Is it possible to visit Copenhagen on a budget? The Money Shop challenged me to spend a weekend in Copenhagen for less than £200. Find out how I got on, in this post.
Those of you who know me or who are regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a complete advocate for budget travel. I totally believe that with enough research, planning, and organisation, it’s possible to visit (almost) anywhere on a budget.
So when I heard about The Money Shop £200 challenge, I jumped at the chance to take part.
Given a choice of destinations in which to undertake the challenge, I chose one of the most expensive cities in Europe – Copenhagen – simply because I was determined to prove that even places that people do not consider to be affordable, can be.
So what is The Money Shop £200 Challenge?
The Money Shop believe (as I do) that travelling doesn’t have to be expensive, and that short city breaks can actually be really affordable. For their #TMS200 challenge they enlisted the help of a number of travel bloggers, in a bid to demonstrate that it’s completely possible to spend a weekend exploring any number of European destinations for less than £200.
The £200 excludes flights, and transport to and from the airport in the UK, but includes everything from the moment you land on foreign soil to the moment you leave – local transport, admission fees to sights and attractions, food, drink, and accommodation.
So how much does accommodation in Copenhagen cost?
Whilst accommodation in Copenhagen is a lot more expensive than cities like Poznan (Poland), Riga (Latvia), or even Porto (Portugal), there are still plenty of affordable options, and the farther in advance you book the more choice you’ll have available and the better deals you’ll be able to snag.
The factors I considered when looking for somewhere to stay were:
- Price. The cheaper my accommodation was the more money I would have to spend on food and coffee.
- Location. I wanted to keep public transport costs to a minimum so it was important that I stayed somewhere central. My preferred neighbourhoods were Vesterbro and Nørrebro.
- Customer reviews. Are the staff friendly/helpful? Are the bathrooms clean? Will my belongings be secure?
Whilst I desperately fancied the novelty of staying in the smallest hotel in the world, (hey a girl can dream; my £200 budget would not even cover one night in its only room) I finally settled upon a 6-bed dorm at The Urban House in Vesterbro for a cost of £44.62 for two nights.
If you’re not bothered about how many people you share with, you can secure a bed here for even less than this. Or if you value your privacy a single room (with shared bathroom) at nearby City Hotel Nebo will set you back a little over £100, still leaving almost half your budget to use as spending money.
Copenhagen on a Budget |Day One
The first day of my weekend away started at 3am on Friday morning as I crawled out of bed after not much more than three hours sleep, and made my way to the bus station to catch an Easy Bus to Manchester airport. This is an unbelievably cheap way to travel to the airport in England: one-way fares start from as little as £2.
Yes, you read that right – you can take a 2-hour bus journey to Manchester airport for less than the price of a pint of ale.
The Money Shop had arranged for me to collect my Danish krone from one of their local shops a couple of weeks prior to my departure, so when I landed in Copenhagen later that morning I could jump straight on a train, without having to worry about searching for ATMs or currency exchange.
My hostel was easy to find and although I couldn’t check in until 3pm, I only had a small 25-litre pack with me so it wasn’t too much hassle to carry it around whilst I had a wander around the Vesterbro and Strøget neighbourhoods, in an attempt to get my bearings.
The weather was pretty cold and dreary but the colourful buildings, cheerful vintage stores, and abundance of fresh plants and flowers really helped to brighten things up.
I was planning to try one of Copenhagen’s famous Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) for lunch but a quick Google search informed me that the place I’d earmarked (due to its low prices and good reviews) closes at 2pm during the week (it doesn’t open at all at the weekend), and it was almost that time when I decided that I was hungry.
So I ordered a veggie burger instead at newly-opened fast-food joint Jagger, thinking that would be a cheaper option anyway. Until I did the maths and realised I’d just spent £6.32 on the equivalent of a McDonalds without the fries. Once I added a coffee on to that I’d spent £9.19!
As the day went on the drizzle that had persisted all afternoon started turning into actual rain so I headed back to the hostel when darkness fell, stopping off at Lidl to pick up some food for dinner. Dinner consisted of a banana and blueberry yoghurt drink, some blueberries, an apple, and some ryvita and cheese slices. Because that’s how I roll. Dinner was much cheaper, at 39DKK.
Copenhagen on a Budget |Day Two
After a bit of a lazy start (one of the drawbacks of staying in a dorm is that you have to wait for the bathroom), I ate the remainder of my cheese slices and ryvita for breakfast and ordered a coffee from the bar whilst I formulated a plan for the day.
Whilst it had been lovely having an aimless wander the afternoon before, it did mean that if I wanted to see and do everything I’d hoped to in Copenhagen then I’d have to be a little more organised today.
So I typed all the places I wanted to visit into Google Maps and then arranged them into an easy-to-follow route map. Once I’d started the navigation it would run without the need for wifi.
I started by heading to Amalienborg to watch the changing of the guards at noon. Although I left the hostel at around 10:30 and it was supposedly a 30-minute walk, I got rather distracted by photographing cute little cafes, peeking inside churches, wandering through traditional shopping arcades, and marvelling at the quirky displays in designer shop windows, so by the time I checked my watch it was 12:07.
