How to travel to Copenhagen on a budget

Posted by Beth | January 20, 2016

Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world for tourists, but we found it’s still possible to stay on a tight travel budget. Here our are tips for how to best plan ahead, where to eat for cheap and free museums and sights to visit.

  • Use public transportation or walk. The city is quite walkable, but the subway and trains are also fairly easy to navigate and will be cheaper than a cab, especially to/from the airport.  Keep in mind if you are an American, you credit card is will need to have a PIN number set beforehand in order to work at the subway ticket kiosks.  This is common throughout Europe.
  • Visit the free museums and tourist sites. Our favorites were the National Museum and National Gallery, which are always free. Check online or with your concierge to see which museums are free on certain days of the week or month. All of the palaces are free to walk around outside and take photos. For great views of the city you can access the tower in Christianborg Palace for free, though it was closed while we were there. The Round Tower is also only a few dollars. Many of the city’s iconic sights are free to see if you can resist the urge to go in to the touristy restaurants nearby. Nyhavn, Stroget (Europe’s longest pedestrian shopping street), Torvehallerne Market, and the Little Mermaid statue are all good recommendations.
  • Save money on food. Eating out will be one of your biggest expenses in Copenhagen, and budget meals are hard to come by. Eating out at lunch is typically cheaper than dinner, and many places offer all-you-can-eat buffets that will fill you up. We didn’t get a chance to try any of these, but Samos and Dalle Valle come highly recommended and are for sure still offering these buffets. Hot dogs are extremely popular in Copenhagen and can be a good option if you’re in a hurry or pinching pennies. We had some pretty good ones from 7-Eleven actually! A few of our favorite meals were L’Appetit (wraps) and Magasasa Chinese. Other budget recommendations we didn’t get to try were Green Mango Thai, Banana Joe’s Burgers, Tria Deli and Rita’s Smørrebrød.
  • Buy booze from grocery stores or visit bars during happy hour. There’s supposedly a great nightlife scene in Copenhagen (there are even “morning bars” open when the clubs close at 5 or 6 a.m.), but since that’s not our thing it worked out well for us to find cheaper drinks in the late afternoon. We loved Heidi’s German Bierbar and went on a Friday when the whole menu was 50% off from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. That’s the only one we got to try, but from our research we learned Kassen also has two-for-one drinks on Fridays from 2p.m. to 10 p.m, and Malbeck Wine Bar also has happy hour everyday form 4p.m. to 6 p.m. Or you could head to student areas Nørrebro or Vesterbro for cheaper drinks. Grocery stores usually have a good selection of wine and beer, but note that they often close early. On New Year’s Eve they closed at 3 p.m. so we were left buying our bubbly at 7-Eleven. We drank it with an epic view of the fireworks from our hotel room.
  • Use points for lodging. Even hostels are expensive here so it’s a great city to burn hotel points. We stayed at two different Radissons, the Radisson Blu Royal and Radisson Blu Scandanavia. The Royal was a slightly better location, but the Scandanavia had a free breakfast, which was another big money saver.
  • Splurge on what matters most to you. We went on New Year’s Eve so we were prepared to spend a bit more to celebrate. We ended up without our baggage for three days, including NYE, so going somewhere fancy was out of the question. Instead we went to the world-famous Tivoli amusement park, right across the street from our hotel. Their Christmas Market was still set up and it was a winter wonderland. We didn’t ride any rides or play arcade-style games, but enjoyed just walking around taking it all in, watching their early fireworks show, and sampling glogg (hot wine) and Irish coffees. We also spent a little more to go out to the Carlsburg Brewery because we’d read it was well worth it. In our opinion it actually wasn’t worth the time and expense, but they boast the world’s biggest beer bottle collection, which was cool.
  • Take a day-trip to Malmo, Sweden. Malmo is slightly cheaper than Copenhagen, and of course you can see another country this way so it’s worth it. The train only takes half an hour or so and it’s an adorable town to wander around and find some tucked-away café.

    Malmo was VERY quiet on New Year's Day, but we found it to be very charming nonetheless.

    Malmo was VERY quiet on New Year’s Day, but we found it to be very charming nonetheless.

We were in Copenhagen for four days and four nights and only spent $337.39, far below our overall trip budget of $50/person/day. In fact this was our cheapest country yet! The benefit is there are tons of free things to do, so if you’re wise about where you stay and eat, Copenhagen really can be an affordable tourist destination.

Travel Budget Review:

Airline miles redeemed: 40,000 American Airlines Miles

Hotel points redeemed: 94,000 Club Carlson points

Flexible points redeemed: 3,222 Arrival points

Total out-of-pocket expense: $337.39

Daily Average: $42.17 per person


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