I’ve travelled in four continents and in 23 countries but you know what? I’ve never travelled alone.
Well, that’s technically not true. I attempted a solo trip to the USA in 2011 but it didn’t exactly go as planned (if you want the full story, you’ll have to read my book 😉 In Bed with the Atlantic)
So a month ago I found myself scrolling through Skyscanner’s offerings by inputting ‘Bristol’ and ‘Everywhere’ – which, if you’re not aware, brings up the cheapest possible destinations from your selected departure airport.
The idea of travelling solo was a little scary for me but, with 30 on the imminent horizon, I figured I better pull myself together and just do it.
It’s not the concept of being alone in a new place that freaks me out, it’s not knowing how things work, how to get around and finding places to eat, sleep, whatever. So if this is the basic stuff that freaks you out to, behold my idiot’s guide to solo travel in Copenhagen.
Getting to Copenhagen
Plane: It takes between 1 hr 30 and 2 hrs to fly direct from the UK to Copenhagen. Hardly traumatic. The airport (København Lufthavn) is extremely close to the city centre and is connected by a fairly swish Metro line.
Metro: The metro is at the end of the arrivals hall and everything is signposted in English. Understanding a foreign Metro system is always something that freaks me out before I arrive anywhere, which is mad because I grew up with the London Underground, surely the most complicated metro system in the world.
Metro Tickets: There’s a wall of Metro ticket machines near the entrance of the Metro in the airport. When I arrived, there was a massive queue. However, you don’t need a paper ticket at all. You can simply use your phone to download the ‘DOT Mobilbilletter’ app. From here, you simply register using your mobile number and buy your ticket.
There are no ticket barriers and if anyone asks to see your ticket, you simply show them the ticket on your phone. I downloaded the app and bought my ticket in a couple of minutes while standing next to the huge snaking queue for paper tickets.
Copenhagen Metro Ticket Types:
The Copenhagen Metro system is split into zones and your ticket needs to cover the zones you want to get to. The airport is in Zone 4 so to get to the city centre, you need a 3 zone ticket.
There are a few types of tickets, all very easy to understand on the app.
Zone tickets: You just select how many zones you want to buy.
Prepaid zone card: Covers 20 zones.
City Passes: On the app you can buy 24hr or 72hr City Passes. This allows for unlimited travel for that amount of time. You can also use this ticket on S-Trains (the overground) and buses. I used a 24hr City Pass and then bought a single ticket back to the airport when I needed to leave.
Copenhagen Metro system
The Metro system is the easiest system to navigate. The airport is the final destination on the yellow line and so you simply hop on and go. If you’re staying in the city centre, you’ll probably want to get off at Kongens Nytorv or Nørreport.
Boom, you’re now in the city centre.
Accommodation in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is full of hotels, hostels and AirBnBs. If you want to stay on the cheap, I would highly recommend booking in advance. I booked my hostel dorm room about three weeks in advance and stayed at the Generator.
The Generator Copenhagen worked for me because it’s about a five minute walk from the Kongens Nytorv Metro station and right in the centre, so walking around was easy. To be honest, Copenhagen centre is small and easily walkable wherever you stay in it.
The Generator hostel was fine in general. It’s huge and has a bar and a restaurant and the room I stayed in was a 6 bed female dorm room with an ensuite shower and toilet. There’s no street noise as it’s down a side street but there were plenty of drunk people roaming the corridors so be aware.
It’s a bit of a lively hostel which would’ve suited me five years ago but, to be honest, I think my dorm room days are approaching the end. Still, it’s an affordable way to stay while on a solo trip to Copenhagen and I paid around £30 a night.
Getting Around Copenhagen
Once you’ve checked into your accommodation, it’s time to start exploring.
Like I said, it’s easy to walk around Copenhagen and I walked and S-trained everywhere. Renting a bike is cheap and easy from your accommodation or from one of the numerous bike hire shops.
I didn’t hire a bike because, thanks to a rather sudden vision issue that struck me a month before I went, I didn’t trust my sight enough to get on a bike in a place where you absolutely have to be focused on what’s going on around you.
There are cyclists everywhere.
The upshot of this, for people without massive visual field deficits, is that cars are more than aware of cyclists and are on the perpetual look out for them. Nobody wears a helmet except for children and cars will always stop for cyclists.
If you’re going anywhere that’s unwalkable (or you just fancy a sit down), then the S-Train or Metro is the way to go. If you’ve bought a City Pass and it’s still got time on it (on the app there’s a countdown timer) then you can use it on any public transport.
There are three major S-Train stations right in the city centre:
- Nørreport (also has a Metro station)
- Kobenhavn H (the central station).
They all very much have a Metro feeling to them and depart every ten minutes or so meaning you don’t have to check timetables. You just rock up and rock on.
Eating in Copenhagen
This is probably the biggest anxiety I have about being alone abroad. But travelling alone in Copenhagen seems to go hand in hand with food. It’s just plain easy.
Coffee: Copenhagen loves its coffee. You are never that far from a coffee house. Sure there are Starbucks dotted around but my favourites were Coffee Collective and Espresso House. When you need to sit down and rest, these are the places to go. Both have multiple outlets and the coffee is excellent. Coffee Collective in particular is a place to really sit and appreciate the incredible coffee but a barista in Espresso House next to Nyhavn created a latte art bear in my flat white – mad skills.
Food markets: Copenhagen centre has two major food markets, Torvehallerne near Nørreport station and Reffen on Paper Island. Not only are these just cool places to see, but they’re also great places to find food in a casual setting. You can get a huge range of food without spending and arm and a leg.
