There’s no doubt about it – Denmark is an expensive country.
As a local, I can tell you that everything does kind of balance out in the grand scheme of things, with the high taxes vs. what you receive in return (excellent infrastructure; affordable childcare & housing; etc). But if you are coming to Copenhagen just for a visit – perhaps coming from a place where your home currency doesn’t stretch quite as far as you’re used to – I think it’s important to know that you absolutely can find cheap and free things to do in Copenhagen!
In this article, I’m going to focus on the free – that’s 100% free, no hidden charges, tips, or fees required. I’ll continue to update this article as new stuff pops up, so consider this your ultimate guide of free things to do in Copenhagen.
1. Glyptotek Museum
On Tuesdays, one of Copenhagen’s main museums opens its doors completely free of charge. Founded by Carlsberg beer founder, Carl Jacobsen, in the late 1800s, this museum is packed to the brim with sculptures and art spanning thousands of years, from Greece, to Egypt, to France, and of course Denmark, too.
The building itself is breathtaking, with a beautiful palm house – referred to as a “winter garden” in Danish – full of lush greenery the moment you step inside the museum.
(If you’re interested in a little look around before you go, feel free to check out my Glyptotek Museum video where I give you a little peek inside!)
2. Christiansborg Observation Platform
Something many locals don’t even know is that you can actually go up in Copenhagen’s tallest tower for no charge whatsoever. Standing at 106 meters tall, the tower is located within the old royal palace and affords some of the best views across the city.
3. Explore the “Marble Church”
Locally referred to as Marmor Kirke (Eng: marble church), the dome of Frederiks Church is an unmissable part of the Copenhagen skyline. You can actually ascend up into the dome for some stellar views of the city – although it costs 30 DKK. However, entering and looking around the church is 100% free and I totally recommend you do! The church inside is beautiful and seeing the dome from the church floor inside is an unmissable Copenhagen experience for sure.
4. Kayak Through Copenhagen’s Canals
For a different perspective of Copenhagen, I highly recommend trying Green Kayaks. With several pickup locations dotted all over the city, the company allows you to rent a kayak for approx. 2 hours completely for free – in return, all they ask is you collect any litter you see in the water as you go. They provide absolutely everything you need – life vests, trash pickers, a big bucket to collect everything in – and you’re free to go wherever you like!
Check out my video here of when I did it myself a few months ago, including seeing what Nyhavn looks like from the water!
5. Wander Around Nyboder
In the 1600s, the Danish navy rapidly expanded and all those workers needed somewhere to live. Thus Nyboder (literally: “new stalls”) were built to house all the navy workers and their families. What resulted is a whole area of Copenhagen of rows upon rows, streets upon streets of these beautiful, burnt orange row houses. All the streets have cute aquatic-related names (i.e. Dolphin Street, Crocodile Street, etc) and it’s just a really nice neighbourhood to wander around for that perfect quintessential “colourful houses in Denmark” photograph.
There is a museum where you can actually go inside one of the homes that has been preserved as it was in the 17th century, however this does have a small fee of 20 DKK, so feel free to skip this. Even from the outside, you can see how well preserved the buildings are – it’s like stepping back in Copenhagen time.
6. Nikolaj Kunsthal
If you’re interested in the Danish modern art scene, check out Nikolaj Kunsthal. It’s an art exhibition space located inside one of Copenhagen’s oldest churches and on Wednesdays, entrance is completely free.
It’s actually not just Danish artists who are showcased here; people like David Lynch have also had their works shown here so have a look at their website before you go to see a list of their current exhibitions. This is a good one to add to your free museum lineup, like the Glyptotek mentioned above!
7. Find All of Copenhagen’s Mermaids
Everyone knows Copenhagen is famous for its Little Mermaid statue – but did you know she has siblings?! Copenhagen is truly a city of mermaids and for a fun afternoon activity, you can try to find them all around the city. For a little cheat sheet, including Google map links of where they all are, check out my video about this exact topic on YouTube!
8. Walk Along Nyhavn
You cannot go to Copenhagen without visiting the world famous Nyhavn. Built in the early 1670s, this vibrant harbour’s name means “new harbour” in English, and is packed full of history, colourful buildings, and delicious food. What’s not to love?!
For a free guided tour of the harbour, including fun historical trivia, which houses Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen lived in, and general cool things to look out for, I highly recommend giving my Nyhavn video a watch. You’ll wow your friends with all your insider knowledge that many Danes don’t even know about!
