Copenhagen on a backpacker budget
- Recommended for:
- Activity, Short Break, Budget
Copenhagen has the reputation of being an expensive place to visit, but it's perfectly possible to have a fun, inspiring time in this wonderful city on a limited budget. I know - I did it!
WHAT TO DO FOR FREE
Take a stroll
No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a stroll along the canals and quays and through the small cobbled streets. Possible trails are abundant, from Nyhavn quay, with its relaxed feel, old wooden ships and picturesque houses, to Slotsholmen island, home to the Danish Parliament and several museums - not to mention the canal trails of Christianshavn, the main shopping district of Strøget and the Kastellet fortifications. Grab a tourist map (some even have suggested walking trails), put your walking shoes on and just get lost in the beauty that is Copenhagen city.
Have a picnic in the King's Gardens
The King's Gardens (also known as the Rosenborg Castle Gardens) are the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic in the midday sun. Home to rose beds, fountains, sculptures and a Renaissance garden, they also provide beautiful views of Rosenborg Slot (Castle).
Explore the eccentricity of Christiania
A 'freetown' founded in 1971, Christiania is home to a community independent from the Danish government. If you enjoy people-watching and street art, then this is the perfect place to explore.
Visit the Little Mermaid
For many visitors, the Little Mermaid can be a disappointment. However, if you look past all the tourist fanfare and simply enjoy the walk along the waterfront, you'll be able to see her for the beauty that she is. Look into her history and you'll appreciate her even more. While you're out that side of town, incorporate a stroll through the grassy walls of the Kastellet fortifications and visit the Gefion Fountain. Copenhagen's largest monument, it depicts the legend of how the goddess Gefion turned her four sons into oxen and ploughed land to create Zealand.
Enjoy peace and quiet at the Royal Library
On a rainy day, there is nothing more peaceful and serene than a walk through the Royal Library. It's also enjoyable on a sunny day, thanks to the Black Diamond, an extension built in 1999 and designed by Danish architects Schmidt, Hammer and Lassen. It has a black marble-and-glass exterior, and when the sun is low in the sky, the water reflections on the building cause it to sparkle like diamonds. The best way to view it is from a boat on the water.
WORTH SPENDING MONEY ON
A night at the Tivoli Gardens
Tivoli is known as the best attraction in Copenhagen, and it is easy to see why. It's more than just an amusement park - a night at the Tivoli Gardens has something for everyone. Whether you are a little kid or a big kid, the rides will enthral. My favourite was the Himmelskibet: at 80m, it is the tallest carousel ride in the world and gives a unique view of the city! As well as amusement rides, there are pantomimes, an illumination show, music performances and over 120,000 lights, which give the entire evening a magical element. On the Saturday night, we had the pleasure of an orchestra jazz band with professional dancers keeping us entertained and trying to entice us to join in. At DKK85 for entrance and DKK200 for a multi-ride ticket, this may be one of the more expensive things on this list, but for a full night's entertainment it really is a must. (It's worth noting that Tivoli is only open in the summer months, from April to September, and for a few days around Halloween and Christmas.)
A canal tour
The best way to see Copenhagen is on a canal boat. DFDS run both canal tours and hop on-hop off routes. Their information sheets can be confusing, so if you're after a non-stop tour of the canals, make sure to look for the guided tours that leave from Nyhavn and Gammel Strand (one red, one yellow). I found Gammel Strand a much quieter area to catch the tour from. If you are wanting to use boats throughout the day, then you need the water buses (hop on-hop off), but be careful: their operation times are limited, and boats only go every hour and a half, so plan your day around the boats if you are going to use this method. DFDS guided tours cost DKK60 per trip, a day pass for the water buses is DKK60, or you can get a full day pass for both for DKK75. Again, check out the timetables first, otherwise you may be paying for water buses you won't be able to use. Netto boats also run guided tours and are half the price but the boats are harder to spot.
The Round Tower
The Rundetaarn, or Round Tower, is the oldest working observatory in Europe and provides the best views of Copenhagen. The spiral walk to the top is unique in itself and at only DKK25, it is within anyone's budget. I'd recommend heading there in the morning, when it is quieter, so you can get a lot of the spiral walkway to yourself.
HOW TO GET AROUND
Train is the best way to get to and from the airport. The train station is at Terminal 3 (there are free buses between the terminals) and from there it's only a 13-minute trip to the central station.
Copenhagen city is walkable. However, with so much to see, you'll soon find yourself with tired feet (trust me - I know this from experience), so the best way to get around is by bike. It is the friendliest cycle city, with dedicated cycle lanes and numerous hire locations.
WHERE TO EAT
Royal Sandwich (Store Kongensgade) lies behind the Marble Church and provides delicious sandwiches for less than DKK50. Combine lunch with a visit to the beautiful church and a walk through Amalienborg, the royal residence, where you can watch the changing of the guard at noon every day.
There is nothing better than enjoying a bite to eat sitting down next to the canal in Christianshavn. Best choices are Tino's Pizzeria (Sankt Annæ Gade 9, +45 3257 6646), for authentic pizzas and a cheap lunch (DKK50-DKK80). Or, for something a bit lighter, try Lagkagehuset (Torvegade 45, Christianshavn, +45 3257 3607) for sandwiches and sweets.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Accommodation will always be your greatest expense in Copenhagen but we came across a little gem on our last visit. The City Hotel Nebo, next to the train station, provides economy double rooms with shared bathrooms for DK650-DKK699, including breakfast. The beds were incredibly comfortable, and the rooms quiet and reasonably sized, with a basin. The shared bathrooms were very clean and we never had to wait for a shower. The location was convenient, the staff were friendly and, to top it all, breakfast was one of the best I've ever had at a budget hotel. Fresh steaming hot bread, soft boiled eggs, cheese, meats, yogurts, cereals and juices made a great start to the day.