It is known across Europe and the rest of the world that Denmark is a pretty experience place to explore amongst the likes of Norway, Switzerland and Japan. On my trip to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, I had to plan on what I wanted to see, do extensive research on my accommodation, how to get about on the cheap and some other stuff. I have to admit planning for a long weekend break to the Danish capital (including trips to nearby Helsingør just north of the city and Malmo in Sweden). This is my guide on how I did Copenhagen on the cheap and how I answered some of your questions which were sent to me via social networking sites.
How long should I plan for a Copenhagen stay?
It really depends what you want to go to the city for? Do you want to explore just the city or do you want to get out there and check out a few other things. There is quite a bit to Denmark than just Copenhagen. OK, it is a very flat country and their main export is wind (or is it Lego?). If just the city, three days is enough but with certain side trips like I will mention later, then a five day trip will be enough.
Cheapest way to get to Copenhagen?
Thats an easy question and it’s a good job that Copenhagen airport allows no-frills airlines in its zone. Easyjet within Europe is probably the cheapest airline to fly into but there are often good deals with Norwegian airlines, SAS and British Airways. Also the airport is connected to downtown via a rail link (and also has connections to Malmo, a Swedish city over the sea via tunnel and bridge).
Also if visitors are in Sweden and want to do a combination trip, say for example, from Stockholm Airport and drive down to the south of the country towards Malmo and over the bridge to Copenhagen, then renting the car is the way to go. Find great quotes here.
Flights done, accommodation? What do you say?
I found accommodation was the hardest thing to find depending on the budget and what I was after. These days there are plenty of good deals on hotel bookings websites like booking.com and hotels.com but the hotel I eventually found was a low cost hotel not far from the city centre on Vesterbrogade. I would say it was about a ten minute walk to nearby Tivoli attraction. Here this budget hotel offers internet, basic bedrooms and washing facilities and a kitchen to make your own food. The handy thing about this is that across the road is a low cost supermarket to keep the costs down.
I actually had great difficulty in Copenhagen as I didn’t do any research beforehand but I manage to check out a few places on the street known as Læderstræde which is the main pedestrian street which has lots of quirky shops, cafes and most importantly for the budget traveler, quite a few buffet restaurants which offer cheap deals (especially in the daytime), so I would say check out this street first. I also found out that the expensive eats are mainly near the harbour so try to avoid them if you can. Also another tip for this street is that there is a LEGO store here to have some fun and look at the displays.
Got the basics done, now what to see and do on the cheap?
What I like about Copenhagen is that there are a lot of things to do and see for nothing. On my visit I think I spent NOTHING on admission prices. OK, I didn’t check out the famous Tivoli as I ran out of time but I did check out these amazing places –
The Little Mermaid
The highlight of Copenhagen or is it. For me, it was still worth visiting but I was surprised how small the figure was. However the way it is sitting on the rock gazing out to the passing ships is nice to look at. It is a bit of a walk from the centre, as it lies north from the Kastellet and Amalienborg Slot but there is a few park like areas along the harbour front so the stroll is nice.
Near the Little Mermaid is a fortress which has stood here since the 17th century. The fort is shaped by a five pointed star (great to see if flying from above) walls on the outside and has a deep moat going around as well. The buildings inside were used by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War and used it as their headquarters but these days the buildings are owned and used by the Danish military. The buildings are not open to visitors (duh! it’s top secret!) but the grounds and the ramparts are opened and it makes a pleasant walk around.
A couple of minutes walk directly south of Kastellet is the Churchhillparken which is another nice place for a short stroll but in the heart of it is the Church of Sankt Albans which was built to serve the city’s Anglican worshippers. The church was named after Saint Alban who was a Roman century back in the good old days of the 4th century, converted to Christianity and suffered a martyr’s death. There is also a nice promenade and fountain in the park to check out.
Backtracking from the Kastellet towards the centre there is a castle worth checking out known as Amalienborg Slot which is the official residence of Queen Margrethe II and there are lots of pretty soldiers dotted around the place guarding. I was lucky to come here at midday when the traditional changing of the guards take place. To go inside the palace there is a charge to pay but to wander outside in the courtyard and the side streets to take in the amazing architecture of the buildings and churches are free and is definitely a must see.