9. Take in a Classical Concert at Trinitas Church
When visiting the famous Rundetårn (Eng: Round Tower), you might notice it’s attached to a church. This is actually Trinitas Church, built in the 1600s. If you check their calendar, you’ll find they often do free concerts – usually on Fridays.
10. Explore Freetown Christiania
In the 1970s, this district of old military barracks were taken over by so-called hippies who started squatting there. Fast forward half a decade later, a community of around 1,000 are still there and have created a utopia filled with street art, rainbow houses, and fascinating culture at every turn.
The area has historically also been marred with controversy; it’s long been a place where drugs like weed and hash can be purchased (flouting Danish law) so clashes with the police have been common. As a tourist, you will be completely safe visiting but there are two rules to keep in mind: don’t take photos (unless given explicit permission by Christiania representatives) and no running, particularly on “Pusher Street”, which is the main through-fare where drugs are sold.
11. Visit the Royal Ballet
On Saturdays, the Danish Royal Ballet allows access to their morning training sessions, which you can go and watch totally for free! Pre-booking is required and can be done here (text is in Danish only but booking is straightforward!)
12. Hit the Beach
Copenhagen is a city on water – in fact, in Denmark, one is never more than 52km away from the ocean! So while it might not be common knowledge, this actually means Denmark has tons of really nice beaches – and you can find some great ones right her in Copenhagen.
The one I’d recommend is Amager Strandpark. Located on the island of Amager, the metro station Amager Strandpark takes you almost right to the water’s edge. There’s food and coffee options nearby, as well as public toilets, so you’ll be covered for a full day of fun in the sun. It’s a proper sandy beach with lots of little rock pools and stuff to explore! Great for kids.
13. Watch the Changing of the Guards
Head to Rosenborg Castle for 11:30 am. Each day, that’s when the Queen’s guards set off for a musical patrol through the city, ending in the changing of the guards by Amalienborg Palace at 12 pm. It’s an unmissable sight for anyone’s Copenhagen visit!
14. Walk Around Kastellet
Following the military theme, right next to the Little Mermaid statue is one of the best preserved fortresses in Northern Europe. You might have noticed its unique star/pentagon shape on the map of Copenhagen.
It’s completely free to go wander around the colourful buildings dating from the 1600s. There’s tons of interesting points of interest including a windmill, old barracks, grand commanders houses, and more. Definitely worth a look-see!
15. Thorvaldsens Museum
Here’s another one to add to your museum list! On Wednesdays, entrance is free to the Thorvaldsens Museeum – a collection of diverse paintings and sculptures. It’s located directly next to Christianborg Palace, so maybe you could stop by after you take in the views of the city from the palace’s tower (see number one on this list).
16. Go Dancing With the Danes!
This free thing is more limited to summer months, but definitely worth mentioning! There are many free dance classes you can join in the fresh summer air at the Fælledpark in Copenhagen. Check out their website at Sommer Dans (Eng: Summer Dance) and choose a style of dance that speaks to you! Anyone is welcome and, unless otherwise mentioned, you just show up on the day.
17. Visit the Royal Library
A library while on vacation, you ask?! Hear me out. As you can see from the photo on the right, the building itself is gorgeous and worth a visit. You might have recognised it from the outside while walking around the city – referred to as The Black Diamond, it literally is a huge black glass building right on the waterfront. What some might not realise, however, is that inside it looks like that, giving you great views of the water from within. Architecturally it’s stunning – and anyone is welcome to stop by!
There are also reading rooms you can go visit if you’re craving a bit of quiet, and many of Hans Christian Andersen’s original works are housed here, too.
18. Get Underwhelmed by the Little Mermaid Statue
Maybe that headline is a little harsh – for full disclosure, I truly do think the statue is worth a visit. It’s as iconic to Copenhagen as the Statue of Liberty is to New York City! However, it must be mentioned that almost everyone who visits the Little Mermaid statue in person is shocked at how tiny the statue is. For me, this just adds to its daintiness and charm but if you’re not expecting it, I understand it can be surprising.
This list simply wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention it, however. If nothing else, it’s a lovely walk along the waterfront so it’s definitely not a wasted trip! And there’s lots of things nearby to see along the way, too (e.g. Kastellet, other mermaids, Amalienborg Palace, etc).
