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Copenhagen on a Budget: 11 Unique Ways to Experience the City on the Cheap

Sarah Lempa

Chicago, IL, USA

The Danish capital isn’t exactly known for being affordable, but there are tons of ways to take in all the energy and culture while keeping your budgeting badass status. Sure, you can go on free walking tours, but there are far more creative (and less touristy!) free or cheap activities that the city has to offer.

Here are 11 ways to save your Danish Kroner without sacrificing a fabulous time:

Chill out near the water at Islands Brygge baths

A harbor bath was an unfamiliar concept to me, until I took a stroll down the canal to Islands Brygge — making me wonder how I ever did summer without them. This freebie is perfect for a sunny day with five pools, three diving boards, and a large, grassy pavilion where you can bask in the glory of the (somewhat rare) Danish sunshine. It’s more than taking a dip: it’s a full-on social outing, often full of portable grill setups and people playing yard games.

Jump on some outdoor trampolines

Sidewalk trampolines, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Sidewalk trampolines, Copenhagen, Denmark.

For seemingly no reason whatsoever, there’s a row of in-ground trampolines right on the Havnegade waterfront on the edge of Copenhagen’s bustling city center. It’s a surprisingly quieter side of the city, but there’s usually a gaggle of friends cracking up mid jump, challenging each other to soar higher than the rest. For the trampoline confident, I recommend getting a running start and hopping from one to the next in succession. If that isn’t fun and free enough for you, then you should probably just give up and admit you don’t like fun.

Eat at Reffen, a bustling street food court

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drop ridiculous stacks of money in Copenhagen to experience delectable cuisine. Reffen is a canal-side street food court, self described as an urban playground for food and creativity. I can attest—it certainly turns into a playground on a sunny day, when locals and visitors pack the outdoor tables to share diverse varieties of food washed down with local brews. Between Mediterranean kabobs, fresh baked Indian naan bread, and Jamaican Jerk chicken (to name just a few), you won’t be going hungry.

Round up some pals and rent a GoBoat

Why on earth would you take a boat tour when you could become the captain of your own fine nautical vessel? GoBoat is a budget-friendly boat rental company located right near the city center. Few things compare to the combination of a group of travelers, ample snacks, and a sunset boat ride (where you’re the boss, of course). I was never appointed as the captain, but that was more than fine, seeing as I was too busy enjoying cheese and watching life pass by from the water.

Challenge someone to ping pong on Sønder Boulevard

If you make your way over to the neighborhood of Vesterbro, you’ll find a stretch of grass that is possibly the world’s longest and narrowest park. Thanks to a local startup company called Urban Hub, this space has been transformed into a social space with a variety of urban games and even a BMX track. There’s no shortage of pleasant green areas in the city to kick back in, but as far as I’m aware, this is the only one where you can start an outdoor ping pong tournament.

Ride a bike up the coast towards Helsingør

The exercise-minded cheapskates will love this one: a full-day bike trip due north from the city with priceless views for a price-free experience. Riding to Helsingør takes some stamina and leg strength, but introduces you to storybook-like towns and a handful of pristine beaches. It takes a full day and about 20 miles one way, but there’s always the train nearby if you get tired. Luckily, with such a bike friendly city, it’s completely normal to take your wheels on the metro. You can rent bikes for a reasonable price and return them whenever you finish your excursion. After all, this city runs on cycling!

Get some snacks from Netto and have a picnic

Netto, Copenhagen, Denmark. -lvinst-/
Netto, Copenhagen, Denmark. -lvinst-/

Out of all of Copenhagen’s stellar grocery store offerings, Netto is definitely the most budget friendly and still offers a wide variety of picnic-worthy hors d’oeuvres. I’m talking properly stocked cheese to the nines, petite desserts for days, and enough cheaply priced beer, wine, and liquor to turn your picnic into a riotous rager. Party mood or not, Netto has everything you could want for a snack-filled afternoon in one of Copenhagen’s many green spaces.

Check out Nørrebro’s vintage and antique scene

To take in historical Danish charm with fewer crowds than museums, check out Nørrebro’s vintage and antique scene. It’s like a free museum, with books from previous centuries and clothing that’ll make you ponder who owned it before and what their story was. Even if you’re not looking to spend money, it’s worthy of a window shopping excursion. Golden Age is a great vintage clothing shop to scope out some new threads. For all things retro and recycled, check out Ravnsborggade: a street chock full of shops and cafés.

Check up on free music festivals during your visit

Jazz Festival, King's Garden, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Jazz Festival, King's Garden, Copenhagen, Denmark.

On a random day of the week in July, I found myself at a completely unplanned music festival under a random bridge in Nørrebro, Copenhagen’s most cultural neighborhood. The bass was thumping and the energy was all there. Best part? I paid nothing. Despite the city’s high prices, it’s not uncommon to find free music festivals, especially in the summer. While word of mouth was my best method for finding free events, you can check out too. Don’t forget a Carlsberg beer for the road.

Relax in historic Assistens Cemetery

Assistens Cemetary, Copenhagen, Denmark. olli0815/
Assistens Cemetary, Copenhagen, Denmark. olli0815/

Cemetary chillin’? What? Yeah, really: Assistens Cemetery is interestingly one of Copenhagen’s most popular relaxation spots. Assistens is home to the graves of famous Danes like author Hans Christian Andersen, physicist Niels Bohr, and Søren Kierkegaard, a famous philosopher. The history is enough of a reason to visit, and over the years the cemetery has actually become a popular hangout for locals. If you’re visiting in the spring or summer, there will be plenty of activity between joggers, picnickers, and leisure bookworms.

Chill out at Charlottenlund Beach Park

Charlottenlund Beach Park and camping grounds, Copenhagen, Denmark. imagean/
Charlottenlund Beach Park and camping grounds, Copenhagen, Denmark. imagean/

The city has no shortage of swimming areas, but Charlottenlund is particularly charming due to the fact that it has such calm surroundings. This roomy park sits right on the water, adjacent to a laid-back suburb just outside of Copenhagen’s city limits. It’s easy to access by bike or metro and is a flawless place to lose yourself in a novel. For those in search of a little R&R from busy bike lanes and crosswalks, the best (and free) answer is the coastline.