The streets of Copenhagen are full of Michelin Stars (19 stars were awarded to 15 restaurants in 2018), hot dog vendors and bicycles…. any one of these delights is worth the trip to the City of Spires. Copenhagen is the ninth most densely populated European city, yet has more bicycles (650,000+) than residents (602,504). The city also has more bikes than cars, which makes for easy breathing and very fit Copenhageners.
Getting Here: CPH-Københavns Lufthavn, Kastrup is the busiest airport of the Nordic countries, serving over 2 million passengers a month. CPH is serviced by WOW, SAS and Norwegian Airlines the most frequently from around the world. If you have GOLD Status with Star Alliance, I recommend flying SAS as they have an incredible lounge in the Copenhagen airport.
PRO TIP: Consider flying into Copenhagen as a gateway to Europe. It is a great city for a one day stop over, and flights to and from CPH tend to be the the least expensive from the United States or Canada. Once you are in Europe, flights get amazingly inexpensive thanks to the array of low cost carriers operating on the continent.
THE LOWDOWN: Copenhagen is not cheap. Let me say this again. Copenhagen. is. not. cheap. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the most expensive city in Europe. There is a reason hot dog vendors line the streets side by side with Michelin starred restaurants. After only one day in Copenhagen, it is the only place left where you can afford to eat.
The reason Copenhagen is so expensive is that the good people of CPH are some of the highest paid in the world. It holds the 15th largest GDP per capita of regions in the EU. That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t travel-hack your way through this exquisite city. Hotels or hostels that include free breakfast will keep you nourished during your days of walking, and, did I mention the hot dog vendors…
COPENHAGEN CARD: To Copenhagen Card or Not to Copenhagen Card: The Copenhagen Card is the most convenient and affordable way to to experience Copenhagen. It is an all-inclusive card that includes entrance to popular tourist attractions and free public transportation throughout the city.
The card includes:
- Free access to 86 attraction including museums
- Free transportation on public transit in the Copenhagen Region including to and from the airport
- Discounts at restaurants
- 24 Hour Adult Pass-54 EUR ($61.62 USD)
- 48 Hour Adult Pass-77 EUR ($87.87 USD)
- 72 Hour Adult Pass-93 EUR ($106.13 USD)
If you like to walk around cities like we do and if you follow the tips in this blog you can save a ton of money without having to purchase a Copenhagen Card.
STAY: Copenhagen Go Hotel – Gemmas Alle 203, 2770 Kastrup, Denmark. Located a short walk from the subway line to get you to and from the airport in 21 minutes, and to the city center in 13 minutes. They offer rooms with free wifi and parking. You need to pay for breakfast but it is a nominal fee in comparison to a restaurant.
Steel House Copenhagen-This luxury hostel books quickly so make your reservation well in advance. They have a gym, pool, cafe and bar. Dorm rooms start at 125DKK for 4 or 6 bed co-ed and women only rooms. Private rooms are also available.
Generator Copenhagen-Located a bit further from Central Station, but within a stones throw of numerous bars. Free wifi, female dorms, cafe, bar and small dorms that start at 125DKK per bed. If you are traveling alone this is a great place to meet people.
CHEAP BEER: We looked and looked until we happened upon this place. Cafe Stærkodder, a cafe by name but a dive bar by aesthetic, with a front door that looks like it was ripped off the hinges of a Captain’s ship, greets you with a tiny portal window that screams do not look in here.
Do not fear. Just walk in, sit down, and ask for beer, or better yet, three to prove you belong. If you smoke, light one up, no one here really gives a shit – then settle into your seat and watch the 24-hour handball channel on every television in the joint. (DO NOT ask them to change the channel). I know I know, but you will soon discover it is truly a bloodsport.
The national sport in Denmark has to be a real kick in the nuts if it is going to be watched by the descendants of Vikings. Faster than volleyball and more interesting than basketball, you quickly discover that the goalkeeper hasn’t got a prayer of stopping a single shot. Scoring is so rampant that when the keeper finally stops a ball, you find yourself jumping out of your seat and cheering louder than a conquering Viking.
