I thought a cocktail in Los Angeles was expensive — and then I went to Scandinavia.

Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are notoriously expensive, mostly due to their taxes (seriously, the VAT was 25%), but I was still unprepared for just how pricey everything was. In Stockholm, my husband and I paid around $60 for two beers and two cocktails.

It’s still an incredible part of the world worth visiting, and the good news is, there are plenty of affordable things to do, too. Copenhagen was my favorite of the cities we visited in the area.

We stayed in the quiet, hipster neighborhood of Vesterbro, where there are considerably fewer tourists to contend with. It’s also walking distance to most activities, but not all of them.

Tivoli is nearby, but if you want to head to, say, the Christiania area, you’ll have to rent a bike. But you’ll rent a bike anyway.

At any rate, here are a few of my favorite things to do in Copenhagen. 

Riding the Ferris Wheel in Tivoli Gardens


things to do in Copenhagen

Tivoli from above.

Not being much of a roller coaster person, Tivoli wasn’t top on my list of things to do in Copenhagen. It’s the second-oldest theme park in the world, though, and kind of a must for tourists, so we went, anyway. When are we going to be here again? I thought. Maybe never, so we might as well pack in all the gimmicky, overpriced tourist stuff.

I was mistaken. Tivoli is magical.

For a mere $16 (free for kids under 8), you get access to the gardens. They’re beautiful, clean, and colorful. Once you walk past the entrance, you’re greeted with a mass of tulips and a beautiful pond in front of Tivoli’s Moorish Palace. You can sit on the lawn in front of the theater and just enjoy the view, but there are rides, too, of course. Rides cost extra (around $10, but you can also upgrade your ticket to an unlimited pass) and they have the standards: the loop-de-loop (the Demon), a chair swing ride (the Star Flyer), and its oldest ride, a wooden roller-coaster named Rutschebanen.

I hate roller coasters because I’m not the biggest fan of nausea and vomiting, so I skipped those. I did, however, ride the Ferris wheel and it was absolutely worth it. You’ll get a sprawling view of Copenhagen in all its glory. The whole place just felt really grand and quaint at the same time.

Oh, and there are peacocks.

Pigging Out at Warpigs

things to do in Copenhagen

A few of my favorite things are pictured here.

We joked about eating American food in Copenhagen, but as one Scandinavian citizen said when we asked for his food recommendations, “Hamburgers and tacos. We love them, too.”

Warpigs is a brewpub partly owned by Denmark’s Mikkeller brewery (they have a spot in Los Angeles, which is how we discovered this place). They’re also owned by 3Floyds, an American brewery. My point here is good beer and good food.

They serve some tasty Texas barbecue and fixings to go along with it (you can’t skip the fixings). I had brisket, a hot link, and potato salad. It was expensive but so damn delicious. And as a former Texan, I’m fairly confident about my barbecue judgment.

Climbing the Round Tower

things to do in Copenhagen

Help me.

The Rundertaarn (Round Tower) is a 17th-century building that sits in the middle of Copenhagen. It was built as an observatory and still functions as one, but it’s mostly a historic point of interest with incredible views of the city.

As for the architecture, the inside is mostly hollow and consists of a winding, spiral ramp that takes you past the Library Hall. The tower was built this way so a horse and carriage could access the library. I’m not going to lie, it’s not an easy walk. That said, I’m also terribly out of shape, so you might take that precaution with a grain of salt (mmmm, salt).

Either way, it’s totally worth the walk once you get to the Observation deck at the top of the path. Entrance is not free, though. You’ll pay $4 for an adult ticket and about a dollar for a child.

Street Drinking

things to do in Copenhagen

Tried to take a cute selfie in Nyhavn then noticed the toilet sign in the background 🙁

One of my favorite things about traveling is drinking in public. That might make me uncultured, but it sure is fun.

In Denmark, not only is it legal to drink in public, but it’s also encouraged if you want to save money on booze. It’s also socially acceptable. In Nyhavn, you’ll see everyone sitting near the water drinking from cans because the restaurants are all way too expensive.

One Scandinavian friend told me locals go to bars and restaurants but drink on the way, simply because it’s cheaper. You might pay $2 for a beer at a grocery store, as opposed to $7-$10 at a bar or restaurant, depending on the bar or restaurant. Saving money aside, I also just love being able to walk down the street with a beer, which is not something you can do in most American cities.

Riding Bikes to Paper Island

tthings to do in copenhagen

COPENHAGEN: A strange man poses with his bike.

Even though I almost hit a pedestrian and got hit by a bus, I really enjoyed bike riding in Copenhagen.

There are more cars than bikes, and they’re cheap to rent (ours was only $10 for 24 hours!). It was fun riding around the city in general, but one of my favorite memories of the trip was riding to Paper Island, a street food market where you can sit right in front of the water. Plus, the food was so good I ordered from about three different places: Toldbodens Fish N Chips, Il Mattarello (such good pasta), and Ishytten (waffles and ice cream). Toldbodens Fish N Chips were the best I’ve ever had.

Also worth mentioning: boat tours are surprisingly cheap in Copenhagen. We took a boat tour from Nyhavn that lasted for an hour and took us all around the city, from the Opera House to the famous Little Mermaid statue. We only paid $12 a person. Not bad for a major tourist destination.

Have you guys ever visited? What were some of your favorite things to do in Copenhagen?

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Kristin writes about money, travel, and human behavior at Lifehacker, the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Mentalfloss. She's also written for NBC News, Fox Digital, and Scripps Network Interactive. Her book GET MONEY will be available on 3/27/18 with Hachette Books.

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