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Best things to do in Copenhagen on a budget

Think Copenhagen is an expensive city? Don't fret: you can still enjoy the high standard of living in this classy Scandinavian city while sticking to your holiday budget. Here are our top picks for cheap (or free!) things to do in Copenhagen.

1. Take a free tour

Yep, not all the attractions in Copenhagen cost the earth, or even anything at all. Sandemans offer free three-hour city walking tours every day in summer starting at the City Hall steps at 11.00. The tours take in key sights such as Tivoli Gardens, the Danish Royal Palace and Frederik’s Church. They are led by volunteers, so if you think they have done a good job you may want to donate some of your budget to pay them whatever you see fit. See the sights in more alternative ways with our guide to 10 tours around the world with a twist.

Copenhagen skyline

2. Save with a Copenhagen Card

Invest in a Copenhagen Card. They come in a few permutations – 24 hours (€51), 48 hours (€34), 72 hours (€71) or 120 hours (€113) and make serious savings with free admission to 72 museums and attractions, free public transport and a sweep of discounts at restaurants, on car hire and plenty of other things to do in Copenhagen*. They are especially good value for families as one adult card also covers up to two children under 10.

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3. Enjoy free museums

As an enlightened, public-spirited city, there’s an array of free museums and galleries in Copenhagen. Our pick of the bunch are the National Museum of Denmark, for incredible Viking treasures as well as artefacts from ancient Rome to Pakistan. On the artistic side, the National Gallery is worth a peep, with collections from traditional local and European artists through the years and a colourful twentieth century Modern exhibit. Several other Copenhagen attractions are free one day of the week or at special times – check with the tourist office on arrival for the latest offers. Have a bit more cash to splash? See our comprehensive list of things to do in Copenhagen, from the world’s fanciest restaurant to Nordic noir tours.

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4. Get on your bike

Copenhagen City Bike is a brilliant bike scheme where your two wheeled transport comes fitted with a GPS-enabled tablet so there is no excuse for getting lost! One hour costs only 25DKK (around £3). You can just turn up at one of the numerous bike stations with a credit card, but we recommend doing what the Copenhagen locals do and save time by registering online in advance.

Bicycle on the street in Copenhagen

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5. Head to the Botanical Garden

Copenhagen boasts several parks and gardens that are free to enter, with many hosting free live concerts in summer. Arguably the most impressive green space in town is the Botanical Garden. This grand old dame opened in 1870 and spreads across 10 hectares right in the city centre. Handily, on a rainy day, there are also glasshouses to explore with more than 13,000 species on show, and are impressive old buildings themselves, dating back to 1874. The entrance is on Øster Farimagsgade.

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6. Free beer at the Carlsberg brewery

Ok, so you need to have already purchased a Copenhagen Card to get free entry to Visit Carlsberg, but as you get two free cold ones in the bargain and a tour would otherwise set you back 95DKK, you might find it’s worth it. You also get a peek into the still working Jacobsen brewery, beer-themed exhibitions and the Brand Store for Denmark’s most famous export. Located on Gamle Carlsberg Vej, in the area of Vesterboro.

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7. Savour a smorrebrod

Smorrebrod, literally ‘buttered bread’, is more usefully thought of as an open sandwich, something of a national institution and working your way through a selection of these delightful snacks is one of the most fun – and low-cost – Copenhagen activities. Rye bread is the usual base but you can pretty much top it with whatever you like. Popular toppings include roast beef or pork, prawns or a fish fillet. You can grab simple smorrebrod from the dedicated takeaway stands rather than shell out more cash for fancier versions in restaurants. ThSørensen in Christiania is a nice casual option for lunch, with smorrebrod from 13DKK. The national tourist office has a handy list of posher places.

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8. Chill in Christiania

The ‘Free State of Christiania’ is a gloriously unique, self-proclaimed autonomous district of Copenhagen. This relaxed commune started life as a hippie squat on a military camp in the 1970s, but is now a fully-fledged alternative community that is officially recognised by the local authorities. Open-minded visitors are welcome and there is no entry charge. There’s a lake, bars, workshops and galleries and, until recently, a tolerant approach from the city authorities to recreational drug use. It tends to divide opinions, with the so-called ‘Pusher Street’ one to avoid if you’re travelling solo, but it’s definitely worth judging the neighbourhood for yourself. Enter off Prinsessegade, where you’ll find the Christiania community centre and the Spiseloppen restaurant.

House and garden in Christiania, Copenhagen

9. Amuse yourself at Bakken

Head out of the city into Denmark’s famously green countryside to Bakken, 10 minutes’ drive away. Over 400 years old, it lays claim to the title of the world’s oldest amusement park. It’s certainly the biggest amusement park in Scandinavia, with loads of rides including more than 30 roller coasters. Entry to the park is always free, though you have to pay for rides. These are not expensive and multi-ride passes are available to save some cash.

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*Published October 2016. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

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