Visitors to Copenhagen needn’t worry about spending too much on sightseeing or unique holiday experiences. Denmark’s capital city is home to an array of free and inexpensive attractions that deliver unexpected delights incorporating food, adventure, thrills, culture and history.
HotelsCombined’s 300 million-plus annual visitors rave about Copenhagen’s budget-friendly sightseeing opportunities. From open-air movies and a royal palace, to boat cruises and the world’s oldest amusement park, here are the best things to do in Copenhagen on a budget.
Fortunately, there’s also wide range of budget-friendly and boutique Copenhagen hotels on offer, giving holidaymakers excellent options for a convenient and cost-effective stay.
Top 10 Free Things To Do In Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a treasure trove of exciting attractions and experiences that don’t cost a cent. These sightseeing opportunities allow visitors to understand the local culture better and create unforgettable holiday memories. Spending less on attractions also means visitors can use the money saved on a room upgrade, extravagant night out or souvenirs. Here are the top 10 free things to do around the city.
1. Guided Walking Tours
Like most European cities, Copenhagen invites deeper exploration with a range of free guided city walking tours. Led by experienced, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking locals, these tours take visitors around the city, ticking off some of Copenhagen’s biggest sights including Amalienborg Palace, Freetown Christiania and the Danish Royal Palace.
Visitors who opt to walk around the city by themselves only get to see the sights, but those who join a walking tour get to hear about the history and learn stories not found in the in-flight magazine. The two main providers are Copenhagen Free Walking Tours, which departs from Copenhagen City Hall at 11am every day, and New Copenhagen Free Tours, which runs three tours every day during summer.
2. Zulu Sommerbio Open-Air Cinema
Zulu Sommerbio visits Copenhagen every summer and runs a free open-air cinema usually in Faelledparken about three kilometres from the city centre. Six movies are shown over six consecutive nights, all in their original language with Danish subtitles.
Locals and visitors alike flock to Faelledparken during this time, bringing picnic blankets, snacks, drinks and that classic Danish hygge. Guests can also purchase drinks and food from vendors in the park. The movies are typically popular Hollywood blockbusters. Past showings have included Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Slightly outside of Copenhagen’s main city centre, close to Urban House and Copenhagen Star Hotel, sits an old reconstructed church called Absalon. These days it’s a community house, a place where people can mingle and connect while enjoying delicious food, fun games or nightly entertainment.
It’s free to enter and visitors are welcome to bring something to share. Throughout the day it starts as a breakfast cafe, becomes a bar in the afternoon and evening, and eventually a packed dinner hall of about 180 people. Absalon is the perfect place to meet locals and gain a better understanding of their lives. Games such as table tennis and bingo, along with movie and music nights, are also held at Absalon.
4. Torvehallerne Market
Nestled between two Copenhagen parks, Torvehallerne Market has become a prominent part of local life. Comprised of two halls and numerous outdoor stalls, Torvehallerne boasts a wealth of delicious food, fresh produce and other quality cooking ingredients. Visitors can simply stroll through the market to learn more about native Danish cuisine from store owners.
There are also stalls selling chocolates, rare spices and smaller items for those wishing to purchase souvenirs. It can be quite tiring making it around to every stall, but visitors can enjoy a well-earned break while dining on frikadeller (meat balls), flaeskesteg (roast pork) and more local specialities at one of the open-air restaurants.
5. Nikolaj Kunsthal
Nikolaj Kunsthal, also known as the Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, is a revered gallery located in the centre of town a couple of blocks from the Stroget shopping street. The gallery is housed in the former St Nicholas Church, which was constructed in the 13th century and is still one of Copenhagen’s most iconic landmarks.
Inside, guests can find a rotating collection of Danish and international exhibits, which focus primarily on experimental and modern art. Nikolaj Kunsthal also hosts a number of events throughout the year, which incorporate art, theatre, music and more. Visitors should plan to visit on a Wednesday when entry to the gallery is free.
6. Botanical Garden
Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden (Botanisk Have) is a place of natural beauty and treasured history. Spread across 10 hectares, Botanical Garden is home to more than 13,000 plant species from Denmark and the rest of Europe, including over 1,000 seasonal plants that give the gardens an ever-changing appearance.
History plays an important part in Botanical Garden’s charm, with 27 glasshouses dating back to 1874. Simply wandering through the various areas is akin to stepping back in time. Guests can arrange guided tours or explore Botanical Garden by themselves. Its convenient location, close to Torvehallerne Market and Rosenborg Castle, makes it ideal for those staying in the city centre.
7. Islands Brygge Harbour Bath
During summer, it’s not uncommon to see Islands Brygge Harbour Bath filled with keen swimmers. The five outdoor pools sit beside the waterway running through Copenhagen and overlook the city skyline. There are two children pools, and for those who enjoy a bit of a thrill, there are three diving towers of one metre, three metres and five metres in height that visitors can dive off.
Not just for swimmers, Island Brygge Harbour Bath also has a lawn where visitors can sunbathe or play ball games. Lifeguards are always present and there are often food and drink vendors nearby.
8. Christiansborg Palace Tower
Part of Christiansborg Palace, the Tower is the highest of its kind in Copenhagen. It was built in the early 1900s and stands at 106 metres tall. Free entry into the Tower was recently granted, so now everyone can soak up the panoramic views from its viewing area. Guests use an elevator to reach the top of the Tower, which is located at the King’s Gate.
Those seeking a unique experience can dine at the Tower’s restaurant, which is run by a local chef and serves up lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Danish specialities highlight a diverse menu, which includes organic confectionery and traditional open sandwiches.
