Copenhagen is one of those cities that will make your wallet sigh. Prices are high compared with most other European capitals, and once you’ve covered all of the basics like food, transport and accommodation, it can be hard to justify splashing even more cash on sightseeing.
Yep, Copenhagen is an expensive city to visit. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your days stuck in your hotel room, feeling sad and lonely. There are masses of completely free things to do, from guided bike tours to summer swims with the locals. And of course, you can always have an audience with the famous Little Mermaid.
Because no one likes missing out on fun for the sake of a few kroner, we’ve also included some extremely cheap activities in this list (they’re all under 150 DDK). Just use the headings below to hop straight to the section you’re interested in.
• Historic sights and attractions
• Fun and entertainment
• Museums and galleries
• Parks and nature
• Excursions and day trips
• Health and fitness
• Viewpoints and lookouts
• Window shopping
• Just chilling
• Eating and drinking
1) See the changing of the guard ceremony at Amalienborg. The square outside the Queen’s house comes alive at noon each day, with soldiers from the Danish Royal Guard stomping their feet, crashing cymbals and wearing silly hats.
2) Go to church. Completed in 1894, Frederiks Kirke (or the marble church, as locals know it) looks like a mini version of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Well, maybe mini is the wrong word; the huge copper-clad dome here is the biggest in Scandinavia. It’s free to take a look around the church itself, while tours of the tower and dome only cost 35 DKK.
3) Pay your respects to local heroes like Hans Christian Andersen at Assistens Cemetery, a leafy park that doubles as a burial ground for some of Denmark’s most famous people.
4) Snap pictures of the bright yellow row houses in Nyboder, just south of Østerport train station. This district was first planned in the 1600s to help house local sailors. The buildings, which are lined up in neat rows, are still in use today.
5) Visit Copenhagen Cathedral. There’s a small museum in Københavns Domkirke that’s free to visit, and you can look round the cathedral too as long as there’s no service taking place.
6) Visit the world’s oldest amusement park. Bakken is a 20-minute train ride from the city centre and although you have to pay to use the rides, admission to the park itself is completely free, so you can soak up the nostalgic atmosphere and browse the independent shops.
7) Listen to free classical music. Trinitatis Kirke is a nice 17th-century church in the city centre with an impressive gilded interior. It regularly puts on free classical concerts (Fridays and Wednesdays seem to be the most popular days, but check ahead).
8) Go dancing. Dance with the Danes at free open-air tango, salsa, rumba, Bollywood, swing and Latin classes. The classes are held in the Fælledparken from 7–8pm Monday to Thursday for five weeks in the summer. Djs and bands play til 10pm so you can carry on dancing throughout the evening.
9) Go to the theatre. Okay, you won’t get into the main performances without paying, but there are often free shows in the foyer at Skuespilhuset. See the Royal Danish Theatre’s online calendar for up-to-date info.
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10) Visit The David Collection. This impressive display of Islamic art and European paintings, sculptures and ceramics is exhibited in a beautiful old house that belonged to the owner of the collection. And it’s completely free to enter.
11) Gawp at the incredible collection of Nordic art at Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark’s national gallery. The collection spans more than seven centuries, as well as countless artistic styles.
Until recently this place was completely free to visit but now it’s only free for under 18s. Under 27s pay 95 DKK and everyone else 120 DKK – but the admission fee is still well worth it, especially if you make a day of it!
12) See Egyptian mummies, Greek sculptures and sparkly Viking gold at the National Museum of Denmark. You could easily spend half a day wandering through the galleries here. Admission is 100 DKK – or 90 DKK if bring a child with you!
13) Marvel at how wealthy beer can make one man on a visit to Glyptoteket, a unique collection of art and antiquities amassed by one of the early bosses of the Carlsberg brewery. It opened to the public back in 1882. Admission is completely free on Tuesdays, and 115 DKK the rest of the week.
14) Check out the interesting – and free – exhibitions that are held at Møstings Hus, a country house to the west of the city.
15) Get to grips with masterpieces from the Danish Golden Age at the Hirschsprung Museum, just north of Statens Museum for Kunst (see above). This collection costs 95 DKK to look around, and is free for under 18s.
16) Discover why a Danish sculptor called Bertel Thorvaldsen found international fame and even ended up creating works of art for the Pope.
The museum dedicated to his work is housed in a gorgeous yellow building near Christiansborg Palace, and is free to visit on Wednesdays. Admission is 90 DKK the rest of the week (students 50 DKK).
