Europe, Denmark

The Best Free Sights and Activities in Copenhagen – Gallop Around The Globe

February 20, 2017

If you’ve read my last couple of blog posts, or you’ve been following along on Instagram, you’ll know that I recently took on a challenge to spend a weekend in Copenhagen for under £200.

Bearing in mind that Scandinavia is renowned for being THE most expensive part of Europe in which to travel, it was never going to be an easy challenge.  But if you do your research you’ll find a great selection of cheap eats and street eats in Copenhagen, as well as a long list of sights and activities that won’t cost you a single penny krone.

So if you fancy finding out how much you can see and do for free in the city, read on.

Discover Copenhagen’s free museums

Once upon a time Copenhagen’s trio of the National Museum of Denmark, the Museum of Danish Resistance, and the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery) were all free to enter.  Although this is no longer the case (in fact the Museum of Danish Resistance has actually been closed since it was destroyed by a serious fire in 2013) there are still a few of the city’s museums that don’t charge an admission fee on certain days of the week:

  • Tuesdays – Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
  • Wednesdays – Thorvaldsens Museum
  • Fridays – Copenhagen City Museum (temporarily closed while it moves to a new location on Stormgade 18)

National Gallery, Copenhagen

Your other alternative is to purchase a Copenhagen Card (529DKK for 48 hours at time of writing), which grants you free entry into a total of 73 attractions (including many of the city’s museums), as well as unlimited use of public transport around the city.

Browse some free art galleries

Housed in a former truck garage and offering a 2000-square-metre gallery space, Galleri Nicolai Wallner  is officially the largest gallery for contemporary art in Copenhagen.

Smaller and more centrally-located art galleries include the V1 Gallery in Vesterbro, and non-profit canal side gallery Overgaden, in the Christianshavn neighbourhood.

Every art gallery should have a cactus in it.

Watch the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg

Although none will be quite as entertaining as Athens’ evzones and their eccentric pom-pom-toed uniforms, I love watching the changing of the guard ceremonies across the globe.  Copenhagen’s royal guards march from their barracks in Gothersgade 100 by Rosenborg Castle through the streets of Copenhagen and end up at Amalienborg Slotsplads, where the changing of the guard happens at 12 noon every day.

Changing of the guards, AmalienborgChanging of the guard, Amalienborg

Although on the day I turned up the ceremony took place an hour later, at 1pm.  So if you’re visiting the city in the winter, prepare yourself for a potentially long wait in temperatures hovering just above zero celsius.

See Copenhagen’s Iconic Little Mermaid Statue

Unveiled on 23 August 1913, The Little Mermaid was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen.  The sculpture was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the same name, about a mermaid who gives up her life in the ocean by permanently exchanging her tail for a pair of legs, so that she can be with her prince on land.

The statue is a lot smaller than you imagine it to be and it’s fame rather than aesthetics that draw the crowds, but not making the journey to the Little Mermaid while in Copenhagen is akin to visiting Rome and not seeing the Colosseum.

The Little Mermaid statue

Explore Kastellet

Not far and slightly inland from the Little Mermaid statue you’ll find Kastellet, one of the best preserved star-shaped fortresses in Europe.  It’s an evocative place originally commissioned by Frederik III back in 1662.

Its grassy ramparts and moat circle some beautiful 18th century barracks and a historic windmill.

Kastellet, Copenhagen

Have a wander along Nyhavn

Nyhavn (which is actually the name of the canal, not the area) 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 featured on many of the postcards you’ll find of the city, and one of the most photogenic areas of Copenhagen.

Nyhavn in the rain

Take a walking tour of Copenhagen

There are a number of free guided tours in the city.  Guides are often students studying history or architecture at their local university, and are passionate, enthusiastic, energetic, and a lot of fun.  The good ones really do their research and genuinely appear to love every minute of what they do.  Although tipping is appreciated, it’s certainly not enforced or expected.

A list of Copenhagen’s free guided tours is below, along with their starting times and meeting points.

