There are so many great things to do in Copenhagen. What you may not expect is that not all of them have to break your budget. Sure, Copenhagen CAN be an expensive city, but it doesn’t have to be! There’s a lot to do around Copenhagen for free. Some of the best known attractions cost money, like Tivoli Gardens and doing a canal tour. Still, there are plenty of things you can do for no cost, from gardens to parks to parliament – here are a dozen free things to do in Copenhagen. Add them into your itinerary between other attractions and stretch your budget without sacrificing fun in Copenhagen.
Christianborg Observation Platform
A great place to start your free attractions is Christianborg Slot. This is the former royal palace and it sits surrounded by canals on an island called Slotsholmen. In modern times, Christianborg is the seat of Danish Parliament. The building also houses the Supreme Court of Denmark and the Ministry of State. It’s the location where dignitaries and world leaders gather when they visit Copenhagen. It’s also a fantastic location to snag a bird’s eye view of the city.
Visitors can enter the building and wait in line to ride the elevator to the observation platform atop Christianborg Slot. From the landing of the elevator you can climb the tower to an observation deck with 360° views of Copenhagen. There are few buildings taller than 5 stories high in Copenhagen, so you can see far and wide. Helpful signs are in place around the platform to point out landmarks around the city. There are other options to get a great view of the city. However, alternatives like The Round Tower and Church of Our Saviour will cost money to enter and climb. Christianborg Palace includes an elevator and is free of charge. That’s hard to beat!
Christiania is a very unique place to visit wile you’re in Copenhagen, however, it’s not really part of the city itself. At least to the residents who live there it is not. Freetown Christiania is a mostly-autonomous commune located within Copenhagen city. It’s located on the site of an abandoned military barracks that was occupied by squatters in 1971. The Danish government and city officials decided that it was easier to tolerate their presence and today it’s a community of 850-1,000 individuals.
The marijuana trade is largely tolerated in Christiania and the main street is known as Pusher Street. Visitors are not permitted to take pictures within Christiania, but it’s still a cool place to visit. The hippie village in the middle of town is home to street art, homemade crafts being sold and outdoor cafes. The commune has evolved with the times and there are even tours of the destination. It’s free to enter and a cool spot to stroll through or even stop and buy lunch or a drink.
The Black Diamond
The Black Diamond is the name given to Copenhagen’s Danish Royal Library. It’s most specifically the nickname of the modern extension to the library which shimmers on the waterfront of Copenhagen Harbor. The name is well earned because when the sunlight reflects off of the building’s angles it shines like a black diamond. The beautiful building is a sight to admire from every angle. Best of all, you can enter and explore the library for free. Inside you have exhibits, a gift shop, a cafe and of course – the library. It’s also a fantastic place to sit outside and enjoy the views of the harbor. There is a delightful deck with tables and sun chairs for visitors to use.
Kongens Have - The King's Garden
Kongens Have, or the King’s Garden, is the oldest and most visited park in central Copenhagen. It’s the gardens surrounding Rosenborg Castle and full of people almost every day of the year. In the warmer months you’ll find people playing games, picnicking and sunbathing. There are free concerts, art exhibitions and movies as long as the weather allows. Even in the winter months you’ll find people strolling through the gardens and snapping pictures of the gorgeous castle. There’s no bad time of year to visit Copenhagen or to check out the King’s Garden while you’re there. That’s why its one of the best free things to do in Copenhagen.
Nørreboro's Superkilen Park
The Nørrebro neighborhood of Copenhagen is exciting and diverse. It’s full of vibrant art, cafes, pubs and parks. One place you’ve got to visit when you visit Copenhagen is Superkilen Park. Not only is it an exciting free thing to do in Copenhagen, you can take the coolest pictures in Superkilen. The bright murals, artistic takes on traditional park equipment and the blacktop hill of lines make great backdrops for your instagram selfies.
The park opened in 2012 and is part of Copenhagen’s urban renewal plan. The design was a collaboration between a German landscape architecture firm and a local arts group. The end result is a stunning display of innovation in design and a must-visit stop in Copenhagen.
Copenhagen Botanical Garden
The University of Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden is a fantastic location in Copenhagen’s City Center. The historic greenhouses date back to the 1874 and serves an educational and recreational purpose for the city. Walking the grounds surrounding the greenhouses is reason enough to visit the Botanical Gardens. The park is built around the city’s former ramparts and moat. Ribbons of trail weave around the gardens and the result is a beautiful urban green space.
The complex consists of 27 glasshouses. In the largest one you’ll find a palm dating back to 1824. There is also a museum, conservatory and an exhibition of Arctic plants in an air-conditioned structure. The whole Botanical Gardens is open to the public and free of charge.
