How to Explore Copenhagen For Free

After a thrifty yet fun first day exploring Denmark in Nørrebro, I was determined to carry this mindset on for the rest of my trip, starting with the city center. Here’s 4 ways to explore the center of Copenhagen for a fraction of the price most people pay.

After a fun day exploring Copenhagen’s Nørrebro neighbourhood on a budget, I was determined to carry this mindset on for the rest of my trip. Starting with the center of Copenhagen.

Here are 5 ways to explore the city for a fraction of the price most people pay

1. Take a Free Walking Tour

Offered in most cities throughout Europe, free walking tours are a great way to get your bearings, learn some local history and get in a bit of exercise. The tours often run for several hours, so it’s customary to tip the guide for their time. This amount can be whatever you think the tour was ‘worth’. You can find information on the different free tours on offer in Copenhagen here.

The main sites of the city include the Royal Palace of Amalienborg (where the royal family live) and Christiansborg Palace, the seat of Danish parliament.

There are also several old buildings with interesting histories. These include the tiny attic apartment at Hôtel du Nord where Hans Christian Anderson lived as a youth and the home of J.C Jacobsen, where he isolated a new strain of yeast which was used to brew a consistently good quality, tasty beer- Carlsberg! The discovery of this yeast changed the concept of brewing forever and all yeasts used to make lager beer are still derived from this original yeast.

Højbro Plads in Copenhagen
Højbro Plads

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Christiansborg Palace
Royal Palace of Amalienborg
Royal Palace of Amalienborg

Copenhagen

2. Beers at Nyhavn Like a Local

With it’s colourful conjoined houses, the Nyhavn waterfront area is synonymous with Copenhagen.

From here you can take sightseeing tours by boat or dine at one of the many restaurants. However, these restaurants are touristic and expensive, so for a more local and budget friendly option, buy beer from a bottle shop and sit on the edge of the canal to enjoy the atmosphere. In Denmark it’s legal and common to drink in the streets.

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

Nyhavn

 

 

3. Relax in a Beautiful Park

There are many stunning parks and gardens in Copenhagen. My favourite was the Rosenborg Castle Gardens, the oldest and most frequently visited gardens in Copenhagen. As well as expansive green areas, you’ll find historical buildings and monuments. There are even concerts and art exhibitions in summer.

It’s the perfect spot for a picnic lunch, sunbaking or afternoon beers.

Rosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle GardensRosenborg Castle Gardens

4. Explore Free Town Christiania

This self-proclaimed autonomous community within the city of Copenhagen is a free state operating semi-independently of the Danish government.

Famous for the open trade of marijuana, this has also brought great controversy to the area. Hard drugs were outlawed many years ago, yet there remains pressure from the Danish government to eradicate all drugs. There’s also controversy surrounding the ownership of the land, as the settlement was originally formed by squatting in government military property. Currently, the government strictly enforces a ban on the construction of new buildings in the district.

The main trading area of Christiania is known as ‘Pusher Street’ or the Green Light District and is very popular with tourists. It’s busy and noisy, with many different market stalls and places for live music. The leafy areas around the canal are more peaceful, with many locals unwinding on the banks.

Tip: take one of the higher quiet paths that lead between the houses and the canal- these beautiful, peaceful tracks away from the crowds are full of overhanging branches and pretty views.

 

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

Free Town Christiania

5. Take in the view from The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

What better way to end the day than a sunset view of Copenhagen from above? Located in Christiansborg Slotsplads, The Tower of Christiansborg Palace is the highest tower in Copenhagen and unlike many other aerial views in this city or elsewhere, it’s free!

It’s open everyday except Monday and there’s a lift going up, more info here. There’s also a restaurant in the tower- book ahead if this interests you.

Tip: be sure to leave enough time for waiting in the lift queue (around 30min).

The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

The Tower of Christiansborg Palace

 

If you liked exploring the center of Copenhagen, then why not try another neighbourhood? For tips on what to do in the edgy district of Norrebro,, check out this post.

How to Explore Copenhagen’s Norrebro District on a Budget

As soon as my plane touched down in Denmark and the crew announced we’d arrived in Copenhagen I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. The sun was streaming in the plane windows and I could see glimpses of lush green parks and picturesque buildings. I already felt like I loved the place.

However, I was a little less in love with how much money I anticipated I might spend during a weekend in Denmark’s capital. Scandinavian countries are renowned for being expensive but with a bit of know-how you can opt for bargain alternatives.

Here are 9 ways to save money in Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district

 

 

 

1. Take the Metro from the Airport to Nørrebro

By far the easiest and cheapest way to get to the city is by metro. Running every 6 minutes, it’s 5€ and takes under 15 minutes to get to Nørreport metro station. From here it’s a 10 minute walk to Nørrebro.

