I’ve visited Copenhagen four times now and one of the questions I always get asked is “Did you find it expensive?” While Scandinavia in general has a reputation for being expensive, the joke among the Danes is “If you think it’s expensive here, wait until you get to Norway!” and the Icelanders consider Copenhagen a cheap weekend break destination, so I guess it’s all relative. On our recent family holiday in Copenhagen I found that while certain things, notably eating out, are indeed pricy, others are quite affordable and there are ways to keep the costs under control. While I love to spoil myself and Guy with a luxury hotel and a decent restaurant, that’s not always possible if you are funding a whole family of hungry teenagers, so here are my tips for staying on budget;
1. Rent an apartment
Hotel rooms in Copenhagen don’t come cheap (after all it is a capital city) but renting an apartment or staying in a Danish home can be surprisingly affordable and the bonus is that you also get an insight into how the Danes live. Our Air B & B apartment was only 5 minutes from the tourist landmarks of the Stork fountain and Nyhaven, yet the street was quiet and behind the entrance was an enclosed garden and courtyard to park our bikes. Our relaxed Danish hosts had gone to their out-of-town summer house up the coast and left all their quirky books and artworks, clothes and other possessions behind, giving us a glimpse into their lives. Because we went for a large 3 bedroom apartment with loads of living space in a central location of course it wasn’t rock-bottom prices but still cost much less than accommodating us all in a hotel. You can see the apartment we rented here.
2. Self cater and eat out at lunchtime
Renting an apartment or staying in a hostel where you can self cater really helps to keep the cost down in a city where even a middle range restaurant can set you back £50 per head for a meal with a glass or two of wine. There are supermarkets dotted around town where the food prices are around the same as in the UK, even for wine or beer. However, beware the 7-eleven convenience stores which have a small selection of emergancy food supplies but otherwise sell bakery products and snacks more at takeaway than supermarket prices.
Self catering doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself to some great Danish food, but be selective and keep costs down by eating at lunchtime or in the early evening. Try the Torverhallerne food halls with two market halls where you can buy snacks from many different food vendors or head across the harbour to the Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island where you can sit on the harbour wall with a beer and buy snacks from the trailers and food stands inside the large industrial hangar to cool DJ sounds.
Around town you can look out for the informal restaurants and cafes run by the top Michelin Star chefs, such as the Claus Meyer Deli in Frederiksberg (that’s Claus Meyer co-owner of Noma), Aroiidee Asian Bistro right by Michelin star Kiin Kiin run by Henrik Yde Andersen or the Manfreds & Vin wine bar opposite the Michelin star Relae run by Christian Puglisi. If you really want to eat out in the evening without spending a fortune, head for the more local neighbourhoods like Vesterbro or Norrebro or the student areas of the Latin quarter near the University.
3. Hire a bike to get around
For a capital city, Copenhagen is surprisingly walkable and if you only have a couple of days you can easily see most of the sights on foot. Next best is to rent a bike and bomb around town with your head in the air like a local which will give you the greatest freedom at moderate cost – we rented bikes for 100 DKr per day. It’s also worth looking out for accommodation that will loan you bikes as part of the deal or hire at a discounted rate for guests.
The train and metro are also fast and efficient but not exceptionally cheap so I would use them for specific journeys such as the easy 30 minute trip direct from the airport (around 36 Kr). It’s worth knowing that you can take your bike on the train in the specially designated carriages that are clearly marked with a bike symbol. We found this very useful when we took the coastal train out of Copenhagen to visit the Karen Blixen House and the Louisiania art museum which are much quicker to access at the other end with a bike, or you can cycle along the coast road to find interesting swimming spots.
4. Do your homework to get the best deals
Even if you’re watching your budget, there are some things that are worth the splurge, but by doing your homework you can also get some great deals. For instance the Tivoli amusement park is a magical and un-missable Copenhagen experience, but if you book ahead online you can get the Puls Ticket which includes Park entrance, a multi-ride pass and a snack and drink thrown in for 329 DKK which is a great deal considering you could easily spend a day there.
