Denmark's capital is a dream, and it’s worth every krone you’ll spend to visit. However, it's also notoriously pricy. So I’d like to share a few tips on how you can cut your costs to get the most out of "wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen."
Free Attractions & Tours
Not all attractions in here cost an arm and a leg - and some won’t even cost you anything at all! These include picturesque Nyhavn, the court of Amalienborg Palace (museum not included), the Little Mermaid statue, the Star Fort of Kastellet, the magnificent Marble Church, and Copenhagen City Hall (Radhus). By the way, besides a welcome center with city maps and free guides in English, the Radhus also offers a free tour in English starting at 3 pm on weekdays, and you will have to pay an entrance fee only if you wish to go up the tower (Copenhagen is tablecloth-- the result of a glacier flattening this land during the Ice age - and every tower gives you about the same fabulous view of the city). There's also one particular tower that's free to visit: Christiansborg Tower, part of the seat of the Danish parliament, where all you have to do is wait in a queue and go through a security scanner.
Moreover, most major museums and historical monuments are open to the public for free on certain days of the week, holidays or other special occasions, so with a bit of research and planning you will be able to save substantially. There's also a free 2½-hour walking tour through central Copenhagen covering all the major places of interest; it's led by volunteers, so tips are welcome if you liked it but there's no compulsory fee.
Invest in the Copenhagen Card and Perhaps a Bike Rental
If you're planning to stay for more than a weekend, you’d probably want to see as many as possible of the city's palaces, towers, museums, galleries, and crown jewels, with Tivoli Gardens and Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek as icing on a cake. That can really add up in terms of entrance fees, but the Copenhagen Card includes entrance to 87 museums, attractions and activities, along with a bevy of discounts and free transport in the capital region. Available for 24, 48, 72, or 120 hours, it's especially good value for families as one adult card also covers two children under 10 and there is a cheaper card option for teenagers under 18. The cost is about 55 USD for a 24-hour one, up to $125 for the five-day pass.
Pay particular attention to the “free transport” parts - it’s a major boon because while public transport in Copenhagen is regular and very convenient, it's also really expensive; a single-trip ticket on a bus in the center of the city will cost you DKK24, a trip from the airport to the center is 36DKK, and a out ride to Elsinore (yes, Hamlet’s castle!) will set you back a pretty DKK 84 (about 12.50USD). Moreover, ticket zones and validation systems can be complicated for an outsider, and failure to produce a valid ticket will land you with a fine of DKK 750 (over 111USD); your ignorance of how the system works on account of being a foreigner will not be seen as a valid excuse (there is no mercy either if you're caught with no ticket at all or with a ticket that's wrong - for Zone 2 instead of Zone 3, for example). Moreover, to pay any fine you may need to ask for paper help from locals to fill out the right forms unless you want to add late fees of DKK 100 to the initial fine.
The Copenhagen Card, on the other hand, is easy to use – you just show it and the number of rides within the specified period is unlimited, including bus, metro, and suburban train. Another waaay cheaper option to public transport is renting a bike – besides its flatness and relative compactness, center city's infrastructure is very bike-friendly (not to say bike-centered).
The single biggest expenditure when it comes to Copenhagen will, of course, be your lodgings. Even the “budget” options of hostels and short-term apartment rentals listings are higher than average compared even to neighboring European countries, to say nothing about more affordable tourist destinations.
That makes homestay is a very attractive option. To look for people who would welcome you under their roof you can join CouchSurfing, a social networking website and mobile app. It’s actually a precursor of Airbnb, and with one crucial difference – CouchSurfing hosts don't charge for lodging, and the whole thing is meant as a way to network and meet fellow travelers all over the world.
According to the community’s philosophy, people are generally kind, so it’s a gift economy. This philosophy resonates very well with Danes - equality being one of the staples of Nordic ethos - so there are a lot of locals registered on the platform. And if you're willing to “pay it forward,” you can consider making your own couch, spare room, or even air mattress available to travelers, although it isn’t required.
Limit Dining Out & Buy Your Own Groceries
I know - for many people local cuisine is one of the highlights of any trip. In fact, for some it’s the whole point – they go on gourmet journeys. If that’s the case with you, just skip this section. However, if your main goal is to feast senses other than your taste buds, read on.
Restaurants and cafés are considered a luxury here; most Danes don’t eat out regularly, and tend to reserve restaurant experience for special occasions, so there are fairly limited options for low-cost eating apart perhaps from street food. Of course, Copenhagen does also have big chain eateries like Burger King and KFC, but prices there are also, shall we say, local - meaning not cheap..
So you can simply do as the Danes do – shop at a grocery store, have breakfast and supper at your place, and pack your lunch with you. Danes are very casual about meals. Sandwiches are highly popular here, with open-faced smørrebrøds (above) being a traditional dish. A hearty hot meal is something that is supposed to be homemade and shared with family and friends, especially on Sundays. Restaurants are more for tourists and, again, special occasions for Danes.