Heading westwards from the Amalienborg castle is another castle known as the Rosenborg which looks like more than a glorified church from the outside with its spire topped towers. Inside this castle (another Royal residence by the way) houses thousands of royal objects ranging from trinkets, paintings and a small armoury. Again, there is a charge to go inside but walking around the grounds and checking out the outside of this building is worth the visit (and again it’s free!).
In the centre of Copenhagen is a long canal with beautiful coloured buildings overlooking it from both sides. Built many moons ago so trading boats could come from the sea to the centre of the city to delivery merchandise. These days there are stylish ships and many wooden boats moored up. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in this area (as mentioned earlier) and can be a bit pricey. If visiting a bar (and got the cash of course), check out ‘Nyhavn 17’ for a pint of the local brew.
Yes, it’s another castle and this located in the heart of the city, another one to check out the main courtyard and the building (which is free of course) but there is a small charge to go inside this former Royal palace which stills has its throne room, beautiful halls, library and underneath the building are the remains of former palaces which stood here before the current palace got built.
In English, the Round Tower and round it is. This is one of the best viewpoints to see the rooftops of the centre. Not standing high at 35 meters (Copenhagen like the rest of the country is very very flat), and 15 meters in diameter, to get to the top visitors have to walk (or run, cycle, wheelchair up – it’s very disabled friendly!) on the spiral cobbled ramp, going round several times. However this is not a free attraction but is very cheap to enter.
The City Hall opened in 1905 and is built with lots of red-bricks (not Lego folks!) and also maintained some of the Danish medieval architecture. The building also houses the highest viewpoint in the city and visitors have to climb 298 steps to get to the top. Above the main entrance (which overlooks the main square), is a statue of Bishop Absalon, the founder of Copenhagen way back in the days of the 12th century. On the square itself (and right next to the city hall) is the amazing Dragons Leap fountain and next to that is two bronze statues of Vikings blowing bronze horn.
Bored with the city? How about a day trip to Helsingør?
Where the hell is Helsingør? Well, it lies about an hours train journey north of Copenhagen and is on the coastline where the Baltic Sea meets the North Sea. This small town is worth visiting if visitors are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Danish city life and this place is very quiet indeed with its wooden building, green parks and the famous castle of Kronborg.
Yes, another castle but when visiting the area, I preferred this castle to the ones in the capital. Maybe because this castle had views of the sea (and Sweden of course just across the water), amazing architecture and had some weaponry to check out. Did I mention this castle was also added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. I didn’t, well I have now! (please note, the train journey is NOT free!)
How about a day trip to Sweden?
Want to forget Denmark for a day (or maybe a night)? Then look no further than Malmo across the water. With half-hourly train services most of the day from centre to centre, the short train ride goes through some amazing modern day engineering. The Øresund Bridge connects the Scandinavian peninsula to mainland Europe, 10 miles long (16km) but why is this connection so cool? Well, from the Danish side, the railway line (which runs with a road for road transportation) goes through a 2.2 mile tunnel which runs only 10 meters underneath the water, then goes onto a 2 mile long artificial islands and a 25,000ft long cable-stayed bridge before hitting Swedish land. (Also please note, the train journey is NOT free!)
Not to take this blog away from Copenhagen, Malmo is a student city and is full of life at night but also has a great range of restaurants and bars. The harbour and sea walks are great on a summer’s day as well as the park with the windmill on the western side of the city centre. The highlight of the city has to be the skyscraper known as the Turning Torso which is the highest in the Nordic countries.
Copenhagen is an amazing city to explore especially when there is no ‘wind’ about. Its definitely a city which can be done on foot, saving lots of money on public transport. However when the weather turns, it’s best to stay indoors and check out the museums and castles but for me, the outdoor walks in the parks, castle courtyards, canals and harbour side are for me. I hope people are reading this might do some research to get tips on how to do the city on a budget to which I didn’t and may get even more saving or value for money.
Like the looks of Denmark & Sweden? How about checking out my Norway blogs! This region has lots to explore and can be done as a circular trip! Really hope my Scandinavian blogs are giving you guys some ideas.