I could wax lyrical about Denmark’s capital all day – and week, and month – because it is a painfully pretty place (hello alliteration) that is full of ridiculously friendly people. The streets are so clean and I don’t think I’ve ever felt safer in a city (more to come on this later, though).
Yep, I think I fell a tiny bit in love with Copenhagen. Which is unexpected because I was very, very neutral about going.
Before I went, I didn’t know much about it. Christ, I couldn’t even name one of its famous attractions. In fact, all I’d heard was that it carried a pretty hefty price tag.
So, it’s safe to say I was apprehensive. About money. But who wouldn’t be? If you had booked a flight to the third most expensive city in Europe on a whim, you too would be buttoning down the hatchets and hacking away at your credit cards with blunt scissors (because you couldn’t afford to buy a new pair, obviously).
But relax, my friends. I can assure you that it won’t be necessary to take out a loan if you want to experience Copenhagen. Actually, there are lots of ways to explore Copenhagen on a budget if you accept that you won’t be eating fancy meals. Because, well, it’s the food that’s likely to break the bank.
Eating on a Budget
Denmark is famous for Smørrebrøds, or open sandwiches. There are many, many flavours (mainly herring) but it can be difficult to find somewhere to indulge that’s in your price range and serves a large enough portion so that you don’t have to hit the hot dog stands later on.
I was determined to try a Smørrebrød over the weekend. What’s the point of going to Copenhagen if you’re not going to sample the food? I love food. So it made sense. I also love eating with a good view. So it made sense to eat surrounded by pretty things.
I’m also a massive fan of the Nyhavn area. I know, I know, it’s touristy. But have you seen it?! It’s so. Damn. Pretty.
As a result, on my last night I found myself scouring every menu along the colourful strip to find the cheapest Smørrebrød. I found it. At the last restaurant. But by golly gee whizz was it worth it:
Poached and deep fried white fish, sprinkled with prawn salad and – get this – CAVIAR (I’d never had caviar before so this was AN EXPERIENCE) all snuggled together on a slice of freshly-made white bread. Oh, there was some pickled asparagus as well, but that kind of creeps me out so I don’t want to dwell on it.
It was a huge portion. Literally massive. And it only (ha) cost me the equivalent of £12. Yeah, it’s not wallet-friendly but I challenge you to find anything cheaper!
My suggestion for trying authentic Danish cuisine is to shop around. I was all but ready to give in halfway along the strip and pay £20 for a meal, but it shows that a little bit of perseverance can pay off (and save you £8). There are bound to be some cheaper options, so if you’re not particularly fussy but want to save some pennies then this might be the best shout.
Also – I would recommend having a big lunch as the menus are only slightly different in options but considerably different in price (i.e. A LOT cheaper). If you do this, you can plan to have a dinner of…
I love hot dogs. Why are they so good?
You know who else likes hot dogs? The Danish. You will find it difficult NOT to come across a hot dog stand. They are everywhere. Seriously. And they are so cheap – the equivalent of £3 for a fine dining fast food experience.
The bread rolls are pretty wacky too; instead of the usual bun-cut-in-half shenanigan, the bun is cylindrical with a hole running through the middle which doesn’t quite reach the other side. It’s like a sausage gripper. Filled with ketchup (or mayonnaise, or mustard, or sweet mustard, or chilli mayonnaise, or roulade, or anything you bloody want in it because they literally have EVERYTHING).
So, once you’ve eaten…
What can you do?
The thing that struck me most about Copenhagen is how small it is for a capital city. You could probably walk across it in less than an hour. But this means everything is in walking distance – no public transport costs! Yay.
The thing the struck me the second most about Copenhagen is how cold it is for a capital city. Which is why walking is a great way to get around – you’ll see a lot AND keep warm. Two birds, one stone.
If you’re planning on doing Copenhagen on a budget, be prepared to walk, walk, and walk some more. There are so many things to see around the city that you could probably spend the whole time outside, not spending a penny, and still feel like you squeezed Copenhagen dry.
There’s the Little Mermaid (little being the operative word), the Rosenborg Castle, the Amalienborg Palace, the old naval barracks, Nyhavn, the longest pedestrianised shopping street in the world, the Latin Quarter, and so many other beautiful buildings and interesting sights around the city that are completely free to see. Of course, if you want to go inside that’s a different story.
I would, however, recommend splashing out £3 to go to the top of the Round Tower which has great views across the city. Plus, it’s warm and you will probably gravitate towards it solely for this reason.
Copenhagen is a design-loving city which is evident throughout the well-presented streets, but also in the many museums and galleries. Most of the museums are free on one day of the week – for example, I went to the Carlsberg Museum on Sunday when it was, you guessed it, free! Carrying out a little research before you go could stop you splurging on pricey entrance fees.
So once you’re all walked out, you might want to head back to your…
I’ll be frank, accommodation in Copenhagen isn’t cheap. But, it’s not ridiculously expensive either. If you’re on a really, really tight budget, there’s always couchsurfing. Or, if you fancy something a little different, there are LOADS of AirBnB apartments throughout the city – for some reason Copenhagen is really popular for this.
There are also a lot of hostels. Not your tiny, cockroach filled, dark, musty hostels though. Oh no. The hostels in Copenhagen cling tightly to the design element of the city. You’ll find lots of friendly hostels all over the city in various locations (not that it matters where you are because everything is really close to everything), all of which are around the same price – you’re looking at about £15 per night for a bed in a dorm room. Yes, it’s more expensive than a lot of Europe, but the quality of accommodation is guaranteed to be higher.
I stayed at the Generator Hostel, which was just round the corner from Nyhavn (my new favourite place in the whole world) and has just had a brand spanking makeover. It looks good, it’s sociable, and it’s accommodating (something you’d hope accommodation would be). I was delighted to find that Beer O’clock runs from 9pm through 10pm where you can witness Norwegians drinking like fish, and that the breakfast features A LOT of meat. My favourite kind of meat.
There were lots of young people there, but there were also families and middle-aged couples. There’s something for everyone (especially the drinking-like-fish Norwegians).
- Generator has 8 stylish boutique hostels which are designed to enable guests to meet new people and explore Europe in comfort and style.
- A one night break at the Generator Copenhagen starts from £15pp per night, staying in a dorm room. Private en-suite singles and double rooms start from £24pp per night.
- Visit www.generatorhostels.com for more information or join us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more!
So, there you have it. Visiting Copenhagen on a budget is possible. It’s not just possible, though; you can do it without feeling like you have missed out on anything. I came back with no regrets about spending so little – I saw everything I wanted to, I ate everything I wanted to, and I left a little piece of my heart there in the process. The sign of a great time.
So, how much did I spend?
I found cheap flights from Gatwick on Skyscanner for £90 and spent about £80 in total over the weekend. Most of this was spent on food, drink, and coffee. In fact, less than £10 was spent on attractions and I spent £10 getting to and from the city centre from the airport.
I was hosted by the Generator Hostel but, of course, all views and hot dog lovin’ are my own!