 

2. Explore the Side-streets of Nørrebro

Nørrebro is a multicultural district of Copenhagen which has experienced a huge resurgence in the last 5 years. Full of unique stores and interesting activities, the area is full of life and popular with students, creatives and travelers.

There’s a stack of cafes, bars and restaurants with a huge range of food from delicious (and cheap) kebabs to trendy coffee places and high-end restaurants. There are also some beautiful green areas to relax in, including the famous Assistens Cemetery.  This is the perfect district to stroll around aimlessly.

Nørrebro streetsNørrebro

Nørrebro

3. Relax in Hans Tavsens Park

After exploring the busy streets, the beautiful parks make for the perfect place to relax.

In warmer months there are often outdoor events at public parks, normally involving some form of free or cheap food. If not, then a picnic in the park is much cheaper and more relaxing than dining in a crowded restaurant.

Hans Tavsens ParkHans Tavsens Park

 

 

 

4. Wander Assistens Cemetery

This stunning cemetery is one the largest green area in Nørrebro.

The outer area provides plenty of leafy nooks for reading or sunbathing, while the inner burial section is reserved for funerals and families paying their respects to loved ones. In one corner of the cemetery you’ll also find the grave of Hans Christian Anderson.

Assistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens CemeteryAssistens Cemetery

 

5. Enjoy a Delicious Lunch at a Local Cafe

To save a lot of money without compromising on flavour, have lunch on one of the less touristy cafes. The main street, Nørrebrogade has a range of multicultural food options.

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6. Stroll down Jægersborggade

Possibly the coolest street in Copenhagen, Jægersborggade has a bunch of perfect little shops with interesting, beautiful wares.

There are vintage clothing stores, plant shops like Plant Copenhagen, designer jewelry stores and an eco-friendly store. There’s also numerous cafes and icecream shops- including one that uses liquid nitrogen to make icecream while you wait. The food stores usually offer free tasters and there are regularly street parties with music and cheap food.

 

 

7. Relax with Free Coffee at this Perfectly Curated Bookstore

If you’re tired after all this wondering then head to Ark Books, a non-profit, volunteer run, international bookstore.

They have a carefully selected range of excellent books, each being someone’s favourite. The volunteers revel in the opportunity to discuss these titles. There’s also free tea and coffee and I picked up a free copy of the collective’s essays and thoughts on novels from the year gone.

Ark Books

Ark Books

 

8. Finish the Day with Refreshing & Great Value Cocktails

Just around the corner from Ark Books you’ll find a picturesque bar at number 24 Griffenfeldsgade.

While the plants out the front caught my eye, it was the sign advertising 2 cocktails for for 90 Danish Krones (12€) that drew me in. This is very good value for Scandinavia and the cheapest cocktails I found anywhere in Denmark.

Cocktail Bar

Cocktail Bar

 

 

9. Stay in Bargain Accommodation

Staying in Copenhagen is not cheap. Even for shared dormitory rooms I struggled to find anything under 50€ a night over weekend periods. In the end I found these two hostels in Nørrebro for 30€ and 40€ per night.

Sleep in Heaven hostel is right next to Assistens Cemetery and has great communal areas, pretty views from the breakfast room and good value all you can eat breakfast for about 8€.

Globalhagen Hostel is run by volunteers and has a wonderful cafe/bar (Café Mellemrummet) on the bottom level. The super cosy cafe hosts various events like debates, stand-up comedy, concerts and talks. It’s also stocked with board games and is a great place to meet people from all over the world.

 

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Want to explore further afield than Copenhagen? Why not take a day trip to the beautiful coastal town of Helsingor. You can find information and photos here.

Five Of The Best Things To Do In Riga

Riga is both effortlessly cool and elegantly rustic. I didn’t plan anything before I arrived, but here are 5 things I stumbled onto and am so glad I didn’t miss!

With a lively and effortlessly cool atmosphere, Latvia’s capital, Riga is the largest city in the Baltics.

Founded in 1201, the city has a rich history, with the old town listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Unlike Estonia’s medieval fairy-tale town of Tallinn, Riga is entwined with more modern architecture, and diverse local culture.

Here are 5 things you should do if you visit the Latvian capital

 

Riga

 

1. Stay in the Art Nouveau Area

Riga’s Art Nouveau district is full of beautiful, intricately detailed buildings and trendy restaurants, cafes and shops. Street names to look out for include Strelnieku iela, Dzirnavu iela and Alberta iela. 

The best eateries I found were Mr. Fox for breakfast,  PiraniJa for pizza and board games, and Burga for excellent value drinks, burgers and traditional dishes.

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Art Nouveau Area of Riga

Riga
“Labor omnia vincit” – work conquers all!

2. Explore the Old Town: Vecrīga

On the east side of the Daugava River, this UNESCO world heritage site is full of beautiful churches, colourful buildings and many pedestrian-only streets to wander down.

