The Danish capital might rank among the world s most expensive cities with pricey food and steep hotel bills. A beer on the picturesque Nyhavn harbor can be a costly experience and a stroll through the city s famed Tivoli gardens can be easily be a larger-than-thought expense. However, Copenhagen can easily be affordable for those on a budget – with a little help from pedal power and a discount card.
The CPHCARD gives you free entry to some 60 museums and attractions, free transport by train, bus and subway – including to and from the airport – and discounts on some restaurants and sights. The card must be ordered before your trip, as it cannot be purchased once you are here; details at http://online.citybreak.com/Search/Other/SearchOther.aspx?pdid=4525&onlineid=1459618727&culture=en.
The heart of Copenhagen is small and most sights are within walking distance.
One way to explore the city is to do like Danes … on two-wheelers. Danes are eager cyclists and there are 190 miles of bicycle paths in Copenhagen. City officials claim that one-third of the residents bike to work or schools every day. And Danes pedal all year, rain or shine. So can visitors. Several bicycle shops rent bikes all year round from $15 (75 kroner) a day – http://cykelboersen.dk/en/. And from mid-April to November, there are free bicycles around the city. To get one, insert a 20-kroner coin – which costs about $3.80 – in the bicycle locks in the same way travelers get luggage carts at airports. Bicyclists get the coin back when they return the Bycykel – Danish for city bike – to one of special racks. The clunky, no-frills bikes have a handy map attached to the handlebar.
The city also has a well-functioning transit system. A one-hour ride with the bus, commuter train or subway costs $4 (21 kroner). But buy a 10-ride card at $25 (130 kroner) and each trip will then cost you $2.50 (13 kroner). In 2009, the City Cirkel line was launched, providing small environment-friendly, yellow buses that drive every seventh minute near the main sights for the price of a regular ride – http://www.citycirkel.dk/en/city-sights.php. They re much cheaper than the sightseeing buses that tour the capital.
The public transportation operator also has a so-called harbor bus that zigzags through the harbor. A ride costs the same as a regular bus ticket. Another cheap way of discovering the city from that perspective is the Netto Boats that take you down the harbor and canals for one hour – http://www.netto-baadene.dk/.
Keep in mind that the Little Mermaid, Copenhagen s famed landmark statue, won t be on her perch during most of 2010 because the bronze goes on display at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. She is expected to be boxed and shipped away in late March-early April and will be back by late 2010.
Other conventional sights include the Tivoli gardens, Copenhagen s hippie enclave Christiania, and the Amalienborg Palace where Denmark s royal family live. All are free but Tivoli. The entrance ticket to the downtown amusement park is at $16.40 (85 kroner) and each rides cost at least $3.80 (20 kroner) – http://www.tivoli.dk/composite-3351.htm.
Tivoli is open from late April to mid-September, one week in October and has a Christmas market in December. Tivoli is closed for the rest of the year. A free-access Christmas market can be found in Nyhavn across town. Yule treats, decorations and knitwear are sold from colored booths in the winter darkness.
The Danish capital has no museum for fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who was born in central Denmark. But there two statues of him in Copenhagen where he lived – and died. The Magasin du Nord department store has kept a tiny attic room where he briefly lived as a student. Access is free through the store.
Rosenborg Castle is another much-photographed landmark and home to the Crown Jewels – http://www.rosenborgslot.dk. The Dutch Renaissance castle is centrally located in the Kongens Have park, where Danes love to picnic. The gardens are also home for the Royal Life Guards, which parade through the city every day at noon. The changing of the guards at the Amalienborg Palace is a popular tourist attraction.
Leave downtown and head out to the Vesterbro district, right behind the central railway station. Once known for its working-class slum, red-light districts and dozens of sex shops, Vesterbro s artery Istedgade was made famous when Denmark became the first country in the world to legalize pornography in 1969. Vesterbro has since undergone a massive transformation and is now a hip neighborhood with funky shops, trendy cafes, lounge bars, restaurants and night clubs. But Vesterbro has retained its touch of folksiness.
North of Vesterbro lies the multiethnic district of Noerrebro, another working-class slum neighborhood-turned-hip. Its main street, Noerrebrogade, has been closed to cars to favor bicyclists, and the street is home to dozens of cheap ethnic restaurants. Explore the streets next to Sankt Hans square with its low-cost eateries and shops.
Take advantage of free admission to state-run museums including the National Museum, the Museum of Danish Resistance and the National Gallery. Other museums offer free admission on different days: Sundays, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – best known for its impressionist paintings, antique sculptures and Etruscan collection; Wednesdays, the Danish Design Center (5 pm-9 pm); and Fridays, the Copenhagen City Museum.
As days shorten considerably during the winter months, Danes tend to stay indoor. But on Oct. 13, during the popular Night of Culture is held. Buy a pass for $17 (85 kroner) – and you have free access to some 200 cultural institutions till midnight – http://www.kulturnatten.dk/en
During the summer, the streets are abuzz with festival and music. Copenhagen was a prominent jazz scene in the 1960s and 1970s, when many American jazz players settled in the Danish capital. The annual jazz festival still draws big names in early July – http://www.jazz.dk/en/copenhagen-jazz-festival.
A real Danish staple: red sausages sold from small huts on wheels parked on major squares. The street vendors offer frankfurters, hot-dogs and pork hamburgers with slices of pickled cucumbers and red cabbage. Ethnic food include Asian food and shawarma, the Middle Eastern sandwich-like wrap, and cost $5.80-6.75 (30-35 kroner). There used to be lots of shops selling takeaway smoerrebroed, the open Danish sandwiches, but the slices of rye bread with toppings have lost ground to other lunch food. One of the few remaining such shops is Centrum Smoerrebroed at Vesterbrogade 6, across from the central railway station. The popular shop sells picnic takeaway and beers for a real Danish lunch in the open. Food in Vesterbro and Noerrebro generally are cheaper than in downtown.
There are several youth hostels in the heart of Copenhagen where a room for two with toilet and bath cost from $100 (520 kroner) or half the price of a regular hotel room. Try http://www.danhostel.dk/content/us. The downtown hostels include one in a high-rise on the harbor and another on a cozy square with cafes. To those who have forgotten a valid international hostel card, they can buy a guest card at $6.75 (35 kroner) per night. Bed linen and towels can be rented at the front desk. Another option are the low-price hotels Cabinn – http://www.cabinn.com/English/kbh/kbh.html – with rates starting at about $93 (485 kroner).
For more information, VisitCopenhagen.com offers tips for budget travelers: http://tinyurl.com/ltwc4l.