Copenhagen is an expensive city, but you pay for what you get in Scandinavia. After our very budget recent trip, here are 10 awesome free things to do in Copenhagen!
If you’re in need of an itinerary on the cheap, then look no further than our Copenhagen on the Cheap post, if you’re looking more for free than cheap, then this is the place for you!
It’s the most photographed part of Copenhagen, and for good reason. It is beautiful! Whether you’re popping down to pick up a ferry that takes you round the city rivers, or to people watch on the quay it’s the perfect way to experience Copenhagen for free. You can join the locals for a cold one on the side of the river, or go and eat in the many bars and restaurants along its edges (they’re expensive though, so grab a picnic instead), even in the rain it’s beautiful!
Built as a port to the city, it had a naughty and a nice side, I’m sure you can imagine why! It is also where Hans Christian Andersen (at number 20) was living in 1835 when he published his first volume of fairy tales.
Located in the island borough of Christianshavn, Christiania is a hippy free town on an old military barracks and their surrounding area, and is a great way to explore Copenhagen for free. Photos in most of the free town are banned, except in certain shops, where everything is hand made or hand drawn, painted, sculpted…you name it! They run off their own laws, they pay taxes to the state but the rest is self governed, from no cars, no stealing, no hard-drugs (but you will notice a lot of cannabis). We would advise you to have your wits about you and be sensible when you visit, remember, cannabis is not actually legal in Denmark yet.
Often called the green-light district, the Free Town is also home to restaurants and bars, a market, artist workshops, and concert venues. There is plenty of street art to admire here.
3. Changing of the guards at Amalienborg Palace
It’s not quite as spectacular as Buckingham Palace, but it is also nowhere near as busy. Amalienborg Palace, built over 150 years ago is the residence of Queen and her children. The changing of the guards happens daily (although keep an eye on the Visit Copenhagen website to check it), and there are three different types. The type of changing of the guard display you see depends on who is in residence (no one, the queen or the princess) and this will affect the length of the parade and the type of music played too. You can get up close and personal to the Changing of the Guards, and it’s a really great way to experience some of Copenhagen’s history and culture for free.
In case you’re a staunch Republican, there is still reason to visit the royal palace. Aside from the work that the Royal family do as Danish diplomats, the Queen herself is amazing. You know that small English novel that has three parts…The Lord of the Rings? So, Queen Margrethe II not only illustrated the Danish version, but also helped translate the trilogy into Danish too!
4. Christiansborg Tower
Christiansborg Palace itself is beautiful, but fairly costly to get in and visit as you’d imagine. For a free experience though, you can head to the tower to see amazing views of Copenhagen (and into Sweden). Today Christiansborg, also known as Borgen, houses the Danish parliament. This happens to be why the tower is free of charge too. There is a queue system to get in, and there are security checks in place before you enter but all of that is to be expected. There are boards up there telling you what you can see, and on the lower level what we like to refer to as the plaster cast statue graveyard.
5. Free walking tour
Ok, so we bang on about them in most of our city posts but really, they are a great way of seeing a city in all its glory. Sandemans do excellent ones around Copenhagen, which are free but based on a tip system. This time around we had a fabulous and funny lady who told us about the history of Copenhagen and showed us the great sites. Additionally she went on to explain different parts of Danish, and Copenhagen specific culture too that you can see around the city. We really do recommend trying them out in every major city you go to! They’re an amazing way to get a real overview of the city, and you can always, always ask your guide for recommendations of what to do.
6. Free entrance museums
There are some amazing museums in Copenhagen, but unfortunately they now all charge admission. However, as in many of the great cities, if you time it right you can see some of Copenhagen’s museums for free. Ny Carlesberg Glyptotek, a historic and art museum (think Van Gogh and Rodin alongside some cool archaeology) is free on Tuesdays. The Thorvaldsens Museum, all about Danish sculptor Bertek Thorvaldsens is free on Wednesdays. And the Nikolaj Kunsthal is a contemporary arts centre in a beautiful church that is also free on Wednesdays!
7. Little Mermaid and the harbourside walk
Ok, so this is Jess’ least favourite thing about Copenhagen, and yes it is free, and busy, and a long way out. BUT, if you do have time, it is worth a visit, especially for fans of the original Hans Christian Anderson version, as well as the Disney adaptation. She is small, but she is beautiful. She is overrated but also it’s understandable why you would want to visit her. If you’re going all that way, then you should take some time around the harbourside too. The Gefion Fountain is there, with St Alban’s Church, both beautiful. mythical and old. Behind the, however, is the 1600s fortress of Kastellet, star shaped and free to wander around the grounds of. Go and take in the History, and see the windmill, and make the visit to the Little Mermaid worthwhile!
8. Kings Gardens at Rosenborg palace
Rosenborg Gardens or the Kings Garden are the most picturesque part of the city. Come rain or shine, or even snow in the case the last time we went, it’s still perfect for a stroll around. There is a statue of Hans Christian Anderson here, alongside some of the most beautiful entrances, rose gardens and other statues. Built in the early 1600s in true renaissance style, the gardens attract millions of visitors a year, most probably because of its beauty. It could also be because in the summer months they also provide things for the children which are free. There is an adventure playground open all year, and aside from keen picnicers on the lawns, during Copenhagen Jazz Festival several bands can be heard playing within the area.
9. Christiansborg Slotskirke and other historic churches
You wouldn’t always think of Copenhagen as a super religious city, but there are some beautiful places of worship to visit. Christiansborg Slotskirke, opened in 1813, and has been the centre of Royal christenings and funerals since. Others, like Vor Frue Kirke (the Church of Our Lady) have been the ones for the Royal weddings. Other churches like Marmokirken, which is as impressive as it is marble and limestone, is the largest dome in Scandinavia. These, and many other beautiful churches in Copenhagen are a great way to see some of the religious history of the city, for free.
10. Torvehallerne Market
Torvehallerne is a sight to behold and a place for all the senses…most importantly taste! It’s a food market that showcases everyone from home cooks to professional chefs, but all of them focus on fresh, local produce. The halls themselves are beautiful and huge, made of glass with outdoor stands, even when the weather is rubbish. Free to enter and free to gain a sense of Copenhagen taste, but you have to buy the produce, obviously. There are also loads of cafes in Torvehallerne and it is a great place to go to sit and natter and embrace some Hygge. You must sample some of the local cuisine, like an open-faced smørrebrød sandwich, or a fiskefrikadelle fish cake.
Tell us about your experience of Copenhagen? Have you done anything there for free that’s amazing? Is there anything we should do next time? Have we missed something amazing off the list? Let us know in the comments below!