For budget travellers, Copenhagen is never going to be the first destination that makes it onto the travel itinerary, because Scandinavian cities are always notoriously expensive, even by Western standards.
While the Danish capital will never rank amongst the cheapest places to visit in Europe, there’s such a wealth of history, architecture and culture in the city that it’s well worth braving the higher prices to experience Copenhagen.
As with anywhere in the world though, there are ways to keep your costs low and to see Copenhagen on the cheap. You can find cheap eats across the city if you know where to look, the public transport is excellent, and many of the best sights and attractions across Copenhagen are free, or inexpensive to visit. To inspire your next trip to Denmark, here’s our budget travel guide to Copenhagen.
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How to get around Copenhagen on a Budget
Copenhagen is a great place for walking. The city is safe, friendly and well set up for pedestrians. That makes walking tours or a simple stroll through the streets one of the best ways to explore Copenhagen, and of course, that doesn’t have to cost you anything at all. Locals love to cycle too, and you’ll find that there are bikes to hire all over the city.
The city centre is quite compact, and easy to navigate on foot or bicycle, but getting further out to the suburbs, or even perhaps to the beach, will mean using public transport. While taxis and ride hailing apps are prevalent in Copenhagen, budget travellers will find that this is not a cost effective way to get around!
If you’re flying into the international airport, then you can take a fast train from the terminal and be in the city centre in just 15 minutes. And it will only cost you the equivalent of a few dollars. Equally, you can take the slower public bus service or the efficient metro to get from the airport to the city centre or a multitude of other destinations in Copenhagen, although these routes are slower while costing the same.
While you are in the city, then the metro is the best way to get around if you need to cover a large distance, or if you’re just feeling a bit lazy. Tickets are cost effective, and are usually valid for a certain period of time. Within that time frame, you can use public transport as much as you like. Ordinarily, one metro ticket will be valid for 75 minutes.
If you are in Copenhagen for a few days and are looking to visit as many museums as possible, then purchasing the wonderful Copenhagen Card is one of the best ways to save money. The Copenhagen Card not only gives you access to all the best attractions, but it also gives you unlimited travel on public transport. If you aren’t planning on visiting many of those museums however, then you can opt for the Copenhagen City Pass instead, which simply gives you unlimited rides on the public transport within a designated time frame.
Budget things to do in Copenhagen
One of the best places to start your tour of Copenhagen, is at the resplendent Christiansborg Palace. This is one of the most famous destinations in the city, because it’s one of the most historic and important buildings in the Danish capital.
Christiansborg Palace is the home of the Danish Parliament, and many official bodies such as the Supreme Court. It also still serves many royal functions too, and is used extensively by the Danish Royal Family for events and receptions.
Located on a small island, the Christiansborg Palace has been the centre of Danish power for hundreds of years, a function it continues today. You can tour through the stately rooms, stroll through the gardens, and unearth the history behind this fascinating attraction. While you need a ticket to see many of the royal galleries, you can actually sign up for free guided tours of the Parliament, or sit on the Parliament while it’s in session – although you will need to speak Danish to know what’s going on!
The Little Mermaid is the most iconic statue in the entire city, and it’s a must see when you are exploring Copenhagen. Of course, it’s a statue, so you don’t have to pay anything to see it, and that makes it one of the best free things to see in Copenhagen.
Found at Langelinie Pier, the Little Mermaid is a bronze statue that sits on a prominent rock gazing wistfully out to sea. The statue was built in 1913, and has since become a symbol of the capital. The Little Mermaid celebrates the city and the many legends of the sea that surround Copenhagen.
National Museum of Denmark
To learn more about Denmark’s history, then take a trip to the National Museum. Located within an elegant, former royal palace, the National Museum of Denmark will take you on a journey from the prehistoric era, right through to the modern day.
It’s not free, and you do need a ticket, but if you visit just one museum on your budget trip to Copenhagen, then make it this one. You can also save money by purchasing the Copenhagen Card, if you’ll be visiting multiple museums like this one.
One destination that is entirely free to visit though, is Stroget. This is one of the most famous streets in Denmark, and here you can find a wide boulevard, that’s entirely pedestrianised. The street is over 1 kilometre long and it’s found right in the heart of Copenhagen.
Be careful though, because Stroget is lined with the capital’s best shops and restaurants. While walking is free, your plan to visit Copenhagen on a budget might soon disintegrate if you start shopping and eating as you make your way from one end to the other.
Nyhavn is another of Copenhagen’s most famous areas, and it’s one of the best places to go on a walking tour. Nyhavn is an area that lines the Old Port, and it’s well known for its colourful houses and bustling cafes and bars.
You can stroll through the ramshackle streets, sit out with a beer on the quay as the boats cruise past, and delve into both the history and contemporary culture of Copenhagen.
Christiania is one of the most famously liberal districts in Copenhagen, and it’s grown into a major tourist destination. Calling itself a Freetown, the district was founded on anarchist principles as an essentially independent micronation.
As tourism grew here, things changed somewhat, but what the district has never lost is its sense of Bohemian, liberalism. Anything goes here, as long as you don’t harm or hurt anyone else. It’s a free spirited, colourful and eccentric community, and one of Copenhagen’s much loved tourist attractions.
