Leah Driscoll’s best tips for a weekend away on a shoestring budget
The meagre holiday budget of a student and a trip to what is known as one of Europe’s most expensive cities probably isn’t the most logical of combinations. In fact, I probably should have checked that out before I spontaneously booked a flight to Copenhagen – Denmark’s capital and my home for the long weekend.
Having only shelled out €40 each way for flights with Ryanair, it was the cheapest way to get to continental Europe on short notice, and so my friend and I weren’t too bitter when TripAdvisor subtly hinted that we would be too poor to survive a night in the city. Instead, we took it as a challenge, and decided to travel cheaply or for free, if at all possible.
This challenge was surprisingly easy. Our hostel and most landmarks in Copenhagen were within walking distance, meaning there were no pesky transport costs. Everything from Christiansbourg Palace to the Little Mermaid statue was but a hop, skip and a cycle away. I mention cycling because much like the Netherlands, the bike is the Dane’s main mode of transport. Unlike the often hostile Irish attitude to cyclists, you will see everyone from teenagers to elderly ladies pounding the pedals, with anything from grocery shopping to toddlers bouncing contentedly in the trailer behind them. Bike tours are widely available, and are the perfect way to immerse in the Danish way of life while getting quickly from place to place.
However, on our first full day in Copenhagen we chose to travel by foot. Copenhagen Free Walking Tours will take you on a three-hour long stroll from the main square to most major landmarks of the city and in return, you pay them however much you think the tour deserved. I was not excited by the thought of walking for three hours, but the time flew thanks to a friendly tour guide and some beautiful sights. My favourite part of the tour was Nyhavn (pronounced new-hown), which is the most photogenic harbour you’ll ever see. This row of pastel buildings containing cafés and bars, perched alongside beautiful old style boats is understandably a huge tourist hotspot. From Nyhavn, you can jump on a relatively inexpensive boat tour, which is exactly what we did a few days later.
We couldn’t make the trip to Copenhagen without paying a visit to the Dane’s friendly rivals, Sweden. Copenhagen is conveniently linked to the Swedish town Malmö via the Øresund bridge. The bridge alone is worth the visit, as it moves from above sea to underwater in a way that looks like a catastrophic fault in construction from an aerial view. We took the train, but it is often recommended to take the bus in order to catch a better glimpse of the bridge as you travel across it.
Malmö is a gorgeous area, but a day really is enough there; especially in our case, as it was raining. The people of the town were quite friendly; perhaps a little too friendly in hindsight: when we asked around for suggestions of what to do, one woman very seriously suggested that we go skinny dipping at the nearby pier. We didn’t take up that option, and if it doesn’t tempt you either, then the ‘Turning Torso’, Kungsparken and the cobbled streets of Malmö’s old town are worth seeing.
Without a doubt, the accommodation I would recommend is Copenhagen Downtown Hostel. First and foremost, it’s clean, the staff are friendly and like everyone in Denmark, they speak English flawlessly. The reception is designed well, with plenty of lounging areas and countless trendy Instagram opportunities. Even more importantly, the hostel offered a free dinner and a lively bar with discounted prices, which was ideal considering our rapidly emptying purses. It is also located right in the centre of the city, and just a five-minute walk from one of Europe’s oldest amusement parks, Tivoli Gardens. While rides are available, Tivoli is worth visiting just to see it lit up at night. With a vibrant atmosphere, stunning Oriental design and concerts and firework shows held, the park was the ideal place to spend our last evening in Copenhagen.
We may have budgeted well during our visit, but we didn’t miss out. Another place worth seeing is Christiana- the city’s famous hippie commune, which contains street murals on every corner, renowned cafés and restaurants, and real glimpse into their alternative way of life.
All in all, from food, to culture to a good night out, Copenhagen has everything you could ask for in a short break. With Ryanair’s daily connection from Dublin to Copenhagen, something tells me its appeal to Irish tourists is only set to grow.