The Carlsberg Glyptotek museum is free on Sundays and if you like sightseeing check out the Copenhagen Card which includes free transport and admission to 72 attractions from 339 DKK for 24 hours and keep an eye on the Wonderful Copenhagen website for latest events and budget ideas.
Don’t let Copenhagen’s pricy reputation put you off visiting as it’s a super-cool city with loads to see and do – and remember that in the Scandinavian scheme of things Copenhagen is a comparative bargain compared to Norway and Iceland.
More things to enjoy Copenhagen
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Summer in Copenhagen is a time for the locals to come out and enjoy the short but sweet Scandinavian summer beside the water, whether it’s the harbour, the beach or the Copenhagen lakes. Although I’ve been to Copenhagen a number of times with Guy, this time I wanted to show one of my favourite cities off to my kids, so I was on the look-out for those Scandi-cool things that would impress a hard to please teenager. Here is my guide to the cool things we enjoyed on our 4 day summer break in Copenhagen;
1. Rent an apartment and live like a local
Yes I know that ‘live like a local’ tag is overused by every apartment rental company, but hiring an apartment in the centre of Copenhagen through Airbnb really did give us a different perspective on the Danish way of life. Filled with books, quirky art and kids’ toys our apartment felt like the owners had just popped out for the day – which in fact they more or less had. The family who lived here had temporarily re-located to their summer house further up the coast to make the most of the sunny summer days and being laid back Danes had left most of their belongings behind, trusting us to take good care of their home. Hiring an apartment meant that we could shop at the local supermarkets dotted around town and nod a Danish “Hej” to our neighbours as we parked our bikes in the internal courtyard and lugged our shopping up to the 2nd floor. The kids thought the apartment was super-cool, especially the table football which led to many fiercely contested world cup replays. This is the apartment we booked in case you’re interested.
2. Hire bikes to get around town
On previous visits to Copenhagen we walked everywhere but with the family it made sense to hire bikes so we could get effortlessly around town. We hired ours just around the corner from our apartment (Gammelholm Cycler at 12 Holbergsgarde) and it cost 100 DKK (around £11/€14/ $18) per person per day with a bit of a discount as we were hiring for the whole family. Cycling around Copenhagen is easier and safer than in most other cities since there are separate cycle lanes everywhere and the car drivers are bike-aware and slow down to let you by.
You do still need to take care since local cyclists will whizz past you as you bimble along and at busy junctions we found it was safer to get off and cross at the pedestrian lights. In Copenhagen cyclists own the road and will get annoyed if you accidentally step into their path. They even take their kids in the Christiania style bikes that have a carriage on the front and have perfected the art of cycling nonchalently, talking on a mobile while wearing a flimsy dress and high heels. Did you know that you can also take your bike on the train in the special carriages that are marked with a bike symbol, which makes sense if you head out of Copenhagen on the coastal train to Helsingor, Klampenborg or any of the other interesting things to see along this route? My kids effortlessly got into the bike vibe and really enjoyed the freedom of the city.
3. Go swimming in the harbour
The harbour baths at Islands Brygge are justifiably popular as soon as the sun comes out and you do have to trust that the harbour water really is THAT clean (there is an oyster farm in the harbour after all!). There’s a shallow kid’s paddling pool, a longer pool for serious swimmers (spot those training for a triathlon) and a high jumping off point which my kids tested out multiple times. It’s free, open to all and there are lifeguards on duty, but if it gets a bit too crowded, remember that there are plenty of other unofficial places that you can swim in the harbour in summer. Just look for a stretch of harbour wall where there’s a ladder and not too many boats and you’ll probably see a local already having a dip. Our favourite spot was the stretch of harbour near our apartment between Nyhaven and the harbour bridge near the Parliament building where there’s a deck at the bridge end and plenty of benches and tables to sit out. Perfect if you want to bring your own beers and have an evening swim while the sun is setting. The Havnebadet Islands Brygge is open 7am-8pm 1 June-31 August.