A cosy harbour district close to the city centre, Nyhavn was once consumed by the coming and goings of fishing and leisure ships. Nowadays it’s a lot more peaceful, but still retains its traditional colourful houses that sit beside each other and create a vibrant pastel rainbow. Visitors won’t find the pubs and pleasure houses of old. Instead, they’ll be greeted by elegant restaurants providing live music, wonderful food and canal views.
Visitors can also join the locals by the quayside where many enjoy a beer while chatting with friends or sitting in silence. Hans Christian Andersen, the author of numerous fairy tales including The Little Mermaid and Thumbelina, lived in Nyhavn. It’s still possible to stand outside his old homes, numbers 20, 67 and 18. Visit during winter when Christmas market stalls line the cobblestone streets.
10. Amalienborg Palace
Home of the Danish Royal Family, Amalienborg Palace is a must-see for any visitors interested in the local history or culture. Those who don’t wish to spend money can admire the palace from outside and watch the official Changing of The Royal Guard, called “Den Kongelige Livgarde”. This ceremony takes place every day at 12pm when the guards march from their barracks near Rosenborg Castle, through the streets and finish at Amalienborg.
There’s also a museum on site where visitors can learn about the last 150 years of the Royal Family while witnessing priceless treasures and historical artefacts. Admission is free for children 17 years old or younger or any traveller with the Copenhagen Card, a sightseeing discount card easily purchased online.
7 Incredible Copenhagen Experiences That Won’t Burn The Wallet
On top of all the free things to do in Copenhagen, the city more than accommodates budget-savvy travellers with a myriad of inexpensive experiences. The following seven things to do fit easily in almost everyone’s holiday budget and most of them are free with the Copenhagen Card. One or two might even be the perfect activity on which to spend the money saved by staying at one of the above boutique hotels.
1. Netto Boat Cruise
Copenhagen’s iconic blue Netto Boats are constantly seen cruising along the harbour, filled with visitors soaking up the sights. Embarking from the Church of Holmen or Nyhavn, these immersive boat tours treat visitors to the harbour sights including the old Stock-Exchange, Borsgraven canal, The Little Mermaid statue, Amalienborg Palace and centuries-old fortifications.
Each Netto Boat features an open roof, giving passengers uninterrupted views of the notable landmarks. Visitors can pre-purchase tickets from hotels and tourism desks or wait until they board the boat. There’s no need to book, with multiple cruises running every day of the week.
2. City Bike Rides
About 50 percent of locals currently choose bicycles as their primary form of transport in Copenhagen. It’s one of the most cycle-friendly cities in the world with a public bike share program, called “Bycyklen” in place for all residents and visitors. Travellers simply need to create an account online to use the bikes.
Each bicycle has a touchscreen tablet that riders use for payment and navigation, thanks to pre-programmed points of interest. With more than 100 Bycyklen stations around Copenhagen, it’s extremely easy getting around on bikes, so avoid the traffic and opt for a leisurely ride instead. The city’s many bike paths transport riders from one attraction to another and let visitors slow down to appreciate this eclectic destination better.
3. Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-Tale House
Love literature? Fans of Hans Christian Andersen often find more reasons to fall in love with the famed author and poet after visiting this popular attraction. Detailed exhibits help visitors learn more about H.C. Andersen including his childhood in Odense, his life in Copenhagen and his adventures around the world.
H.C. Andersen’s beloved fairy tales are brought to life in the Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-Tale House by lighting and sound effects. Famous stories such as The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen are on display, along with recreations of Hans hard at work and examples of his artwork and poetry. Audio and visual displays let visitors delve deeper into Hans’ stories.
4. Tivoli Gardens’ Friday Rock Concerts
Summer in Copenhagen means music concerts galore at the Tivoli Gardens. Friday Rock in Tivoli has been running for 20 years and now features about 28 musicians performing at 24 Friday night concerts throughout summer. Visitors are only required to pay entry to the Tivoli Gardens to attend one of the concerts, a modest price when considering the big-name artists who typically perform.
A rotating list of international and European artists keeps everyone entertained. Past musicians include Tiesto, Haim, The Minds of 99 and Kim Larsen. The outdoor concert venue’s line-up of acts has quickly made Friday Rock in Tivoli one of the most highly-anticipated events of the summer.
5. Dyrehavsbakken Amusement Park
Dyrehavsbakken, also known as Bakken, is located about 10 kilometres north of Copenhagen. At more than 430 years old it is the world’s oldest operating amusement park. Despite its age, Bakken still has plenty of fun and exciting rides and games including drop towers, carnival games and 33 roller coasters.
Clowns roam the amusement park, keeping visitors entertained with balloons and funny tricks. There are numerous places to eat and drink including an old London bus that’s been converted into a pub. Bakken is as well known for its deer as it is for its roller coasters. About 2,000 wild deer roam the surrounding forest, which is a popular spot for picnics, walking and bike riding.
6. The Round Tower
This 17th-century tower is one of the best places in town from which to see the oldest parts of Copenhagen. At 36 metres tall it’s certainly not Copenhagen’s biggest tower, but Europe’s oldest functioning observatory offers a one-of-a-kind experience for stargazers and history lovers.
Visitors must first walk up the spiral staircase to reach the outdoor platform encircling the roof, which provides panoramic views. They’ll pass by an old library hall that now hosts exhibitions of art, science and culture. The Round Tower also boasts a glass floor that lets visitors see down into its core from about 25 metres high.
7. Street Food on Paper Island
Foodies from around the world unite on Paper Island where the city’s finest street food market delights the senses with an array of worldwide cuisine. Food from Korea, Mexico, Italy, Denmark and more exotic destinations are all served out of food trucks along the waterfront. The meals are inexpensive and mouth-watering, washed down with a selection of local and foreign beer and wine.
Live music and street performances typically accompany the food trucks, turning Paper Island into a culturally-rich venue, with a picture-perfect waterfront view to admire while tucking into some hearty fare.