Rosenborg Castle couldn’t be more different from the free living streets of Christiania, because this is one of Copenhagen’s grandest royal buildings. Dating back to the 17th century, Rosenborg Castle is where the Crown Jewels of Denmark are held under tight guard.
You can explore the grand stately rooms and royal quarters, see the jewels themselves, and marvel at countless artworks and tapestries. You need a ticket, but again, you get free admission with a Copenhagen Card. The beautiful Kings Gardens are also free to enter, even without a Copenhagen Card.
Black Diamond Library
The Black Diamond Library is an architectural masterpiece, and it’s well worth a visit even if you aren’t much of a book lover. The library is also known as the Royal Library, because this modern building is an extension of the library that has been here by royal decree for years.
You can browse through hundreds of thousands of books, and enjoy the peace and silence within one of the world’s largest libraries.
The Amalienborg Castle is the primary residence of Denmark’s royal family, and it’s here that you’ll find the Royal Guard in their elegant uniforms performing guard duties and marches through the day.
There are several individual palaces within the complex, but most are off bounds, because they are actually lived in. You can visit the excellent Amalienborg Museum however, to learn more about the long history of the Danish royal family.
Copenhagen is famed for its Harbour Baths, swimming areas built along the waterfront which are all open to the public. There are several in the harbour, but the best known is located on Brygge Island.
The water in the harbour is perfectly clean and unpolluted, and it’s the perfect place for a swim during the long summer days. Of course, if you’re crazy enough then you can take a dip in the dead of winter too.
Copenhagen is home to some great beaches too, and in summer, the beaches are the place to hang out and meet the locals. Denmark has some beautiful coastal scenery, and it doesn’t take long to escape the city centre, and to be sitting on white sand. A favourite local beach to visit is the Charlottenlund Beach Park, which you can find north of the Harbour area.
The Tivoli Gardens is a famous tourist attraction in Copenhagen, and it’s well worth the entrance fee. Dating back to 1843, Tivoli Gardens is the second oldest amusement park in the world, and for almost two centuries it’s been wowing locals and visitors alike. There are wonderful gardens, plenty of rides and attractions, and a carnival-like atmosphere that’s loved by Copenhageners.
Where to stay in Copenhagen on a Budget
The cost of living in Denmark is high, and that means that unfortunately for budget travellers, the accommodation in Copenhagen can seem pricey. There’s no real way to get around that fact, unless you’re willing to Couchsurf or have friends to stay with.
The best way to save money on accommodation is to stay in hostels, and Copenhagen has a great selection of these, all with modern facilities and plenty of great amenities. Copenhagen’s hostels are a great place to meet other travellers too, but while some are sociable and host pub crawls and parties, others will allow you to have your own space, even if you’re staying in a dorm.
A classic hostel to stay at is the Generator Hostel, a well known European brand that has great facilities, and plenty of opportunities to meet over budget travellers. Steel House is the most modern of Copenhagen’s hostel offerings, and it’s the perfect place to stay, no matter what sort of vibe you’re looking for.
Budget eats in Copenhagen
Like the accommodation, eating out in Copenhagen can be expensive too, and the city is better known for its Michelin starred restaurants than it is for its budget food.
The cheapest way to eat in Copenhagen, is to make sure that your hostel has cooking facilities – the vast majority will – and to prepare your own breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of supermarkets in the city, and what you save on eating out, you can spend on other activities.
But of course, eating out can be a big part of travelling too, and there are a few cheap eats Copenhagen that you can find. The best places to try a few local dishes on the cheap, are the local markets and street food areas. You can eat your away around the popular Reffen area, where the market stalls have a focus on organic produce and sustainability, while you can also try the food at the Tivoli Food Hall, found in the iconic amusement park of the same name.
Cheap tours to do in Copenhagen on a budget
Free Walking Tour
The cheapest tour you can join to see the city, is a Copenhagen Free Walking Tour. The concept is great, because you only ever pay however much that you feel the tour was worth, at the end of the tour.
You’ll get to walk around the most famous sights and attractions in Copenhagen, as you’re guided around by knowledgeable guides who know that they’ll only get paid if they make it a great tour.
Copenhagen Canal Tour
Take a cruise along Copenhagen’s famous canals and waterways, and enjoy wonderful views of the harbours and the colourful waterfront houses. A Canal Tour is one of the best ways to see the city, and you’ll be surprised at how cheap they are too.
Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
If you’re not interested in using the public transport to get around, then you can buy a Hop on Hop off bus pass to get around the best sights in Copenhagen.
It’s great value, you won’t have to worry about getting lost or finding the right stop, and you’ll get to learn about the city’s history and culture as you cruise around Copenhagen.
Recommended budget tours in Copenhagen
- Copenhagen Card
- Copenhagen Small Group Bike Tour
- Guided Walking Food Tour in Copenhagen
- 2 Hour Copenhagen Segway Tour
- Copenhagen Canal Tour – Exploring Hidden Gems
- Lonely Planet Experiences: Copenhagen’s Norrebro Neighborhood Walking Tour
- Copenhagen Self-Guided Audio Tour
- The Art of Baking Danish Pastry
- Copenhagen Hop-On Hop-Off Tour by Bus and Boat
- Copenhagen Canal Tour
- Copenhagen Canal Tour with Skip-the-Line Entry to Tivoli Gardens
- Alternative Tour Copenhagen