4. Rides and more at Tivoli
Tivoli is a Copenhagen institution where you could take your granny or your teenagers and they’d all find something to enjoy (although probably not the same things). The gardens and fountains were beautiful, with roses blooming in the sunken garden and plenty of grassy areas where you can let the kids run around or sit on the grass. There are just enough rides to keep the adrenalin junkies entertained and although I braved The Demon loop the loop with the kids I enjoyed the old fashioned Alpine themed roller coaster much more. There are endless restaurants and food kiosks within Tivoli but I love that you can also bring in your own snacks or picnic and enjoy them in a shady area of grass under the trees.
We bought the PULS package bookable in advance for 329 DKK per person (£35/ €44/ $59) which gave us entrance to the park, a multi-ride pass and a snack and drink from one of the fast food vendors. As night falls the park takes on a more adult feel with glowing Chinese lanterns and people enjoying dinner with outdoor musical, pantomime or ballet performances in the different theatres. Best of all Tivoli has a high quality Danish feel and a lovely relaxed atmosphere that appeals to all ages. Tivoli Gardens are open April-end September and also at Halloween and Christmas. Entrance 99 DKK, Multiride ticket 199 DKK with other packages available.
5. A gourmet bite to eat at Torverhallerne
When I stayed nearby at the Ibsens Hotel a couple of years ago, the Torverhallerne market halls were under construction but now they are a buzzing place to stop and buy fresh food and deli-delicious lunch-time delicacies. The outdoor paved areas around the hall are full of fruit and veg stalls with benches and tables to sit down, while most of the food vendors inside also have some seating space. Guy and I tried a lunch of smorrebrod, the Danish open sandwich, served at the bar of Hallernes Smorrebrod on Royal Copenhagen plates. The kids eyed up the Thai food trailer outside but settled for sandwiches made with nutty Danish brown bread and we finished up with coffee at the legendary Coffee Collective and a strawberry tart from Laura’s Bakery opposite. If you prefer to pick up a picnic there are stalls selling artizan bread and cheeses or deli stalls selling different salads and dips, then head for the nearby Botanic garden or the Kings Garden to stretch out on the grass. Torverhallerne is between Frederiksborgadde and Vendersgade close to Norreport Station and is open 10am-7pm most weekdays with slightly shorter hours at weekends.
6. A picnic in the Kings Garden
And spreaking of the Kings Garden or Kongens Have, this is where locals like to go in summertime to laze on the grass in the shade of the trees. In the centre there’s a romantic formal garden while on one side of the moat from the Rosenborg Castle there’s the rose garden which in summer blooms with scented roses and lavender, watched over by a statue of Queen Caroline Amalia. Ok, so the rose garden is more likely to delight your mother than your teenagers, but the Danish Crown Jewels in the Treasury of Rosenborg Slot are pretty impressive too. The Rosenborg Castle is also delightful if you enjoy a walk through Danish history but the Treasury really is packed with jewels and despite the soldiers on guard outside, it feels pretty laid back despite the considerable bling on display. The Kings Garden is free entry, the Rosenborg Castle and Treasury is open 10am-4pm (closes 5pm in summer) and costs 90 DKK to visit (children up to age 17 free)
7. A smoothie on the deck by the Copenhagen lakes
From the Kings Garden it’s a short bike ride to the Copenhagen Lakes, the stretch of water that snakes through the centre of Copenhagen and borders the residential neighbourhoods of Norrebro and Frederiksberg. We met my new blogging friend and Copenhagen expert Alex Berger from VirtualWayfarer for a coffee at the floating deck of KaffeSalonen where you can drink a smoothie or coffee or hire a brightly coloured or swan shaped pedalo to get out on the water. Alex advised me that the lakes are not quite as clean as the harbour, so best not to swim, but it’s a fabulous spot to relax overlooking the water. There are paths to walk or jog that run beside the lakes and benches to sit down and admire the view plus you could also try the Den Frankse Cafe or Cafe 22 as an alternative to KaffeSalonen.
8. Copenhagen Street Food on Paper Island
This new food venue on Paper island opened in April just along from the Royal Opera House in a large warehouse that’s filled with street food stalls and trailers and a stretch of harbour front lined with deck chairs and benches to sit outside. It’s a cool place to gather with friends on a sumer evening with DJ sounds, overlooking the harbour to catch the last rays of the sun with a beer in hand. The concept is to give small food vendors a place to do business, offering great food at reasonable prices, where you can get a snack from around 50 DKK. When we visited for a Friday night street-food-fest, we loved the atmosphere but I felt the food vision hadn’t quite been realised, with some vendors seeming a bit overwhelmed by the popularity of the place.