RANDOM HANDBALL FACT: The average save percentage of NHL goaltenders is .933, meaning an NHL goaltender saved 93.3% of all shots they faced. Compared to the 2015 Handball World Championship goalkeeper, who saved only 2088 of the 6893 shots on goal, is a mere 30% of all shots faced during the competition. Kind of makes you wonder what type of person wants to be a handball goalkeeper.
2015 Handball World Championships: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5819469/
FREE THINGS TO DO THAT ARE PRETTY COOL:
Copenhagen knows it is an expensive city. So, to attract tourists to visit, many of the attractions are free, but they rotate throughout the weekdays so plan accordingly.
FREE EVERYDAY (Except Monday, Sometimes)
Changing of the Guard: I don’t know why but I am kind of obsessed with this; probably because I am American and we don’t have anything even remotely equivalent to this spectacle.
Amalienborg Slot (Castle)– Everyday at noon, members of the Royal Guard march through the city from their barracks to the palace to take over the watch (i.e., The Changing of the Guard.) Amalienborg Palace is the residence of Queen Margrethe II and the Danish Royal Family. When the Queen is in residence the guard is accompanied by a band.
Warning: You can take pictures near the guards while they are on duty, but be polite and keep your distance. These are REAL GUARDS with REAL GUNS and REAL JOBS. We witnessed a lady get stiff armed by a guard for getting too close to his sentry post.
Botanical Garden – located in the city center, the garden is free and open to the public everyday. The Palm House, and in the summertime the Butterfly House, cost 60.00 DKK ($9.22 USD) to enter.
Christiansborg–is home to Folketinget (the Danish parliament), the Prime Minister’s office and the Supreme Court.
Admission to the palace grounds, public galleries (during parliamentary debates only) and the tower is free everyday year-round. The tower which offers spectacular views of the Danish capital is open Tuesday-Saturday 11am to 9pm and Sunday 11am-5:30pm.
The entrance to the tower is at the King’s Gate, a large gate in the center of the palace (immediately beneath the tower). The King’s Gate can be reached from the Palace Square and from the Inner Courtyard (via the Marble Bridge and the Riding Ground).
Christiania–the famous free town of Copenhagen is one of Denmark’s most popular tourist attractions. Founded in 1971, when a group of people cut a hole in the fence to the old military barracks and created a village by building their own homes out of various materials. The area is known for selling hash and pot out of stalls (Pusher Street), but no hard drugs are allowed.
Today around a thousand people live in Christiania and every year more than 500,000 people come to visit. Many of the original settlers still live in the collectively controlled village.
If traveling alone be careful as the area can be considered to be rough around the edges in certain aspects. At the main entrance to Christiana you’ll find a sign listing the rules-which resident advise visitors not to photograph.
These rules state that in or around “Pusher Street” you should not take pictures, run or talk on phones. Photographs are really discouraged in all of Christiania and it’d be wise to heed these warnings. Chriatiania is not considered part of Copenhagen and safety is based on your own actions. The police will not help you if things go wrong here. Open all the time, but be careful at night.
Tours are offered by residents. The meeting place is just inside Christianias Main Entrance on Prinsessegade. The tour lasts 1 to 1½ hours, depending on the weather. An introduction to Christiania is given on the tour. Individual Guided Tours are held in Danish and English, year round, every Saturday and Sunday at 15:00hrs (3pm). During the summer from July1st-August 31st Individual Guided Tours are held every day (Danish or English) at 13:00hrs (1pm) and 15:00hrs (3pm) from the main entrance. The price is 50 dkk/person ($7.64 USD). Please have exact change in DKK.
The Little Mermaid-Unveiled in August of 1913, yet another gift to the City of Copenhagen from the Carlsberg beer family and Carl Jacobsen, the sculpture is made of bronze and granite and was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who gives up everything to be with a young handsome prince on land.
Carl Jacobsen commissioned Edvard Eriksen a local sculptor to create the statue. The head is of the ballerina who played the Little Mermaid in the Opera however, she refused to pose nude for the remainder of the sculpture which is Edvard’s wife Eline Eriksen.
There is also a Genetically Modified Little Mermaid close by if you would like a photograph for continuity and irony.
