18 Hours in Copenhagen

Eighteen hours in Copenhagen aka a non-exhaustive list of some pretty and pretty cheap (or free!) things to do in Copenhagen.

Have a short layover in Copenhagen? Or just daydreaming about what you’d do in Denmark? Here are a couple things I can recommend! Do you like walking? Great! Do you like budget/free activities when you’re in an expensive country? Great! This extremely non-exhaustive post of a couple fun little things to do is for you. 

Free Things to Do in Copenhagen

Nyhavn at Sunset

red boat in front of old Copenhagen town houses in Nyhavn
free things to do in Copenhagen: walk around Nyhavn

 Nyhavn is the reason I wanted to come to Copenhagen originally. When I visited last March on a quick overnight layover, my  flight was delayed – I had to literally jog from my hotel to Nyhavn to catch the sunset. Worth it. Sweaty, but worth it. 

Copenhagen: Nyhavn at sunset along the canals
Nyhavn at sunset

Nyhavn means ‘New Market’ and is a collection of colorful 17th and 18th century townhouses along the waterfront canal. Now a bustling tourist-centric area, you can find restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. It’s expensive to dine here, but walking, taking photos, and gently gasping at the beauty is zero dollars. 

Little Mermaid Statue 

 A very famous Copenhagen site, this petite bronze statue was gifted to the city of Copenhagen by Carl Jacobsen in 1913 in honor of Danish author Hans Christen Anderson. 

Copenhagen: the little mermaid statue perched on a rock with a blue sea background on a sunny day

This statue is around 2-3K outside of Copenhagen’s city center, on the bottom part of a star-shaped park. Can you walk to it? Absolutely you can!! There are also canal tours or an easy Metro ride if that’s more your jimmy jam. 

photo of about a dozen people all gathered round and taking photos of the little mermaid statue in copenhagen
BTS: Little Mermaid Statue in Copenhagen

Nyboder Neighborhood 

The Nyboder neighborhood is a collection of bright yellow row houses that were used as military barracks in the 17th century Belonging to the Royal Danish-Norwegian Navy, the houses are still used today by the Ministry of Defense, though some of the houses belong to the public now as well. Interesting fact! The yellow color of the houses is so distinct and notable, it’s become a generic term for a specific hue of yellow: the “Nyboder yellow”. (source and more info here). 

bright yellow row houses against a blue sky with clouds in Copenhagen
Nyboder Yellow

Freetown Christiania

Christiania is a free-thinking autonomous district within Copenhagen. Founded in the 1970s by a group of hippies who took over a former military base, it’s now a community with its own rules and regulations independent of the Danish government. Christiania is also known for it’s legal weed trade, which I think overshadows this cute little enclave. 

In my jet-lagged stupor, I walked to this neighborhood and then right by it, completely bypassing one of my main destination goals this trip. Cool, cool. 

handmade totem sign saying 'Christiania' on a cobblestone street in front of a wooden cabin
Not my photo, obv.

Budget Places to Stay

Generator Hostel

 I booked a six bed dorm room at the Generator Hostel, then reconsidered, knowing I’d just want to strip off my travel clothes, nap, and explore once I arrived. Instead I updated to a ‘Superior King’ which tbh should be named a ‘Mediocre King’, BUT it did have some cats on the wall, so some may say the $170 (!!!!) I spent on this room for one night was worth it. Some may say. 

small private room at the Generator Hostel with a double bed and windows with a painting on the wall behind the bed of three cats
Kitties = Priceless

Anyway, I’ve heard good things about this hostel chain and I feel I can’t really speak to it because I definitely did not take advantage of their cute bar/hangout area/socializing etc. 

Hotel Motel One 

 I stayed here at Motel One for one night on my last trip. I really liked this place! It’s in the opposite direction of some of the sites I wanted to see this time, but I’d stay here again. Budget-focused (for Denmark) but with that cute young hip Scandinavian aesthetic, the lobby bar was welcoming and the room was comfortable. 

small room at the Hotel Motel One with blue walls
Hotel Motel Holiday Inn

Eats and Drinks

Food-wise, I haven’t really taken advantage of this city. For one, it’s expensive. Also I haven’t been terribly hungry any time I’ve been here for some reason. I did dine at a great vegan pizza place in March, but it’s since closed. 

Here are a couple things I CAN recommend though!

Glean: delectable amazing wonderful cute and delicious little vegan cream buns. Made with aquafaba, these little treats are coated in chocolate and come in half a dozen different flavors (passionfruit and lemon were both surprisingly good). Fløderboller are traditional Danish sweets made with egg whites; this is the vegan version. 

Ark – wishlist!! This is an incredible looking and expensive splurge of a plant-based fine dining restaurant that is on my shortlist! This is the kind of dining experience I’d like to have company for, so I’m waiting for the right time. But sheesh. Yum. Click that link and check out the menu, and then let’s find a time to go!

7-11 – If I had more pride, I’d say I’m ashamed that most of my vegan meals in Copenhagen have come from here, but honestly? 7-11 has some dope vegan options! My favorite is a little seitan wrap. Affordable-ish (for Scandinavia), and you can eat it outside on the canals.  OH ALSO 7-11 sells vegan Kit Kats!!

packaged vegan 7-11 wrap with seitan
vegan seitan wrap? don’t mind if I do!

Torvehallerne Food Market – an indoor covered marketplace with a smattering of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and the aforementioned Glean. Fun to walk around, and you can grab a quick bite while you’re here. 

Coffee Shops – Copenhagen has a load of quality coffee shops! Most I’ve been to have oat milk. Lots of them have vegan treats.  Coffee Collective Bernikow is a personal favorite – plus this location has WiFi.

Sunset in Copenhagen

I love this city, and would like to return one day to stay longer, and hopefully explore more of Denmark too. But in the meantime, Copenhagen is a perfect small city for a quick layover, with a lot of free or budget things to do, walkable sites, and – I didn’t mention this yet, but – very easy and affordable transportation from the airport to/from the city. Just hop on the M2,  and pay 36 DEK (around $4-$5 USD) each way. 

Another Nyhavn photo for you

Have you been to Copenhagen? What are some of your favorite places to visit? 

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