Sunday 1 October 2017

Copenhagen on a budget

When you think about a cheap city break, Copenhagen probably doesn’t spring to mind. In fact, Denmark has a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in the world. And you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that. With a 25% sales tax (VAT for my British friends) added to everything, shit gets expensive. But don’t let that fool you into thinking you have to splash the cash to have a good time. Copenhagen is definitely doable on a (reasonable) budget.

Now, my recent trip to Denmark was not a budget holiday and it would be disingenuous to pretend that it was. However, despite spending a small fortune on food come dinner time, we pulled back costs on others things and were pretty budget friendly most of the time.


Initially I was hoping to stay in an independent design hotel in Copenhagen but when I started looking I quickly realised that £250 a night (at the least) wasn't a feasible option for our holiday. I headed over to Airbnb, set myself a limit of £50 and found a charmingly hygge apartment in Nørrebro. This particular apartment is one of my favourite Airbnbs to date. Spacious and comfortable, the place has a perfect Danish vibe. It's a little far from the city centre but you can hop on a bus or metro from around the corner or take a leisurely walk via exciting Nørrebro. And with prices starting from £50 a night, depending on the exchange rate, this is a total steal.

There are probably cheaper apartments in Copenhagen, especially if you're happy with a private room, or somewhere a little less polished, but I was beyond delighted with this option. But remember, the earlier you start looking on Airbnb, the better deal you will find. Leave it too late and there won't be many affordable options left.

Drinking and Eating

As much as I love a gin sour at home, alcohol is an expense I am happy to forgo on holiday if needs must and this was certainly the case in Denmark. Sure, we enjoyed a few beers with dinner but we had to limit ourselves. If you must drink then stick to beer, especially the local stuff. Check out the Mikkeller & Friends Bottleshop in Torvehallerne, you can buy beer to go and enjoy it, like the locals do, along Nyhavn in the sun. 

Steve and I really went to town when it came to food, we visited so many dining hot spots that I was able to write a huge guide about where to eat in Copenhagen. However, you don't need to spend a fortune to eat well in this city. Obviously, the easy way to cut costs is to prepare food yourself, at your apartment (Netto is a great supermarket chain). This is great, and will save you a lot, but sometimes the joy of travelling is to enjoy the local food scene.

The breakfast scene in Copenhagen is fantastic, with a ton of different options to suit all types of budgets. I really enjoyed the two 'build your own breakfast' destinations we visited. Mad & Kaffe in Vesterbro lets you choose 3, 5, or 7 small plates per person. I struggled to finish a 5 plate meal so I'd recommend choosing 3 plates, and at under a £10 you've got yourself a delicious breakfast for a decent price. Møller - Kaffe og Køkken in Nørrebro is a similar concept but you aren't restricted to a certain number of plates. Order as many or as few plates to suit your appetite and budget. Atelier September in the city centre is the perfect stop for some serious scandi cafe vibes plus there are lots of brunch options for under £10 including the most photogenic avocado on toast. Grød in Nørrebro is dedicated to all things porridge and with bowls starting at £5 it is most definitely a budget option. And what would be a Danish breakfast without a pastry? Meyers Bageri serves the best cinnamon swirls in the country, if not the world. With locations all over the city this is an easy, and must, stop for breakfast. The pastries are huge and for a couple of quid, they'll keep you going for a long time.

I try to have a big breakfast and dinner on holiday, thus avoiding the need for a sit down lunch. If you need a little pick me up come midday then you grab yourself a hot dog or open sandwiches (smørrebrød). DØP (Den Økologiske Pølsemand) in the city centre is your go to hot dog stop and with an eclectic menu there is definitely something for everyone, even vegetarians. The hot dogs are super tasty and cost around £5 making them the perfect budget snack to takeaway. And don't forget an open sandwich. There's a ton of different options from Øl & Brød in Vesterbro, plus Schønnemann and Aamanns Deli & Take Away in the city centre. Eat in or takeaway, these huge open sandwiches usually cost under £10 and will most definitely satisfy a lunch time craving. Gasoline Grill is great for a burger as well and for less than £15 you can get a burger, chips, and a drink.

Copenhagen has two excellent food markets that will serve very well for a budget friendly, delicious dinner. Torvehallerne in the city centre is a combination of food stalls and micro restaurants. Buy your groceries and enjoy a meal at one of the many wonderful establishments on site. There are a few food trucks outside, and most places offer food to go, but this is not strictly speaking a street food market. With lots of different places to choose from you can eat well for around £10. Copenhagen Street Food, situated on PapirØen (Paper Island), is the city's premier street food market. Expect big plates of food for around £10 per portion. With options ranging from Korean, gourmet hot dogs, BBQ, and everything in between, you can visit several times during your trip and never get bored.

For a sit down dinner there are two great Italian options I recommend. Mother in Vesterbro is predominately a pizza restaurant but serves other Italian dishes as well. The atmosphere is fun, casual and the pizzas are under £15. Bæst, located in Nørrebro, is the sort of restaurant where you can have a cheap meal and order a pizza, or you can go all out with the lavish tasting menu. The pizza is great, so is the atmosphere.

If you're after some fine Danish dining on a budget you will struggle. However, if you're able to make allowances for one extravagant meal without completely breaking the budget then I recommend Manfreds in Nørrebro. A seven course tasting menu, shared between 2 people will set you back £30 per person. This isn't budget by any means but it's probably the best value New Nordic dining experience in the city. The food is wonderful and the seven shared courses mean you get to sample a selection of cooking techniques.

