After a hectic 5 days in Brussels for EDM festival Tomorrowland, we headed north to take advantage of the Scandinavian summer. Our time here was minimal (7 days) because this city isn’t one for the budget backpacker, however, it wasn’t going to stop us visiting this beautiful city!
Our first impressions of Copenhagen were that similar of Amsterdam. There were canals, there was cheese and there was a heck of a lot of bikes, ok maybe not as many as Amsterdam but still a considerable amount. When the city is so flat and bike friendly, why wouldn’t you ride your bike everywhere?
Attempting to fit in with the locals, we rented bikes from a store near our apartment and set off on an adventure. We rode bikes around the city for 10 hours and visited almost all of Copenhagen. Once we returned, it felt weird to be on foot again.
Note: There are bike stores to rent bikes everywhere, we just walked into the closest one to our house. Try renting away from the city centre to avoid overpriced rentals. We paid 10 euro per bike, for 24 hours.
Copenhagen Bike Route
We began our ride from our Airbnb apartment in Norrebro (top left of map). Below, is a list of all the places we visited, in order of how we rode.
Nørrebro is a neighbourhood that has a large population of middle eastern immigrants. We stayed in an apartment in this area and couldn’t help but notice all the kebab shops that lined the main street. Some would say that Nørrebrogade (the main street) is the shawarma street of Copenhagen. This upcoming area competes with Vesterbro to attract the city’s hipster crowd. We picked up our bikes and set off in the wide bike lane towards our first stop… food!
This little restaurant, Ritas Smorrebrod is worth a mention in itself. If you aren’t familiar with Danish food, step in here and you’ll soon be educated. A Smorrebrod is a piece of bread, a Danish wholegrain rye and it is topped with a variety of things such as cheese, eggs, fish, turkey, shrimps, smoked salmon, caviar, herring (ew!), bacon, lettuce, you get the drift. Forget the top piece, these are all open face sandwiches and are delicious! Ritas offers a huge variety and for extremely affordable prices. Only open until 2 pm, be sure to get there by 12:30 pm if you still want to have a selection to choose from.
The Round Tower
The Round Tower also know as the Rundetaarn is located in the Pedestrian area of Gråbrødretorvand. Standing 36m high, the tower was built between 1637 and 1642 as an astronomical observatory. There is a viewing platform at the top that offers panoramic views of the city but you’ll have to walk the 209m spiral staircase to get up there. Today, the tower is still used regularly by amateur astronomers.
Strøget shopping street
Stroget is Copenhagen’s main shopping street and falls right after the public square of Gråbrødretorvand. Stroget is the longest pedestrian street in the world and is filled with shoppers all day long. It wasn’t the best idea to try and walk through these crowded streets with a bike so we recommend parking it before you walk down the street. You’ll find all the big name shops along here along with some boutique stores. There is also a wide range of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Touristy, but they are there.
Tivoli Gardens / Amusement Park
Ok, so we kind of cheated and didn’t go inside Tivoli Gardens, we just rode by (& took a photo through the fence). This is a lot of people’s #1 when visiting Copenhagen but it was simply too expensive for us. The park which opened in 1843 is the second oldest operating theme park in the world and it has been a popular place for tourists and locals ever since.
Inside is one of Europe’s most visited theme parks (and the second oldest in the world) with a variety of rides, most popular being the wooden rollercoaster. However, besides the theme park, Tivoli Gardens also serves as a venue for various performing arts & as an active part of the cultural scene in Copenhagen, along with gardens and a variety of restaurants. See here for more details.
Go Boat Rentals
GoBoat is one of the coolest concepts. You can rent a small self-drive boat for 1-3 hours with up to 8 people and head out on the canals at your own pace. Bring along champagne & snacks and have yourself a picnic. The boats are very user-friendly and affordable, especially with multiple people. Unfortunately, they were all booked out in Copenhagen but we did have the chance to do the same boats with the same company in Stockholm. Be sure to reserve a spot online, especially on the weekends.
Cost (in Copenhagen): 1 hr 399 DKK ($60 USD), 2 hrs 114 DKK ($114 USD), 3 hrs 999 DKK ($152 USD) and any additional hour 333 DKK ($50 USD).
