Sarah Nagaty: How to do Copenhagen for the weekend on a shoestring budget

Copenhagen, Denmark

It isn’t common to visit Copenhagen off-the-cuff, given how expensive the city can be. But depending on how you approach the trip, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as it may seem. The Danish capital is doable in 2 or 3 days, which makes it an ideal destination for a long weekend. 

Beautiful Scandinavian autumn

One tip I would suggest would be to stay away from fine dining in Copenhagen: it is far more wholesome to eat sandwiches filled with local specialties, pastries and meaty kebabs and burgers than an expensive fish or steak you could probably have back home for less.

For the sake of getting so much out of Copenhagen in such a short time, here are my tips for touring the city in less than 3 days on a budget:

1). Get an Airbnb, but as central as possible

They are likely to be cheaper than hotels in Copenhagen. The more central you are, the more you save on transportation as you can walk everywhere. The best spot would be right across the river from the center, which means that you’re just a short walk across the bridge to get there.  This option is cheaper than being in the historic city center, but just as convenient. 

2). Visit the Glyptoteket Museum 

This is a primarily sculpture museum, but it is also well-known for its exquisite collection of paintings and seasonal exhibitions. I have been to different museums in Copenhagen over several visits to the city and this one remains my favorite, as its collectiom is varied and the inside is absolutely beautiful. 

3). Have lunch at Smagsloeget

This cosy cafe close to the central train station makes, hands down, the best sandwiches I had in my life. They have an extensive menu of HUGE sandwiches. The sauces are out of this world and the meat is of very high quality. They also have vegetarian options which are just as tasty as their selection of roast beef and pork. This is a really cheap eat, by Copenhagen’s standards, as these huge sandwiches are a main meal for one or shareable between two, for 15 euros each. 

Smagsløget sandwiches

4). Visit Christiania 

I know that most Copenhagen travel guides recommend seeing the Little Mermaid statue, but I found it nothing special, and the walk to reach it a little out of the way. I would suggest going to the Free Town of Christiana instead. Christiania is a self-governing commune in the area Christianshavn. The citizens of Christiania convene to vote on decisions associated with the community. It’s home to artists, craftspeople and hippies, but is also known as a legal zone for the trade of cannabis.


5). Walk around the canals (Nyhavn)

I wouldn’t go on the boat cruises in the river, but I definitely recommend having a stroll along the old walkways beside Copenhagen’s impressive system of canals, and sitting on one of the upper floor of one of the waterside bars stationed on old boats to enjoy the view. 

6). Go to the Black Diamond (library)

This modern library on the waterfront has a unique architectural style which serves as an extension of the old Royal Danish Library. It is very interesting to see how the modern building complements the old one. The Old Reading Hall is of great historical significance, drawing comparisons with the similar room in the British Musem.

7). Indulge in Danish pastries … of course!

Pastries are truly exceptional in Copenhagen. It is very hard to find a bad pastry in this city. However, a bakery which left a particularly strong impression on me was Andersen Bakery. It was hard to stop ordering one pastry after the other. Try anything with raspberries or rhubarb, the Danish fruits of choice. They also have very excellent coffee with in-house roasteries across the city. 

Andersen bakery

8). Relax at the Copenhagen Botanical Garden

Flowers of breathtaking colors and  captivating smells, peace, and quiet, what else could one want to relax? It is a great spot for pictures. The garden has free admission and is linked to the Natural History Museum of Denmark which would also make a great stop as part of visiting the garden. 

9). Stuff your face at the Gasoline Grill 

You really should, because this burger has been selected as one of the Top 27 Best Burgers in the world by Bloomberg. And Bloomberg seems to know its burgers, because that one is definitely one of the best burgers I have ever had. The meat is so juicy and the sauce is exceptionally delicious. This is another affordable, fantastic meal to have in Copenhagen. 

10). Shop at Strøget

This is Copenhagen’s main shopping street and it offers everything from LEGO shops (as the company originated in Denmark) to Scandinavian clothing brands you wouldn’t find anywhere else, and as well as great value cosmetics shops.

11). Ride at the Tivoli Gardens

If you have got some cash to spare on your trip, I definitely recommend going to Tivoli Gardens. This is the third-oldest amusement park in the world (opened in 1843). Located right next to the central rail station, this park has more than 25 rides, many of which take inspiration from orientalist Chinese architecture.

Apart from how clean and well-organised the city is, its plentiful green spaces and pretty neo-classical and baroque-revival buildings, Copenhagen has a relaxed, cheerful vibe and is full of culture, making it the perfect spot for a weekend city-break in Europe. 

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Sarah Nagaty has a PhD in cultural studies, She’s lived in Portugal for six years.

As a student of cultural studies, Sarah is drawn to what connects people from different backgrounds to new cultures and places, how they relate to their new surroundings and what kind of activities they could engage with in their new hometowns.

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