The pulled pork wrap I tried was outstanding, but required a 25 minute wait once my name had been added to their list – not quite fast food! The pizza slice I had in the meantime was burnt on the bottom and couple of other stalls had closed early or run out of food, but my kids enjoyed their spicy chicken stew from the Cuban stall. If you adjust your foodie expectations and don’t expect a gourmet experience just yet, Copenhagen Street Food gets a big tick as a cool place to chill with a bucket of beer overlooking the harbour. Copenhagen Street Food can be reached on the waterbus from Nyhaven to the Opera House and is open 12am-10pm for food and from 10am to late for coffee and drinks.
9. Modern art by the sea at Louisiana
Louisiana modern art museum is well worth the 30 minute train ride from central Copenhagen at any time of year but in summertime it offers the perfect day out for those who enjoy art in a natural setting overlooking the sea. The original seaside villa has been enlarged with purpose built galleries housing changing exhibitions of art and sculpture. When we were there, there was a colourful Emil Nolde exhibition plus a sureal collection of paintings by American artist Philip Guston as well as modern art by some of the big names such as Giacometti and Danish painter Asger Jorn.
The gallery is surrounded by lawns and trees dotted with sculptures by Henry Moore and others, overlooking the sea. The large cafe serves excellent smorresbrod, pretty cakes and a lunchtime or dinner buffet with tables inside and outside or you can just bring your picnic and find a grassy spot overlooking the sound. When you’re done with the art, leave through the gate at the bottom of the hill and go for a swim off one of the jetties along the stretch of beach and shingle outside, my idea of a perfect artistic summer’s day. Louisiana is also magical in the evening when it’s open until 10pm Tuesday to Friday.
To get to Louisiana we took the coastal train from Norreport station in the direction of Helsingor and got off at Humlebaek station, then you can walk 15 mins or take a short bus ride down the road following the signs to get to Louisiana or alternatively take your bike on the train as we did with a 5 minute cycle at the other end.
10. Have a drink by the harbour as the sun goes down
The Copenhageners love to make the most of the short Scandinavian summer by spending as much of it outdoors as possible and we enjoyed warm summer evenings on our holiday just sitting by the harbour with a sundowner. Close to our apartment we found the deck of the Royal Danish Theatre at the end of Nyhaven had set up an outdoor summer cafe with a DJ to welcome the weekend. From here we could watch the lights come up in the Opera House opposite and the harbour buses going back and forth. Being delightfully democratic Denmark there are plenty of places like this along the harbour where you can just sit and enjoy a summer sunset, such as the deck by the ‘Black Diamond’ Royal Library or the Toldboden cafe near the Little Mermaid, but if you prefer you can bring your own wine or beers and find a place to sit along the harbour for the sunset.
More cool things to do in Copenhagen
Cool places to stay in Copenhagen
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In a city like Copenhagen that’s awash with cool Scandinavian design, the Andersen Hotel manages to combine colourful and trendy decor with a warm welcome and above-and-beyond service. We stayed at the Andersen Hotel for a weekend break in February and found it was ideally located for seeing the sights of Copenhagen and convenient for getting to and from the airport.
But don’t be surprised if you pass a shop window full of sex-toys and fishnet body-stockings as you walk the short distance from the Central Station to the hotel, or head to the Kødbyen meat packing district nearby to try out one of the excellent restaurants. Vesterbro, where the Andersen Hotel is located, is the red light district of Copenhagen but also a mixed neighbourhood with bars, restaurants and designer boutiques that’s known for its nightlife scene. In liberal Copenhagen everyone takes these things in their stride.