We weren’t really sure what to expect when we rode to Christiania. Christiania is an alternative neighbourhood and very different from any other neighbourhood in Copenhagen. The town sprouted up almost 40 years ago, by hippies who developed their own set of society rules, completely independent of the Danish government. Inside Christiania, there are workshops, art galleries, music venues, some outdoor bars and a whole lot of quirky graffiti. No cars are allowed and bikes are the main form of transportation. To buy a house in Christiana, you must apply and be lucky to be accepted, you cannot just buy like you usually would.
Inside Christiana is The Green Light District, an unofficial weed and hash dealing area that runs along “Pusher Street”. Since 2004, the Danish government cracked down on the illegal selling of hash but it’s hard to believe, considering you can still see the small dry green bags being sold everywhere at the stalls by sellers covering their faces in balaclavas. After all, it is a “free town”.
Note: When visiting, there are signs that say “Do not photograph past this point”, they mean it. This is mainly due to the hash dealing which is illegal in Denmark. Don’t risk taking pictures, they will take away your camera.
Copenhagen Street Food
A warehouse full of food trucks? Could there be anything better? We discovered Copenhagen Street Food by accident & loved it immediately. They have tables and chairs all along the water, as well as ample seating inside. The food trucks consisted of an international range of foods and all of the trucks were very quirky and well decorated. The food market is on the so-called Paper Island (Papirøen) a short stroll (or ride) from the Nyhavn Harbour. The perfect spot for a summer afternoon on the water or winter afternoon indoors!
One of our favourite stops on our route. The Nyhavn Harbour looks exactly like the postcards and thankfully the sun was shining to brighten up the colourful houses. At the end of the harbour, there is an anchor which serves as a memorial to Danish sailors who lost their lives in World War II. Many canal boats pass through the harbour and you’ll find an abundance of cafes and restaurants.
Amalienborg Palace is the winter home of the Danish Royal Family. The palace is made up of four grand palaces on a square. Often you’ll see Danish princes and princesses driving in and out of the castle. Every day at around 11.30am, the Royal Guard marches from Rosenborg Castle through the city to Amalienborg Palace, ready to take up their post at Queen Margrethe’s door.
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is the official emblem of Copenhagen and poses for photos all day long. In the winter months, the lake freezes beside her and brings completely different scenery. The reason she is so famous? They say ” The bronze sculpture, created by Edvard Eriksen in 1913, is based on a theme from one of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, which tells the tale of a mermaid who once came up out of the depths of the sea because she’d fallen in love with a prince. Sadly, as the prince didn’t reciprocate, she was forced to leave the human world and return once more to the sea.”
More food! I mean we had been on our bikes all day! At Torvehallerne you will find over 60 food stalls selling everything from seafood to cupcakes and everything in between.
We spent a considerable (and by considerable, we mean 2 hours) walking around these markets, sampling our way through every single food stall. Can you even get full off of samples? Well, we did. Apart from all the samples, we bought a single Smorrebrod with one small piece of battered fish on top…the price tag? $13 USD. Now you see why we sampled our way through these food markets. Regardless, the food markets are beautiful, fun, modern and a must visit in Copenhagen!
Content tummies, yet sore legs, we were pretty impressed with the distance we covered in Copenhagen. It is so much easier being on a bike than by foot, especially when you are pressed for time.
Next and final stop… home, to rest those legs! I wonder how many km’s we rode that day?!
How long to spend in Copenhagen
As a backpacker, 2-3 days is more than enough to see the city and its main sites. Not on a budget? 5-6 days would be enough.
Tips for Copenhagen on a Budget
- If you have to eat at a restaurant, do so during lunch when there are lunch specials (as well as buffets) are only about 70-110 DDK. Eating out at lunch is much cheaper than dinner.
- Cook some meals at home, the grocery stores are reasonably priced and there are many markets to grab fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Check out Airbnb over hostels and hotels. Private rooms have the best deals.
- Don’t bother with taxis, the bus system is very good. The tickets can be bought on the bus, with coins only.
- If you plan on visiting several of the city’s attractions and staying for more than a few days, consider pre-purchasing a Copenhagen Card. The card gives you free entry into 74 Copenhagen attractions, free, unlimited use of the city’s public transport networks; and discounts for certain restaurants, tours & museums.
- Embrace the street food (& samples!) there is nothing wrong with some street food.
Copenhagen is a beautiful city with a lot to offer but due to our backpacker budget, we couldn’t indulge as much as we would have liked. By this, we mean, we wish we could have eaten at more restaurants + experienced the nightlife, but hey, there’s more to life than food and drink… or is there?
Married days survived: 525