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If you are rich, Copenhagen is one of the best cities to visit! There are ample of luxury hotels and spas, Michelin Star restaurants, designer stores and many more things to indulge in. But if you’re not rich, don’t cross Copenhagen off your travel list just yet. There are also plenty of things to do without breaking the bank. I know because I spent a year living there as a broke, unemployed student surviving off limited savings, and I never felt bored. Here are my favourite free things to do in Copenhagen, Denmark:
Copenhagen has many great museums, however, spending around 20 USD on tickets to a couple museums can really add up. Fortunately for you, some of these museums are free, and some have a day per week when they do not charge for entry.
The David Collection is located right across from the from the Rosenborg Castle Gardens, and is always free. It contains Islamic art, paintings and furnishings from around Europe, sculptures, and ceramics. The artworks were collected by a former lawyer and the museum is located in his old house.
Møstings Hus is located in Frederiksberg in an old country house. It is always free to visit and showcases contemporary drawings, paintings, and even sound installations.
Banking and Savings Bank Museum is always free to visit. It has two exhibitions about money and the Danish banking system, as well as a wine cellar.
Enigma, also free to visit everyday, is dedicated to the post and telecommunications. It contains a collection of stamps and objects related to the post and telecommunications. The museum is currently closed until 2022 for renovations.
Glyptotek is free on Tuesdays and features ancient art including Egyptian mummies and Greek statues, as well as works by artists such as Gauguin, Cézanne and Monet. This museum also features an impressive garden. If you are free on a Tuesday, Glyptotek is a must-see!
Thorvaldsens Museum is free on Wednesdays. Here you can see beautiful marble sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen which depict gods, cherubs and army chiefs.
Nikolaj Kunsthal is free on Wednesdays and features art with a political or social message.
Museum of Copenhagen is another museum with free admission on Wednesdays. Here you can learn about significant events that took place in Copenhagen from the age of the Vikings to modern times.
The botanical garden is located in central Copenhagen, steps away from Torvehallerne and Nørreport Station. Entry is free and you can eat and drink in the park. Feel free to sit on a bench or on the grass (you are allowed to step on the grass here). There are a couple of green house that used to require tickets, but nowadays are free. There are over 13, 000 species of plants from Denmark and other European countries, as well as a newly opened butterfly house. You can also spot birds and turtles on the pond. The Botanical Garden also makes for a pretty place to take some pictures. And once you’re done strolling the grounds and greenhouses, you can go across the street where you will find the King’s Garden.
Bring a blanket (or a jacket) and sit on the grass at King’s Gardens. Enjoy a meal and some beverages with a gorgeous view of Rosenborg Castle. Drinking in public is permitted in Denmark so feel free to grab a beer or cider to go with you picnic. There are plenty of benches if you’d rather not sit on the grass. There are also public washrooms available. If you’re visiting during the summer, the park will be full of young and old people enjoying the grounds and listening to music.
The park has multiple grocery stores nearby where you can grab a sandwich or salad and some beverages. In addition, Magasin du Nord and McDonalds are also close so you can also grab a fresh meal or burger.
You can also enter the castle grounds and walk around the castle; you only need a ticket if you wish to go inside. If you’re interested in visiting the castle, I wrote more about it in my article on How to Spend a Rainy Day in Copenhagen.
This “event” takes place everyday, so you can experience it regardless of the time you visit Copenhagen. The guard leaves the military station next to Rosenborg Castle and slowly makes its way through the city streets to their final destination at Amalienborg Palace where the changing of the guard takes place at 12:00. The guard plays music as it’s marching around the city, and you can follow. In fact most tourists just wait at Amalienborg, not many follow the guard. That is a shame as it is a very unique (and free!) experience.
After you’ve seen the changing of the guard and strolled around the Amalienborg grounds, you can visit the nearby Kastellet, a star-shaped fortress that dates back to the 17th century. Also known as the Citadel, Kastellet is surrounded by water on all sides and there are two bridges you can cross to enter. Once inside there is one main “road” lined with cobblestone and some colourful buildings scattered around. Most of the buildings on the grounds are used for military activities so you cannot go inside.
Right outside Kastellet you will find Gefion Fountain, which depicts mythical Gefion and her oxen. From there you can take a quick walk to the Little Mermaid.
This little statue (yes it’s little!) was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. A gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen, the statue is made of bronze and granite. If you plan on taking pictures with the Little Mermaid, you should go there very early. It gets extremely crowded and long lines of tourists form, everyone hoping to get a picture with the statute.
Nyhavn (New Harbour) is probably the most famous canal in the world. If you search for Copenhagen, the first picture you will see is a picture of Nyhavn. One side, the more colourful one (pictured) is busier than the other. It is lined with restaurants and ice cream shops, and makes for a perfect place to watch the sunset. Eating at a restaurant on Nyhavn is very expensive, however, many people bring their own food and drinks, and sit down on the side of the canal to enjoy them.
Nyhavn is very close to Amalienborn grounds. During December, there is a cute little Christmas Market held here. If you’re a photographer, this is a great location to take some sunrise photographs. Sunset works too, but there will be people.
