Claimed to be one of the most expensive cities not just in Europe but in the whole world, finding free things to do in Copenhagen is essential for any traveller on a budget. Here are just a few activities you can enjoy without spending a penny!
14 Free Things To Do In Copenhagen
When I visited Copenhagen for a weekend city break, I knew full well it wouldn’t be the cheapest trip. Both before I arrived and once I was there, I was on the lookout for ways to cut costs. I stayed at a central hostel, I planned to walk everywhere, I considered purchasing the Copenhagen Card, and I soon found ways to reduce my expenses!
I had several free activities in Copenhagen in mind before I got there, and was glad to stumble across more throughout my trip too by simply walking around the city. That’s the best thing about free activities; they’re not always the top of people’s to-do list but they are a great find!
Consequently, most of my favourite free things to do in Copenhagen are based around walking. And lots of it. Becoming immersed in the atmosphere of an area within a city can be just as much as activity as visiting a museum: there’s plenty to look at, you’re often dodging other people, and you can learn a lot about where you are!
Probably the most recognisable area of Copenhagen is Nyhavn. Just a short row of colourful houses that sit along the canal draws a lot of attention, and a high price!
Take the time to walk along the canal on each side, admire the 17th century townhouses, maybe stop to listen to the buskers playing soothing melodies… Sounds idyllic, right? If you can get there before the shops and cafes open up, you’ll be blessed with the streets to yourself and a much calmer environment than later in the day when hoards of visitors descend upon the area… That’s not so relaxing!
No matter when you go, Nyhavn is an essential stop-off in Copenhagen. And, if you’re not bothered about staying at one of the canal-side cafes (they’re some of the most expensive in the city!), you can enjoy this iconic area for free!
This unexpected gem of the city is one of the best-preserved fortresses in Northern Europe – and thank goodness it is!
Kastellet Copenhagen, or citadel in English, was constructed in a pentagon star shape with deep trenches surrounded by the moat, and bastions at each point. Inside the grounds are barracks and training grounds, church, and a windmill!
Although still used as a military area, the atmosphere is quite the opposite of one might expect. The spacious and neat grounds are more akin to a country park with runners, dog walkers, and tourists enjoying the grassy outdoor space. It’s a small haven from the busy urban parts of the city for sure!
There’s plenty to explore in the Kastellet, but don’t expect any readily available information or signage – it’s best to look up online before or after your visit to identify any points of interest (although I couldn’t find them, there are supposedly 2 small museums on site though!). Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful spot and offers great views from the slight elevation, as well as a chance to see some of the local wildlife!
3. Statue Of The Little Mermaid
One of Copenhagen’s best free attractions is the statue of the Little Mermaid. Sculpted in bronze by Edvard Eriksen after the famous Danish fairytale of the same name, it’s known for being, well, a bit underwhelming. It’s the subject of much disappointed for excitable tourists who are unaware of its small stature, and of vandalism by activist locals. Poor gal over here has seen it all!
Did you know that the Little Mermaid lost her head TWICE?!
Despite all her troubles, I do still think it’s worth paying the Little Mermaid statue a visit. Firstly because it’s a free thing to do in Copenhagen, and secondly because it’s so closely associated to the city it would seem silly not to!
Luckily, the Little Mermaid statue is not far from the Kastellet, making it an easy detour on your exploration of Copenhagen.
4. Changing Of The Guard At Amalienborg Palace
One of the most popular free things to do in Copenhagen (weather depending!) is to see the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace. From 12pm the guards will arrive in their perfectly pressed uniforms and tall fluffy hats (it reminded me of London, of course) to perform the daily ritual.
Be sure to nab yourself a good spot early, as on a sunny day the entire square is packed with eager onlookers lining the paths! Just like any busy and time-dependent tourist attraction, there are lots of cameras clicking away above your head, so if you’re short like me try and wriggle in a spot nearer the front.
The guards will march in a wide square before pausing in one of the square’s corners. At this point, the security keeping an eye on the crowd will usher you closer. Cue rushed running and scrambles for a good view!
The guards remain stationary for a while after this, so several visitors dispersed and likely got bored of waiting. If you’re patient, however, you’ll see the actual changing of the guards itself, and can get surprisingly close. With smaller crowds by this point, you’ll also have the opportunity to take some great photos.
Although it’s not my favourite free thing to do in Copenhagen, it is a must-do for many visitors so worth stopping by if you have the time!
5. Design Museum Danmark
I’ll admit, this one’s cheating a bit… The Design Museum in Copenhagen does in fact charge entry, BUT if you’re under 26, 0-17 years, or a student you can enjoy a visit for free! Plus with discounts for senior citizens and groups of 10+, there are plenty of ways to have a cheap, if not free, visit.
Visiting the Design Museum in Copenhagen is a great chance to experience the delicate mix of education and aesthetics. With a mix of permanent and visiting exhibitions, you’ll walk through a timeline of designs and crafts that emerged from Denmark and beyond.
One of my favourite areas of the museum is The Danish Chair. This exhibition proudly showcases the influence of Danish designers on the evolution of the chair from the 1920s all the way to modern times. The “wunder chamber” artistically displays a selection of over 100 chairs in a futurist tunnel. Walking through the exhibition is as much an immersive artwork as it is informative!
As a free activity in Copenhagen, you can certainly learn a lot from a trip to the Design Museum and enjoy a break from large crowds while you’re at it!
6. Fredrik’s Church (Marmokirken)
Fredrik’s Church, more popularly known as Marmokirken (The Marble Church) is a great free stopping point on your tour throughout Copenhagen. Sitting directly opposite Amalienborg Palace Square it reminded me of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, growing larger as you walk towards its great dome.
