Copenhagen is a colorful city where unusual sights and attractions combine to offer a unique cultural experience. It’s a city composed of juxtapositions. It’s fast-paced, yet relaxing, where modern buildings sit across from 17th century architecture. Copenhagen is the only place in Europe where you will find an amusement park, a hippy commune, and national museums all in the city’s center. It’s an edgy city with an intriguing history and so much to explore that there’s no wonder why it’s a popular destination for tourists. However, Copenhagen is also known for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe. If you don’t want to miss out on visiting the eclectic city but don’t want to burn your budget while doing so, read on for a few tips on how to save money while making the most of your trip.
Stay outside the city center
Accommodation is pricey in Copenhagen, but you can save quite a bit by choosing to stay outside of the city center. It’s a compact city that is designed in a way that makes it easy to explore. Plus, the metro system is efficient and can quickly take you to the main tourist attraction areas. We stayed in Frederiksberg, a fun neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and shops to explore. It was about a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute metro ride to the center, and our Airbnb was only three minutes from the metro stop. My boyfriend, Dewey, and I often choose to stay outside of the main tourist areas not only because it’s good for our wallets, but it also gives us a chance to see more of the city and get a better sense of the culture. In the area we were in, it was rare for us to hear other English speakers— and we like it that way! We love feeling like we are living like the locals whenever we visit a new place and it’s a thrill when we discover restaurants and bars that are local favorites.
Do the research on the type of accommodation
Regardless of your destination, it’s important to do thorough research on the type of accommodation to make sure you’re getting the best deal. In Copenhagen specifically, every option is going to be expensive— even hostels. If you are traveling alone, hostels are probably the way to go. However, if you are traveling as a couple, look into staying in private rooms in Airbnbs or other rental agencies. I typically prefer Airbnb over others because it has the cheapest options and I’m used to using them.
Renting a private room in a local’s apartment on Airbnb is often cheaper and a better value than renting individual beds in a hostel dorm. For example, our private room in Frederiksberg cost €40 (20 per person) a night, whereas the cheapest hostel bed we could find was €25 a night (€50 total for two people). So, not only did we save money, but we didn’t have to share a bathroom with a bunch of strangers and we stayed with a local who could give us insider tips on the city!
Walk whenever you can
Like I mentioned before, Copenhagen is a compact city with all of its major sites dispersed around a central location, the city hall. So, it’s very walkable. If you’re healthy and able, choose walking over taxis or public transport whenever you can. In the five days that I was in Copenhagen, Dewey and I walked into the city center and only took the metro home at the end of the day when it was dark and we were exhausted from sightseeing. We were able to see more of the city and walked off all of the pølse (local hot dog) and smørrebrød (Danish open-face sandwich) we ate! It saved us $40 altogether— $40 that I’d much rather spend on a night out to dinner!
Pack a lunch or eat at a pølsevogne
I followed the locals’ example on this one. It’s very common for locals to picnic at one of Copenhagen’s many squares or along the canals because the food is not cheap— even Doner kebab is about $8! Packing a lunch when you’re headed out for a day of sightseeing is a great way to control your spending. One day, we made sandwiches out of leftover bread from our dinner the night before and ate them in the lobby of the National Museum of Denmark. So, though we had to pay to get into the museum (with no student deals available, unfortunately), we saved on lunch!
Another option, if you want to try some Danish street food, is to stop at one of the many sausage wagons (pølsevogne) located around the city. This is the cheapest (about $5) food you’ll find in Copenhagen, and it’s fast and tasty!
Buy your alcohol at convenience stores, not in restaurants
This is the golden rule of Copenhagen and all of the Danes know it. Prices for alcohol at bars and restaurants are so high that many locals prefer to purchase their beer at convenience stores and drink them along the canals or in squares. Drinking in public is legal, so grab a few beers, sit by a canal and take in the scenery around you.
Avoid eating around the Nyhavn canal area
Nyhavn is a must-see during your visit to Copenhagen, but don’t be persuaded into dining here. While it can be tempting to eat and drink at one of the many outdoor cafes lining the canal, it’s also a tourist trap where you’ll end up spending a fortune. Stroll along the canal, gaze at the vibrant colored houses, and then make your way out of the tourist area for dinner. Copenhagen is filled with great places to eat and it’s always fun to discover a local’s spot.