Copenhagen is known for its great quality of life, but unfortunately, this comes with a price tag. Being a tourist magnet, home to some of the world’s best restaurants, and famous for designer products, it’s not always easy to navigate around the city on a budget. But great news - there are a couple of tips and tricks that you can use to save some cold hard cash! I’m listing some below, but would love to hear your best-kept secrets on how to get the best value for money in Copenhagen - post them in the comments below!
Forget hotels, and even the gigantic Danhostel on H.C. Andersens Boulevard is not as cheap as you would expect from a hotel. Recently, more and more Copenhageners are renting out their apartments or just a room via airbnb, and not only can you find some real bargains there, but you also get the chance to see how the locals really live.
The cheapest way to get around in Copenhagen is by foot - obviously! And since the city center area is relatively compact, you can actually walk pretty much anywhere. Get a free map at the Visitor Center on Vesterbrogade 4A, near the Central Station (hint: they have free Wifi there, too!).
Since you’re in Copenhagen, you might want to get around by bike - a great choice, since it’s healthy, quick, easy, and cheap! There are many bike rental places, but the cheapest solution is ByCyklen (city bikes). The bikes can be picked up at returned at one of the many stations in Copenhagen and are equipped with GPS as well as an electric motor to support your pedalling efforts. You can create a profile and reserve your bike online. (price: DKK 25 per hour)
Rebates and cards
If you’re staying longer than a weekend and think you’re going to go to Tivoli, you might want to consider getting an year-pass - it already pays off the third time you go. (price: DKK 290)
If you’re a tourist coming for a weekend only, it might pay off to buy a Copenhagen Card - it includes free transport in all busses, trains and the metro, and also gives free access to a lot of museums and other places, like the aquarium or a canal tour. I recommend that you do the math to see if this card would actually save you money - this might only be the case if you’re planning on visiting many museums. (price: DKK 469 for a 48h pass)
Note that there are some museums that already offer free entrance, including the National Museum and the National Gallery. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is free on Sundays, and the Hirschsprung Collection on Wednesdays. It pays off to check beforehand if the museum you want to go to has a free admission day or whether there are any special deals.
If you don’t want to pay for a boat tour, just hop on to one of the harbor busses (lines 991, 992, 993) that go through Copenhagen harbor and stop e.g. at Fisketorvet, Nyhavn, the Royal Library, the Opera and near the Little Mermaid. These are like regular bus lines and you can use the normal public transportation tickets.
You’d like to get some information about the city while sightseeing? Join one of the daily free guided walking tours starting every day at 11am or 2pm at Rådhuspladsen! They also have an alternative tour of Christianshavn, including Freetown Christiania. Alternatively, download an app for self-guided walking tours.
Be sure to watch the changing of the guards at Amalienborg Castle! They walk every day at 11:30 from Rosenborg Castle through the city center and up Strøget, and then change at Amalienborg with an elaborate ceremony. If the Queen is home, there will be music, too.
In the summer, it’s always great to go for a swim in one of the harbor baths. There are four in the Copenhagen area, and two of them are in the city center. They are open to the public and free. If you’re in the mood for some beach time, head out to Amager Strand or Svanemølle Strand.
Copenhagen has plenty of green spaces, and parks always invite for a picnic or just to hang out and enjoy the sun a little bit. In Frederiksberg Gardens, you will also have a view to Copenhagen Zoo’s elephant enclosure, without actually having to pay the zoo’s admission.
Another free attraction is Freetown Christiania, which is definitely worth a visit. It’s a very alternative, hippie neighborhood, governed by its own law, and very colorful and diverse. They also have some cafes and food places which are very affordable.
A little outside the city, near Klampenborg station, lies Dyrehaven, the deer park, a large public park and woods space where you’ll get the chance to see some free roaming deer and other animals. Attached to the park is amusement park Bakken, which offers rides and carnival attractions (admission is free, but they charge extra for rides).
Eat and drink
Copenhagen has some great and even world-famous restaurants (noma), but eating out can generally get pricey really fast. Make sure you don’t fall for one of the tourist traps in the city center, they are mostly not very good! If you just want a quick snack, you might want to stop by one of the hot dog stands, but keep in mind that one hot dog might not be enough to replace a whole meal if you’re hungry. A good roundup of budget food in Copenhagen can be found here.
If you want to try the famous “New Nordic” cuisine but don’t want to go for the super pricey options like Michelin-starred noma or Geranium, I recommend Oliver And The Black Circus or Almanak in The Standard at Nyhavn, which both serve delicious food for more reasonable prices.