Copenhagen is notorious for being terribly expensive and while that is very true there are definitely great things to do and eat around the city on a budget. Your days will be filled with walking along colourful houses lining the streets, visiting an abundance of delicious bakeries and exploring beautiful gardens and palaces!
I had an amazing time exploring the city for a few days, there’s plenty to do in this vibrant city! My Copenhagen guide will fill your 2 days with top attractions, great places to eat, suggested budget accommodations and things to know for first timers!
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Start your day with a free walking tour, they have a bunch of them in Copenhagen and it’s a great way to get the lay of the land and learn the history of all the famous buildings and the city in general. Sandeman offers a variety of walking tours around Europe and they have a bunch of different ones in Copenhagen!
Tivoli gardens is the second oldest amusement park and garden in the world with rides, games, concerts and more! Arrive at Tivoli at 11am when they open. You can pay to enter the grounds to see the gardens and also pay to go on the rides. The ticket prices vary from $20-$50 CAD depending on your age and the package you choose.
Magstræde is the oldest street in Copenhagen and it’s a great pit stop between sights. The street is very colorful and usually not to busy so it’s a great spot for a few photos!
One of my favourite palaces in the city is Christiansborg Palace, it is home to the Danish parliament. It’s free to walk around the grounds and if it’s a nice day you’ll be able to see people riding horses in the front. You are able to visit a few of the rooms on a tour starting at 60 DKK per room.
I love the colourful canal of Nyhavn, a 17th century waterfront filled with restaurants, shops and cafes. The harbour is filled with historical wooden ships and many boat tours start from this point. It’s a very touristy spot with tons of photo spots for Instagram.
Tip: Take a photo at the Charlottenborg Slot, you can walk into the courtyard and have their archway frame the houses on Nyhavn
After wandering around Nyhavn, cross the Inderhavnsbroen bridge and make your way over to Freetown Christiania. This district was a old abandoned military base until 1971 when hippies began squatting there. Today, they have their own self-governing rules with almost 1,000 people living there. They openly sell cannabis and alcohol on the streets that you can buy and enjoy at one of the many sitting areas. On the main street (the green district) you cannot take photos however you can take photos of all of the amazing street art. There are lots of cool shops selling their products, I bought a pretty postcard from an artist in the town. This area can be overwhelming, but please go in with an open mind and be respectful of the residents!
On your second day in Copenhagen, start at the King’s Garden, a large park with a beautiful 17th century castle, surrounded by a moat. Rosenborg castle is a renaissance palace where visitors can walk the grounds and they offer guided tours of the interior.
Across the street from King’s Garden is the Botanical Garden that is very beautiful and free to enter. They have the largest collection of plants in Denmark and are known for their historical glass houses from 1874. It’s a great place for photos and a nice picnic location.
A short walk from the garden you will find Torvehallerne, a fresh food market serving lots of traditional Danish dishes. Inside 2 glass buildings you will find stalls selling lots of meats, cheeses, deserts and some food options. The food is a bit expensive but very good. One place sells Smørrebrød which is an open faced sandwich pilled with toppings that is very popular in Scandinavia.
To see the city from above visit the Rundetaarn (round tower) for beautiful 360 degree views of the city for 25 DKK. The walk up is a flat spiral ramp until you reach the very top and then you need to climb 2 sets of narrow stairs. About half way up there’s a little door that leads to an art gallery with local art and worth the visit.
Take a stroll down Strøget, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe lined with shops. They have a mix of high end boutiques, major retail chains and restaurants. They have really cool local shops and it’s a get area to buy some souvenirs.
To be honest I didn’t eat out much during my backpacking trip, Scandinavia is EXPENSIVE and I just couldn’t afford it! I would usually buy food at one of the food trucks or kebab shops because they were pretty cheap and great food! However, I do have a few food places that you should visit during your trip.
- Zaggi – a cute hipster café close to the city center that looks out onto the river. All the drinks and pastries are 15 DKK which is a great deal
- Great budget options outside the train station for kebabs and hot dogs
- Madglad – buffet style service serving home style food, great options for vegetarians and vegans
- Skt. Peders Bageri – amazing little bakery we found by the university serving amazing pastries and breads!
- Torvehallerne – popular place for locals to get lunch and try traditional food
- Netto – affordable grocery store and has locations around the city
I suggest staying close to the city center, most of the attractions are close and you won’t need public transportation. 2 hostels I recommend that are a short walk from the train station are The Generator Copenhagen and Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. Both have great reviews and if you book on their site you can get cheaper rates!
I do not suggest staying at Urban House Copenhagen, I stayed here and it wasn’t great. It’s right by the train station in the meat packing district and that area is a little sketchy, full of homeless people and prostitutes. Also it felt more like a large hotel with families and kids constantly running down halls making so much noise!
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Tips for first timers:
- Don’t stay near the train station, the neighborhood isn’t the best and quite sketchy at night. I suggest staying closer to the city center and main attractions
- Buy alcohol at the grocery store, it’s half the price you’ll pay in restaurants
- Be aware of the the many bikes while crossing the street, they will not stop for you!
- “Hygge” is super popular in Denmark, it is the feeling of cozy contentment and enjoying the simple things
- Don’t bother taking out Danish currency since almost every shop is cashless!
- While Copenhagen is a great place to spend a couple days I suggest taking day trips to Aarhus, Skagen, Odense. Or if you want to visit another country, hope on the train and visit Malmo, Sweden!