17) Learn about Denmark’s involvement in violent conflicts (centuries ago and much more recently) at the Royal Danish Arsenal Museum. Along with weapons and stories from the battlefield, you’ll find a nifty collection of military uniforms. Admission is 80 DKK, or 70 DKK with a child.
18) Go underground. Check out the exhibitions of contemporary art held in the former water cisterns for the city of Copenhagen. Admission costs just 70 DKK.
19) Kick back in Rosenberg Castle Gardens. Set around a 400-year-old castle, these neatly clipped gardens provide the perfect place to have a picnic or just enjoy a little rest while sightseeing. The gardens are free to visit, though admission to the castle is 120 DKK.
20) Escape the city at Jægersborg Dyrehave, a 1000-hectare park that’s home to cycle trails, the Bakken amusement park (see above), and around 2000 free-roaming deer.
21) See orchids, palms, cactuses and giant lily pads at Copenhagen’s botanical gardens, which are home to a series of glasshouses. The botanical gardens are free to visit, though entrance to the main Palm House costs 60 DKK.
22) Hire a city bike and explore the suburbs. It’s not completely free but it is very cheap – it costs just 12 DKK for 20 minutes to borrow one of Copenhagen’s high-tech public bikes, which come equipped with tablet computers, GPS systems and even assisted pedalling.
23) Hit the beach. There are a couple of pretty beaches within cycling distance of the city centre, including Amager Strand, where locals come to sunbathe, try kite boarding and (when it’s warm enough) go swimming.
24) See what life used to be like for Denmark’s poorest farmers at Frilandsmuseet, an open-air museum with dozens of historic buildings.
It costs 80 DKK to visit (95 DKK at peak times), and you’ll need to use public transport to get there: take the train from Nørreport to Sorgenfri (20 minutes) and walk the last 700 metres or so to the entrance.
26) Take a dip at Havnebadet Islands Brygge. The open-air pool (summer only) is completely free to visit and has decent views across the water. Expect crowds on sunny days.
27) Do the park run. There are three park runs in Copenhagen; along the waterfront at Amager Strandpark; in Fælledparken; and in Amager Fælled. So join the locals on a Saturday morning at 9am for a 5km jog – you know you’ll feel good, if you do it!
28) Go kayaking for free. Green Kayak has several locations in Copenhagen where you can take a kayak out onto the water for two hours for free, as long as you commit to pick up litter during your trip.
So you can paddle around the harbour at will, bring back any litter that you find floating in the water – and it won’t cost you a penny.
29) Pound the pavements. Local running clubs like NBRO meet on a regular basis.
30) Go for a skate. Copenhagen’s cycle paths double as safe places to inline or skateboard (though make sure you don’t get in the way of local cyclists). Otherwise, head to the skate park at Fælledparken, which has rails, bowls and a mean-looking half pipe.
31) Go ice-skating. In winter, Copenhagen has several free outdoor ice rinks, including at Havnegade, Frederiksberg Runddel and Blågårds Plads, which are open daily from 8am–10pm. Skates can be hired at the rink, or bring your own if you have them.
32) Take a free walking tour. Several companies offer free walking tours around the city centre. Click here to book one, or try Sandemans or Copenhagen Free Walking Tours. Guides from all companies work for tips.
Prefer something a bit more rowdy? Try this Copenhagen pub crawl for 130 DKK.
33) Hop on a guided bike tour. This three-hour two-wheeled tour of the city costs around 300 DKK.
34) Climb Copenhagen’s highest tower. The tower at Christiansborg Palace is free to climb and gives great views over the city. There’s not a great deal of space at the top, so go early if you want to avoid queues.
35) Get dizzy at Rundetaarn, an astronomical observatory from the 17th century. A spiral-shaped slope makes seven and a half turns on its way up to the top, where you can get a cracking view over Copenhagen’s rooftops. Entry is 25 DKK.
36) See the Little Mermaid. No round-up of free things to do in Copenhagen would be complete without mentioning the Little Mermaid statue. It’s actually pretty underwhelming and there are often so many tourists clambering about all over the place that you can’t even get a decent look at it.
However, you’re in Copenhagen, so you have to try anyway. The views across the water from here are pleasant enough, too.
37) Admire the famous Öresund Bridge from the top of Frederiks Kirke (see above). This guide tells you how to cross the bridge. The 35 DKK admission fee will also give you a bird’s-eye view of Amalienborg.
38) Get a taste for Danish design with a walk along Strøget, the city’s main shopping street. And it isn’t just design here; Danish brands like Trollbeads and Bang & Olufsen also have stores along the kilometre-long street.
