Scandinavia! What a pearl! What a gem!
Well, actually… as much as I would have loved to have seen Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden, we ended up settling for a few days in the Danish Capital (and a glimpse of Malmø across the water) on account of being two 20-year old backpackers with barely enough money to cover the cost of our hostel beds.
Thus began the challenge of enjoying wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen on a budget tighter than a pair of budgie smugglers on Bondi Beach.
No visit to Copenhagen is quite complete without a peek into the fairy-light wonderland that is Tivoli Gardens. However, with entry prices sitting around $20 a ticket, you probably won’t be able to afford to go on any rides, or eat any food, or buy any souvenirs. But that’s okay! Visit the Gardens at night when the carnival lights are at their most beautiful, and you’ll get your $20 worth in wow-factor alone. Maybe bring a bottle of water, an emergency umbrella and some snacks with you – or you’ll get caught paying a pretty penny for a tiny bucket of soggy hot chips.
It’s absolutely free to take a wander through the infamous “free state” Christiania, where you can experience an open, alternative society that doesn’t play by the rules. In fact, pretty much the only rule they play by is that taking photos of Pusher Street is strictly forbidden – for obvious reasons – but it’s well worth a stroll. Look with your eyes (and not with the lens of your iPhone) and you’ll feel like you just stepped foot onto the set of a post-apocalyptic film.
Well, good luck. Even the dime-a-dozen Danish hotdogs that litter the streets of the city will set you back about $8. They do come with a lot of different pickles, but even several pickles can’t disguise the fact these hotdogs barely scrape the barrel as a snack, let alone a full meal. No meat? No problem. Try the organic, vegetarian hot dogs from DØP by the Round Tower. You’ll be paying the same price, but getting top notch quality.
Why pay upwards of $10 for a piece of smørrebrød when you can make your own? Head to Aldi or Lidl for a loaf of rye bread, then go crazy with the toppings. Doesn’t matter whether you know what they are or not – probably some variation of egg, herring… and more herring.
Staying in Norrebro, slightly out of the city centre, meant that we could walk around the corner straight into a pocket of multicultural fast food restaurants. Think falafels, kebabs and pizza. It’s no secret that we ate the same pizza, at the same pizza place, three nights out of our four nights in Copenhagen. Initially, we felt shame… but the pizza was massive – even too big for two hungry backpackers to share – and only cost about $14.
Probably not so much of a budget destination when you’re looking for a meal, but if you’re keen for a bit of grazing, head to Torvehallerne and snack on the free samples of chocolate, cheese and salami. We forked out a bit of money – still not that much – to share a small portion of apple and cinnamon porridge from Grød. It was 100% worth it.
This Danish lemonade quickly became my poison. I could never pronounce it and didn’t dare to try, so I only bought it when I didn’t have to order it over the counter. So good! Also, keep the cans for a small refund! Or should I say, re-Pfand.
You can’t go to Denmark without drinking Carlsberg. It’d be like visiting Australia and not drinking Fosters. Oh wait.
I don’t drink coffee, but I do know there is a place in Copenhagen where you can buy coffee for about $16 a cup. We didn’t go there. We did, however, go to Cafe Paludan to meet an old friend. To be honest, I have no idea what the coffee was like, but if you want a cosy atmosphere to enjoy a hot drink and a good book, Cafe Paludan is it.
Sleep In Heaven Hostel, Nørrebro
Booked because it was the cheapest hostel in Copenhagen – and the only one that didn’t charge extra for linen – Sleep In Heaven turned out to be a pleasant surprise. A little way out of the city centre (a comfortable, flat, 25 minute walk if you’re too cheap to pay for the bus) but charming and cosy. You can stay in the “regular” dorms which have 3-tiered bunk beds, or pay a bit extra to sleep down the road in the “deluxe” dorms, which have 2-tiered bunk beds – so, basically any other hostel’s definition of “regular”. Like all hostels in Copenhagen, there’s no kitchen, but you’re welcome to bring food into the communal bar area which is very cool and cosy indeed.
Try Couchsurfing if you don’t want to pay for a hostel bed. It’s pretty big in Europe, so ask around and with a bit of prior notice, you’ll find yourself a nice host/new friend for life in no time.