Copenhagen on a Budget
8 Things to Do in Copenhagen on a Budget
My heart leapt as I walked through Copenhagen from the railway station to my booked accommodation, this is one beautiful city with a wonderful vibe.
It was a saturday afternoon and Strøget, the main shopping street, was packed with Christmas shoppers, I fought my way through so far then took a quieter side street where I was less likely to run over someone’s foot with my bag!
I had booked into Generator Hostel Copenhagen, I’m on a tight budget and a dorm bed leaves me with enough left over to eat and do things…usually.
This particular dorm bed cost a rather shocking €55 for the Saturday night, ouch! It did drop to less than half that on Sunday night though, phew!
I would need to be a little more frugal from now on!
After checking in, I went exploring: no map, I simply wandered.
It didn’t take long for me to stumble upon Nyhavn, this attractive canal-side street is most probably Copenhagen’s most photographed.
Nyhavn looked lovely in the late afternoon, a Christmas market lined the cobbled street selling Scandinavian treats and crafts.
By the time I reached the end, the sun had set leaving a fiery sky.
I stayed for 5 nights in Copenhagen, I managed to keep my spending low without feeling like I missed out on anything.
(ok, maybe I missed out on eating a slap-up meal but as a veggie I didn’t mind too much, there is plenty of good food to graze on around the city.)
Here are 8 things to do in Copenhagen on a budget
Hey, even if you’re not an a budget, you should do them anyway!
As I’ve already mentioned, Nyhavn is a picturesque must-see, must-photograph. The colourful houses and old ships add to the magic, the canal is lined with restaurants and bars, I can imagine it must be lovely in summer. In wintry December it is strung with garlands and fairy lights, over the Yuletide market.
The harbour dates from the 17th Century, and it wasn’t always a quaint waterside. It serviced the sailors for many a century, a place of notoriety and disrepute. Ah, those were the days!
Now, it’s completely free the stroll up and down, a great place to people watch and soak up the atmosphere. My budget didn’t quite stretch to the canal side restaurants but a takeaway coffee kept my hands warm, and there are many bakeries in the city for pastries and buns (incidentally, the Danes call Danish pastries Viennese pastries – that’s where the dough originates!).
2. Climb a tower!
There are a few climbable towers in Copenhagen, and they all give you magnificent views over the city. I opted to climb the Round Tower (Rundetårn) for its central location and unique design.
The Round Tower costs 25DKR (that’s less than €3.50) and while I say I climbed, that would be a little incorrect: I actually swept up the curving spiral ramp that makes this building extraordinary!
It was built in the 17th century as an observatory and the ramp allowed the astronomical equipment to be wheeled up the tower: the design is unique to the Rundetårn.
The spiral path winds up the tower around a central core, near the top of the tower there is a niche where you can stand on a glass floor and peer down the centre of the tower.
The main draw to the Round Tower is the view from the top over the old city, over the terracotta roofs to the sea. The cityscape is punctuated by spires, towers and chimneys.
Walking back down the spiral ramp, I stopped in to some of the rooms leading off the tower. Near the top there is an attic space smelling wonderfully of old wood with some found attic artefacts on display; a bit lower down, next to the library (which is now a gallery space) there is an original privy where you can perch like an 17th century professor or astronomer, although it is purely for historical and ornamental purposes these days, not for actual use.
Copenhagen is dotted with statues, fountains and monuments, I came across so many on my happy wanderings around the city.
The fountains had been turned off for the winter but the statues faced the cold with passive expressions, or simply got on with their wrestling or melancholy.
Of course, the one statue that has to be seen is the Little Mermaid. There are many photos ‘doing the rounds’ revealing her to be a massive – or should I say tiny – disappointment.
I visited her with an open mind, but expecting her to be small. She surprised me, she’s human sized: a small woman.
She sits solemnly on a rock at the water’s edge, dainty and forlorn. I found her beautiful.
I sat on a bench opposite the Little Mermaid for a while, munching my sandwiches and watching the tourists, flood in off tour buses to pose in front of her: “No, would you take it again? This time get me all in, all of me!”.
4. The Changing of the Guards!
Head to Amalienborg at noon and see some pomp and splendour at the Royal Palace. The Royal Guards march through the city from their barracks at Rosenborg Castle and arrive at the palace at 12 for the changing of the guards.
Amalienborg is made up of four palaces set around a central square, the Danish Royal family reside in the palaces and the square is a public thoroughfare. I wouldn’t recommend walking up to the front door of the palaces though, as informal as it may feel, those guards are armed!
I’d caught the tail end of the daily parade the day before, now I’d discovered where they were going. It was by pure chance that I caught the Changing of the Guards, a well-timed stroll through the Amalienborg Square!
5. A Free Walking Tour
I joined a couple of girls from my dorm to do a free walking tour. I’d already been in Copenhagen for a few days and I’d seen a lot but I like the stories and background info that can be revealed in these tours so I tagged along.
We joined the Copenhagen Free Walking Tour in front of the town hall (Rådhus) at 11 am and we were allocated Cheresse, our happy bundle of energy and facts for the following three hours.
She showed us many parts of the city I hadn’t seen yet, and explained parts that I had. We heard of legends, fires, fairytale romances and Viking warriors as we walked Copenhagen’s cobbled streets.
It was devilishly cold and I welcomed the coffee break two-thirds of the way through.
These Free Walking Tours are great for the budget traveller, they perfectly introduce you to a city and its stories, the only expense being the tip at the end, and maybe a mid-tour coffee to warm you up. The guides work for tips, they don’t get paid to host the tours, meaning they are full of enthusiasm sharing fascinating facts and tales.
6. Walk the Ramparts!
Not far from the Little Mermaid is Kastellet, a star fort dating from the 17th Century. Today it is a lovely park that, despite continued military presence, is free to explore: a pleasant escape from the city for some fresh air and wildlife.
There is a windmill on the ramparts as well as a church, a prison and two museums inside the fort.
I decided to check Kastellet out after seeing it on a map, it looks amazing from above, a moated pentagon.
7. The National Museum
The wonderful National Museum is free and very well set out. There’s heaps to see, I didn’t manage to get round the whole thing before it closed!
I was particularly bewitched by the doll’s house collection, peering into miniature worlds beyond tiny floral curtains.
The museum was hosting a temporary exhibition on fur clothing, looking into its history, traditions and ethics in today’s modern world.
The National Museum is closed on Mondays.
8. Bonus freebie: the metro construction
The building of a new metro line in the city could potentially create a mess, here in Copenhagen they’ve used the construction walls for art! The installations change regularly so the locals never get bored with it.
This #HappyWall opposite Hotel D’Angleterre could be personalised by flipping the little doors open to make words or shapes.
Another construction at the Town Hall Square had a huge hoarding for the Hobbit movie and a big screen showing the trailer, which was pretty cool!
So, I hope I’ve shown you that you don’t need to spend lots of money enjoying Copenhagen.
I did splurge one day and visited Tivoli, the world’s second oldest amusement park, it was marvellously Christmassy, and another day I took a train up the coast to Helsingør, to see Hamlet’s castle, but that’s another post!
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Can you add to this list? What did you love most about Copenhagen?