Like the rest of Scandinavia, Copenhagen can quickly burn through a visitor’s wallet. Due to high minimum wages, $10 pints of beer or $5 hot dogs are commonplace. Here some free things to do in Copenhagen without blowing your budget.
5 Free Things to Do in Copenhagen
1. Catch an Outdoor Concert or Movie
After surviving Denmark’s rough winter locals spill into the streets, parks and canal spaces to enjoy a wide assortment of wonderful summer concerts and outdoor movie festivals. The best part? Most of these are free. Upon arrival ask your hosts what events are going on. You can also check the VisitCopenhagen Facebook page for more ideas.
Over the past year I’ve enjoyed everything from mainstream movies and jazz in the streets to live broadcasts of the European soccer championships; all for free, and all in Copenhagen’s beautiful public spaces. These activities aren’t just limited to summertime. Other events such as J-Day when the local breweries release their Christmas (Julebryg) beer are also city-wide events which are free, and loads of fun!
2. Relax Along Nyhavn
One of the most iconic things to do in Copenhagen is to grab a six-pack of local Carlsberg or Tuborg, an ice cream, or hot dog and head down to Nyhavn (pronounced Nyw-hound) or “New Harbor.” This 17th-century harbor is lined with postcard-perfect colored buildings, outdoor cafes and gorgeous tall ships. Locals and tourists alike lounge in the sun while listening to street performers, observing café-goers and enjoying good conversation. But be prepared – on sunny days a seat along the harbor wall can be a bit of a challenge to find!
Just remember not to rush. Relaxing along Nyhavn is an activity best enjoyed slowly and casually. Set aside at least an hour if the weather is cooperating. It’s also a wonderful spot to catch the sunset as the golden light brings out the yellow and red hues in the buildings. In winter you’ll also find a small Christmas market set up along the harbor.
3. Walk Christianshavn Canal
One of my favorite canals in Copenhagen is the Christianshavn canal, right outside the Christianshavn Metro station. I love to stroll along it in late fall when the leaves are turning and the crowds are much smaller. Head down to the canal on a sunny day and join the locals as they sit, legs dangling over the water, deep in conversation, or just caught up in the general beauty of the moment. There are also find several nice cafes and pizzerias along the canal. Grabbing a takeout pizza to enjoy at the canal’s edge is a favorite.
4. Copenhagen Botanical Gardens
Located near Rosenborg Palace and Norreport station, the Botanical Gardens are part of a large park in the heart of Copenhagen. Start at the southwestern gate and make a slow loop clockwise through the park for the best effect. You’ll find wonderful flower beds, a beautiful lake, and rich green spaces. In the center, you’ll come upon the old greenhouse built in 1874 which is open to the public. Once inside, don’t miss the stairwell up to the dome for an enjoyable view!
The gardens are home to more than 600 species of Danish plants and a tree that dates back to 1806. Depending on the season you can also find a number of beautiful butterflies populating the north wing. Wind down your walk with a stroll along the small lake. There’s also a lovely café situated right next to the Greenhouse if you decide your feet need a rest.
5. City Bikes
I’d be remiss talking about Copenhagen without discussing the city’s bike culture. Copenhagen is a wonderful city to get intentionally lost and wander. It is safe, relatively small, and has many secluded side streets, neighborhoods, and coffee shops to keep you busy for hours (days?). The best way to explore is by bike. Which, luckily, the good people of Copenhagen are happy to offer … for free!
If you just want to stay within the central part of the city keep an eye out for one of the famous white bike stands. These bikes are for public use during the day but are limited to riding within the central city. Learn more about them at Copenhagen City Bikes. For those interested in exploring the rest of the city (Copenhagen actually has great beaches on the southeastern part of Amager at Amager Strand) you can rent a bike for a small fee and explore the city’s coastline and historic communities.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city with a lot to offer. Many of its free events are seasonal and one-off, so make sure to check the event calendar to see what opportunities are taking place during your visit. Here’s a link to Visit Copenhagen.
Have a question about your upcoming trip? Feel free to ask it in a comment to this thread, or by CCing me on twitter where I tweet @AlexBerger.
Writer Alex Berger has been a world traveler since the age of 11 when his parents took him out of school to travel around the world for a year. Since then he’s barely stopped moving. Follow his adventures at Virtual Wayfarer and on Twitter @AlexBerger.
Photographs by Alex Berger on Flickr at Virtual Wayfarer’s photostream.