Latin Quarter, Copenhagen

Alternatively you can do as I did and come up with a list of all the places you’d like visit, type them into Google Maps in turn and then arrange them into an easy-to-follow route map.  Once you start the navigation it will run without the need for wifi, so you have your very own ready-made walking tour.

Have a peek inside a church or two

I can’t speak for all of Copenhagen’s churches but the Church of the Holy Spirit (located on Købmagergade pedestrian street) is completely free to enter.  It’s one of city’s oldest churches and once served as a monastery with its own hospital.

Church of the Holy Spirit, Copenhagen

Do a spot of window shopping

Who says window shopping can’t be fun when you have shop windows that look like this?

IMG_1031Flower shop in Vesterbro

Vesterbro (the neighbourhood I was staying in) is a wonderful mix of vintage emporiums, flower shops and design studios.  There are even cute little shops that also serve coffee.

Items and coffee, Copenhagen

Climb a tower for some amazing city views

There are a number of towers you can climb in Copenhagen but Christiansborg Slot is the only one that’s free.  They only admit a certain number of people into the tower at any one time so you may have to queue, but with views like this it’s a small price to pay.

Unfortunately on the day that I’d planned to climb the tower the fog was so thick that there wouldn’t have been any chance of a view from up there, let alone a good one.  So I’ve borrowed this photo from Flickr via their creative commons license.

Copenhagen Skyline

Good to know:  The tower is closed on Mondays.

Explore another side of Copenhagen at Freetown Christiania 

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 seems to be mixed information online about whether or not photography is actually prohibited in Christiania, or whether it’s solely around marijuana-scented Pusher Street (where you’ll see painted slogans on the walls that indicate rather strongly that no photography is allowed), but I’d be a little wary wandering around with an expensive camera on show.  I managed to snap a few shots on my mobile, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable doing so.

Don’t let this deter you though; Freetown Christiania is a fascinating part of the city where you’ll find an abundance of art and music events, organic and vegetarian cafes, and vibrant, colourful street art.

Freetown ChristianiaFreetown Christiania

Have a sensory adventure at Copenhagen Street Food, Papirøen

Ok, so the main reason people come here is to eat, but I’d still advise coming here if you’re not hungry, just for the experience.

This former newspaper storage facility is a hanger-style food market packed with artisan food trucks and hipster bars, and is seriously cool!

There’s a wide selection of international street food available, and the menus will vary from day-to-day depending on what kind of fresh produce the stall holders can source from the market that morning.  Although I did end up eating a delicious smørrebrød (open sandwich), I had as much fun simply wandering around and photographing all the food.

Smørrebrød, Copenhagen Street FoodCopenhagen Street Food

There’s music here too and the venue hosts live music events in the evenings.

Copenhagen Street Food has received several awards already, namely Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence 2016, and Danish Meetings and Events Award 2016 for “Best Venue” and “Best Integrated Support”.

Feed your cactus obsession at the Botanical Garden

Botanisk Have is Copenhagen’s botanical garden, located in the Nørreport neighbourhood and lays claim to the largest collection of living plants in Denmark.

It’s a great place to seek respite from the freezing outside temperatures in winter, and to bask in the sunshine in its glorious gardens, in summer.

Good to know: Whilst the botanical gardens are open every day all year round, the greenhouses and cacti and succulents house have limited opening hours.  This link should give you up-to-date information about when to visit.

Botanisk have

Photo by Lars Pirtzel via Flickr

The great thing about Copenhagen is that it’s such a walkable city that it’s completely possible to see and do all of these things in a weekend, without hiring a bicycle or catching a single metro.

Have you visited Copenhagen?  Are there any other free sights and activities you would add to my list?

If you like this article, please share it on social media using the share buttons at the top of the post.  Alternatively you can follow along on FacebookTwitter, or Google+ or you can look me up on Instagram or Pinterest too!

