Copenhagen is my favorite city in the world, and it holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I studied abroad for a semester (complete with sailing a Viking ship) and it’s where I met my boyfriend of five and a half years! 🙂 We went back recently to celebrate his graduation from medical school, and I fell in love with Copenhagen all over again. It’s an amazing city and so gorgeous and colorful, and you should definitely visit if you get the chance!
But I know it isn’t the cheapest city (though I did manage to survive a semester there as a broke college student), so if you’re like me and always trying to figure out the cheapest way to see a city, my one day in Copenhagen on a budget guide is for you! 🙂
There is a lot to do in and around Copenhagen (and I’m going to have tons more posts, don’t worry!), but if you only have one day in Copenhagen, you can still cover a lot of ground. If you’re up for walking a lot and want to save money on transportation, you can walk to all these places and see the best free sights in Copenhagen.
First stop is the second oldest amusement park in the world! It opened in 1843, and it’s not your typical amusement park. It has a beautiful garden, theaters, and live peacocks wandering around (yes, really!). It looks like Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka teamed up to create the world’s most magical amusement park, and it’s one of my favorite places in Copenhagen!
This is a “Copenhagen on a budget” post, and Tivoli isn’t exactly budget-friendly. Tickets start at 110 krone (currently about $17), and rides cost extra. If you have the time and money, Tivoli is definitely worth going to! But if you don’t, you can just peek in the gates or see some of the rides from outside.
City Hall and H.C. Andersen Statue
Hans Christian Andersen is pretty beloved in Copenhagen, and you can see a statue of him outside of City Hall (and it’s much bigger and less crowded than the Little Mermaid statue).
City Hall is one of my favorite buildings in Copenhagen, and it was built in 1903!
Skt. Peders Bageri
If you’re ready for breakfast or a snack, I have the place for you. Skt. Peders Bageri (or St. Peter’s Bakery) might be my favorite place in Copenhagen. The pastries are out of this world! I came here almost every day when I lived in Copenhagen, and like many places in the city, they have a student discount! You really can’t go wrong with any of the pastries or breads (trust me, I’ve probably tried them all at this point).
Copenhagen has a lot of castles! Christiansborg is one of the newest, and it was built in 1907 (though that site has had many different versions of the castle for centuries). It is now used for the Danish Parliament, but you can still go on tours and see the Royal Reception Rooms. You do have to wear these thin, blue socks so you don’t mess up the floors, which makes for some funny photos.
If you have the time and budget for a tour, I highly recommend it! Ticket prices for adults are 150 krone for everything in the palace and 90 krone for just the reception rooms (and they do have student discounts). If you don’t have the budget for a tour, you can go to the top of the tower for free! I actually didn’t know about that when I studied in Copenhagen (but it was super cold and snowy anyway), so I took advantage of it when I went back and the views are awesome! You might have to wait in line for a bit, but it’s worth it.
Børsen (the Copenhagen Stock Exchange Building)
The Stock Exchange building is my favorite! I love the detailed architecture, and the dragon tower is amazing! The three dragons have their tails intertwined and represent the union of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden (just like the three crowns at the top of the Christiansborg tower). The building was completed in 1640 and was used as a marketplace to grow Copenhagen’s trade.
The Black Diamond
The Black Diamond is Copenhagen’s Royal Library, and it’s one of the more modern pieces of architecture. When it’s sunny outside, the exterior reflects the water and looks shiny like a diamond! It also connects to the older part of the library with a bridge that you can cross, so it’s pretty cool to see the mix of old and new.
(If you need it, they do have public bathrooms)
Nyhavn may be a “tourist” spot in Copenhagen, but it’s so beautiful! The houses are so bright and colorful, and I could take photos of them all day. And a lot of locals do hang out along the harbor, so it isn’t a big tourist trap or anything.
