I looked at my bag full of cereal bars and bananas and one thought ran through my mind – “Visiting Copenhagen could be the best way to lose weight ever.” Yes I know that Copenhagen is known for some of the best restaurants in the world, however Copenhagen (and all of Scandinavia) is also known for being super expensive for travelers. I knew this when I decided to take the train to Copenhagen, but my desire to see Scandinavia outweighed my concern about the costs. Great in theory and then I got there, stepped off the train, bought a subway ticket, did the conversion (over $4USD) and realized that it wasn’t just sort of expensive, it was really expensive in Copenhagen for a US Dollar traveler.
The challenge was now set – how do I experience Copenhagen and see its attractions, but not go broke or starve?
Copenhagen is the perfect time to use a hostel in order to reduce accommodation costs. I was able to find a fabulous boutique design hostel – yes, hostel – that was perfect for the older budget traveler like me. I actually have trouble even calling Generator Hostel in Copenhagen a hostel – it really broke the stereotype of hostels and provided a super reasonably priced experience for travelers of all types and ages. Generator is known for their cool design and shared spaces which invite socializing – and the Copenhagen location was certainly hip. My big surprise though was how many families and older travelers I saw staying there. I rode the elevator with a young couple with a newborn, the community rooms were filled with students AND people with gray hair – it was a true mix – which made the whole environment a true joy to stay at.
I stayed in a private room (starting at $38 per person/night – $76 total for the room with ensuite bathroom) and it was honestly nicer than most hotels I’ve stayed at – quiet, beautifully designed, and I had a great view of Copenhagen. Seriously…this (see above picture) is a hostel – and a great option for staying budget yet very comfortable in this expensive city. However a few things to note – unlike most hostels, it did not have a community kitchen or wifi through-out all of the rooms. However, as you will see throughout this article – Generator hostel was an integral part in helping me save money in all ways – not just for lodging.
See all my photos of Generator Hostel
This is where I try to save money so of course I took advantage of the breakfast offered by my hostel. It wasn’t included with the cost of the room, but the price was reasonable in Copenhagen terms (aprox. $13 USD) mainly because of these four little words which won me over – “All you can eat”. It included bottomless coffee – my heart was a flutter – from the caffeine and the excitement. It also included a good array of brown bread, rolls, meat, cheese, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and juice. I’d load up on breakfast, pack my bananas and breakfast bars in my backpack for lunch snacks, and then eat dinner out or at the hostel which had a great bar and dinner specials every night of the week.
I did splurge a couple of times – once in order to try the famous Danish open face sandwiches – Smørrebrød and once to try out a kitschy Laundromat café I had read about while researching unique things to do in Copenhagen. The sandwiches were definitely worth it – a great way to get a feel for the food culture which seem to be heavy in fish and all things dill. In addition the dark brown bread is unique to the region – sort of half bread and half cracker – but totally delicious and filling. I stopped at Aamanns which was recommended to me by my AFAR travel phone app. The staff at Aamanns was really helpful at suggesting what I should try – I took their advice and had the super tasty beef tartare with egg emulsion, fresh tarragon, cornichons, capers, onion rings and crispy potatoes – odd combination – but ohhhh so good. While you are there, try out their array of local sodas. The smørrebrød was so good that I recently went to their sister restaurant in NYC/Tribeca to have more!
Copenhagen is the city of bikes – however I did the ultimate budget transportation – my two feet. The city and the sights are small enough that you can easily walk all over town to see things. Yes, it takes longer, but you also see more and find some hidden gems. I did take the bus a couple of times – but that was only because I had screwed up when I got off the train initially and bought 10 tickets for public transportation and then realized that it really wasn’t necessary. Get some exercise and save money! Speaking of exercise – go for a run around the 5 lakes – a great trail and fun to watch everyone commuting to work in the morning – and yes – it’s free.
One of the best things about Generator Hostel was the ridiculously helpful people at the front desk – better and peppier than any concierge service I’ve had. They know a good deal and will help you figure out how you can get around, see the sights, and also not spend a fortune.
Every morning at 10:30AM the hostel offers a free walking tour of Copenhagen put on by Copenhagen Free Waking Tours. Free is a slight misnomer – but it is a pay as much as you can/like type of tour. I was a bit skeptical as I’ve done a number of these ‘free’ tours and have been disappointed (which is good that there wasn’t a set price!), but this tour exceeded my expectations. Martin, our entertaining guide, taught us about the history and future plans for Copenhagen as well as a crash course in how to pronounce Danish – I still failed. After seeing the main sights and hearing more about the history, I finally felt more connected to the city and got some great tips on other low budget things I could do.
On the recommendation of Martin, my walking guide I decided to get an aerial view of the city from the tower of Church of our Savior . The ticket to walk up this ancient spire was $6USD – a little steep for walking up steps (who doesn’t love puns?!), but I didn’t know that it would be such an adventure. I was surprised and slightly terrified when I found out the spiral stairs were on the outside of the tower! I swallowed hard, and held on to the railing with a Hulkish grip and tried not to think about how easy it was to fall over the edge of the railing. Like any terrifying challenge that you survive – it was worth it – and the views were indeed spectacular!
Denmark is the home of where Legos were created and if you don’t have time or money to go to Lego Land in Billund, then make a stop at the Lego store in Copenhagen to get in touch with your inner child. You’ll be amazed at the amount of Lego pieces that exist on the Lego wall in the back of the store. Plus, the store has special edition Lego sets, and plenty of ‘play/work stations’ to create your own Lego people or structures. And if you don’t feel creative – then watch the store employees go to work and put together displays! I even tried my hand at some of my own creations – a fun stop among all of the other shopping along Strøget street. And I didn’t spend a dime.
Finally – photography is always free – so I spent a great deal of time walking around the parks and botanical garden near my hostel. I had a perfect day for photographing the botanical garden, enjoying the lakes, and the castle.
Overall – I was able to get a good feel for Copenhagen, it’s history, and culture without spending a ton of money. I will admit that my time was too short to really integrate and find locals – but I am sure I will be back again to eat more Smørrebrød and find more money saving tips.
Generator Hostel Copenhagen
• Generator has 8 stylish urban design hostels which were created to enable guests to meet new people and explore Europe in comfort and style.
• A one night break at the Generator Copenhagen starts from $23USD pp per night, staying in a dorm room. Private en-suite singles and double rooms start from $38USD pp per night.
• Visit http://www.generatorhostels.com/ for more information or join us on Facebook and Twitter to find out more.
Free walking tours Copenhagen
Website: Copenhagen Free Walking Tours
Runs daily year round regardless of weather conditions. They start by picking up people at Generator Hostel at 10:30am and then walk to Town Hall Square. The official tour meets at 11am at the Town Hall Square, runs for about 3 hours and do not require any sign-up before the tour. Some of the highlights of the tour: Amalienborg Palace, Slotsholmen, Bishop Absalon’s statue, Nyhavn, Marble Church, Christiansborg.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Generator Hostel Copenhagen for my 3 day stay – however all of the opinions expressed here are my own. I do firmly believe that hostel stays as well as Couchsurfing are a great way to save money in Copenhagen.