Copenhagen, as with so many of the Scandinavian countries, is notoriously expensive. Having decided to do a spontaneous solo trip recently, the purse strings were tight. However, with a little bit of planning I found some great bargains and shortcuts for the thrifty traveller. Here is:
How to do Copenhagen on a Budget
This may seem like an obvious one to start off with but the cheapest hotel rates are high. The cheapest I could find for a hotel that didn’t have abysmal reviews or wasn’t miles outside the city centre started at £130 for 3 nights. For someone that spends minimal time in their accommodation when travelling to a new place, this didn’t really seem worth it.
Plus Copenhagen, as a popular backpacker destination, has learned to adapt to the solo traveller and hostels are in keen supply for a more reasonable price.
Besides, if you’re anything like me, you will appreciate the relaxed and communal atmosphere of a hostel. You meet people from all over the world from different walks of life and that feels like a much more worthy investment to me.
I stayed in the Woodah Hostel, in the more hipster part of town, Vesterbro. It was clean, quirky and super close to Copenhagen Central Station which made it ideal for getting to and from the airport and zipping about all over the city.
Obviously, if you are not travelling alone, then splitting a cost of a hotel may work out to your advantage. In which case, the best budget stays my research kicked up were Villa Armonia Guest House and Tivoli. Always remember to Trivago for the best rate!
2. Getting Around
Copenhagen is also known as the city of bikes and for damn good reason. Let me hit you with a statistic.
For every car on Copenhagen’s roads, there are five bikes.
Yes, that is a lot of bikes. You don’t need to know the boring reasons to do with taxation as to why this is. All you need to know is, to be a true Copenhagener, get yourself a bike.
Most roads in Copenhagen have cycle lanes. Cyclists even have their own traffic lights to let them know when they have right of way over vehicles. It’s an incredibly smart, environmentally friendly, healthy and cheap way to get around.
Taking tourists into consideration, there are plenty of bike hire places dotted around.
Or you can try Donkey Republic, an awesome app that’s like Uber for bike hire. Download the app to find a bike near you. Then use your phone to unlock it and simply return the bike when you’re done. Job’s a goodun.
If cycling isn’t for you, not to worry. Copenhagen really isn’t that big and is easily walkable for the average person. However if time is of the essence and you want to be able to zoom around, you will find ticket machines that have “tourist tickets” as an option. This allows you to purchase a ticket that gives you unlimited travel across all the trains, buses and metros for a fixed price for either 24, 48 or 72 hours. Just make sure you get your money’s worth!
3. Food and Drink
The thing that will really bite your budget on the bum is the cost of eating and drinking in Copenhagen. I get yourself a two course dinner with one beer or glass of wine will easily set you back over £30. Grabbing a light lunch from a cafe won’t give you change out of £10.
I’ll let you into one more secret as well. The 7 Elevens aren’t that cheap either. They also hike the prices up or down depending on how touristy that particular area of town is. A bottle of Coke that cost you 20 krone in one 7 eleven could end up costing you 30 krone in a seemingly identical store.
If you’re willing to do a little bit of prep work however, there is one place that will be your budget’s saving grace and that is the supermarkets. Lidl, Netto and Brugsen stores are scattered around the city so I can guarantee you will never be far from one.
Go on your first day grab yourself, as a minimum:
- a multi pack of bottled drink – don’t bother with water, the tap water in Copenhagen is really good and completely safe to drink. Just buy one and refill from a tap if that’s your beverage of choice. Otherwise, buying in bulk like this will save you a tonne (especially if you go for supermarket’s own brands). You’ll be hydrated all day long and you can simply recycle on the go as Copenhagen is a pretty Eco-friendly place.
- snacks – a multi pack of crisps, fruit, biscuits… whatever tickles your pickle. Things that you can keep in your day bag that will stop you from having to pay crazy prices when your out and about and you get a bit snacky.
If you have the ability to do so in your accommodation also pick up:
- packed lunches – make up sandwiches, salads or bulk make pasta. Grab yourself a cheap Tupperware or just opt for sandwich bags and you’ve got meals on wheels that will save you big bucks.
- self cater dinner – I understand that a big part of the appeal of travelling is tasting the local cuisine and whilst I 100% agree with this. However, depending on the length of your stay and the level of your commitment to saving money, making a main meal once or twice this could save you upwards of £60 per person. Most hostels have kitchens that allow you to make your own hot food and I recommend taking full advantage of this facility.
Regardless of your budget, one non negotiable meal in Copenhagen in the Street Food market located on the other side of the river. It’s home to some of the best and most affordable food in Copenhagen and offers a unique dining experience.
4. Cheating Nyhavn
When you picture Copenhagen in your mind, the first image that probably springs into view is Nyhavn. The harbour lined with brightly coloured buildings on either side.
A beautiful street but as with so many beautiful places, also a deadly tourist trap.
To sit in an evening and watch the boats, sip a glass of wine and enjoy a great meal will cost you a rather pretty penny. However the atmosphere of Nyhavn is one not to be missed, then what to do? Here’s the cheat’s guide to Nyhavn:
- Make sure you’ve got a jacket or cuddling jumper, or commit fully to the danish way and bring an extra snuggly blanket with you.
- Buy yourselves a bottle or two of [insert drink of choice] from the supermarket. It is entirely legal and acceptable to drinking in public in Denmark.
- Order yourselves [insert take away of choice] from nearby. There’s plenty to choose from and a couple of particularly good pizza places.
- Find yourselves a great spot to set up camp at the top of the harbour, best seats in the house.
- Enjoy the hyggeligt* Nyhavn atmosphere at your own speed, without the hefty bill.
*Hyggeligt – a Danish word meaning creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.
5. Things to Do
Finally, now that we’ve sorted accommodation, transport, food and a special evening, how are you going to spend the rest of your time?
If you’re still with me on the thrifty train and looking to get under the city’s skin without breaking the bank then I’ve got a few little gems for you.
- Free walking tour – most cities I have visited in the last few years now have a free walking tour option. Of course, its not actually free. It simply works on a donation basis and leaves the price up to the punters. However because payment is left right until the end they really work hard for your money. The tour that starts at Copenhagen City Hall which lasts for three hours, not only takes you on a journey through the winding streets but also through the city’s history, adding hints and tips for getting the most out of your trip. The guides are always incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and happy to answer any and all questions you might have. I’d thoroughly recommend doing this on your first day as it will not only help you orientate yourself but you’ll pick up some great recommendations for the rest of your time as well.
- Christianborg Palace – I can’t write a post about a city break without including a recommendation of a tall thing you can climb to get a good view. You could choose the Church of our Saviour that has you climbing a staircase on the outside of its spire (terrifying when its windy, trust me) for 40 krone, or the Marble Church at the weekend for 35 krone. Or you could skip both of these in favour of Christianborg Palace which will shoot you up to its viewing platform in a lift, absolutely free. For those that are feeling fancy, there is a restaurant that you can dine in at the top of the palace as well. That was out of my price range however and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing its out of yours as well!
- Botanical Gardens – Copenhagen is also home to beautiful botanical gardens that are absolutely free to wander round, admire and enjoy the sunshine. You could even take your home made lunch and have yourselves a picnic, how’s that for an idea!
Phew! You made it. There you have Rachel’s complete guide to doing Copenhagen on a budget.