Once inside, you can quietly walk the circumference of the church, or sit and contemplate its grandeur in the pews. I especially enjoyed turning my attention to the decorative dome above my head. With the afternoon light illuminating the organ pipes and the calming whispers between the columns, it’s quite a refreshing change from the hectic open areas of the city!
Although entry to Fredrik’s Church is free, there is an option to pay a small fee to visit the dome and enjoy stunning views over the city for 35DKK.
7. Christiansborg Palace Tower
Think you have to pay to get aerial views of Copenhagen? Think again, because in fact the tallest tower in the city is free to visit!
The Christianborg Palace Tower offers panoramic views over the colourful rooftops of Copenhagen and a chance to spot some of the city’s famous landmarks and attractions from above. Due to the tower offering free entry and having limited spaces at the viewing platform, you can expect a bit of a queue to wait in – especially on bright sunny days! But the wait is worth it, trust me.
In my opinion, visiting the Christianborg Palace Tower is one of the best free things to do in Copenhagen. This is largely due to the unique perspective you can get from the viewing platform standing tall at 106 metres. But not only that, you can also learn about the palace’s history for free without paying to go inside the rest of the palace (which I still highly recommend!). And, if you’re not ready to head back to ground level, book a table at the tower’s restaurant for a special treat!
8. Det Kongelige Bibliote (Royal Library)
For all the bibliophiles out there, a library is the ideal hangout destination! I don’t often get the chance to visit libraries in new cities as the opening hours aren’t always ideal for weekend breaks, but on this occasion I could!
The Black Diamond is the new library building on the waterfront. The sleek design juxtaposes (and overpowers) the smaller main library which sits adjacent to the Royal Library Garden – another beautiful and free place to visit!
After working your way through the main part of the library, make your way to the old part of the building and you’ll find yourself at the Octagon, the old entrance hall for the library. Next door is the Old Reading Room, a beautiful study space designed for to accommodate students in their research.
While the reading room is gorgeous, there is a sign stating entrance is for users only, and no photos are allowed. I guess you wouldn’t want lots of tourists snapping away while you work either! Despite that, I did see some people take a peek through the door, but wouldn’t recommend it and instead admire the other parts of the library, which are just as beautiful.
9. Botanical Gardens
No city is complete without its green spaces, and Copenhagen is no exception. Head to the Botanical Gardens to amble around the pond and rest at a bench sat amongst various local and international flora.
I find botanical gardens around the world a fascinating place to wander, as they often have close similarities, but there are some key differences to identify which allow the destination’s personality to shine. In Copenhagen, I would say that this was most notable from the huge glasshouses sat at the head of the garden. Entry to the palm house and newly established butterfly house (summer only) is 60DKK, so for keen plant-lovers it’s a pretty affordable activity too.
10. The King’s Garden
If you’re more into historical, aesthetic gardens than educational, detailed ones, then the King’s Garden, or Rosenborg Castle Gardens, is the perfect free place to go in Copenhagen for you.
As the oldest garden in Copenhagen, it’s a must-visit thanks to it also housing Rosenborg Castle and Rosenborg Barracks as well as plenty of public art such as statues, monuments, and sculptures.
Wander through the tree-lined avenues and admire the carefully kept lawns and flower beds before heading into the castle to immerse yourself in Danish history – and maybe bring a picnic to enjoy in the gardens after!
11. Sunset At The Lakes
Who doesn’t enjoy a golden sunset? Combined with gently lapping lakes and waterfowl floating gracefully by, it’s the perfect way to spend a free evening in Copenhagen.
Stroll along the water’s edge, take a gentle bike ride down the road, or reflect at one of the benches: the choice is yours! Even better, is to grab a coffee and maybe a snack from the nearest 7/11 store and enjoy a rest after a hectic day of sightseeing.
Nature will always be free to enjoy, so make the most of it when you can!
A slightly unusual free place to visit in Copenhagen is Nyboder, terraced houses used as naval barracks built in the 17th Century.
These bright “Nyboder yellow” houses sit in perfect formation, but are not without their quirks. Thanks to their age and good use, their imperfections make them all the more charming. Being a quiet area of town, snaking your way up and down the lanes and enjoying the attractive houses is a peaceful activity.
Do keep in mind that these are still residential homes with a rich past, so don’t linger too long, peer into windows, or disrupt the locals as they go about their day.
13. Broens Gadekøkken
On the complete opposite end of the scale to Nyboder is Broens Gadekøkken, or Bridge Street Kitchen. This hub of activity is just across the bridge from Nyhavn, heading towards Christianshavn.
A treat for the senses can be found in this square, with street foods of all cuisines in shipping containers lining the edges of a large open-air seating area.
Try the world-class street food, or simply sit back and enjoy some live music from the local folk bands jamming away for one of the best free things to do in Copenhagen!
14. Freetown Christiania
A Copenhagen must-do that also happens to be a free activity, is visiting Freetown Christiania. This commune of just under 1,000 residents is famed for its artistic, liberal atmosphere. Their goal to live as a self-governing society and intentional community means that in the area you’ll come across lots of meditative and “hippie” ideals, memorabilia, and products.
Although Freetown Christiania is rather different from the otherwise squeaky-clean vibe of Copenhagen, the people are friendly and relaxed and it’s a great place to find unique street art murals, art, and see a different way of life.
Despite their zen attitude, I saw several signs indicating photos are not allowed in the main streets, so don’t risk upsetting the locals for a picture (or at least ask!), plus the police turned up to arrest someone during my visit so maybe they’re not so free after all…
And there we have 14 free things to do in Copenhagen, ranging from historical points of interest to lavish gardens!
There are certainly plenty of other free places to go in the Danish capital, but this will certainly get you started.
Have you visited Copenhagen? What are some of the free things that you enjoyed on your visit?
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