Some of the more famous buildings include  St Peter’s Church, the Cat House and the Building of the Brotherhood of Blackheads, And then there’s the statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, based on a Brothers Grimm fairy tale and proclaimed to grant wishes if you touch the animals of the statue!

Riga old town

Riga town square

 

3. Walk Through the Beautiful Parks

There’s nothing quite like a morning walk or jog through a foreign land! Riga provides plenty of stunning parks, centered around a gentle winding river.

Riga ParkRiga ParkRiga Park

 

 

4. Enjoy Riga’s Markets

Just out of the city is the wonderful produce and handicraft market Kalnciema Street Market.

Full of a huge variety of delicious, cheap local food, this is a must for any foodie. The market is open 10am – 4pm on Saturdays and is a 40 minute walk across the river from Riga’s Old Town.

If you want a market a little closer to the Old Town then head to the Central Market. With over 3,000 stalls covering 72,000 square meters, this is Europe’s largest market! To top it off, the market is housed in old German Zeppelin hangers which are now World Heritage listed. The central market is open daily from 7am – 6pm.

Riga Market

Market food
Quail eggs so many different ways… fried on skewers, picked in soy sauce, used in liqueur, meringue and quail meat jerky!
Market food
Oven baked doughnuts with natural colouring like blackberry or spinach… yum!
Riga's Central Market
Riga’s Central Market

 

 

5. Take in the View of the City From Above

There are several locations throughout Riga where you marvel at the layers of history below, whilst also getting your bearings of the somewhat chaotic city.

St. Peter’s Church offers views from near the top of it’s 123 meter tower for 9€. A little expensive compared to other touristic attracions in Latvia.

Vertigo Bar, at the top of a cinema complex in Forum offers discount cards for 2 for 1 cocktails. A cheap and wonderful way to watch the sunset over the spires of Riga!

Skyline bar on the 26th floor of the Radisson Blu hotel also has reasonable drink prices and an unparalleled views.

The Academy of Sciences Building was by far my favourite place to view Riga from above. It has a decidedly Accidentally Wes Anderson look about it, and the building itself is as spectacular as the view from the top of it’s 17th story.

Riga Skyline

The Academy of Sciences Building
The Academy of Sciences Building

The city from above

An Alternative Day Trip From Tallinn: three interesting sights

While Tallinn’s old town provides an enchanting time-warp, if you’re visiting Estonia and want to get out of the city to see an alternative side of the area then here are a few lesser-known options. As each place is quite far from the next, you will either need to hire a car for the day or join an organised day tour. I decided to do a day trip with Traveller Tours and had a wonderful experience.

1. Keila-Joa Manor House and Waterfall

Built by a German aristocratic family on banks of the Keila river in 1833, the neo-gothic manor house and surrounding walking paths provide a beautiful place to relax on a sunny day.

Just up stream you’ll find a wide waterfall- touted as Estonia’s most romantic. In winter the waterfall often freezes over, creating a beautiful icy curtain.

 

Keila Waterfall
Keila Waterfall

2. Padise Abbey and Manor house

In the 14th century, monks who had been dispossessed from their Latvian Dünamünde Abbey founded this Cistercian Monastery. Over the years it became a fortress and then a country house in the 18th century. Now, abandoned ruins are all that remain.

Like most places in Estonia, you have free reign to explore the site, including the musty dirt-floor cellars and high tower, reached by old wooden and stone steps.

Padise Abbey

Padise Abbey

 

3. Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu quarry was formed in the late 1930s, with prisoners from nearby prisons used in the excavation of limestone until the 1990s. To stop flooding, groundwater was pumped out during the quarry’s operation. However, after it’s closure the water built up to form a lake, submerging part of the utility buildings and machinery.

The quarry is not accessible to the public as it is now private property. However, tour companies do offer diving and kayaking in the lake during summer, and day tour options in colder months. By far my favourite alternative site!

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Rummu Sunken Prison

Finnish Summer Cottages: The Perfect Escape From City Life

Everything about Finnish summer cottages screams relaxation and rediscovering what is important in life. Families often spend all summer at their cottage and then sporadic weekends during the year. Some even choose to live there permanently.

Often nestled in the woods beside a lake, the cabins usually have no running water or mod cons. However, in typical Finnish style, there’s nearly always a sauna. This combination of simple pleasures and lack of modern technology helps to truly relax and unwind.

Here’s a taste of what to expect from a weekend away at a traditional Finnish Summer Cottage

 

Summer Cottage by a Lake

Lake Views

Usually summer cottages are found by pristine lakes

Access to a sauna is critical, as is a jetty to jump into the lake between sauna sessions!

Lake side jetty with sauna in background
The sauna house in the background and a jetty for cooling off in the lake

 

Good food shared together is another key part of the cottage experience

 

Shared dinner at the summer cottage

Summer cottages are just one of the things to love about Finland. For more reasons to visit check out this post.

Relaxing by the lake at the summer cottage