Denmark's capital Copenhagen has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in Europe. With prices for accommodation, food and drinks easily mounting up, it’s a good idea to limit the costs of your activities by finding some free things to do in Copenhagen. We at Alternative Airlines have put together a list of the five best free things to do in Copenhagen along with some handy tips for travelling to Copenhagen, to help you travel there on a budget. Note that prices mentioned are as of 2019.
This may sound like an obvious activity, but Copenhagen is a great city for walking around aimlessly whilst absorbing the sights and culture of the city. Through a carefully planned walk, you’ll get to see some of the top tourist spots whilst not spending a penny and avoiding the crowds.
We recommend to start your walk early at Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid (because no trip to Copenhagen would be complete without seeing it), followed by a walk along the waterfront to the picturesque and iconic Nyhavn walk. If you time it well and get to both these sites before the flocks of tourists come, you should then head to the Amalienborg Palace, arriving between 11.30am-12pm in time for the Changing the Guard ceremony. This is a great free glimpse into the Danish royalty and culture without the expense of the entrance fee to the museum.
Be sure to wander into the Old Town to see the popular shopping streets of the Strøget, which is one of the longest pedestrian shopping streets in Europe! Even if you manage to refrain from shopping here, the hustle and bustle of this area is enough to exhaust you, so head to the quiet square of Gråbrødretorv near the Round Tower, or find some of the prettiest streets in Copenhagen at Magstræde, which is complete with cobbled streets and colourful old buildings for the perfect photo opportunity.
The Streets of Copenhagen
Freetown Christiania is a unique community located a 30 minute walk outside the centre of Copenhagen. Although what you’ll find here is very different from the grand and expensive architecture of central Copenhagen, you’re sure to still be in awe at what you see. Christiania is an autonomous community, formed in 1971 after a housing shortage caused the homeless to inhabit some abandoned military barracks. Today, it is home to around 1,000 residents, and is frequented by tourists who are interested by this alternate community. Make sure you keep an eye out for the inspiring art which consists of street art and murals, as well as modern architecture and constructions.
Image: "Christiania 601" by Helen Flamme is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
In Copenhagen, there are some great museums that offer free entry on certain days. If planned well, you can visit all the best free museums in Copenhagen without paying a thing! On Tuesdays, the Glyptoteket in central Copenhagen has free entry (saving you $17 USD from the normal entry fee). This art museum combines Danish and French modern with ancient art in a unique and impressive way. Both the Nikolaj Kunsthal and the Thorvaldsens Museum are free on Wednesdays, with the Nikolaj Kunsthal contemporary art centre located in the former St. Nicholas Church and the Thorvaldsens Museum combining the sculpture and art of world-famous Bertel Thorvaldsen. It’s important to keep your eye out for other free entry deals, such as student or age-related free entry like the Danish Design Museum who offer free admission for students and anyone under the age of 26.
Top Tip: If art museums and galleries is your thing, check out our blog on the best cities for art to start planning your next arty trip.
Botanical Gardens are magical in any city, but the ones in Copenhagen really top the lot. Although access to the Palm House incurs a fee, you are free to explore the magnificent gardens without paying anything! Discover the 13,000 species of flora the gardens have to offer, including the new rhododendron garden.
Copenhagen Botanical Gardens
If you enjoy getting outside and exploring the city's gardens, be sure to head to the other free gardens in Copenhagen. The King’s Gardens at the Rosenborg castle are Denmark’s oldest royal gardens (dating back to the early 1600’s) and are a popular tourist destination. The gardens provide a taste of Danish Royalty with features such as the Hercules Pavillion, a statue of Hans Christian Andersen and the relatively new Renaissance garden. If you prefer woodland and wild animals, make sure to check out the Deer Park at Dyrehaven for a retreat from the noise of the central city. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find lakes, forests and huge open landscapes, complete with the 2,000 wild deer that roam the park.
The main paid tour of Christiansborg Palace will show visitors the parts used by the Royal Family, but will set you back almost $25 USD (160 DKK). However, if you still want to get inside this famous building, there are ways to do it. The Palace is also home to the Danish Parliament Building, which if you book in advance online, you can get a free guided tour. Similarly, The Tower of Christiansborg Palace is free to go up when it’s open from August to early June. This also coincides with the cheaper-off peak season, which is the ideal time to travel to Copenhagen in if you’re cost conscious. From the tower, you’ll get some of the best views of the city as it is the highest tower in Copenhagen.
The Tower of Christiansborg Palace
The best airport to fly into is Copenhagen Airport (CPH) which operates flights around Europe, and farther afield to destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and North America. You can choose from airlines such as Norwegian Air Shuttle, Scandinavian Airlines, Vueling and Thai Airways.
Before we start with our list of the cheapest things to do in Copenhagen, we thought we’d first share some tips on how to get to Copenhagen cheaply. March to May is the best time to visit, as the weather is warm and mild, but the crowds are fewer and therefore the prices often lower. You can also look at our guide to the cheapest time to book flights, and also consider our finance options to make flights to Copenhagen more manageable with monthly payments. Once you’re there, you should plan your stay wisely, as some attractions have certain days where entry is free so you’ll want to plan your days around these.
If you want to explore more of Copenhagen than just these 5 free things, you should consider investing in the Copenhagen Tourist Card, which includes 87 attractions, museums, and free transport for the cost of 399DKK for 24 hours (almost $60 USD). Although this seems like a hefty price, the amount you save in this expensive city from access to all the attractions is definitely worth considering, especially if you have to travel on days when there is no free entry to attractions. The cards are also available for 48 hours, 72 hours and 120 hours, which become better value the longer you choose.
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