It is no secret that Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. As a Uni student, with limited funds and used to dealing in pounds and euros, I felt quite overwhelmed when I arrived on an early morning flight into the city – tired, sweaty (it was during a heat wave) and struggling to wrap my head around the Danish Krone. After whipping out our conversion apps in front of countless restaurant signs, my friends and I quickly became alarmed at the prices. But once we got over the initial shock of the exchange rate, we found that it was not too difficult to do on a budget, and in fact we actually had a better, more authentic experience for it.
The Danes are some of the friendliest and most helpful people in any city I have come across. Countless times were we speculating about directions or discussing the food or attractions we wanted to experience when we were overheard and helped by a passer-by.
Now I am the first to admit that I am a bit of a princess when I travel abroad, with expensive taste and a keenness to try the best cuisine and experience the most attractions possible, but despite going on a restrictive budget, Copenhagen was one of the best city breaks I’ve ever been on. Here is my guide to doing Copenhagen on a budget.
As we stayed outside the city and next to a large mall, we managed to do breakfast pretty easily, grabbing a yoghurt and a pastry from the supermarket and getting a coffee once we reached the city.
For lunch, we found ourselves returning again and again to Torvehallerne, a large, covered market with two halls offering a range of different eateries. There was plenty of choice for veggies and vegans and lots of traditional Danish foods on offer, as well as delicious bakeries, fresh fruit and vegetable stalls and independent food and beverage start-ups, perfect for souvenirs. Laura’s Bakery was a firm favourite, offering the best cinnamon rolls we had ever tasted (we must have had about five each on our three day trip…).
For dinner, some of the best food can be found in Copenhagen’s street food markets. Set up in an old shipyard, Reffen is where you will find organic, locally sourced food from innovative start-ups who work with reusable materials to reduce waste as far as possible. The Bridge Street Kitchen across The Inner Harbour Bridge is a smaller market, but offers beautiful views of the harbour while you eat. And if you’re wanting to treat yourself to a proper sit down meal, I would thoroughly recommend Fiskekutteren HM800 Jammerbugt – a little boat in Nyhavn which sells freshly caught fish, to be eaten with stunning views on the top deck. At around €15, we thought this was fantastic value for money.
In terms of drinking water, the streets are filled with water fountains and even water from bathroom sinks is generally safe to drink. Environmentalists will rejoice as plastic bottles can be recycled in most supermarkets and they will give you back the equivalent of 10p for it. A lot of the homeless in the city will collect up the waste, asking you for your empty bottles which they can exchange for money.
Even if, like me, you are quite terrified at the mere thought of getting on a bike, you will find yourself tempted by the stacks of bikes at food markets, drinks bars and all over the city. In Copenhagen, we were told, cyclists are more respected on the road than cars and indeed, cyclists have their own lanes on every road. They have their own traffic lights, and vehicles are overly cautious of their presence on the roads – we got beeped once by a bus driver who, obviously sensing our inexperience, thought we were about to cycle forward at a red light. I was therefore much more willing to get on a bike than I would have been in the UK, although it did take a while for the initial panic to subside!
For as little as 25 DKK (around £3 at time of writing) an hour, you can get around on one of the public bike shares, docked all around the city, which is arguably the best way to experience Copenhagen. For 70 DKK (around £8.50), you can get free half-hour journeys for a month, which is great value even if you are only there for few days. Cycling down to see The Little Mermaid in the early evening was such a wonderful experience, allowing us to get an idea of the city whilst making our way to one of its major (albeit, a little anticlimactic) tourist destinations.
If cycling isn’t for you, most of the city can be seen on foot – it just takes a little longer.
The city also offers two City Pass options, large and small. The small city pass covers travel from the airport into the city and around the city, whilst the large one covers the greater Copenhagen area. Each are available for 24, 48, 72, 96 and 120 hours, and you can plan your trip around when you think you are most likely to need the public transport. Prices start at 80 DKK for 24 hours, and cover travel on buses, trains and the metro.
Even better than the city pass is the Copenhagen Card, offering you all the travel perks of the regular pass but with free entry to a range of attractions. With this one card, you receive free admission for canal tours, museums, castles, churches, Copenhagen Zoo and The Blue Planet. At 619 DKK (around £75) for 48 hours, it is a bit of an eye-watering price to pay upfront when on a budget, but definitely worth it. 48 hours is all you need to cram in the city’s best attractions, and that is your travel and entertainment paid for in one swoop – all that’s left for you to pay for is food.
The card also allows you free admission to Tivoli, the second oldest amusement park in the world and one of the most popular in Europe. However, it is important to note that the card only allows admission – all of the rides have to be paid for once inside, or a separate card has to be bought allowing unlimited access to all rides. I would say it is still worth a visit even without the rides, however – the fairy tale atmosphere is said to have inspired Walt Disney with his own infamous theme park, and it truly is an experience not to be missed. And if you go at the very end of the trip, maybe you’ll be able to use up the last of your krone getting on the rides!
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