Experience wonderful cut-price Copenhagen
Despite its notoriously expensive reputation, the Danish capital can be an affordable break, writes Lauren Taylor
Strolling down Vaernedamsve, a picturesque street between the former red light district of Vesterbro and the fashionable municipality of Frederiksberg, I feel smack bang in the middle of chic Scandi living. There are hipster coffee hangouts, minimalist plant shops and impossibly cool interior stores with bikes artfully propped against lamp posts.
Copenhagen is remarkably calm for a capital. The majority of people ride bikes rather than drive cars and everything feels cosy, content and stress-free. The Danes even have a word for it, of course — hygge.
The city, which is less than a two-hour flight from the UK, also has a buzzing food scene with several new restaurant openings every month. But with 15 Michelin star establishments, including Noma, which was named the best restaurant in the world four times, it has a reputation for being pricey.
Plan carefully, though, and you can have an affordable weekend break. Here’s how to get the most out of the city while keeping the costs down.
The 360-degree views from the Danish Parliament building, the tallest tower in Copenhagen at 106m (they don’t do skyscrapers), really show off the juxtaposition of modern minimalist and old fairy tale-like architecture.
From here you’ll see the Borsen, the 17th-century stock exchange building with a spire design of four dragons’ tails twisted together, as well as the Amager Bakke waste-energy power plant, where the world’s longest artificial ski slope is set to open. You can see all the way to Sweden on a clear day.
The excellent value Copenhagen Card gives tourists free public transport by bus, train and Metro and free entry to 79 museums and attractions. Use it on a boat tour down the canals around what’s known as the Harbour Circle, passing the colourful town houses of Nyhaven and enviably stylish house boats towards the striking Black Diamond Library, Amalienborg Palace (the Danish royal family’s official residency) and the famous Little Mermaid statue.
Inspired by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, the famous figure “has been decapitated twice and had her arm copped off” in various protests, according to our tour guide.
For somewhere to stay, the trend in Copenhagen right now is for swanky luxury hostels. The newly opened Steel House is a short walk from the central station and on the doorstep of one of the city’s three adjoining lakes. The former headquarters of the Danish Metalworkers’ Union makes a fitting location for the New York-inspired, industrial-style hostel.
At Steel House, everything is stripped back; there’s no desk, chair or wardrobe. Who really needs those on a weekend break? The four and six-person dorm rooms are the smartest I’ve ever seen and each bed (sorry, pod) has some privacy, perfect for individual travellers or a group to book. The double rooms are very tight but functional, with everything you need and nothing you don’t. The heart and soul of the hostel is the communal living area, which includes a large kitchen guests can cook in. Much like a budget airline, the hostel charges extra for certain things, but the bonus is base costs are kept down and the pool tends to be empty. The city is small enough to walk everywhere, but if you want to fit in with the Danes you need to hop on a bike. There are thousands of Bycyklen — electric bikes with built in GPS to guide you — found at docking stations dotted around the city. Simply register online with a credit card to pay as you go before picking up a bike. And you’ll be in good company — at the last count there were 265,700 bikes in Copenhagen. Strangely, no one appears to wear helmets (there’s no requirement by law), but the roads are very bike-friendly with cycle lanes and four bike-only high- ways.
Lots of the city’s restaurants offer good deals if you book multi-course meals — so the more you eat, the better value you can expect.
The trendy Norrebro district is known for its gastronomic offerings and there’s a huge focus on clean, sustainable, organic and foraged food.
Head to the waterfront branch of the Madklubben chain at Norrebro, which serves unpretentious hearty dishes such as delicateas-you-like whole sea bass, flame-grilled cauliflower with salted almonds, and a seriously addictive spiced mash with sour cream.
It’s packed every night (as with any restaurant in Copenhagen), so you’ll need to book ahead.
SCANDI DELIGHTS: the view from Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen and (right, from top) the Vaernedamsve and a room in the popular Steel House hostel