Voted Europe’s fifth-most expensive city (London is second), a visit to Copenhagen isn’t cheap, but plan carefully and you can enjoy a long weekend here without emptying your bank account. Here is our price-conscious weekend guide to the city.
There’s so much to be impressed by in Denmark’s cool, calm and compact capital: from the city’s forward-thinking approach to sustainability (and just about everything else) to a creative food scene that celebrates local produce and extends from its many Michelin-starred restaurants to its hip street food stalls. Throw in buzzy neighbourhoods, brilliant museums and Instagram-ready streets dotted with rose-draped apartments and cafés frequented by stylish locals, and you have a Scandi-cool city break of dreams.
Spring and summer are great times to visit Copenhagen, when the long days create an effervescent party vibe and the city’s locals linger outside for as long as possible, picnicking on electric boats, sunbathing by the canals or taking a refreshing dip in the sparkly-clean harbour. Even when it’s busy, this capital city feels wonderfully relaxed – we defy you not to love it here.
Here is our purse-friendly guide to this magnetic city.
Invest in a Copenhagen Card: As soon as you touch down at the airport, grab this card from the information desk at Terminal 3. A 48-hour card costs €88 (£75), which might sound steep but it’s definitely worth the money, granting you free entrance to 89 museums and attractions in Copenhagen and its surroundings, as well as free public transport (by bus, train, metro and harbour bus), valid anywhere in the Capital Region of Denmark zone (which stretches far outside the city). You can also buy a digital version of the card online.
Check into: a&o hostel, Nørrebro (from €63/£53 per night for a private room or €33/£28 per night for a six-bed shared dormitory, based on travel in August). Why splurge your hard-earned cash on a swish hotel when you can spend it on eating, drinking and cultural enrichment instead?
Located in the hip, young neighbourhood of Nørrebro, this clean, comfortable and friendly hostel has relaxed communal lounge areas as well as private twin rooms and dorms. All rooms have toilets and showers with free body wash and shampoo, plus hair dryers, clean towels and fresh linen. Reception is manned 24 hours a day and you can also buy snacks and hire bikes from here and have the option to pay for extras, including breakfast or a packed lunch. We’re sold.
Image courtesey of a&o hostel Copenhagen
Take a free walking tour: Wander energetic, multicultural Nørrebro, phone in hand with a digital self-guided walking tour of the neighbourhood. You’ll stop at the district’s main sights, including oh-so-cool urban/skate park Superkilen, whose neon signs, swing seats, tile fountain and other objects all hail from abroad, celebrating diversity; and Assistens Cemetery, the final resting place of celebrated fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen. In summer this beautiful, park-like cemetery is frequented by locals picnicking or reading in the sunshine, and has a respectful yet cheerful atmosphere that feels unique for a graveyard.
Image: Giuseppe Liverino
On the walking tour, you’ll learn about Nørrebro’s working-class roots and how the area has always attracted politically minded inhabitants. You’ll also meander down cool streets such as Blågårdsgade, which is lined with wine bars and restaurants and leads to Blågårds square, which is a cool hangout spot for people of all ages. Equally hip is pristine Jægersborggade, where small art galleries, organic delis, vintage boutiques and independent bakeries provide plenty of eye candy.
The walking tour takes two-to-three hours. Download the Story Hunt app (on App Store or Google Play) to your phone and search for the Nørrebro tour or scan a QR code to start the tour. Don’t forget to pack your headphones for the audio guide.
Refuel at: The Coffee Collective. This coffee shop and micro roastery on the popular street of Jægersborggade was the first of the collective’s shops to open (there are now a few more in Denmark, mainly in Copenhagen) and it serves some of the best coffee in town in a laidback, Scandi-chic setting.
Follow your caffeine fix with a sweet treat from Meyers Bageri, further down Jægersborggade, where locals queue patiently each day for fresh bread and cakes. Try the chocolate-stuffed cinnamon rolls or the soft and fluffy coconut and chocolate macarons. You won’t be disappointed.
Discover a new neighbourhood: Take the metro or hire a bike and cycle to Christianshavn, a pretty central district made up of several islands that’s been dubbed ‘Little Amsterdam’ thanks to its canals, cute bridges and colourful houses. It’s also home to the famous cannabis-scented, free-spirited Christiania district, a hippie commune dotted with beer gardens, live music bars and quirky houses – a thousand people live here.