The Little Mermaid Statue
Den Lille Havfrue is the name of a bronze statue on Copenhagen Harbor. You may have heard of its English name, The Little Mermaid. It’s a statue depicting a mermaid becoming human and one of the most popular spots to visit in Copenhagen. While it is among the free things to do in Copenhagen, it’s popularity makes it tricky to photograph. If you visit the statue, plan to arrive early. This will help you avoid the inevitable crowds. You may be surprised at the size of the statue – it’s actually quite small. Still, it’s an icon of Copenhagen and the walk to the location is quaint and charming.
As mentioned above, the Danish Parliament is seated in Christianborg Slot. The palace is the historic home of Danish Royalty and a popular destination to visit. To learn more about the history of the palace and its current role in Danish politics, you can explore more through a free 45 minute tour. Tours in English are conducted by Parliament Officers every Sunday. You must prebook a tour online through this link.
Kastellet is a military installation in Copenhagen that is free to enter. It dates back to the 1600s and is one of Northern Europes oldest and best preserved citadels. Keep in mind that it’s still an active military facility. This means you will see guards and it’s occasionally closed for training and military purposes. Some famous structures that you’ll be able to check out on Kastellet are The Citadel Church and the famous windmill. There are five bastions surrounded by a protective moat. There are two gates at Kastellet. The south-facing gate is known as the King’s Gate and it faces the city. Norway Gate is the north-facing gate and is so named because at the time of construction, the Kingdom of Denmark included Norway.
Kastellet is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. It’s a nice calm park in the center of Copenhagen and a reminder of the naval and military legacy of Denmark. Best of all, it’s free and a short walk from The Little Mermaid statue and Amalienborg Slot, the Danish Royal Palace.
Thorvaldsens Museum on Wednesdays
Bertel Thorvaldsen was a Danish sculptor who created works of art in plaster and in marble. Thorvaldsen was also an avid collector of antique sculpture. His own works and his private collection are on display at the museum that bears his name. It’s located on the same island where you’ll find Christianborg Slot, Slotsholmen. You can visit Thorvaldsens Museum for free every Wednesday. To help plan your visit and to read more about his collection, click here.
The Danish Design Museum (maybe)
The Danish Design Museum isn’t free for just everyone, but if you’re a student or under 26 – you’re free. Unfortunately for those of us over 26, there’s no day of the week where admission costs are suspended either. Still, the museum is worth seeing, and it makes our list of free things to do in Copenhagen because some readers will get in with no charge.
The Danish Design Museum is located in an 18th century building that was once Denmark’s first public hospital. Even if you aren’t into design, it’s a fascinating look into the history of Scandinavian and Danish influence on modern day design. Exhibits also explain the focus of Danish design on innovations like sustainability. It won’t take a long time in Copenhagen for you to realize the importance of environmental issues to the people of Denmark. This is reflected in the design culture and an interesting takeaway from the museum no mater what you pay or don’t pay to enter.
Bonus tip: Check out the Danish Design Museum podcast before you visit. You can play it back while you’re there, but the history you’ll hear can give you a great foundation to appreciate the exhibits you’ll explore. You can also listen if you’re flying to Copenhagen and on the fence about visiting the museum. Most likely you’ll be pushed towards fitting it in your itinerary, but it could save you time and/or money if not. Listen to it here.
The Glyptotek Museum on Tuesdays
It’s hard to experience Copenhagen and not feel the legacy of Carlsberg. The Jacobsen family, who founded and ran Carlsberg, have touched many parts of Danish life. Their impact is far more than their beer legacy, they have restored castles, funded the arts and bestowed The Glyptotek Museum on the people of Denmark.
The Glyptotek is a museum created from the personal collection of art and sculpture. The main focus of the museum is sculpture from the ancient Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome. There are also works from Auguste Rodin, famed French sculptor. Paintings from the Danish Golden Age are also prominently displayed as well as works from French masters and Post-Impressionist artists.
Much like The Louvre in Paris or The Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, The Glyptotek is renowned for being a work of art in itself. The building is gorgeous and the centerpiece is the Winter Gardens which connects multiple wings of the museum. It has mosaic floors, a fountain, palm trees and a glass dome.
The entire Glyptotek experience is available to visitors free of charge on Tuesdays.
As you may imagine, there are some other things that you can do for free depending on the time of year that you visit Copenhagen. For example, in the summer you can visit any of the beaches for free. Amager Beach is a gorgeous man-made beach along the Baltic Sea that you can visit for no cost. There are public swimming areas in the Harbor as well. These activities are best enjoyed in the summer season of course.
In the winter you can’t experience the Danish capital without visiting Copenhagen’s Christmas Markets. Besides the Christmas Market at Tivoli Gardens, they are all free of charge. You may pay to buy a cup of hot chocolate or a warm pastry, but you can enjoy the atmosphere free of charge.
Whenever you visit, there will be plenty for you to take in for free or no charge. Copenhagen can be a pricey city, but you can make up for the cost of living by incorporating free activities in your itinerary.
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