Authored by Hassan Johar
Frequently awarded the title of the happiest country on Earth, Denmark is an incredible country, bursting at the seams with culinary prowess, Viking history, winter hygge, and culture and sustainability.
While there are many incredible parts of the country to explore, you can’t visit Denmark without first stopping in its capital city. Named by Lonely Planet as the #1 city of 2019 for its innovative design, inviting culture, and revolutionary food scene, Copenhagen is a European traveler’s dream.
Modernist, quirky, and the epitome of Sandinavian cool, you would never guess that this cosmopolitan city was once a sleepy Viking fishing village. Though the one thing that often turns people off is the expense of visiting.
Scandinavia is notoriously expensive, and you can definitely spend money if you’re not careful. But that’s not to say that visiting Copenhagen on a budget isn’t possible, you just have to know how to achieve it.
The following ideas are some of the best ways you can visit Copenhagen cheap.
How to Visit Copenhagen on a Budget
Finding Cheap Flights
The secret to finding cheap flights always comes down to research, and the willingness to think outside the box.
For instance, you can often find cheaper flights through travel agencies that sell vacations as a package, by bundling your flights with accommodation, and taking advantage of bulk industry discounts that only travel agents get.
We recommend starting by checking flights via an online third party, and then compare them on the website of the airline directly. Add up what you would pay for your accommodation, car rental, and flights etc if booking everything separately, and then compare what type of packages an agency can give you.
You may be surprised to find that flights are more expensive through airline websites directly; online travel agencies with huge buying power often receive massive discounts for buying in bulk. And then they price down their fares to remain competitive while still making a profit.
The other way to potentially reduce the price of your flight, is to play around with the flight search, and see if there are cheaper routes if you fly through other cities, fly on different days of the week, or book two separate one way tickets instead of one return.
For instance, if flights from London to Copenhagen are $200, but flights from Sydney to Copenhagen are $2,000; if you’re able to find a deal on Sydney – London for $1,000, and then book a separate connecting flight, you’ve just saved $800.
Plan Your Trip With Your Budget in Mind
The biggest tip to budgeting for any city is to actually plan your itinerary out with your budget in mind. Spontaneous travel can be a liberating and freeing thing, but when it comes to an expensive city like Copenhagen, you really do need to plan comprehensively.
Set a budget for the trip, and then start making a list of the costs involved with your flights, accommodation, attractions, and food. If you find that you’re going over budget for everything you want to do, you can then decide if you cut back in certain areas, or if you put the holiday off until you can save more.
One Area you can always cut back on is attractions. In terms of attractions, there are free things to do in every city, and Copenhagen is no exception. So this should be the first place you start cutting the budget from.
You can still have a fabulous time in Copenhagen and see all of the important sites without having to spend a dollar. Between a walk around Nyhavn for a postcard perfect shot of the iconic colorful homes by the harbor, taking a stroll through the hippie commune of Christiania, or visiting the Little Mermaid, quite a lot of Copenhagen is actually free.
Visit the botanic gardens, head to the Royal Palace for the changing of the guards, Climb the Tower of Christiansborg Palace, or head down to Amager beach. Many of Denmark’s big attractions are accessible all year round you’ll find that churches, statues, ancient monuments and historical ruins are free.
Free museums in Denmark
All national museums in Denmark are free to enter for under 18s. Other national institutions have special free-for-adults days. They include (though confirm dates on each individual website for the most up to date information).
➤ Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Tuesdays)
➤ The Hirschsprung Collection (Wednesdays)
➤ Thorvaldsen Museum (Wednesdays)
➤ Museum of Copenhagen (Fridays)
Finding Cheap Accommodation in Copenhagen
Accommodation is another great way to cut back on your budget; mid range hotels in Copenhagen will start from around $150 USD a night, though you can find budget hotels for around $100, and backpackers hostels that may be around $20 – $40 for a night.
You can of course though aim for completely free accommodation, and Couchsurfing is one of the biggest ways to save money for those traveling on a budget. Accommodation will often be your biggest expense, so completely wiping out this cost can be huge.
Because the city is so expensive in general, many travelers rely on courchsurfing, and the city has quite a robust courchsurfing scene (there are 33,600 + hosts just in Copenhagen alone!). Denmark is considered one of the safest countries in the world, so if you were ever going to crash with a local, this would be the place.
Despite Copenhagen having a large couchsurfing network, these rooms do tend to book out though, so it’s definitely advisable finding a host in advance; if you rock up on the day and expect to find something you might find yourself out of luck.
Image: Barnacles Budget Accommodation (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Avoid the Michelin Star Restaurants
Copenhagen is home to one of the trendiest dining scenes on the planet. It has 15 Michelin star restaurants, and this is not a city where you casually miss a reservation – the city’s best restaurants fill up weeks, sometimes even months in advance.
That said, the restaurant scene does cater to all budgets, and regardless of where you eat, food here is known for being of high quality and with a focus on using local and seasonal produce.
We recommend eating from cheap stalls and small eateries in the streets instead of dining at big name restaurants like Noma. The best bites often come in the form of open faced sandwiches called smørrebrød you can buy on the streets for around $5 USD, or Danish-style hot dogs from Døp or Harry’s Place.
If you’re staying somewhere with cooking facilities, like a hostel or courchsurfing with a local, hitting up budget grocery stores like Netto and Lidl to cook your own meals will save a lot of money. If you are eating at a restaurant, Copenhagen often runs lunch specials, and a late lunch may be cheaper than an early dinner.
Taking a water bottle and refilling this can also be a huge money saver. Denmark has come of the cleanest water in the world, and refilling your bottle also means saving on the plastic waste – Copenhagen is, after-all, an environmentally friendly city at its core!
Use Public Transport
It’s always more convenient to travel in UBER, or take taxis rides, but the most logical way to save money in one of the most expensive cities in the world is to travel via public transport.
The Danish rail system is the best way to get from the airport to the city center (it runs from terminal 3). You will need a ticket for three zones, which costs DKK 38, or $5 USD. There is also a bus, though this takes 35 minutes, where-as the train only takes 15.
In comparison, a taxi from the airport to the city center takes the same time as a train, but costs DKK 250-300, or $45 USD. That’s a huge difference in cost, for something that takes the same amount of time to get there.
The Copenhagen Card is a fantastic way to save on transport while in the city; it gives you unlimited public transportation in the entire Capital Region of Denmark incl. public transportation to/from Copenhagen Airport. Additionally, you get free admission to over 80 attractions and museums.
Walking around while you’re there is always the cheapest way to see the city. Copenhagen is very small and compact, so it’s very pedestrian friendly. You can walk from one end of the city to another in under two hours, so there’s really no reason to spend money on a taxi.
You can also do as the locals do an rent a bike. Bikes are the most common way to get around in Copenhagen, and there is a fantastic network of bike lanes throughout the whole city. Bike rentals are everywhere; you can rent them for around $4 USD per hour or $20 USD for a full day.
Stay for a Short Period of Time
Obviously, the more time you spend in a place, the more expenses you have. So if you’re worried that your budget is getting out of hand, one thing to consider might be whether you cut down on time.
Being such a compact city, you can very easily get the best of Copenhagen into a short 48 hour stay. It’s advisable to travel during the summer when you can take advantage of the longer daylight, but with a good plan and an eagerness to dive in, you can definitely do Copenhagen in just two days.
Summer in Copenhagen falls between June and August, and you’re looking at a massive 17 hours of daylight during the height of summer. In comparison, winter might see only 6 hours of daylight, so it’s definitely worthwhile planning your trip accordingly if you plan on shortening your stay.
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