Colourful buildings of Nyhavn in Copenhagen

Copenhagen in a Weekend – The Best Things to Do for Free

I recently spent a few days in Copenhagen, Denmark’s cosmopolitan capital. As a city that’s been on my list for years, its Scandinavian expensiveness meant it had never quite made it to the top!

When I had a work trip with flights that happened to go via Copenhagen, it seemed the perfect opportunity to finally make it there, so I booked myself a couple of nights in the city.

Coloured, square houses on Copenhagen street

I was lucky enough not to pay for flights but I was still on a pretty tight budget for the weekend. Although it’s nice to be able to visit a city’s museums and tourist attractions when you can, they often involve entrance fees, which quickly add up. So I spent my time wandering around Copenhagen, seeking out ways to sightsee without spending a cent.

It’s such a beautiful city and if you’re travelling on a budget, here’s my top picks for free things to do in Copenhagen:

Wander Along Nyhavn

I would wager that when most people think of Copenhagen, they think of pretty, colourful buildings along a canal. Head to Nyhavn for these picturesque scenes.

Colourful buildings of Nyhavn in Copenhagen

The canal is lined with gorgeous 17th Century buildings, including the former home of legendary fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.

There are tonnes of restaurants and cafes to lure tourists in but I simply enjoyed a leisurely stroll, taking in the colourful surrounds.

Colourful buildings of Nyhavn in Copenhagen

Hang Out With The Little Mermaid

Another of Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attractions is The Little Mermaid sculpture at Langelinie Pier.

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

Created over a hundred years ago to pay homage to the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale of the same name, The Little Mermaid is perched upon rocks in the harbour, solemnly looking to shore, searching for her beloved.

Yes, the site is swarming with tourists all trying to get their shot but I still found her quite magical.

Explore More in Langelinie

The Little Mermaid isn’t the only attraction worth visiting in Langelinie. I recommend a stroll though the whole area.

At the start of the harbour front is the Gefion Fountain, which depicts Norse goddess Gefion leading charging bulls. The impressive fountain is the largest in Copenhagen.

Gefion Fountain in Copenhagen

Carry on walking through Langelinie Park and you will pass the gardens and the Iver Huitfeldt Memorial Column. The column was constructed in 1886 in commemoration of the death of Admiral Huitfeldt and his men during a naval battle of the Great Northern War.

Yellow flowers in Langelinie Park with Iver Huitfeldt Memorial Column in background

Finally, you will reach Langelinie Marina, where locals and visitors tether their impressive yachts. It’s a peaceful place to stop and watch the world go by.

Boats in Langelinie Marina

It’s also a great place to hang out with a family of swans…

Family of swans at Langelinie Marina

Check out the Maritime Monument right by the marina, which commemorates the Danish Merchant Navy Seamen who lost their lives in World War One.

Maritime Monument at Langelinie marina

Walk Around The Citadel Walls

Right by Langelinie, The Citadel is the star-shaped fortress of Copenhagen, founded in 1626. Surrounded by a large moat, it is today used as military barracks and offices. The grounds are open to the public and it’s free to visit.

Military barracks in Copenhagen Citadel

The Citadel is one of the best-preserved in Northern Europe. Stroll through the cobbled streets to see the barracks, the Commander’s House, the church and the storehouses, and visit the moving war memorial – “Monument for Denmark’s International Effort since 1948”.

The grounds of the Citadel in Copnehagen

The best part about visiting The Citadel is that you can walk atop the grassy walls, around the full perimeter of the fortress. Not only can you see the Citadel’s windmill and the military canyons but you get some pretty amazing views over the city and the harbour.

View from the fortress walls of the Copenhagen Citadel

See the View from Above at Christiansborg Palace Tower

If – like me – you always want to see a city from above, a visit to Christiansborg Palace is a must-do. Though you need to purchase a ticket to see the palace interior, a trip up the tower is free!