I hope you enjoy the video below about the Andersen Hotel in Copenhagen
Walking in from the street, the large reception area felt instantly cosy, with a quirky round fire burning on the wall and the chess sets laid out for a game, under the oversized pink and purple lamp shades. Candles glowed in the purple glass holders and a freshly brewed coffee was available on request. If you’re downstairs between 5 and 6pm you’ll be offered a glass of wine on the house, which in pricy Copenhagen is much appreciated by thirsty guests. Just around the corner from the hotel is the Mikkeller micro-brewery and bar where you can taste Copenhagen brewed ales with live music.
Our Amazing Junior Suite on the third floor was decorated in a Mermaid colour scheme which the hotel describes as “vibrant aqua’s, turquoise and lime colours on a graphic earth ground base in magical harmony” and it was good to be transported to the vibrant tropics and away from the grey February day. All the room names have superlatives here; the Standard rooms are Cool; the Deluxe rooms are Brilliant; the Superior rooms are Wonderful and we were hopeful they’d live up to their name.
Since we had the largest style of room, our Amazing Junior suite had a spacious sitting area with a turquoise velvet sofa, a little glass coffee table just big enough to rest a couple of wine glasses and a flat screen TV that swung round to be viewed either from the sofa or the bed. There was a shaggy green rug on the light wood flooring and a mural on the wall stacking the names of other places you might want to visit on your travels; Oslo, Riga and Stockholm among them. As my laptop is my constant companion, I was pleased to find that there was free, fast wifi throughout the hotel and in our bedroom.
There was enough storage in the single wardrobe for a couple on a weekend break to hang their party clothes and next to it was a fridge and safe with a clear perspex ‘mini-bar’ perched on top with some individual wine bottles and snacks to purchase. The bed was super-comfy, with a soft and fluffy duvet which we squirted liberally with the sleep spray provided and drifted off in a cloud of lavender. Our room was on the corner of the building overlooking the street, so the sound of voices drifted up to us late at night and in the early morning we were awoken by the clattering of service lorries. If you are a light sleeper like me and not so much of a party animal, I would probably ask for a room that overlooks the internal courtyard rather than the street.
The equally colourful turquoise bathroom featured a Phillip Stark bathroom suite with a large rectangular sink, well-lit mirror and hairdryer on the wall. While most of the rooms have a walk-in shower, our Junior Suite had a bath with powerful shower above, which we had the option of sharing with the Andersen Hotel rubber duck. Surrounded by so many local design names I was surprised that the neroli and cedar toiletries were from the Green Park range by English company Molton Brown, but then the hotel also uses Designer’s Guild furnishings so perhaps there’s an Anglophile thing going on.
I had a snoop around some of the other rooms to see how they compared to our Junior Suite and was impressed that even the smaller rooms had the same levels of design and comfort, all slightly different while incorporating the turquoise “Mermaid” colour scheme or the fuschia and purple “Princess” scheme that’s found in the lobby. Take a look below at my photo of some of the other bedrooms.
Breakfast was served downstairs in the dining area which was partitioned off with a curtain during the day when not in use. The same pink and purple Princess colour scheme extended to the breakfast room, with wood and chrome cafe tables and perspex throne chairs which were surprisingly comfortable despite looking like something out of a Disney film.
There was an excellent spread, although the hotel does not serve hot dishes at breakfast and the nearest you’ll get is a warm boiled egg in a basket. Even so we found plenty to sustain us for a day’s sightseeing in Copenhagen, from dense grainy Danish bread wrapped in a napkin, cubes of local cheese to be sliced thinly with a wire cutter, miniature pastries and muesli with little bowls filled with nuts, seeds and dried fruit to sprinkle on top. Being Denmark you could wash it all down with beetroot and carrot juice, an unusual tea with a names like Jade Wings or Green Mint from the colourful Osterlandsk tins, or even a warming nip Gamel Dansk liquor.
Throughout our three night stay we found that the staff were extremely helpful with plentiful suggestions and recommendations, going out of their way to get us the information we needed and to look things up on the internet. When I asked for some suggestions from the lovely receptionist, Anne Mette on romantic places to go in Copenhagen, she provided me with a whole printed list of suggestions on our return to the hotel, having researched it for us while we were out. The staff at Andersen Hotel seemed to be recruited for their warm and helpful personalities and nothing was too much trouble.