My heart sank but I decided to stick to the route anyway, and to my surprise when I arrived at Amalienborg, they’d delayed the show just for me 😉
From Amalienborg I made the long walk to the tiny The Little Mermaid statue, and then headed a little further to the star-shaped fortress of Kastellet before stopping off at Lagkagehuset for a coffee and a Kanelsnegl (cinnamon swirl).
I had planned to climb the tower at Christiansborg Slot (the Danish parliament building) afterwards but the fog was so thick by then that there wouldn’t have been any chance of a view from up there, let alone a good one. Incidentally there are many towers in Copenhagen from which to view the city, but this is the only one that’s free.
So instead I continued along to colourful Nyhavn, taking a quick peek inside the Amber Museum (which was actually more like a shop, and yes I could have spent a small fortune in there!) on route.
As the light was fading quickly I vowed to return to Nyhavn the day after, and quickly made my way to Papirøen (Paper Island), the location of Copenhagen Contemporary (for contemporary art exhibitions) and Copenhagen Street Food. This former newspaper storage facility is a hanger-style food market packed with artisan food trucks and hipster bars, and is seriously cool!
It’s a great place to grab budget eats (from 40DKK), and to socialise with friends. I splashed out on a Smørrebrød for 70DKK, which had so much smoked salmon on it you couldn’t even see the rye bread.
Copenhagen on a Budget |Day Three
I’ll be honest, the weather wasn’t great for my weekend in Copenhagen and today was probably the worst of all. As I wandered Copenhagen’s dark and dreary streets on route to Freetown Christiania, I couldn’t help thinking that I would have been quite content to find my own hygge (meaning “happiness,” “cosiness,” or “comfort”) in a cute little cafe away from the persistent rain – which was dampening my spirit and potentially all my possessions too.
Freetown Christiania was founded in 1971, when an abandoned military area in the Christianshavn district of the city was infiltrated by a community of freedom-seeking hippies. Still operating to a large degree under its own laws, independent from the Danish government, Freetown Christiania is Copenhagen’s edgy, alternative hub.
There didn’t seem to be much going on as I wandered around on a wet Sunday morning in early February, but I imagine it’s a very different story in the warmer summer months.
From Christiania, I returned to Nyhavn (which is actually the name of the canal, not the area). Nyhavn was built in the 17th century to link the harbour to the city, and is flanked with these pretty dutch-style town houses. It’s one of the most photogenic areas in Copenhagen.
I had just about enough time to have a look around Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden (although I was more than a little disappointed to discover that the cactus house was closed), and check out Torvehallerne food market before making my way back to Central Station via the city’s Latin Quarter.
I grabbed a surprisingly healthy lunch from the 7-11 there before boarding my train back to the airport.
Copenhagen Travel Costs
To keep a tab of my costs I used the brilliant budgeting app ‘Moneywise’. Considering how expensive food and drink is in Copenhagen (the cheapest coffee I found was 25DKK (£2.90) at my hostel) I was really surprised when I totted everything up at the end that I’d come well within budget.
So here is a breakdown of my costs from around 10:30am on Friday (when I landed in Copenhagen) to 4pm on Sunday, when I left:
- Accommodation in a 6-bed mixed dorm for two nights at Urban House: 386.84 DKK (£44.62)
- Eating out: 374 DKK (£43.34)
- Groceries (a.k.a Lidl shops): 71 DKK (£8.22)
- Sightseeing: £0.00
- Transportation: 72 DKK (£8.34)
TOTAL: 903.84 DKK (£104.74)
Now I’m aware that I was very frugal. I only spent on essential transportation to and from the airport; I walked everywhere else (wish I’d taken my Fitbit with me to record my steps!). The only ‘meal’ that cost in excess of 60DKK was my Smørrebrød at Copenhagen Street Food, and I didn’t pay any admission fees; all the sights and activities I sought out were free.
I also stayed in a dorm room, which I’m aware isn’t for everyone. I’m not really sure it’s for me either but I don’t mind it for a couple of nights. However paying for accommodation is always more expensive when you travel solo; you can half the cost of a private room when travelling as a couple.
I guess what I’m trying to say i that – whilst I didn’t go hungry or feel like I missed out on anything, I did try to keep my costs as low as possible just to prove that travel to expensive countries can be done on a budget. With the additional £95.26 you could always splash out on a private room, go out for a nice sit-down meal or two, use the metro, hire a bicycle, or have a mooch around the Design Museum – or possibly all of them.
My top money-saving tips for visiting Copenhagen on a budget
- Research free sights and activities around the city; there are plenty that won’t cost you a penny.
- Research where to find cheap eats and street eats. Don’t turn up just expecting to find some, as this normally results in wandering around for ages and ages and getting hungrier and hungrier until you just end up going somewhere that turns out to be really expensive. And awful.
- Find out where your nearest supermarket (or produce market) is. If you’re staying in a hostel or self-catering apartment, these are great places to stock up on groceries with which to cook a meal, or alternatively to buy drinks and snacks.
- Bring a water bottle and – providing the tap water is safe to drink (as it is in most European countries) – fill it up every morning. Keeps you hydrated if you’re doing a lot of walking, and keeps drink costs down.
All travel costs for this trip, including the £200 budget, were covered by The Money Shop. As usual, all words and opinions are my own.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. All this means is that if you make a purchase through one of the links I have provided, I will earn a small commission as a result but the cost to you will remain exactly the same**
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