10 things to do for free in Copenhagen

Wanderlust readers voted Copenhagen as their favourite European city in the 2013 Travel Awards. Amelia Clough and Olivia Turner discover there's plenty to do on the cheap

8 mins

1. Experience the city of Christiania

Visit one of Copenhagen's most popular tourist attractions and witness a truly unique social experiment in action. Founded in 1971, a swarm of young hippies took over abandoned military barracks developing an alternative society in order to seek autonomy from the Danish government.

Today, the neighbourhood remains partially self-governed with their own set of rules including: no cars, no stealing, no guns, no bullet-proof vests, no hard drugs. The national ban on smoking in public spaces is controversially not respected here.

Wander through the streets where overgrown trees and plant life sprawl among the cutting-edge eco-houses, many artistically decorated in captivating colours. Be sure to spot the life-sized Buddhas and giant recycled bird statues, which live among the1,000 citizens.

2. Pose with a mermaid

The Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue) has become a national symbol for Denmark, the modest, unimposing sculpture gracefully sits on a rock in the habour of Langelinie.

According to the famous fairytale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, the half fish half human princess must wait on the rock for 300 years until she can enter the human world and marry her prince.

The statue seen here, was commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, after he was mesmerised by a ballet of the fairytale, employing Edvard Eriksen to sculpt the statue. Unveiled on 23 August 1913 it has since become victim to several instances of vandalism including decapitation.

3. Get on your bike!

Copenhagen is proud of its status as the world's leading bicycle-city, home to the first large-scale urban bike-sharing scheme. The citybikes are available at 110 cycles stands throughout the downtown area and provide tourists with unlimited use within a specified area. The bikes require a small deposit of a DKK 20 coin, which is returned upon drop-off.

Copenhagen features an extensive and well-designed system of cycle paths equipped with their own traffic lights, offering you a free, eco-friendly and time efficient mode of travel.

Plus, Copenhagen is free from hilly terrains, requiring minimal exertion and endurance.

4. Take a break

Copenhagen is home to many beautiful gardens and parks dotted around the bustling city centre. Free for visitors, they are an ideal breather from any sightseers' hectic schedule.

The Botanical Gardens feature 25 acres of landscape garden abundant with rare trees, shrubs and herbs. They are also renowned for the extensive complex of historical glasshouses dating from 1874. The gardens are a must for any horticulture fans but will also be a peaceful place for a leisurely stroll whether it be in sun or snow.

Dyrehaven is situated north of Copenhagen (about 15-20 minutes from the city centre by train) and covers approximately 1,000 hectares. The cultivated woodland is popular for picnics, long walks, jogging and cycling.

Deer populate the park, so take extra caution to keep your distance in September and October when the stags annually battle it out for male dominance.

5. Visit a historic gem

The Citadel, founded by Christian IV in 1626 remains one of the best preserved fortifications in Northern Europe and a staple of Danish history. Numerous buildings are located within the grounds of Kastellet, including a church, windmill and prison. The area also houses various military activities but it mainly serves as a public park and historic site.

Visitors can enjoy a walk among the star-shaped fortress with unrivalled views of the city's harbour. If you're lucky enough to be visiting in early June don't miss the free annual open-air performance by the Royal Danish Ballet, displaying highlights from both the finishing season's programme and the upcoming season, composed of classical and modern dance.

6. Explore Copenhagen's cool culture

On Wednesdays, admission to the Denmark Design Museum and Thorvaldsen’s Museum are both completely free.

The country's largest museum exhibiting Danish and international design, the Denmark Design Museum includes collections of contemporary developments within industrial design, decorative and applied arts. Admission is free to the extensive library, spectacular Design Studio and picturesque garden.

A sculptor who lived from 1770 to 1844, the Bertel Thorvaldsen museum displays his remarkable plaster and marble sculptures, models, paintings and drawings along with his widespread collection of art work and antique artefacts from ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. All of which gives intricate insight into the life and interests of Denmark’s most notable sculptor.

7. Enjoy the city's jazz scene

From the first of July to the tenth, the streets of Denmark’s capital are buzzing with the sound of soulful jazz. Let the saxophones move you with swinging blue notes in unexpected venues, such as the Carlsberg Brewery’s stately gardens.

Don’t miss out on the festival’s main attraction at the intimate venue of Jazzhus Montmarte, historically known as being the European base for American Jazz musicians.

8. Stop off at the fun fair

This historical and frivolous theme park, open every summer, is easier to enter than it is to pronounce its name: Dyrehavsbakken. There is free entrance to the park and the beautifully scenic countryside and surrounding woodland area, along with free entertainment that will tantalise your inner child.

9. Spot new talent

Every Wednesday from the 5 October to the 26th, students from the Royal Danish Conservatory of Music, gather at churches and other venues – sparkling with potential – in order to perform their impressive talents to a live audience. The evening begins at 17.00 and from there you will be enthralled by 45-minute concentrated performances.

You never know, you may be one of the first to experience the next up-and-coming artist at zero cost.

10. Visit richly religious sights

Copenhagen is abundant with churches ranging in age, grandeur and religion. However, one of the most architecturally spectacular is the Church of Our Saviour with its famous spiralling tower, which is shrouded in mystery by a grim tale of its architect. Its interior boasts Tessin’s marvellous altarpiece and an imposing organ.

Take a free pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady, Copenhagen’s main cathedral, which has been victim to many attacks in the past but now stands solid with a pristine interior, decorated with hauntingly beautiful Italian marble statues. Its atmosphere is astounding and its no surprise Danish royalty have held marriages and other ceremonies here.

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