Navhn-A gathering place for the young and old. Those with the ability to pay for dinner hit up a restaurant on this ancient strip. While the young grab a beer at the convenient store and a hot dog at the stand then sit on the ledge of the waters edge enjoying their version of the Navhn view. Don’t worry it’s perfectly legal.
FREE ON TUESDAY
Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket–On Tuesdays, entrance is free; Hours are 11:00 p.m.-6:00p.m. This is a truly mesmerizing ancient art museum founded in 1888 by brewer, Carl Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg Beer. The Glyptotek’s collection contains over 10,000 works of art and archaeological objects, offering ever new perspectives on life, culture and civilization through a time span of 6,000 years.
FREE ON WEDNESDAY
Nikolaj Kunsthal-The refurbished church serves as Copenhagen’s contemporary art space. Climb to the top of the old church tower for a spectacular view of central Copenhagen. Nikolaj Kunsthal is also home to Maven – a top rated restaurant with fair prices serving traditional dishes freshly made from the best ingredients.
Nikolaj Kunsthal: Wednesday Hours 12:00 pm-6:00pm.
Maven: Monday-Thursday 11:30am-Midnight, Friday-Saturday 11:30am-2:00am. Sunday-Closed.
Thorvaldsens Museum-Open 10 am-5 pm, this former church built in the 13th century is home to the Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center. The center is full of modern-day art focusing on cultural, political and social issues.
Paid Things To Do:
Tivoli Gardens-Opened August 15, 1843 it is the second oldest operating amusement park in the world, the first is Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg, Denmark. When you step out of Central Station the first thing you should see is Tivoli Gardens.
If you are a roller coaster enthusiast this is a must stop as the park is known for it’s wooden roller coaster – Rutschebanen, AKA, Bjergbanen (The Mountain Coaster), built in 1914. The operator brakes the ride down the hills so it does not gain too much speed.
The great thing about Tivoli Gardens is their non-ride pass. After all this amusement park has “Gardens” in its name. For the money there is no better place to sit and enjoy the surroundings on a beautiful spring, summer or autumn day.
Unlimited ride pass/entrance ticket: 395 DKK or $60.56 USD
Entrance Ticket: (This pass does not allow you entrance to any rides): 160 DKK or $18.40 USD
Hours of Operation change throughout the year so be sure to check the Tivoli Gardens website.
Rosenborg Slot (Castle)-This renaissance castle was originally built as a country summerhouse in 1606 for Christian IV’s. It houses the Danish Crown Jewels. Second perhaps to only England The Danish Regalia consist of three crowns, a Sceptre (symbolizing supreme authority), Globus cruciger (an orb symbolizing the earthly realm surmounted by a cross), the Sword of state and an Ampulla (symbolizing anointing of monarchs). The Crown Jewels there are in an area in the basement know as the Schatzkammer – German for treasure chamber.
Hours of Operation vary throughout the year check the website for further information.
Carlsberg Brewery & Vistors Center-There is a big green double-decker bus wrapped in Carlsberg advertising that makes all day stops in front of the Central Station. The bus provides free transportation to the Carlsberg Brewery – a 15-20 minute ride to Gamle Carlsberg Vej 111799 København V. Adm. Admission includes 3 drink tokens and a factory tour where you are given 3 samples of beer.
Adult: 100.00 DKK ($15.33 USD) Student (with ID card): 70.00 DKK ($10.73 USD) Child (6-17): 70.00 DKK ($10.73 USD) Child (0-5): FREE
FREE with Copenhagen Card
**The Brewery and Visitor Center is currently closed until 2020 for renovations. Check official website for updates.
Map of Copenhagen:
The End of A Journey-Copenhagen is an incredibly clean – beautiful city full of happy Danes, bike filled streets and colorful spired buildings. The incredibly walkable city full of free things to do daily makes up for the inevitable depletion of your bank account. In the end you can’t be a traveler unless you experience it all and Copenhagen should be high on your list of places to see. Despite the high prices I have been to Copenhagen three times-eating plenty of hot dogs and 7-11 chicken satay by the stick to make it work, but I would never ever suggest that anyone skips Copenhagen on their European adventure.