If you want to feel like a local and avoid paying for overpriced drinks, get some cans of beer from a 7-11 (I recommend Carlsberg and if you like cider, Somersby is the best cider I’ve ever had and thankfully they’re finally selling them in the U.S.!) and sit on the side of the harbor and dangle your feet over the water. Public drinking is legal in Copenhagen, and Nyhavn is a great spot to hang out and have a beer to take in the sights!
Amalienborg is the castle where the royal family currently lives! I don’t think it’s as pretty or ornate as the other castles in Copenhagen, but the most beautiful part is the Marble Church.
The Marble Church was started in the 1700s, but it took 150 years before it was finally finished. It has the largest church dome of Scandinavia, and you do have to pay to see the inside is even more beautiful than the outside!
Strøget is Copenhagen’s famous walking street, and it’s one of the longest in Europe. There are tons of shops and cafes along it, and it can get pretty crowded when the weather is nice but it’s still a really cool place to see! Frederiksberggade is usually a little less crowded if the crowds are too much for you (and it’s my favorite street!).
So La Glace isn’t exactly budget friendly, but if you’re looking for a place to splurge, La Glace is the place to do it! It was founded in 1870, so they’ve had years of practice to make their cakes so amazing! I highly recommend the sportskage, which is their signature cake.
The map had to be split into 2 because I had too many places!
The Round Tower
If you don’t go up the tower in Christiansborg or if you want all the views of Copenhagen that you can get, the Round Tower has some great views! The climb is also picturesque as you walk in circles the whole way up (it only takes a few minutes, so it isn’t too strenuous). Admission is only 25 krone, which is only a few dollars. The area around the Round Tower is one of my favorite places to walk around in Copenhagen, so definitely explore after!
After walking so much, you’re probably pretty hungry, and I cannot recommend Smagsløget enough! They have the BEST sandwich I have ever had, and it was seriously one of the main reasons I wanted to go back to Copenhagen, no joke. I always order “The Spicy One,” and it’s 79 krone for a huge sandwich that you can easily split with someone AND they have a student discount!
After you get your sandwich, grab some drinks from the 7-11 on the corner for a picnic lunch at Rosenborg!
Rosenborg is another one of the gorgeous castles in Copenhagen, and you can eat your picnic lunch here! The park is beautiful, and it’s such a relaxing area. If you have the time (and budget) after you eat, the tour of Rosenborg is worth it. It costs 110 krone and you get to see the crown jewels- the only crown jewels that are actually still used and worn in Europe.
If you want to see more gardens in Copenhagen, take a stroll through the Botanical Gardens! It’s right across the street from Rosenborg, and it usually isn’t busy at all. It was much too hot to go inside the greenhouses the day we went, but it’s still cool to peek in and see all the different plants.
Copenhagen actually has 3 consecutive lakes, and it’s a popular spot for locals to go for a run or hang out. The buildings along the lake are beautiful and almost as colorful as Nyhavn! If you need a spot to relax and rest your feet, the Lakes is one of my favorite places to take a break.
The Little Mermaid
I can’t have a guide to Copenhagen without talking about the Little Mermaid statue! Some people complain about how small it is, but I don’t think it’s all that small but it is VERY crowded. It took a while before I could get a shot without someone’s head or selfie stick in the way. It is also out of the way from the other amazing sights in Copenhagen (it would be a pretty far walk), so if you don’t have time to see it or don’t feel like fighting your way through crowds to get a photo, you’re not missing much, don’t worry.
If you do decide to see the Little Mermaid and have some time, walk around Kastellet! It’s one of the best preserved star fortresses, and all the buildings are so bright and colorful. And it’s surprisingly empty of tourists since most people just go to that area to see the Little Mermaid.
If you don’t do any of the tours I suggested, everything on my guide is free (except the food), so it is possible to do Copenhagen on a budget! Seeing all those sights makes for a jam-packed one day in Copenhagen, but it’s worth it 🙂 You’ll get a good mix of local and tourist spots and eat some really delicious food (I cannot recommend those restaurants I mentioned enough!). Stay tuned for my MANY other Copenhagen guides! 🙂