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Copenhagen on the Cheap

Copenhagen Insider Guides Budget Travel
by Maya Weeks Apr 27, 2010
Maya Weeks puts together 10 budgeting tips for visiting one of the world’s most expensive cities.
1. Pick up a city bike

You can find the bikes, distinctly dark blue and heavy, scattered at various bike racks throughout the city, such as at the central Nørreport train and Metro station.

They take a 20-crown deposit, which you get back when you return it. Just remember your hand signals.

2. Visit Copenhagen’s museums

Many have free entrance on one day of the week:

Thorvaldsen’s Museum, a labyrinth of original models of the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen’s pieces, is free on Wednesdays. The Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket is free on Sundays and is worth checking out for an art and artifacts mix, not to mention some quality people-watching. The National Museum, located in the city center and close to both scenic canals and the Parliament building (Christiansborg Slot), is always free.

3. See free music at a café

Lots of cafés have free live music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. At Café Retro and Café Zusammen — both nonprofit joints — you’ll find local folk and rock acts, as well as cheap drinks and comfortable atmospheres.

Chances are high you’ll meet people who will actually talk to you and help you destroy any preconceptions you might have about “Nordic coldness.”

Or check out Christiania, Copenhagen’s open-minded “free town,” where you can peruse music and art venues, cafés, and mingle with locals and passers-through alike. Don’t take pictures on Pusher Street, but besides that, just about anything goes.

4. Feed the swans

Get some cheap bread from a grocery store like Netto and feed the swans on the lakes that mark the center of Copenhagen, located between the pristine City Center and funkier Nørrebro.

In Nørrebro there are a variety of cool cafés, like the Laundromat Café, an expat-friendly place that serves brunch while people do their laundry. Vintage and thrift stores and the coolest street art in town are nearby.

It’s possible to dumpster-dive the bread from one of the city’s numerous bakeries, or just ask them for leftovers right before they close — maybe you’ll end up with a pastry, too.

5. Collect free postcards

Many cafés and bars give these out. Pick some up and write to your faraway friends — or just doodle.

This is a fantastic activity for downtime between all those drinks that the various bars doubtlessly entail.

6. Picnic in a park

Get some beer, an ice cream, or a box of strawberries from a market and park yourself on a bench in any of the city’s plentiful squares and parks to people-watch and, if you’re lucky, soak up some sun. You won’t be the only one doing so.

Kongens Have, the King’s Garden, with its wide, tree-and-flower-lined paths, greenhouse, and broad lawns, is popular and pleasant. It’s also where Rosenborg Castle is located.

7. Hit the Nørrebrogade flea market

On Saturday mornings, it runs the length of the yellow wall along Assistens Kirkegård in the center of Nørrebro. On the other side of the street are kebab shops, ethnic markets, and bars like Drone and Understellet in various states of hip disrepair.

Although it’s a cemetery (and Søren Kierkegaard’s eternal resting place), Assistens Kirkegård is gorgeous and a great place for taking a walk or just hanging out any day of the week.

8. Experience Danish hygge

This loosely translates as “coziness,” but is generally used to indicate all things nice and comfortable.

Find it, along with a cheap vegetarian dinner, at the “people’s kitchens” (or soup kitchens) at Folkets Hus (The People’s House) on Mondays at 6:30 PM (and brunch on Sundays at noon) and Overdrevet – formerly the Youth House – on Thursdays at 7:00 PM.

Both are great options where you can get a meal and meet some people for a small donation. These places also host cafés, parties, film nights, yoga classes, and other happenings.

9. Try the beach

To get to the beach, hop on the Metro (line M2 towards Lufthavnen, the airport) and get off at Amager Strand, a 5-minute walk from an actual sandy beach.

Or do as many locals do and spend an afternoon (or a day) at Havnebadet, or the Harbour Baths, at Islands Brygge, a swimming area on the south harbor complete with an enclosed pool and diving platform.

In the warmer months, the entire dock turns into a swimming, sunbathing, and beer-drinking scene. Bring friends.

10. Take a canal tour

It might be kitschy (and cost a whopping 60 crowns, or ~$11US), but even the Copenhageners do it, preferably with a beer in the afternoon. (If you haven’t guessed by now, drinking in public is legal — and extremely normal — in Copenhagen.)

As the city is based on a network of canals, it really is the best way to see everything. When the weather is decent, you can sit on deck and watch Copenhagen float by.

Community Connection

Read more about the city over at Matador Abroad in A Day in the Life of An Expat in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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