We booked Copenhagen on a whim. We found a $12 roundtrip flight for 3 days on Ryanair and booked it right away with less than 2 weeks to plan.
Honestly, we could rave about Copenhagen all day. Straight to the point – it is beautiful city full of ridiculously friendly locals. The first thing we noticed is that everyone rides bikes and NO ONE chains them up. They are just parked on the street. That is how safe this city is and really is a testament to how they live. Year after year, the UN ranks Denmark as the happiest country in the world, and we can see why.
We always dreamed of visiting Denmark, but worried about the cost. Indeed, the high prices turn a lot of travelers away, but after our visit we urge you to put Copenhagen back on your list! During our visit, we discovered there are lots of ways to explore Copenhagen on a budget.
Accommodation in Copenhagen isn’t cheap. Since we booked our trip the week before our trip, our options were also quite limited. We were also only there for a short period, so we booked a private dorm suite at The Generator hostel in the center of the city for convenience. We didn’t notice it then, but realize now that the quality of hostels in Copenhagen is generally very high with many hotel-like amenities.
The Generator hostel was designed well, it’s sociable, and they have their own restaurant and bar with reasonable priced food and drink options. During our visit we saw lots of young people, but also families and middle-aged couples that were staying there.
While most of the Airbnb options were around $50-$100 per night, the private hostel rooms were around $80-100 per night. Like always, prices vary depending on the time of year.
Denmark is famous for Smørrebrøds, which are basically open-faced sandwiches. There are many, many flavors but it can get pricey. We chose to indulge during lunch as the menus are only slightly different from the dinner options but considerably different in price (i.e. A LOT cheaper). For two massive sized sandwiches and drinks, we spent around $20.
For dinner, we splurged and chose a cosy sushi place (Green Sushi). The average price of rolls were about $12-15 each and were aaaamazing. We spent a total of around $50.
Other than those two meals, we ate on a budget, as our hostel restaurant had meal options for less than $20. There are also tons of delicious street food you can enjoy like a local (mostly hot dogs, sausages and sandwiches) for less than $5.
Drinking, however, will easily break your budget in Copenhagen. Our hostel offered $3 beers, but we saw them as high as $10 near the city center. It would be smart to take advantage of the many happy hours offered around town or just buy liquor at duty-free if you’re really planning on getting down. Speaking of, Copenhagen is certainly a drinking city. They enjoy getting lively and bars are open all night. (They even have “morning” bars that open at 9am!) In fact, bars were still going when we left for the airport at 5am our last day.
THINGS TO DO
The thing that struck us most about Copenhagen is how small it is for a capital city. Which is great for being on a budget! (Other than the train from the airport to the city center, which was $6 per person). Be prepared to walk, and you could probably avoid spending any money at all and still seeing everything the city offers.
The classic architecture of the city and lovely canals contrasted with the artsy modern buildings make it an interesting city to walk around in. The most popular sites are the Little Mermaid, the Rosenborg Castle, the Amalienborg Palace, the old naval barracks, Nyhavn, the longest pedestrianized shopping street in the world, and the Latin Quarter, which are all completely free to see. However, if you want to actually go inside, it will cost you (usually around $3-5 per person, per site). Since we were only there for a few days and still trying to maintain a budget, we prioritized our sightseeing.
Pretty self-explanatory why you’d want to visit Nyhavn, as it is picturesque and beautiful canal with colorful buildings. Food and drinks are expensive in this area, but could be quite enjoyable and worth it on a sunny day.
From Nyhavn, you can take a boat tour through the canals of Copenhagen. The hour-long boat tour is “touristy”, but highly recommended, especially if you are short on time. (Tickets were around $6 a person.)
Christianborg Tower (Tarnet)
Many guide books recommend spending $4 per person to go to the top of the Round Tower which has great views across the city, but we would recommend the Christianborg Tower. Not only is it free, but you get a better view.
Copenhagen is fanatic for architecture and design, and there are many museums and galleries spread across the city. Most of the museums are free on one day of the week, so if that’s your thing then doing a little research before you go could save you money on entrance fees.
So, there you go. Visiting Copenhagen on a budget IS possible, and without regrets that you missed out on anything. No, it’s not as cheap as Eastern Europe, but there are ways to avoid unnecessary spending. While accommodation is the biggest expense, the city can be easily explored in just a few days. The city and the people are welcoming, and it had a cool young vibe that we found pleasantly unexpected. It had everything we love about a city and can honestly say that it is now one of our top European cities thus far. We would definitely return to Copenhagen in a heartbeat.
We used a really great free app called “triposo – Denmark” that has an offline map, including a real-time tracking feature with recommendations for restaurants, bars, and landmarks nearby. We’ve used a lot of travel apps in the past and this one has everything you need for a visit to Copenhagen.