The challenge: visit museums, watch a movie at an open-air cinema and enjoy amazing rooftop views of Copenhagen, all for free
Award-winning Copenhagen regularly features in the top 10 Best Places to Live in the World, but also ranks highly in The Most Expensive Cities in the World and Cities You Can Never Afford to Live In categories. We know that, as a visitor to this picturesque but pricey paradise, you’ll be craving some suggestions for free things to do. That’s why we’ve made some inquiries, called some friends in Copenhagen and compiled this list of free activities in the Danish capital.
Admire the Little Mermaid statue (before it gets defaced again)
This is both the biggest and the smallest attraction in Copenhagen. If you come expecting a giant, imposing sculpture you’ll be disappointed, but what the statue lacks in size, it makes up for with its frankly bizarre history. The poor Little Mermaid has been decapitated three times, had her right arm amputated once, has twice been covered in a burqa and was pushed off her rock in 2003. She has even been photographed, embarrassingly, with a dildo in her hand.
Enjoy a bird’s-eye view over Copenhagen
Since 2004, the Tower (Tårnet) of Christiansborg – the palace of the Parliament – has opened its doors to visitors free of charge. If you can handle the long lines and crowds of tourists, you’ll be rewarded with splendid views over Copenhagen. You can also dine at the restaurant inside the tower, although it’ll cost you a cartload of krone.
The Tower of Christiansborg is open Tuesday–Sunday: 11 am – 9 pm. More useful information here.
Watch the changing of the royal guards
Amalienborg Palace is the official home of the Danish royal family, which is why it requires protection by scores of guards in ornate uniforms. Some of the guards change every two hours, but the most impressive scene occurs at noon, when all the guards change their posts to the sound of majestic music.
Picnic in the King’s Garden
Bring a picnic blanket, a feast and a bottle of bubbly with you to the King’s Garden (Kongens Have in Danish) at Rosenborg Palace, and you too will feel like royalty as you laze on the picnic-perfect grass. Visit the garden in summer to enjoy an array of free events, including concerts, puppet shows and exhibitions. It’s open 7 am – 18 pm.
Ride a bike through the city streets
Practically everyone cycles through Copenhagen’s extremely bike-friendly streets, and the best way to blend in is to do the same. You can take advantage of Copenhagen’s bike rental system, which has been free of charge since 1995. All you need is a 2 euro coin for a deposit, which you’ll get back when you return the bike.
Swim outdoors (in summer)
You may think you’re too far north to swim outdoors, but if you visit Copenhagen in the summer months you’ll see hordes of Danes splashing about in the water. Head to Brygge Islands, a wonderful free pool near the port and just a stone’s throw from the city center, to take the plunge. The water is clean and refreshing, although definitely on the chilly side.
Walk around the free town of Christiania
The world-famous bohemian neighborhood of Christiania was founded in 1971 as a haven for hippies and non-conformists, and soon gained a reputation as the place to buy hash and pot (but no hard drugs). Today, many of the original settlers still live in the collectively controlled village within the city, helping the area retain its laid-back ’70s feel. A lot of those Christianians built their homes themselves, which explains the quirky architecture on display.
Enrich your mind at Copenhagen’s free museums
Join the festivities at Copenhagen Pride
Every year in mid-August the city’s LGBT community celebrates Copenhagen Pride with a range of out-there activities and flamboyant festivities. Dates and more information here.
Catch a movie at Copenhagen’s open-air summer cinema
Every summer, Danish TV channel 2 Zulu hosts the Zulu Summer Open-Air Cinema, which pops up in city parks throughout Denmark. Admission is free, so all you have to do is bring a blanket, some food and drinks (which you can also buy on site), and insect repellent. Exact dates and locations change every year, so ask a local to help plan your cinema session. Read our guide of Copenhagen as a movie location inspiration.