Denmark isn’t the cheapest country to visit in Europe – in fact; it’s one of the more expensive destinations you can choose there. But if you’re looking for a new spot to explore that’s rich with culture and history, with a high level of safety and friendly locals, you won’t find a place better than Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital city is a bustling hub of commerce and culture, a food-lover’s paradise, and a great spot to escape and enjoy for a few days.
If you want to check out Copenhagen but don’t want to blow your travel budget, there are things you can do to ease the blow on your bank account, like adding some low- or no-cost activities to your itinerary. While you’ll undoubtedly spend money on some can’t-miss attractions around town, there are plenty of ways you can have fun and experience the best Copenhagen has to offer without spending much money – or any at all.
Not sure what that looks like? I’m here to help! Here are some of the top free and cheap things to do while you’re in Copenhagen:
WATCH THE CHANGING OF THE GUARDS
Experience a local tradition firsthand by witnessing the changing of the guards at the Queen’s Palace. The Royal Guard marches from the Rosenborg Castle to the palace each day in a parade. They leave at 11:30 a.m., and once they reach the palace, they perform the official changing of the guards. Grab a spot along the parade route to witness the soldiers stepping in unison, or position yourself at the Amalienborg Palace to watch the actual transition.
This quick glimpse into Danish tradition is well worth a quick stop!
WANDER THROUGH BAKKEN, THE WORLD’S OLDEST AMUSEMENT PARK
Don’t want to spend a ton of cash but want to experience the very first theme park ever built? Plan a visit to Bakken. Unlike American theme parks that generally charge a flat admission fee for unlimited rides, Bakken is free for all to enter and experience – you’ll just need to purchase tickets if you’d like to ride anything. Even if you decide against stepping onto a roller coaster or splurging on a spin around the carousel, the tranquil forest setting and fun, family-friendly atmosphere makes it worth a visit on its own. And if you do want to ride something, the a-la-carte ticketing system means you’ll only pay as much as you’re willing to spend.
PERUSE THE FREDERIKSBERG FLEA MARKET
For a fun, free spot to window-shop and people-watch, check out the Frederiksberg flea market. Open each Saturday from spring until early fall, this market is located in one of the more upscale areas of town. Because of this, the goods you’ll find for sale at the market are often quality items offered at a great price.
You’ll find all kinds of things, from jewelry and decor to books, toys, and antiques. Food and drink vendors are on hand in case hunger strikes, or you decide you’d like to slow down and enjoy a cold beverage. One thing to note about the Frederiksberg flea market is that it differs from many international markets in that the prices are fixed – haggling doesn’t happen here – so be prepared to pay what’s listed if you decide you’d like to grab a souvenir.
MAKE A SPLASH AT THE HAVNEBADET ISLANDS BYGGE
Visiting Copenhagen during the warm summer months? Want to cool off? The locals have a solution that’s totally free – a swim at the Havnebadet Islands Brygge. This outdoor pool is positioned next to one of the city’s many canals and is entirely free to the public, making it a popular destination for folks looking to swim during the summer months.
Fair warning to families traveling with children – topless swimming is allowed here. While the Danes don’t find this local custom strange, folks from more modest countries may be taken aback.
CLIMB THE ROUND TOWER
For an excellent view of the city below and a fantastic photo opportunity, climb to the top of the Round Tower. This tower was built during the 1600s and was initially used as an observatory, allowing early astronomers to watch the night skies. While this attraction isn’t free, $5 is a small price to pay for the chance to get such a great glimpse of Copenhagen’s charming skyline. Unlike many towers, you climb a ramp – not a staircase – to reach the top, making it a long but gentle journey to the pinnacle.
EXPLORE THE COMMUNITY OF CHRISTIANIA
The FreeTown of Christiania was established in the 1970s as an “alternative society,” and the government of Copenhagen has generally let the people who live there do what they will. Photographs are generally discouraged – the area is a hotbed for less-than-savory types who would prefer to avoid pictures when dealing in illegal activities – but if you’re willing to brave the streets, you’ll be treated to a colorful assortment of self-assembled homes, streetside gardens and other trademarks of hippie communities.
Explore the area, and you’ll find several tasty restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops, concert venues, and more.
EXPLORE THE BOTANICAL GARDEN
Copenhagen’s well-loved botanical gardens are situated in the heart of the city, a lush green oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Outside, you can wander through a series of gardens spotlighting different flowers, trees from specific regions, and other locally-inspired settings.
The real highlight, however, is the glasshouses – old greenhouses, some of which date back to 1874. Different rooms simulate different environments, with varying temperatures and humidity levels, allowing plants and flowers from around the world to thrive. The palm house and butterfly house are two you won’t want to miss, but you won’t be disappointed regardless of which rooms you decide to wander through.
While you’ll have a hard time visiting Copenhagen without spending some cash, you can definitely take steps to keep costs low by adding some cheap and free plans into your days. Aside from helping you save a few bucks, you’ll find these attractions and activities are just as fun – and in many situations, more entertaining – than some of the more expensive attractions you’ll enjoy.