A big shout out to Caroline at Love Live Travel for helping me to ensure that the information provided to you in this post about Copenhagen’s museums is correct and up-to-date 🙂


The best free sights and activities in Copenhagen

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  • Reply Sheena February 25, 2017 at 6:27 PM

    Great Post, your pictures are really nice 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 25, 2017 at 10:57 PM

      Thanks Sheena, glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Reply Kyntra Strickland February 25, 2017 at 7:18 PM

    I haven’t been to Copenhagen yet, but I always like to start with a walking tour; loved that you included information for that. Beautiful pictures and great information. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 25, 2017 at 10:58 PM

      Walking tours are the best! I always try to take one when I arrive in a new city. It’s a great way of learning a little history and deciding which parts you’d like to return to 🙂

  • Reply Megan | Red Around The World February 25, 2017 at 7:42 PM

    One of my friends lives in Copenhagen and I’d love to go visit! Freetown looks super cool!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 25, 2017 at 11:01 PM

      I imagine Freetown’s a lot cooler in the summer months; lots more going on! Either way, it’s a great place to come to see a completely different side of Copenhagen 🙂

  • Reply C-Ludik February 25, 2017 at 9:47 PM

    I visited Copenhagen few years ago, and I absolutely loved the city and your post about it ! I missed out on a lot of the places you mentioned on you post when I was there. Great list and beautiful pictures ! I wish I could go back now after reading your post. Here’s mine for the week :

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 25, 2017 at 11:04 PM

      So glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 Copenhagen was actually one of the first foreign cities I visited when I was just 11 years old. Suffice to say I don’t remember a lot but my mum does, and she loved reading about what I thought of it all those years later.

  • Reply Sara - I do what I want to February 25, 2017 at 10:29 PM

    We lived in CPH for two years or so, like you said there are few free things to do, if you go during the spring or summer you can also visit some parks in the city, the beach or just take a bike ride (around 30 minutes) and go to Klampenborg park it has a beautiful old theme park (older than Tivoli and no entrance fee) also it is a huge forest and you can see deers around

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 25, 2017 at 10:56 PM

      I’d love to return in summer so thanks heaps for the suggestions for when I do 🙂

  • Reply Getty February 25, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    I didn’t Freetown Christiana, watch the changing of the guard, found the little mermaid, and did the free walking tour! Next time I’m there I should look up those art galleries and definitely climb a tower for a view! I didn’t do that ?

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 9:38 AM

      What was the free walking tour like? I was tempted but in the end decided it would be more fun to craft my own 🙂

  • Reply Kelly February 25, 2017 at 11:21 PM

    Super excited about this post. I am going to Copenhagen this summer and cannot wait. This is so helpful and gives me a way to explorethe city without spending my life savings. Super stoked for the Little Mermaid Statue. Thanks a bunch!!!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 9:40 AM

      Aw, Copenhagen will look so lovely in the summer 🙂 How long are you spending there?

  • Reply Susannah February 26, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    Wow!! What a useful post!!! I will save this for when I plan my trip!!! ????Great stuff.

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 9:43 AM

      So glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Happy trip planning!

  • Reply Justine Cross February 26, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    Wow! I would never have thought that there are so many free things to do in Copenhagen and these all look like fun things to do! I especially liked your shots of Freetown Christiania – the wallart looks so beautiful. It’s just a shame you didn’t feel quite so safe when taking the photos… a quick snap it is if I end up visiting! 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 12:54 PM

      Yes it’s definitely a great thing that there are so many free sights and activities in such an expensive city 🙂 And Christiania may be completely different when there are more tourists around, I just felt a little on edge that all eyes were on me! Probably just being unnecessarily wary based on few things I’d read online…

  • Reply Alice Chen February 26, 2017 at 10:53 AM

    The Freetown Christiania street art seems incredible! Wonderful post!
    Alice Chen recently posted…The Taipei New Year Lantern Festival: In Pictures!My Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 12:55 PM

      Yes I loved the street art there! 🙂

  • Reply Kiara @ Via Isabelle February 26, 2017 at 12:36 PM

    I’ve always wanted to go to Copenhagen! Now you just gave me more of a reason to go!