19. Visit the Oldest Amusement Park in the World
Did you know that Denmark is home to the two oldest amusement parks in the world? Second on the list is the famous Tivoli, but Dyrehavsbakken comes out on top, dating unbelievably all the way from 1583! Dyrehavsbakken translates to “The Deer Hill’s Pasture” and is commonly referred to by locals simply as Bakken – or The Hill.
The rides cost money but anyone is welcome to visit and walk around the park. It’s a quick 20 minute train ride a little north of the city and well worth a visit. There are also cute deer roaming freely around the park!
20. Give the Elephants a Pat for Good Luck
Located in Carlsberg Byen – that’s the area of town where the Carlsberg beer factory is located – are these beautiful, life-size elephants holding up an old grain silo tower. Erected in 1901 using granite from the Danish island of Bornholm, the elephants were used by Carlsberg as symbols of strength and good luck. Four were selected to represent each one of Carl Jacobsen’s living children.
It’s local Copenhagen tradition to give the elephants a pat as you walk by to thank them for their hard work holding up such a heavy tower. If nothing else, it’s a great photo op and kids love scrambling all over them. They’re also right around the corner from a few really nice parks (Søndermarken and Frederiksberg Have), as well as Copenhagen Zoo.
To hear the history behind them and to get an idea of the elephant’s scale (they really are huge!), check out the video feature I did on them here.
21. Visit Hans Christian Andersen, Søren Kirkegaard, and Others
Assistens Kirkegaard is a cemetery located in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. More than that, it’s used as a regular park by locals, and is a beloved part of the hipster Nørrebro scene. Danish author H.C. Andersen and philosopher Søren Kirkegaard are buried here, along with countless other Copenhageners – famous or not.
Please keep in mind, however, that this is still an active cemetery – meaning burials and mourners still of course use this space, so please be respectful when you visit.
22. Visit Superkilen Park
Another one located in the Nørrebro area, the wonderful Superkilen park (pictured above, left) is great for kids and Instagram opportunities. It consists of three parks – the red square, the black square, and the green square – and each section is filled to the brim with interesting artefacts.
You see, Nørrebro is home to almost 90 different nationalities and to reflect the area’s diversity, each country donated an item to the park. You can see swings from Iran, benches from Brazil, a fountain from Morocco, a play slide octopus from Japan, palm trees from China, a boxing ring from Thailand – and many more. As you go around the park, there are little silver plaques placed on the ground next to each donation so you can see where everything is from.
It’s really utilised as a gathering spot for the local community and everyone is welcome!
23. Go on a Street Art Tour
Copenhagen, you might quickly notice, is full of wonderful street art and graffiti (see above, right). While you could just spend your time walking around “cool” neighbourhoods like Nørrebro and finding some on the fly, there are certain streets and areas of town where you’ll find a large, concentrated collection of them if you’d like to see what the local Danish scene has to offer. It’s a little like an open air gallery – and it’s all free!
There’s also an archive of all the street art in Copenhagen located here, so you can easily search to see if there’s one close by wherever you are in the city.
24. Swim in the Harbour
Perhaps due in part to initiatives like Green Kayaking (mentioned above), Copenhagen’s canals are sparkling clean. In fact, when I kayaked around the waters, we struggled to even find any trash!
They’re so clean, in fact, that you can swim in them, which is a welcome respite for locals during hot Danish summers.
One recommendation is the Havnebadet Islands Brygge (Eng: The Islands Brygge Harbour Baths); it’s completely free for anyone to rock up and start swimming. If you’re brave, you can even take dips in the wintertime!
To ensure a good trip, you can check both weather and water conditions on Copenhagen council’s website here, for both this spot and all the harbour swimming spots across the city.
25. See the (Real) Elephants at Frederiksberg Park
Another place you can find elephants in Copenhagen is in Frederiksberg Have. There’s a spot located within the park where you can overlook the elephant enclosure within Copenhagen Zoo. So if you don’t want to pay for a ticket, here’s a little tip to see some of it for free!
Have a look on Google Maps to see the exact pin location where you can see the elephants; they’re basically up and to the left once you enter Frederiksberg Park from Roskildevej.
26. Transport Yourself in the Cosmic Room Installation
Here’s yet another free permanent art installation you can see in Copenhagen – the Cosmic Room. Located in Islands Brygge, you can find a couple of weird little white pods by the water – don’t be afraid to go inside! You’ll find a breathtaking glass installation by Danish-Icelandic artist, Tróndur Paturssons.
More info about the installation can be found here.