Restaurants and Cafes: Like any city, it’s not exactly difficult to find a place to eat. Simply wander around and see what looks and smells good. Eating out is expensive in Copenhagen so make sure you’re up on your currency conversion before sitting down.
Supermarkets: Irma, Netto and Aldi are all big supermarkets in Copenhagen and I found that buying pastries from the Aldi next to my hostel was the cheapest way to go about getting breakfast.
Things to See in Copenhagen (on the cheap)
Copenhagen is a capital city and holds more than enough to occupy you for days or more. Here are a few things that you might want to put on your list of things to see.
Surely one of the most photographed places in the city, Nyhavn is an old fishing port. It’s a canal right next to Kongens Nytorv Metro station and is lined with extraordinary colourful buildings with old ships moored alongside. It’s quietest in the morning and has more restaurants than you can shake a stick at.
It’s a nice place to stroll and ferry tours begin at the inner end of the canal. At the outer end, there’s a bike and foot bridge where you can cross to the next island.
Cost: 25DKK (Around £3)
Right in the middle of the pedestrianised streets of Copenhagen, the Rundetaarn (Round Tower) is a very cool place that’s absolutely worth a visit. This 17th Century tower has a seemingly endless spiral ramp that travels all the way to the top and has window after window of ever increasingly good views. Once you reach the top, there’s a short, narrow staircase to the viewing platform.
Botanisk Have (Botanical Gardens)
Cost: Free for the gardens and 60DKK (Around £7) for the hothouses
Again in the city centre, this place is absolutely stunning. The gardens are free to wander around and are beautiful in their own right. But what really drew me here was the palm house. It’s 60DKK for a ticket to all the hothouses which included cactus greenhouses, the butterfly house and the vast palm house.
If you’re visiting during a cold time of year, be prepared to take off a lot of layers once you step in because the temperatures in some of the greenhouses are pushing 30+ degrees Celcius.
Cisternerne (The Cisterns)
Cost: 70DKK (Around £8.50)
The cisterns require a 40 minute walk or a 9 minute S-Train ride from the centre. I took the S-Train from Nørreport to Carlsberg station (still called ‘Enghave’ on many S-Train maps but it’s the same stop).
Walking from Carlsberg station to the cisterns is great because you can make sure you walk under the Elephant Gate which is incredible all by itself.
The cisterns once housed the city’s drinking water and have since been drained and hold art exhibitions. They’re accessed through a glass pyramid in Søndermarken park.
You can read about my trip to the Copenhagen Cisterns here.
If you visit the cisterns, you’ll be in the grounds of Frederiksberg Palace. It’s a fairly grand affair and taking a walk around the gardens to the north of the Palace is a spectacular experience.
Note: Not to be confused with the Frederiksborg Castle which is a way north of Copenhagen in Hillerød.
A fifteen minute walk from Nørreport station, the Assistens Cemetery is the burial place of both Søren Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen. The cemetery is enormous and a beautiful place to wander in quietness. Both graves are signposted and the northern section of the cemetery is still an active burial site, so don’t go skipping around in joy.
Other Attractions in Copenhagen
From the famous Tivoli Gardens and masses of museums to the vast aquarium (The Blue Planet) and the Little Mermaid, there is a lot to see and do in Copenhagen. If you want to see and do everything, be prepared for hefty entry fees into many attractions. If you do want to do it all, consider getting a Copenhagen Card.
The Copenhagen Card is an all-inclusive city pass that includes entry to 86 attractions as well as unlimited public transport. There’s a handy calculator on their website if you want to work out if it’s worth the money or not.
You can buy a card for 24, 48, 72 and 120 hours. The cheapest (24 hours) is about £50 which would pay for itself if you wanted to visit expensive places like the aquarium and Tivoli Gardens.
While many hotels and hostels sell the cards, it’s better to buy it online and pick it up from the airport because it includes the Metro fare from the airport.
Personally, I didn’t buy a Copenhagen card because I worked out that it wouldn’t be worth it for me. But it entirely depends on how many attractions you want to visit.
Find out here if a Copenhagen Card is worth it for you.
Solo Trippin’ in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is one of the easiest cities I’ve ever travelled to and given that it’s so small and easy to get around, it’s the perfect destination for a solo traveller – especially if you haven’t done much travel alone.
The Danes speak incredibly good English and the majority of signage is also in English as well as Danish. If you get lost or don’t understand something, just ask, everyone is happy to explain.
I never felt self-conscious while exploring Copenhagen alone and eating in food markets was easy as a solo traveller.
As for money, everywhere I went accepted contactless card payment. I actually only took £12 worth of Danish Krone (it was the only amount the bureau de change had at the time). You could easily get away without taking any but it’s useful when you’re buying really small things.
Copenhagen is expensive, being a northern European capital. I kept costs down by visiting cheap and free attractions, buying Danish pastries in Aldi (72p each!) and eating at the food market where £5 could get me a pretty sizeable smoked salmon and salad wrap (yum). Coffee was my financial downfall with a flat white across the city costing between £4.00 and £5.50. Still, they were all genuinely great.
If you have any questions or tips for travelling in Copenhagen or just want to wax lyrical about how damn cool it is, stick your thoughts in the comments below!
This post contains a couple of affiliate links. That means that if you book something through that link, I’ll receive a small commission. But, as you can see from my pretty honest Generator comments, I only provide honest representations.