If you're after something sweet, Copenhagen has a great ice cream scene. In Nørrebro you can get liquid nitrogen ice cream from ISTID and 100% vegan ice cream from NICECREAM. Østerbro is home to Østerberg and their delicious homemade ice cream flavours and nearby OLUFs IS in Brumleby sells lovely homemade ice lollies.


It is a joy just to stroll around Copenhagen, taking in the architecture, shopping, and city parks. But if you're a fan of substantial sightseeing then there's still plenty of things you can visit for free. On Tuesdays you can visit the wonderful sculpture museum, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek for free. On Wednesday evenings the Danish Architecture Museum is free to visit. The Design Museum if free to students and anyone under the age of 26. The stunning Botanical Gardens and palm house are always free and if you're keen to see the city from up high, for free, then you should visit the tower at Christianborg Palace.

Copenhagen has many wonderful palaces, right in the city centre. Unfortunately for those on a budget, they can be expensive to visit. However, you can walk around the grounds, appreciating them from the outside, which is just as magical an experience. Christiansborg is huge, it is made up of many different buildings and is the seat of the Danish government. Amalienborg is home to the Danish Royal family and it is here you can watch an impressive changing of the guard at midday. Rosenborg Castle is the gorgeous home to the Danish crown jewels and my favourite city centre palace. There are some wonderful churches that you can visit for free as well. Frederik's Church in the city centre is stunning thanks to it's marble dome and Church of Our Saviour in Christianshavn has an incredible golden spiral roof.

The city has some impressive parks as well, including Assistens Cemetery where Hans Christian Andersen is buried, Kongens Have a stunning green space where Rosenborg Castle is located, and colourful and fun Superkilen. Grab an open sandwich, or Danish pastry, and enjoy them in one of these wonderful settings. Other outdoor locations that are a must visit include the photogenic Nyhaven which is full of colourful houses and impressive looking ships, Copenhagen's most famous sculpture, the little mermaid, and Freetown Christiania, the city's famous commune.

For a more guided tour experience the hour long Netto Boats from Nyhavn are a great way to view the canals of Copenhagen where you can see many iconic sights including the Royal Danish Playhouse, Copenhagen Opera House, the Little Mermaid, the Church of Our Saviour, The Royal Library, the Danish Parliament, and former stock exchange. It's a great way to conveniently see modern and historic architecture. They cost around £5 per person which is a extremely reasonable for an otherwise expensive city. Another option are the free walking tours which take you around various parts of the city, however it's nice to leave a tip for the tour guide at the end.

If you're keen to visit a lot of paid attractions then the best way to save money is to purchase a Copenhagen Card. The cards aren't cheap but they will help you save in the long run. With an option to buy a one (£45), two (£65), three (£80), and five (£105) day card you can work out what you want to see and if the card will help you save money. Public transport and basically every attraction including museums, palaces, castles, Tivoli, and Netto Boat tours, in the Copenhagen and surrounding area are included in the price so it can save you a lot, if you're planning on doing a lot.


I don't tend to purchase a lot on holiday but I do love to window shop, and the shops of Copenhagen are wonderful places to browse. The interior design shops are particularly wonderful for inspiration, and if you're lucky, you might find yourself a great deal.

City Centre
For everything home and interior design related you'll want to visit HAY HouseIllums BolighusStilleben ButikStilleben No. 22Royal Copenhagen , and Louis Poulsen. And for plenty of Nordic related fashion you have StormGanniNorse ProjectsStreetmachineIllumWood Wood, and Wood Wood Museum.

For everything music related make sure you visit GoodLifeCrate, and Route 66. For anything interior design or fashion related you've got Palmero HollywoodVanishing PointKaktus KøbenhavnAdélie, Urban Room No. 11, and Acne Archive.

There are some great interior and home focused shops in this area including DesigndelicatessenPlaytypeThiemers MagasinDansk Made For Rooms, and Designer Zoo. There's lots of great record shops as well including Sort Kaffe og VinylAccordGoldmine Records, and Sound Station.

Visit the Ganni outlet Ganni Postmodern and The Apartment, an interior design studio focused on decorative arts.

We didn't spend much time here but we did visit the incredible Normann Copenhagen showroom.


Copenhagen is a very walkable city, most things are situated in close proximity to each other which means there's little need for public transport. However if you're staying a little further out then you might need to hop on a bus or metro when heading into the city centre. A 24-hour City Pass which gives you access to bus, metro, and train within zone 1-4 costs £10 but if you're going to be in town for 3 days then it makes sense to buy a 72-hour pass for £25. Zone 1-4 includes transport to and from the airport as well.

Taxi fares in Copenhagen are phenomenally expensive so it's best to avoid those altogether. We caught one taxi and it cost around £20 for a 10 minute journey. Uber is no longer a thing in Copenhagen so best wear a pair of comfy shoes. Renting bicycles is also possible however I have little experience of this so check out Visit Copenhagen for more information.

Whilst Copenhagen isn't a dirt cheap city to visit it doesn't have to be super expensive. Airbnb is huge and if you can find a good deal near the city centre you won't have to bother with public transport. It's the perfect city to wander around, getting lost in the cute streets, and that costs nothing at all. And with a huge and varied food scene, there's something to suit everyone's budget.

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  1. Wow! That's exactly what I was looking for - I'm preparing to visit Copenhagen this month. Thank you so much for sharing a such detailed trip plan :)


  2. Copenhagen is my favourite city in the world! I once came on a business trip there and spend all my time in cafes writing for rev translation services reviews. It was so amazing!

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