39) Browse for bargains at the antiques market that sets up on Halmtorvet every Saturday morning from April–October.
40) Find unique souvenirs at Den Blå Hal, a big, super-popular indoor flea market that takes place every weekend at Amagerbanen 9. Entry is 10 DKK and the market runs from 10am–4pm.
41) Follow your nose to Christiania’s ‘green light district’, where weed is sold and smoked openly. Even if you don’t want to smoke, it’s an interesting part of town to explore – just keep your camera in your bag, as photos are banned on the main drag, Pusher Street.
42) Admire the city’s modern architecture. Don’t miss the controversial opera house or Den Blå Planet, Denmark’s national aquarium.
43) Sip coffee as you admire handmade, vintage bikes at WeCycle. This cool coffee shop lets you enjoy two of Denmark’s biggest passions – bikes and coffee – in a nice cosy environment. Need something stronger? It also sells decent Danish beer. The café is at Islandsbrygge 21, 2300 Copenhagen.
44) Get a new perspective on the city by taking a public ferry. The journey from Nordre Toldbod to Det Kongelige Bibliotek costs just 24 DKK (or is included in your public transport ticket) and is a great way of getting your bearings. Boats 991 and 992 run the route every 30 minutes or so.
45) Check out the Danish design at shiny black glass waterfront Black Diamond building – it’s so much more than just a library. Browse the collection of manuscripts by Hans Christian Andersen, check out the exhibitions, or just be wowed by the impressive architecture.
46) And for more amazing architecture, the Danish Architecture Center hosts interesting exhibitions, and has a great terrace café with waterfront views. It’s free for under 26s; 110 DKK for adults.
47) Hire a green boat. GoBoat has dinky solar-powered vessels available by the hour, complete with on-board dining tables and optional supplies of Carlsberg. You’ll need a group to keep this cheap – if you can pull together a total of eight friends, the price goes down to around 55 DKK per person.
48) Take a stroll along the waterfront at Havnepromenade past moored boats and grand former warehouses for views over the water.
49) Soak up the atmosphere at Copenhagen’s most famous harbour area, Nyhavn. The bars here are expensive, thanks in part to the number of tourists passing through, but there’s nothing to stop you grabbing a cheap beer from a local shop and enjoying the exact same vibe.
50) Volunteer at a food-sharing co-op. On Wednesdays and Saturdays volunteers collect leftover food from markets and bakeries around Copenhagen and hand it out for free to whoever needs it.
It’s fun, sociable and uses up food that would otherwise be wasted. Click here for more information.
51) Drop into one of Copenhagen’s indoor food markets, like Torvehallerne, where free samples are often handed out.
52) Have a picnic. Stock up on ingredients at budget Danish supermarket Netto (there’s a branch near Rundetaarn in the city centre) and head to one of the city’s best parks.
53) Head to one of Copenhagen’s community kitchens. Held in cultural centres across the city, folkekøkkener serve cheap buffet-style meals for around 50 DKK (some are even as cheap as 20 DKK).
There’s usually a vegan/veggie option, and if you’re prepared to help out with the cooking or serving you can even get your meal for free. Click here for more on Copenhagen’s cheap and cheerful community kitchens.
54) Fill up on cheap and delicious smörrebrød. There’s more info on the best places to get this authentic Danish snack in our guide to eating cheaply in Copenhagen.
55) Check out Copenhagen’s street food. Street food trucks are dotted all over the city, selling good quality ethnic and local dishes for very little money. Bridge Street Kitchen and Reffen food markets both have a great variety of tasty street food stalls.
56) Visit the huge Lego store on Strøget, Copenhagen’s main shopping street. Apart from giant Lego models and a kids’ play area that dads also seem to love, this place also stocks rare Lego sets that are hard to track down elsewhere.
57) Take the kids to Superkilen. This half-mile-long park in Nørrebro was designed to reflect the diversity of the district – look out for a Spanish bull, a Thai boxing ring and a Japanese octopus slide amongst others.
58) Feed the ducks on Copenhagen’s waterways. Actually, don’t: twitchers say bread could be harmful to the little feathered creatures and their lakes. But there’s nothing to stop you taking the kids for a look at the birds anyway – try Frederiksberg Have, which has tree-shaded pathways edging the water.
59) Let off some steam at the Guldbergs Plads play area in Nørrebro. It was actually designed to get adults moving, but older kids will love clambering around on the brightly coloured poles and swings.
60) Explore Nørrebro, Copenhagen’s coolest neighbourhood, on foot. There are loads of vintage shops, parks and bars to enjoy on the cheap.