Extending this customer friendly approach, the hotel offers a Concept 24 option which can be requested when you book, and allows you to keep your room for a full 24 hours from your check in time. Around 60% of the guests take advantage of this option, as we did, which meant that having arrived in the evening, we could check out later in the day, allowing us to keep our room until the afternoon before heading off to the airport.
Andersen Hotel is ideal for….
Couples, groups of friends, leisure travellers and even business travellers who want a conveniently located base in Copenhagen for sightseeing, eating out and nightlife. We loved the friendly service, trendy decor, delicious breakfast and the free glass of happy hour wine.
Andersen Hotel may not be for you if….
You have young children or are easily offended by the red light aspects of the Vesterbro neighbourhood, or want a hotel that has a restaurant or wide range of facilities such as spa or gym.
Thanks to Andersen Hotel who provided a complimentary weekend stay for Heather and Guy.
Andersen Boutique Hotel, Helgolandsgade 12, DK- 1653 Copenhagen V. Reservations: email@example.com Tel: +45 3331 4344
For more information, reservation and prices visit the Andersen Hotel website. At time of writing typical room rates seen on the website for a weekend stay for 2 people with breakfast were; Standard rooms: 1445DKr – 1695 DKr , Deluxe Rooms: 1645 DKr -1895 DKr , Superior Rooms: 1725 DKr – 2025 DKr, Junior Suite: 2025 DKr – 2325 DKr
What else did we enjoy in Vesterbro?
On our first evening we took a short walk from Andersen Hotel to the Kødbyen or Meat-Packing district that sits within the Vesterbro neighbourhood. It was dark so we didn’t really see a lot of the many bars and cafes in this area, but we loved Bio Mio, an organic brasserie-style cafe with a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere, ideal for groups of friends.
Bio Mio Organic Restaurant
If we’d had more time we would have liked to also try out Kodbyens Fiskebar which specialises in fish and seafood with good wines in an informal setting and Mikkeller, a bar and micro-brewery just round the corner from the hotel, which has 20+ ales on tap from Copenhagen and around the world.
Claus Meyer deli
At the far end of Vesterbro bordering the more upmarket Frederiksberg we had lunch on our last day at the Meyers Deli which servers delicious light dishes and Smørrebrød, where you’ll be tempted by all the other Claus Meyer juices, jams and preserves as well as some fresh dishes to take away.
Museum of Copenhagen
At the Museum of Copenhagen which we passed by chance, we had a look around the ground floor exhibitions which change regularly and were currently on the theme of immigration and Becoming a Copenhagener. Upstairs we enjoyed an exhibition on the theme of the many different kinds of love, which incorporated the writings and possessions of Copenhagen philosopher and writer Soren Kierkegaard.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
Only a 10 minute walk from the Andersen Hotel, right opposite Tivoli Gardens we loved the sculpture museum and art gallery of Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, built to house the impressive collection of brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen which includes plenty of Impressionist paintings that you’ll recognise.
More information for visiting Copenhagen
While in Copenhagen we enjoyed a gastro-cruise as part of the Copenhagen Cooking festival, one of the biggest food festival in Northern Europe which takes place in August and February. The festival showcases the best of Danish and Nordic Cuisine with special events throughout the month of February that combine artistic, musical and gastronomic experiences hosted by different restaurant and venues around Copenhagen. Look out for the summer edition of the Copenhagen Cooking festival in August. Read about our gastro-cruise here.
We used the Copenhagen Card during our stay for free public transport by bus, train and metro as well as free admission to 75 museums and attractions. The Copenhagen Card costs are; 24 hrs – 299 DKr Adult, 159 DKr Child; 48 hrs – 449 DKr Adult, 199 DKr Child; 72 hrs – 529 DKr Adult, 239 DKr Child. We used the card to get free entry to many of the sights we visited on this and previous visits such as Ny Carlsberg Typtotek, Rosenborg Slot, The Museum of Copenhagen, The Harbour Cruise and Tivoli Gardens as well as for getting around on the metro and train.
For more information about visiting Copenhagen, see the Visit Copenhagen official Tourism website. Thanks to Wonderful Copenhagen who hosted our weekend visit to Copenhagen.
You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey