travel: how to do Copenhagen on a budget

Much like my food guide to Copenhagen, this post has been a long time coming.

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Four (or is it five?) visits, various lists and numerous WhatsApps to my sister later, I think it’s finally time to come together. Every time I’ve visited Copenhagen over the last 18 months, it’s been on a budget. I haven’t had any change in circumstances during that time, and although treated to the odd meal or activity if my parent happen to also be in town, I tend to need to keep my spending in check. When I see city guides, I often squirm inside at the expense each suggested day might cost and tend to only take stock of one or two of the suggestions made. I wanted my posts to be a plentiful selection of cheaper things to do and areas to visit that can be tied in with my Where To Eat post, in order to create a budget-based itinerary for the city. And so today, that’s my aim!

Oh and, in terms of accomodation – I stay with my sister, but on my first trip, did get an Air BnB after clocking the price of hotels. This kind of alternative accomodation is really key unless you get yourself a good hotel deal as finding somewhere cheaper to stay in CPH, can be tricky! Other tips welcome in the comments to help other travellers.

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Budget city guide: Copenhagen

Stay in & get Hygge

If you get yourself an Air Bnb, or any other self catering accomodation, staying in is a great way to enjoy Copenhagen, the Danish way. A word that is becoming more and more trendy, Hygge (pronounded – HUE-gah), has no direct translation into English but roughly means getting cosy with family and friends. It’s all about lighting some candles (Danes burn the most candles in Europe) and creating a nice, warming atmosphere with the good things in life. Perfect if you take a trip during Autumn or Winter, when Copenhagen gets incredibly cold, and grey! You’ll see if you peep in local’s windows, candles burning and people staying in. The streets are a lot quieter in the winter and enjoying good food with your fellow travellers is a great way to enjoy Copenhagen authentically!

Visit Copenhagen Street Food

This one I mentioned in my foodie post, and not only is somewhere to eat for a reasonable price if you’re savvy, but it’s a good afternoon or evening out too. Over on The Paper Island (Papirøen), it’s reachable easily on foot (a short walk from Christianshavn metro station or a walk across the new bridge from central Nyhavn) – it’s a large area that houses worldwide street food in two warehouse style buildings. The outside space is vast, with deck chairs and picnic tables, as well as plenty of seating along the water front. When the weather’s good, this is a cheap way to loose a few hours to some beers and sharing food.

Try a bike

On my last two trips to the city, we’ve spent some time cycling and it is by far the easiest way to get around. Copenhagen is incredibly flat so there’s no worries about up-hill struggles, as well as being totally geared for cyclists, as you’d expect it to be. The city runs a Go-Bike scheme called Bycyklen, similar to what we know as Boris Bikes, which are hireable bikes you can collect and drop off all over the city. You can Pay As You Go for around £3/4 an hour or get a monthly subscription for around £10. Super short trips are free and the bike has a small electric motor to help you on your way! They also all come with lights so you’ll never be caught in the dark without them (a fineable offence in Denmark) and built in SatNav to guide you around. You just need to set up an account online, log in to your chosen bike and off you go!

Visit Ilum Rooftop

Right in the middle of town, on the main shopping street of Strøget, you’ll find Ilum Rooftop. Taking the lift to the top floor, you’ll discover a range of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops which in itself is a great find for the centre of town. However, my tip? Head to Original Coffee, which I’ve mentioned before – it has a small outside balcony which boasts some great views over the centre of CPH – all for the price of a flat white!

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Cruise the canal

As someone who usually yawns at this kind of tourist trap, I was pleasantly surprised by the boat tour we took this summer in Copenhagen. As an old maritime city, there’s plenty to see and taking a canal tour is a new way to get some perspective on the city. You pass sights like Nyhavn, the Opera House, the famous Noma and even get a glimpse at the freetown of Christiania (the city’s self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood). Free with a CPH card or around £9/10 for an adult, it’s around an hours trip. An alternative is to get a Go-Boat – the same as the bikes, but with a picnic table built in, anyone can hire a Go-Boat. They run on solar and cost under £40 to hire for a group of friends.

Climb the Round Tower

I’ll admit, when we visited the Round Tower (Rundetaarn), I didn’t know what it was. I just like going up high and taking photos. But some post-event research tells me that it’s a 17th century observation tower, used for astronomy. Today, it’s open to the public and for just £3, you can wind the helical (or helter-skelter, to you and me) stairway to the top for 360 views of the city.

Relax at Frederiksberg Gardens & Søndermarken

Frederiksberg is the area my sister lives in, so I’m fairly familiar with it. She has a dog, so on a few occaions we’ve walked around the Frederiksberg Gardens which meet Søndermarken (a neighbouring park that extends the gardens) and I’ve seen it in most seasons. Thought to be very English in style, the parks are home to the Frederiksberg Palace – on top of the hill, which again, provides great views. With ponds and plenty of wildlife, the parks are great for summer picnics as well as winter walks. Look out for the Sucker Tree (you’ll know it if you come across it) and the elephants that you can view in Copenhagen Zoo.

Walk through Assistens Kirkegaard

Another centrally located park is Assistens Kirkegaard – “Assistens Cemetry”, a burial site for a number of noteable Danes. Perhaps the most famous is Hans Christian Anderson, whose grave is well signposted. I’d rate visiting this over The Little Mermaid, who is far out and something and nothing. The Cemetry is beautifully laid out and a treat to walk through come sun or snow.

Enjoy the lakes

Not something I’d instantly associate with Copenhagen, but another activity that costs nothing – The Lakes are a row of three rectangular lakes, with picturesque views, popular with walkers, runners and cyclists. On a hot day, the lakes provide a great spot for a few photos and a drink, whereas in the winter, it’s amazing to see the ice forming.

Visit the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (on a Tuesday!)

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an art museum in central Copenhagen. The collection is built around the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Breweries, with over 10,000 works of art. On a Tuesday, the museum is free and this is the case with a number in the city so keep your eye out for any you fancy and see if they take part in the free day!


There are a number of other low-cost or free activities that I am yet to discover in Copenhagen, including the famous Botanical Gardens, but above is a selection of some of the things I have got up to in recent visits. Sometimes just soaking up the feel of a place with a coffee and a pastry is enough to satisfy and is one of my favourite ways to enjoy a city, especially one you have visited before. If you’re looking for a few cheap shops to browse, try my favourite Søstrene Grene – interiors and day-to-day items in the classically cool scandi style, or, of course, Tiger (soon to be rebranding to Flying Tiger), which originated in Denmark and can be seen on every shopping street. Although it has plenty of culture and alot to do, Copenhagen is a very relaxed city with minimal ‘must-do’ landmarks, so I hope you enjoy some of the cheaper options available!

Do let me know if you take me up on any of my recommendations or have anything to add.

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