27. Climb Copenhill
Part ski slope, part hiking spot, part, climbing wall, part waste management center…?! Copenhill is a unique feature of Copenhagen and a great example of how the city is a leader in sustainability. It’s essentially a giant sloped building that you can ski down or hike up; one side of the building has an 80m climbing wall, too. And all underneath the surface, the building processes waste management.
While the skiing does cost money, anyone is welcome to walk on the hiking paths going up the hill. This is another spot that provides fantastic views of the city so don’t forget your camera! This is certainly a unique Copenhagen experience.
28. Discover the other colourful harbour: Christianshavn
Forget Nyhavn – well, don’t actually because Nyhavn is pretty awesome – but if you’d like to experience another bright Danish harbour with colourful buildings dating from the 1600s, Christianshavn’s the place to go. A metro stop takes you right to its waterfront, and it’s a great place to go to get photos without all the crowds and commercialism of Nyhavn.
There are pubs, cafes and yummy bakeries galore here, too, so if you wanted to cheat your budget a bit for a Danish canal-side experience, I’d highly recommend this spot. Or you could even bring your own picnic! There are benches found all along the canals.
There’s also a Green Kayak spot here – again, right by the metro station – so if you wanted to explore Christianshavn by water, you can!
29. The Royal Library’s (Secret) Garden
Right behind the well-known Black Diamond national library building lies an oasis of calm few know about. This is perhaps one of my all-time favourite spots in Copenhagen – no joke. There’s an impressive fountain, koi fish, and the gardens are immaculately kept full of bright, beautiful flowers.
Pro tip: look along the white walls at the back of the garden (towards Christiansborg Palace). Hidden amongst the flower bushes, you might spot some large black rings bolted to the wall. These are actually old mooring rings – this entire garden used to be underwater; this space was an old naval harbour. The mooring rings that would dock ships in the 1600 and 1700s were left here as a reminder of its past. To give you an easier time finding them, as well as some other secrets hidden within the garden, you can watch my video about it here.
30. Picnic in the Park
You’re truly spoiled for choice for beautiful parks in Copenhagen. If I had to pick my absolute favourites for a picnic, they’d be, in no particular order: Søndermarken, Frederiksberg Have, Kongens Have, and Ørstedsparken. Take your pick!
If you wanted to experience Copenhagen like a local, you could take a picnic to one of these beautiful parks (weather permitting, of course). There are several budget supermarkets to be found around the city, like Netto, Fakta or Rema 1000.
31. Discover Amagertorv’s Hidden History
Located along the famous shopping street Strøget is a square called Amagertorv – this simply translates to Amager Square. It is recognisable by the beautiful stork fountain in the center of the square but other than that, there doesn’t seem to be anything more remarkable about the square at first glance.
How wrong you’d be!
Amagertorv actually dates back almost 1,000 years and, historically, it was the main market space for Copenhagen. It also houses an impressive Dutch renaissance-style building from 1616, as well as Copenhagen’s first ever pharmacy, which dated from the 1620s and was in business all the way up to the 1970s. I did a free guided tour of the square, which you can see below:
32. Cherry Blossoms at Bispebjerg Cemetery
This one is of course seasonal, but if you happen to be in Copenhagen during April, get yourself down to Bispebjerg Kirkegård. I wasn’t expecting much, the first time I went – after all, Copenhagen isn’t world famous for its cherry blossoms the way a country like Japan is – but I was blown away when I went.
Normally, during non-Covid times, Copenhageners met up there for picnics or to enjoy a coffee with friends and sit underneath the beautiful blossoms. So if you get the opportunity, definitely come check them out.
33. Winter Ice Skating
Another seasonal one but this time for those visiting during winter – perhaps coming to enjoy all the Christmas markets! Again, in non-corona affected times, many free ice rinks pop up all over the city – a popular one is in Kongens Nytorv, situated right next to Nyhavn. There are also usually rinks at Frederiksberg Runddel, Broens Isbane, and within Copenhagen Zoo.
So check ahead before you come (here’s the info page for Broens) and see if you need to pack some skates! You can of course also rent some, but there will be a small charge.
34. David’s Museum (Davids Samling)
Another free museum – except this one is free all week long! They house an interesting collection of Islamic art, as well as Danish and wider European art. The museum is located in a gorgeous neo-classical building overlooking Rosenborg Castle Gardens, so it’s worth a peek inside for that alone.
35. Go Troll Hunting
Hidden across Copenhagen are a number of giant wooden trolls created by artist Thomas Dambo. They’re located in areas that are nice to explore anyway, i.e. inside nature reserve Amager Fælleden or along the coastline, so it’s a good excuse to get out into nature and off the beaten Copenhagen path!