If your budget allows you, buy an ice cream come and window shop on Strøget. This is the famous pedestrian street in Copenhagen and it offers countless shopping and dining options. Many of the shops are so high end that most people can’t afford to shop there. I’m talking Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Moncler and more. However, these shops (particularly around the Holidays) have wonderful displays. When I lived in Copenhagen, Louis Vuitton had moving (plastic) puffins in the windows. There are also plenty of street performers such as musicians and magicians. All in all Strøget has a lovely atmosphere that’s worth checking out.
Copenhagen might seem all grey at first sight, but if you know where to go there are plenty of colourful, traditional streets to explore. Some of them (like the one pictured) are completely unknown to tourists. If you wish to learn more, check out the Top Colourful Streets in Copenhagen post I wrote recently.
Once the residence of the royal family, today Christiansborg Palace houses the Danish parliament. There are plenty of attractions here, but most of them require tickets. The tower, however, is completely free and offers fantastic views of Copenhagen. If you are also interested in the paid attractions, I wrote more about them in my How to Spend a Rainy Day in Copenhagen article.
Not for everyone, but a very unique experience. Ideal for the hippies, free-spirited souls, and anyone who is feeling a little adventurous. This is a community where inhabitants live freely from society and societal rules. Residents live old military barracks or self-built homes, and grow their own vegetables. There are some restaurants, galleries, and music venues. Entering the Freetown and strolling around is free. Note that filming or photographing is not allowed in Christiania.
The Royal Library is one of the largest in the world and the largest in the Nordic Countries. This library contains nearly all Danish printed works, dating as far back as 1482! Today there are five buildings, and the most impressive one is the Black Diamond, located on the harbour. On the outside it is covered in a black glass, which on sunny days reflects on the water and sparkles like a diamond. On the inside it has large floor to ceiling windows that offer great views of the canals. It is free to enter the building and it makes for a great photo spot. There are also exhibition spaces, a gift shop, a café and a garden.
Located in the heart of the city, these artificial lakes are always lovely, regardless of season. You can either walk on the sidewalks next to the bicycle lane, or on the paths right next to the lakes. In the warmer months you may see swan paddling boats. And almost everyday of the year you may see real swans swimming. There are trees and benches under the trees. A very good place to sit down with a cup of coffee or an ice cream. There are also some nice building along the lakes that you can admire if you’re a fan or architecture.
A unique, beautiful park in the Nørrebro district. It opened in 2012 and it was designed to bring refugees and locals together. The park features bicycle paths, skateboard ramps, basketball hoops, exercise equipments, picnic tables, fountains, chess tables, children’s playground, pergola, picnic tables, and more.
This food market is a must-visit when you are in Copenhagen. You can find all sorts of foods from fresh produce, cold cuts, sweets, coffee, and ready to eat bites. Prices are reasonable (for Copenhagen). In fact, this is one of the places I recommended in my Affordable Eats in Copenhagen article. However, sometimes vendors offer samples. And if you are lucky to visit during one of those times, indulge in all the samples you can get.
This is Copenhagen’s largest beach and it’s within biking distance from the city centre (you can also get here by metro). If weather permits this is a great place to sunbathe and go for a swim. There are also toddler’s pools and sandy beaches where you could build sandcastles. On the south side there is a wide promenade that can be used to walking, running, or cycling.
Throughout the year, multiple festivals are held in Copenhagen. Some are free, some are partially free, and some require you purchase tickets. Here are some free festivals:
Copenhagen Lights Festival takes place for three weeks in February. During this time there are various interactive light installations throughout the city. The festival’s intention is to bring some light during the darkest time of the year.
Distortion is a street party that taken place at the beginning of June and it lasts for 5 days. It starts off in Nørrebro, then it moves to Vesterbro, and finally it reaches Refshaleøen for Distortion Ø, the larger party.
Copenhagen Carnival takes place at the beginning of June and everyone is welcome. It is held in Fælledparken and neighbouring streets and lasts for three days (Friday-Sunday). There are various types of world music playing, food booths, as well as special programmes and workshops for children.
Copenhagen Jazz Festival Starts on the first Friday of July and runs for 10 consecutive days. During this time there are multiple concerts at various venues. Some are free and some require you purchase a ticket.
Strøm takes place during the middle of August and offers free electronic music concerts. The festival puts on concerts and installations throughout the city. The aim of the festival is to bring the community together and everyone is welcome to attend.
Copenhagen Pride is a festival about human rights with an emphasis on the LGBTQ community. There are concerts, films and a parade, with the main activities taking place at the City Hall Square. The event takes place every August, starting on the Wednesday of pride week and ending with the parade on Saturday.
Kulturhavn Festival is a cultural harbor celebration that takes place at the end of August. There is dancing, music, children’s activities, water sports, workshops, guided tours by kayak, and more.
kulturnatten, aka Culture Night, takes place every year on a Friday night in mid October. This event puts on various cultural shows throughout the city. Some events are paid, and some events are free. If you choose to purchase a ticket, you have access to all paid events as well as public transit on the night of the festival.
These have been my best free activities to do in Copenhagen, Denmark. Did you find this useful? Do you have anything to add?