Binge on a burger at: POPL. At this neighbourhood favourite, locals line up for takeaway burgers or grab a table in the airy, brick and pinewood-clad interior. The concept is the brainchild of René Redzepi, head chef at the three-Michelin-starred Noma (named the world’s best restaurant on numerous occasions) – so unsurprisingly, the burgers are delicious. The vegan version is just as good – the team spent months developing the cooked quinoa patty recipe in Noma’s fermentation lab.
Have a nightcap at: The Bridge Street Kitchen. Slurp a cocktail as you soak up beautiful sunset views of the Nyhavn canal from this outdoor spot right next to the Inner Harbour Bridge. This part of town buzzes with locals chattering as they munch on street food or sip ice cold beers on sunny days.
Have breakfast at: Either your hostel, or grab a pastry from one of Nørrebro’s many great bakeries – Rondo’s nduja-laced croissants and Bageriet Bengi’s flaky pastries filled with slow-cooked Danish rhubarb come highly recommended.
Swoon over Danish design at: Designmuseum Danmark, which reopened in June after almost two years of renovation work. The museum is a marvel both inside and out, from its 18th-century rococo façade and peaceful gardens to the eight fascinating exhibitions within.
The Future is Present (on until 1 June 2023) explores how design can be used as a force for good to solve the many problems the world faces, from climate change to displaced people. Another highlight is Wonder, which beautifully presents some of the museum’s oldest and most treasured objects, from intricately painted snuff boxes to tsubas – elaborately decorated metal mountings for samurai swords.
Image courtesy of Designmuseum Danmark
Have lunch at: Reffen. This sprawling street food venue located in the former industrial harbour area of Refshaleøen is the largest in the Nordics and is crammed with stalls serving up everything from Afghan street food to sushi.
Once you’ve finally made a decision about what to eat and drink, grab your wares and take a front-row seat (well, deckchair) on the man-made beach and gaze out across the harbour. There’s live music here on weekends and a huge on-site club, Werkstatt, located in a converted mechanic shop.
Image courtesy of Reffen - Copenhagen Street Food
Take to the water: In summer, Copenhagen’s harbour and Nyhavn canal throng with boats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and, because the water is so clean, even swimmers. Do your bit for the planet by hopping into a Green Kayak – there are collection points dotted around the city’s waterways.
The premise is simple: it’s free to hire the kayaks as long as you litter pick along the way (you’re provided with a bucket and litter picker). Those taking part are also encouraged to take a picture for Instagram to spread the word about the initiative, which started in Copenhagen in 2017 and has since launched in various countries around Europe.
Image: Daniel Rasmussen
Head back to Nørrebro for dinner: where you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to meal times. Affordable options include Hooked, a chilled seafood restaurant that specialises in incredibly delicate and flavourful fish and chips, UGood, which sells tasty Ugandan street food wraps, and Gao, whose pillowy dumplings are incredibly addictive.
Take a restorative wander around: The Botanical Garden (Botanisk Have), which is home to Denmark’s largest collection of plants. It’s free to enter and exploring the 27 tranquil glasshouses is a relaxing way to spend a few hours. Clamber up to the stairs of the 19th-century Palm House for impressive views of the many lime- and earth-hued fronds below.
Tucked away in the top corner of the garden is the Natural History Museum of Denmark, where you can find out more about our ancestors, the Neanderthals, in a current exhibition or saunter through the mesmerising mineral halls. The museum is around a five-minute walk to Nørreport Station.
Image: Birgitte Rubæk
Hop on a train to: The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in the coastal town of Humlebaek, reachable by train from Nørreport Station in around 30 minutes. This truly exceptional museum is a modernist marvel, whose setting is almost a work of art in itself – the outdoor sculpture park is a haven dotted with works by Henry Moore, Alexander Calder and Barbara Hepworth to name a few, with soul-nourishing views out to sea.
Inside the museum, works by Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and a regularly rotating roster of emerging artists stand strikingly against vast glass windows, with backdrops of the seaside or forest. Even the most museum-averse of travellers will be won over here.
Image: Daniel Rasmussen
Have lunch at: The museum’s excellent café. If the weather is playing ball, request an outdoor table, where you can feast on traditional smørrebrods (open sandwiches) and sharing platters of burrata, ham, hot smoked salmon, fried prawns and cabbage. Don’t miss out on the strawberry cake dessert. A delicious booze-free lunch works out at around €30 (£25) each.
The journey to Copenhagen Airport from here takes just over an hour. The museum has lockers where you can store bags.
Budget options include Ryanair, which flies from London Stansted to Copenhagen airport from £18 one way or Norwegian, which departs from London Gatwick from £25 one way.
Main image: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock
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