See a map of all of them here and plan your route here.
36. Run With the Locals
If you’re a keen runner and looking to connect with likeminded locals, there are three organised runs through Copenhagen available for free entry – one runs through Amager Strandpark (along the beach), another is through Fælled Park and the last is through the Amager Fælled nature reserve park.
This one could be a little tricky to book, as the website is unfortunately entirely in Danish – but with a browser translation app, it should be pretty straightforward to book yourself onto a run! So don’t be put off – you can check out the organisation’s website here. The booking form can be found here.
37. Hang Out With the Cool Kids at Dronning Louises Bro
Situated at the top of notable “cool” district of town, Nørrebro, sits a famous bridge called Dronning Louises Bro (English: Queen Louise’s Bridge). It stretches across the artificial lakes known as søerne (literally: the lakes). I personally don’t know how it came about, but it has a reputation for being a spot for the cool youths of Copenhagen to come hang out – particularly in the evening with a cold beer as the sun sets.
The lakes are just supremely pleasant to sit by, cool points or not, so you could bring your breakfast pastry here or bring some cheap beers along and get chatting with the locals! Find out what makes this spot so beloved.
38. Birds Eye View from Illum
Illum is a famous high end department store in Copenhagen (think Harvey Nichols or Harrods in London). It’s located along Strøget, directly next to Amagertorv that we mentioned earlier. If you enter the store and make your way to the escalators in the center, you can ascend all the way to the top floor and – through the cafe – gain access to a wonderful rooftop terrace overlooking the square.
39. Charlottenborg Kunsthal
On Wednesdays after 5pm, this European-focused modern art museum has free entrance until 8pm. It’s located along Nyhavn, so it’s an easy one to add to your itinerary!
40. Botanical Gardens
Located on Gothersgade are Copenhagen’s botanical gardens that are completely free to enter; if you want. to enter the palm house, however, this does cost more so keep this in mind when visiting.
41. Try a 100-Year-Old Paternoster Elevator
There are still 5 paternoster elevators remaining in Copenhagen. Don’t know what a paternoster is? Well, it’s an old timey elevator that has no doors and that just continually goes round and round on a chain – you just have to jump on at the right moment! Sometimes called “elevators of death”, these can understandably be dangerous and why most places have phased them out – so if you have any mobility issues, maybe skip this one.
However, located in the Axelborg building directly opposite Tivoli, you can find one dating from 1928 in the building’s beautiful art deco lobby. If you’re discreet, feel free to stop by and try one to check it off your bucket list! Just keep in mind that the building is an active office space, so please be respectful and keep noise to a minimum during your visit.
The link above shows me trying the Axelborg building paternoster and the episode description contains links to all the other paternoster locations in the city.
42. Check Out A Danish Flea Market
Every Sunday in Islands Brygge there’s a flea market that’s free for anybody to attend! It’s located along the water and is a fun way to discover what kinds of things locals have up for sale. Further information is unfortunately only in Danish but can be found (and translated) here.
43. Wave to Queen Margrethe at Amalienborg Palace
While it does cost money to enter the palace itself, the square at Amalienborg palace is beautiful and expansive and absolutely worth a stop by! As mentioned before, the changing of the guards takes place here every day at 12 pm and – as the official residence of the Danish royal family – you might just get lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of them going by!
44. Explore Copenhagen’s Most Picturesque Street
Located in what used to be the city’s old red light district, Magstræde consistently gets voted as Copenhagen’s most photogenic city, thanks to it’s winding, narrow cobbled road and colourful buildings. Go wander along and grab the perfect photo!
45. Go on a Nighttime Stroll
Copenhagen is an extremely safe city – in fact, it was recently voted THE safest city in the world, overtaking places like Tokyo and Singapore. Take advantage of this and go on a walk to see a different side of the city. I suggest a walk through “Indre By” (the Inner City, which is the oldest parts of the city); seeing monuments like the Round Tower all lit up at night is something you won’t quickly forget.
46. Peek Inside Copenhagen’s Famous Courtyards
There are so-called free walking tours in Copenhagen, however I’d use the term “free” loosely. The guides do expect to receive a tip at the end – understandably – but it can sometimes be unclear. So, by all means, go on one of these walking tours if you’d like a bit more of a guided group setting while visiting Copenhagen – but just know that it isn’t really free as advertised.