Statue and tower at Christianborg Palace

The tower of Christiansborg Palace is the tallest in Copenhagen. There’s a series of lifts that take you to the top, so no need to worry about climbing hundreds of stairs to see the spectacular views!

Aerial view of Copenhagen from Christianborg Palace Tower

The palace was built as the Danish royal residence but nowadays it’s used by the Danish Parliament and for various royal functions and events and royals reside at Amalienborg Palace.

Christianborg Palace exterior

Watch the Changing of the Guard at Amalienborg Palace 

Okay, full disclosure – I didn’t actually do this one; I missed the midday time frame both days! Oops!

However, if you do get your timings right, you can see the guards march from their barracks by Rosenborg Castle, through the city streets, ending up at Amalienborg for the midday ceremony.

One of the buildings of Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen

It would have been great to see but I did still enjoy walking through the palace square. The palace has four identical buildings around a large courtyard and has been home to the Danish royals since the late 1700s.

Buildings of Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen

Lose Yourself in the Hippy Neighbourhood of Christiania

Entrance to Christiania Freetown, Copenhagen

Freetown Christiania is a self-governed “alternative neighbourhood” in the borough of Christianshavn. Located in abandoned military barracks, the neighbourhood was way bigger than I anticipated, made up of ramshackle houses, re-purposed buildings, workshops, and art studios.

Christiania is perhaps best known for being Copenhagen’s “Green Light District”. Although hard drugs are forbidden by the locals (as well as the law), cannabis usage is encouraged and there’s a lively trade along the famous “Pusher Street”.

Sign for Christiania's Green Light District

The neighbourhood carries a bit of a rough reputation but my experience was not that at all. No one approached me on “Pusher Street” (I think they do a pretty decent trade without having to hustle!), the market stall and cafe workers were friendly, and I explored the quieter streets quite happily on my own. As long as you follow the community rules, I think the residents of Christiania are all pretty…”chilled”.

An unexpected surprise for me was the massive lake in the middle of the neighbourhood. I sat beside it for a good while soaking up the sunshine, bird watching, and just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Bliss.

Heron wading in Christiania lake

The whole area is cash only, so make sure you have some on you if you want to buy any of the handmade jewellery, vegetarian food, or… other goods.

Christiania 2018 Mural - Copenhagen

Explore the City’s Back Streets

I feel like one thing a lot of people miss out on when visiting a major city is exploring the back streets, or “suburbia”. Of course, tourist areas are popular for a reason but I also like to escape the crowds and get a feel for how the locals live.

I love seeing the different architecture styles of the houses, visiting locals parks, and stumbling up quirky cafes and shops.

Save the Planet graffiti art on Copenhagen street wall

Copenhagen’s streets are as eclectic as they are pretty. I could have wandered for hours on end.

Pink roses on Copenhagen backstreet wall

Copenhagen is a beautiful city. It’s very walkable, full of interesting sights, and you definitely don’t need to spend a small fortune to see it.

Have you been to Copenhagen? What are your top free things to do? 

PIN IT!The best free things to do in Copengahen, Denmark ¦ More Than Greens

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42 thoughts on “Copenhagen in a Weekend – The Best Things to Do for Free

  1. Looks like you had a great trip and made the most of your time. I have been but it was a little grottier than I expected (the little mermaid’s head had been chopped off, lots of vandalism all over etc) looks like the city has spruced itself up again!

    1. That’s such a shame it was a little run-down when you went! There was a fair bit of construction going on, so seems they’re working on sprucing it up, like you said!

      I actually read about vandalism on The Little Mermaid statue after my trip – why would people do such things?! Crazy.

  2. I went to Copenhagen for a couple of days last year and I absolutely loved it! The Nyhavn canal was one of my highlights, it’s so beautiful! I really wanted to have a look around Christiania but we didn’t have enough time. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back sometime.

