall Steps at 11am and 90-minute tours of Christianshavn (3pm daily) and Classical Copenhagen (12.30pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), both leaving from Bishop Absalon’s Statue on Højbro Plads Square.

If you’re in the city in summer, the harbour baths at Islands Brygge Harbour Bath and Sluseholmen Harbour Bath have pontoons for open-air sunbathing and swimming. 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, King’s Gardens at the Rosenberg Castle and Botanical Gardens, with 10 hectares of gardens and 1870s glasshouses.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen

Tivoli Gardens

As an alternative to the Tivoli Gardens (which starts from 120 DKK entry plus rides), head to Bakkan, the world’s oldest amusement park. It’s a 10 minute-drive north of Copenhagen and has three rollercoasters as well as 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, and there’s a 50% discount on Wednesdays if you pay in cash.

For culture on a budget, get a standing ticket at the Royal Danish Opera House for 100 DKK (you can sometimes bag a seat if one’s free after the first act). There are also free music concerts by students from the Royal Danish Academy of Music on Wednesdays at 5pm in churches and concert halls, plus various free performances during the city’s jazz and opera festivals.

The Christiansborg Palace and Little Mermaid, Copenhagen

The Christiansborg Palace and Little Mermaid

Money-saving museums and galleries

Some of Copenhagen’s museums have free entry on certain days of the week. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek gallery is free on Sundays, the Museum of Copenhagen on Fridays and the Hirschsprung Collection, Royal Danish Naval Museum, Royal Arsenal Museum and Thorvaldsen Museum are all free on Wednesdays. Other museums like the Post and Telegraph Museum, and the David Collection of Islamic art are free all the time.

If you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums, there are a couple of different discount cards. The Parkmuseerne ticket gives entry to six museums, including the Statens Museum for Kunst and Rosenborg Castle, for 245 DKK and is valid for a year. You can buy it online or in museums.

Or there’s the Copenhagen Card which covers 86 attractions, including the Tivoli Gardens, Rundetårn, Rosenborg 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. The cards cost €54 for 24 hours, €80 for 48 hours, €99 for 72 hours or €133 for 120 hours – and you can bring along two children under 10 for free. You can buy the cards online, at the airport or the Copenhagen visitor’s centre.

Along the waterfront in 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 is the Tårnet tower at the Christiansborg Palace – it has a 40cm over the tower at City Hall, which is the second tallest. It’s is free to visit and is open every day except Mondays.

If walking up all those 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 to the top instead of stairs, which was originally designed for horses to ride up, and twists its way up 42 metres to the top. Entry costs 25 DKK (5 DKK for children aged 5–15), or it’s free if you have a Copenhagen Card.

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

Views across the city from the Rundetårn

Views across the city from the Rundetårn

Budget food and drink

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

On Refshaleøen island, Reffen has lots of international street food stalls – from Mexican blue corn tacos to Gambian stews – as well as bars and coffee stalls. The food stalls are open from 11am to 9pm and the bars from 10am to 10pm (closed December–March) and you can get there by boat or bike from Nyhavn. 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 takeaway drinks from a supermarket and sit along the water’s edge with the same views. Or check out this list of Copenhagen bars which have two-for-one happy hours on cocktails.

Reflections in the water at the Kastellet gardens

Reflections in the water at the Kastellet gardens

Low-cost Copenhagen transport

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

One of the best ways to see the city is from the water. You get a free boat trip if you have 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 statue at the other, passing Christianshavn, Nyhavn and the Royal Opera House. A single ticket costs 24 DKK for adults or 12 DKK for children, or a 24-hour ticket costs 150 DKK – you can get on and off as many times as you like and it also includes bus travel.

Or make like a local and get on your bike. Copenhagen has a city bike scheme called Bycyklen, with bike hire for 12 DKK per 20 minutes. You just pick them up from one of the docking stations and drop them off at another. Each bike has a touchscreen tablet with built-in GPS marking places of interest. You can create an account in advance on their website or using the tablet.

Boats on the canals 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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Copenhagen on a budget – how to save money on sightseeing, museums, galleries, food and drink, city views and transport on a Copenhagen city break, Denmark #Copenhagen #Denmark #budgettravel #budgetCopenhagen #Scandinavia A budget city guide to Copenhagen – money-saving tips to cut your costs on sights, museums, food and travel #Copenhagen #Denmark #budgettravel #budgetCopenhagen #Scandinavia

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Wednesday 8th of September 2021

Hi Lucy, Thank you for all the valuable tips! We will be traveling to Copenhagen tomorrow and wondering if most stores and restaurants accept payment by card? Or did you need to bring some cash?


Monday 1st of June 2020

Hi Lucy! Great post and travel advices on a budget. I said to myself I need to visit Copenhagen because of there coloured houses, I can't express how that looks to me.

Lucy Dodsworth

Wednesday 3rd of June 2020

It's a beautiful place!


Friday 31st of January 2020

Hello Lucy! I really admire your effort to put this website together and the tips on budget travelling - I am a solo traveler and I always look for a cheap way when travelling - especially to such expensive cities as Copenhagen (or other Scandinavian cities). So, great tip from you! I will bookmark and follow your nice website. Wish you all the best! Bye Renata


Monday 10th of February 2020

Thanks Renata!


Monday 15th of July 2019

Nice post about the one of the beautiful Scandinavian county. The post is very helpful especially about the budget for planning a trip to Copenhagen.


Sunday 21st of July 2019



Wednesday 30th of January 2019

Can't wait to visit Copenhagen for the first time in a few weeks. Thanks for the tip about the cheaper boat transport tour! Great posts!


Sunday 3rd of February 2019

Hope you have a fantastic time!