My winter trip to Copenhagen with my friend Tess will (hopefully) always be known as my brokest trip ever. We were both in graduate school. We bought the plane tickets cheap. And we were determined to make it work. It’s one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on and we spent next to nothing in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
It can be done. I promise.
Go During The Low Season
Yes, that means winter. It means biting cold and few hours of daylight.
It also means mulled wine and twinkle lights.
It also means cheaper prices on just about everything. The low season in Denmark is from about October to April.
Stay In Hostels
Crashing in a hostel dorm is always cheaper than staying in a hotel. We liked the Danhostel Copenhagen City. It’s centrally located, clean and basic, and huge so it’s easy to get a bed at the last minute.
The views from the upper floors are amazing. We enjoyed watching it snow over the city from our bunks.
Pack Good Walking Shoes
If you stay in a central location (like the Danhostel mentioned above) then it is easy to get around Copenhagen primarily on foot. A good pair of boots will take you far in the winter time. Everyone wears them along with a stylish, warm coat and a hat. Despite the cold weather, we walked for hours each day just exploring Copenhagen. You don’t need any money to go exploring!
Take Advantage Of Free And Cheap Sights
The list of cheap and free things to do in Copenhagen is longer than you might guess. Here are a few of the places we visited.
National Museum of Denmark – This museum is huge. We actually went twice. It was free at the time but now costs about 11 USD to go. Planned properly you could spend most of the day though, in which case the entrance cost might be worth it.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – This art museum is a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. It’s free on Tuesdays so plan accordingly.
Amelianborg Palace – While there is a fee to go inside, watching the Changing of the Guard is free.
The Little Mermaid – This statue is small but famous. It’s over 100 years old and inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.
Go To The Grocery Store
We ate so much food from the Irma grocery store. I wish I had a photograph of some of our feasts. Each evening we went to the grocery store and purchased anything that was Danish. All the local items were marked with a little Danish flag by the price tag. We tried cheeses, cured meats, crackers, chips, cereal, candy, and yogurt. We grabbed a few fruits and veggies too. Plus beer and cider sold by the can. Any leftovers that didn’t require refrigeration became breakfast or snacks the next day.
Eat The Pastries
Bakeries are marked by a gold pretzel on the sign. You’ll find them on just about every corner. If you’re looking for what we call a “Danish” order the wienerbrød. You’ll never go wrong by just ordering the pastries that look tastiest to you. They’re best fresh, so just order what you’ll eat right then and go back again later.
Eat Street Food
Hot dog stands are almost as common as bakeries, you’ll know them when you spot the word pølsevogn. You’ll generally have options from simple hot dogs with sauce to a hot dog covered in all kinds of toppings. I’m holding a ristet hotdog med det hele: a sausage with onions, pickles, remoulade, ketchup and mustard in a bun. Make sure you have cash to buy your hot dog.
Plan Your Splurges
You’re traveling so you’re going to splurge. Accept it and plan for it. We made two splurges: a day trip to Kronborg Castle and an evening at Tivoli Gardens for the Christmas market.
Kronborg Castle You’ll shell out about $14 for your ticket to the castle plus the roundtrip train ticket to get to Helsingor.
Tivoli Gardens – Fairy lights, Christmas trees covered in more lights and decorations, mulled wine, stalls selling Christmas ornaments and tall handmade Santa’s… This is the closest to Santa’s North Pole that I’ve ever been. You’ll pay for entrance plus food, wine, and anything else you want inside, but it’s worth it. Check the Tivoli website for current pricing and embrace this lovely splurge.
Tell me about your best cheap travel tips in the comments!