    Eve | http://www.evemorganinteriors.com

  3. I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but I love the places you included! The alternative neighbourhood seems really cool, I hope I can go there one day

  4. I would love to visit Copenhagen, the colourful houses along the canal are so pretty! I never knew there was so much to see and do there. Christiania looks like such a cool place, I love the arty hippy vibe. Thank you for sharing your trip, this is definitely a place on my travel bucket list 💖 xx

    Bexa | http://www.hellobexa.com

    1. I didn’t know too much about Copenhagen before I went either but had always thought it looked really pretty. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I managed to see and do for free! Christiania was definitely a highlight! :)

  5. Copenhagen is one of those cities that I always “forget” about when it comes to Europe; I have this list of Lisbon, Ibiza, Rome, Paris and I always forget that the Scandinavian countries have such a rich and beautiful history that I would also love to explore!

    Beautiful photos! x

    Michelle
    dressingwithstyle-s.com

  6. I absolutely loved this post, Sarah! I was completely amazed at how many diverse and facinating sights you covered during your brief layover. I particularly enjoyed how you demonstrated that in spite of its reputation for being a somewhat expensive destination, Copenhagen offers something for every taste, budget, and sensibility. That’s important, given my particular niche of travel clients – the young and young-at-heart cruise vacationers with a passion for exploring and a taste for authentic adventures.
    Although “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” already put Copenhagen on my bucket list, it wasn’t on my “shortlist”. However, experiencing Copenhagen from your “on a shoestring” perspective added another dimension that sparked that certain excitement and restlessness those with the “wanderlust gene” are only too well familiar with.
    Copenhagen is a major port of embarkation and disembarkation for cruisetours of Western Europe, Scandinavia & the Kiel Canal, the majestic Fjords, and Russia & the Baltic Sea, each offering itineraries featuring some of the region’s loveliest scenery and most fascinating cities in the region. You’ve made a strong argument for travelers, even those on a budget, to consider a pre- and/or post-cruise extension in Copenhagen. Moreover, doing so doesn’t necessarily have to break your bank.
    Whether it is for maps, restaurants, shopping or nightlife, there are many smartphone apps available to guide you during your visit to Copenhagen – and with the countless options for free wifi at the city’s cafes, as well as at the Copenhagen Visitor Centre, you will be able to download your app from all over the city.
    In Copenhagen practically everybody rides a bike. If you want to live like a true Copenhagener, you can rent a bike and cruise around and explore the city on two wheels. It is fun, healthy, easy, cheap and without a doubt the best way to see Copenhagen on your own. Just jump in the saddle on one of the city bikes with built-in GPS and tourist information. Plus, you can also bring your rental bike onboard public transportation.
    I look forward to sharing this blog post with my clients when recommending that particular cruise! In the interim, I’ll be sharing it in my Facebook page and its linked travel group.

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I definitely have that “wanderlust gene” you mentioned. ;-) I really appreciate you sharing the post on social media too!

      Very true that everyone in Copenhagen gets around on a bike! They’re absolutely everywhere! I was happy walking but cycling would be a great way to see more if I went back again.

      I’m really pleased with how much of the city I was able to see for free and I’m so happy that you found this guide helpful! :)

      1. Hello again, Sarah! Your post has already received several likes in my FB travel group. I hope that translated into some new fans and followers for you. I’ll periodically give your thread a gentle “bump”. Thanks again for making my job easier! Best wishes and continued success! Happy travels.

  7. I have been in Copenhagen many years ago in the winter actually. The atmosphere in the winter is really nice and they have a type of Christmas market called Tivoli I believe. I love your colourful pictures and I do agree that wandering around is quite often the best to discover places.

  8. Wow! I’ve never thought about going to Copenhagen, but your photos and descriptions were so lovely, that it’s now on my travel bucket list. It’s so picturesque.

  9. Sounds fantastic!! I’ve been wanting to go to Copenhagen for years… you’re making me want to go even more!! Especially since you convinced you can see a lot in a weekends time!

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