Copenhagen on a Budget
Travelling on a budget is always daunting. Are you missing out on the best excursions, food or that once in a lifetime experience? What extravagances can you cut without ending up eating beans in a grubby youth hostel? But as with everything in life money can’t buy you happiness. Even if it can buy you a yacht to sail up next to it. If done well a budget trip includes plenty of authentic and exciting encounters and still finds room for those memorable luxuries. Case in point Copenhagen.
Denmark's capital is situated on the island of Zealand and hosts the country’s royal family along with amazing galleries, museums and of course the city’s theme park; which peaks between medieval spires and sleek Scandinavian architecture occasionally shooting a screaming rollercoaster over the rooftops. Old Zealand holds a lot of similarities to its younger namesake in that it is incredibly friendly to tourists and makes every effort to provide a sincere welcome without ever feeling overly pushy or artificial. A flight from Stansted can cost as little as £75 return and upon arrival, an automated rail service will transfer you to the city centre in less than 20 minutes. Once there you can catch trams, buses, bike taxis and any number of clean, fast and ridiculously cheap transfers. As a Brit abroad it is impossible not to feel a national sense of inadequacy in the face of Danish public transport and hospitality.
While hostels and hotels are reasonably priced Air B and B is still a clear winner when choosing accommodation. The north-west neighbourhood of Nørrebro has loads of places to stay and is a lively spot filled with record shops and indi bars. It is a little further out than some places but it makes for a pleasant walk or cycle, through leafy streets passing landmarks such as the Assistens Cemetery and the Zoological museum which boasts a beautiful collection of mounts ranging from taxidermy to dinosaurs. City museums are not free and range from £5 to £15 entry, however, it is money well spent and once inside the cafes and restaurants are high quality and cheaper than many central spots.
The best way to see the city is on a bike. Many companies offer cycling tours and bike hire but the cheapest and the very best is Mike’s Bikes. The small business is located on the southern tip of the main island near Ørsteds Park and is a hidden gem. Mike is quite frankly a marvel. “Retired for 30 years” as he puts it Mike will take you on a tour of the city taking in every major landmark, chatting like a cheeky grandpa and generally showing us all how to live. With stops to talk to shop keepers, Mike’s friends and generally anyone who takes his fancy the tour takes in the opera house, docks, parliament, old town, the royal palace and culminates in the beautiful Kastellet; a converted floating fort which boasts gardens, sculptures and fountains as well as the world-famous little mermaid sculpture. Mike begrudgingly shows off the landmark before directing attention to the much more impressive sculpture gardens ignored by almost every camera clicking tourist on the waterfront.
As the world leader of shipping, it makes sense that Copenhagen is very well serviced by water taxies and ferries. From Kastellet it is a five-minute boat ride over to Trangravsvej and the best street food market in Europe. The legendary Noma and 108 restaurants can be seen from this unassuming collection of shipping containers and plywood but the diversity on offer and the quality of the food and chefs provide all the elements of gourmet Scandinavian cuisine at a fraction of the price. It hosts live music and is a great place to watch the sunset over the brushed steel opera house or swim in one of Copenhagen’s many public swim spots.
By now the wallet of the thrifty traveller may be feeling a little tight and while the galleries and museums are well worth a look there are lots of cheaper options on offer. A climb of the twisting spire of Vor Frelsers Kirke provides panoramic views of the city. The waterfront Havnebadet Islands is a great spot for wild swimming in the city centre and to the south-east, the bohemian enclave of Christiania is well worth a visit. The hippy colony consists of artist squats, self-built houses, storybook castles and bustling streets filled with performers and market stalls. It is a great place to get lost and enjoy a little madness. Where ever you go, Copenhagen is filled with street art and eye-catching architecture and you could do a lot worse than simply promenading through the streets, parks and gardens. However, there is one place which can not be overlooked and to hell with the expense! Tivoli Gardens is quite simply magical.
The theme park sits in the very centre of the city and is certainly worth the £45 entrance fee. The inspiration behind Disney land the park is over 170 years old and houses gardens, lakes, roller coasters, aquariums, circus acts', live music, puppet shows and peacocks. Destroyed in part in world war two Tivoli has been restored and built upon time and time again capturing the styles of each period as it goes. Hans Christian Anderson was inspired by its gardens and in turn, the park features rides dedicated to his stories. A cocktail bar on board a pirate ship looks out across a Chinese dragon roller coaster, while brass bands and circus acts compete with each other from art deco stages and Victorian music halls. The best time to see the park is in the afternoon and evening since as the sun sets the whole park is illuminated allowing for candlelit dinners and night flights in tumbling biplanes or gently rising hot air balloons. For the cost of a few pints in London Tivoli Gardens is an experience not to be missed and makes for an unforgettable climax to one of Europe’s best value mini-breaks.