    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 26, 2017 at 12:57 PM

      Ah, another Kiara! Pleased to meet you 😉 I can definitely recommend Copenhagen as a compact, walkable city if you like beautiful architecture, art and design, and good food. It’s a great combination of all three!

  • Reply Abbi @ Spin the Windrose February 26, 2017 at 5:20 PM

    We were so close to going to Copenhagen recently!! I’m saving this post for the future as I must visit. Love your photos and it sounds like a great place. I love it when sights and activities are completely free!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 27, 2017 at 7:57 PM

      Definitely helps a lot in an expensive country! I really hope you can make it to Copenhagen soon, it’s a great city. After reading your latest post, I want to visit Warsaw now too! 🙂

  • Reply Tanmaya Godbole February 26, 2017 at 7:55 PM

    Loved this post, so inspired to visit Copenhagen again! It’s definitely one of my favorite cities in the world 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 27, 2017 at 8:00 PM

      It could be one of mine! I’d love to go back in the summer and see a different side to the city 🙂

  • Reply Sonja February 27, 2017 at 11:15 AM

    Copenhagen is such an awesome place and although it’s expensive I keep telling people too that they can do it on the cheap! There’s so much free stuff to see there and then you just need to be careful about where you eat and drink. Love your suggestions!

    • Reply Kiara Gallop February 27, 2017 at 8:01 PM

      I agree. Researching the cheap eats and street eats before I arrived definitely helped me to keep the costs down while I was there 🙂

  • Reply Madi | Restless Worker March 1, 2017 at 12:16 AM

    Who knew there were so many free things to do in Copenhagen! I’ll be pinning this for my trip in April 🙂 Can’t wait!
    Madi | Restless Worker recently posted…How To See The Best Of Split, Croatia In A WeekendMy Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop March 1, 2017 at 8:05 PM

      I definitely didn’t until I started researching my trip! Hope you have an amazing trip in April 🙂 How long will you be spending there?

  • Reply K. April 8, 2017 at 9:42 AM

    LOVE this. Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities I’ve visited, but you’ve clearly found a way round that! 🙂 Nyhavn is a favourite of mine. Thanks for sharing. x
    K. recently posted…Next stop… Inebriation! The Wine Tram.My Profile

    • Reply Kiara Gallop April 8, 2017 at 10:01 AM

      I was very frugal! But, like I said in the post, I definitely didn’t feel like I missed out on anything, and I certainly wasn’t bored! Yes, Nyhavn is so pretty, isn’t it? 🙂

  • Reply Therie April 20, 2017 at 6:58 AM

    I love free walking tours, it’s one of the best ways to explore a city and Copenhagen seems like one of those cities that is best explored by foot. Thanks for sharing!
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    • Reply Kiara Gallop April 20, 2017 at 7:53 PM

      Definitely! I always try to join a free walking tour whenever I visit a new city. I love all the cool facts and info the guides pass on too 🙂 (often things you won’t read about in a guidebook) The main reason I chose to build my own walking tour on this trip was because I was on a super strict budget and couldn’t afford the tip :-/

  • Reply MMJ Canada Dispensaries August 1, 2017 at 2:20 PM

    Hey Kiara! Thanks for sharing your travel experience in Copenhagen. We’re planning to have a trip very soon and thinking of spending sometime in this beautiful city. We’d definitely check Freetown Christiana, I have read a lot about this hip place and perhaps spend sometime in watching the changing of the guard at Amalienborg. By the way, you got great photos (convinced me to really push for a trip in Copenhagen) 🙂

    • Reply Kiara Gallop August 3, 2017 at 9:24 PM

      Thanks so much for your kind words Jeff. So pleased my photos inspired you to make a trip to Copenhagen 🙂 It’s a great city so I really do hope you make it there soon!

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