Can a family of four have a city break in Copenhagen for under £1,000?

Can a family of four have a city break in Copenhagen for under £1,000?

Denmark’s pretty, pristine capital has lots to entertain younger visitors, but a break in Copenhagen usually comes at a hefty price. One report from 2023 pegged the home of hygge (cosy living) among the 10 most expensive cities in the world; another found that the average spent on a city break anywhere in Europe is almost £1,000 per person.

Sensing a challenge, I set out with my wife, Anna, and children, Heidi (nine) and Barnaby (five), to see if we could enjoy a 48-hour stomp around Copenhagen for under £1,000 between us.

Waterfront Reffen is now a trendy hotspot with independent food stalls (Visit Copenhagen)

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Flights were the first expense, and with forward planning, we secured affordable returns with Ryanair for £180. We played the “local grandparents” card for free rides to and from Stansted, and packed sandwiches to tuck into as we waited to board. So far, so cheap.

We also front-loaded our adventure by buying a set of Copenhagen Cards. An adult’s 48-hour card (£86 each) gives unlimited public transport across the city plus free entry to over 80 attractions around the capital. Children under 11 get a free card with an adult’s purchase.

For accommodation, we settled on the Generator hostel (£256 for two nights, family room). On arrival, we headed straight for its game-heavy bar area. Alongside table football, air hockey and pool, there was shuffleboard (£13), with which the kids instantly became obsessed.

Shuffleboard at Generator’s Copenhagen hostel (Dom Tulett)

The fierce competition fired appetites. We shared a late plate of nachos (£11) from a menu full of bar favourites, before heading to our room. Generator’s spacious family rooms are more hotel than hostel, with an en-suite bathroom plus television and comfortable beds.

Daily spend = £632

Despite the kids’ pleas to spend the day at the shuffleboard tables, we set out to explore, starting at St Peter’s Bakery for breakfast (£37). The oldest bakery in Copenhagen, St Peter’s has been spoiling visitors with sweet and savoury treats since 1652.

Fizzing with sugar-boosted energy, we decided to Solve A Mystery (Copenhagen Card), a follow-the-geographical-clues whodunnit game based around a true-crime case from 1899. This child-friendly piece of Scandi noir served as a fascinating DIY tour of one of the oldest parts of the city.

Having cracked the case, we walked to Nyhavn to see the charming dockside houses, then caught the Harbour Bus ferry to Reffen. Once the heart of Copenhagen’s shipyards, Reffen is now a trendy waterfront hotspot with play areas, artisan stores, live music and even a nightclub.

The pastel facades of Nyhavn make for a pocket-friendly stroll (World Mappers)

More than 30 independent food stalls operate out of colourful converted shipping containers at Reffen, covering many of the world’s cuisines. We sank into deckchairs to eat the best of what Japan, India, Afghanistan and the USA had to offer (total £49).

A short stroll took us to CopenHill and exceptional citywide views from atop the building’s sloping roof (free). The adventurous can ski down the artificial run that descends the length of the roof. We hit the gentler toboggan course at the slope’s lower end (£24).

Our next stop was Tivoli Gardens amusement park (Copenhagen Card; rides cost extra). Live open-air performances and fabulous playgrounds can make this a brilliant freebie spot. Heidi and Barnaby shared candy floss (£5) and thrilled at riding the rickety Rutschebanen rollercoaster, one of the world’s oldest (£28 for four).

Tivoli Gardens amusement park has welcomed visitors since the 19th century (Dom Tulett)

Stepping out of the park we each grabbed a deliciously messy Danish hotdog from a street vendor (£16 for four) for the evening walk back to the hostel.

Daily spend = £159

After a substantial breakfast buffet at Generator (£44 for four), we boarded a Stromma boat tour (Copenhagen Card) for a peaceful hour on the city’s waterways. This brought us up close to Copenhagen’s most famous daughter, the statue of the Little Mermaid, sitting serenely on the rocks by the Langelinie promenade.

Fresh off the boat, the kids burnt off some energy in the playground at the Danish Architecture Centre (Copenhagen Card). Climbing nets, drops slides and trampolines are built into the floor of the smartly designed series of plateaus and slopes.

You’ll find food, forks and new friends at Folkehuset Absalon community hall (Giuseppe Liverino)

We lunched in the buzzing community hall at Folkehuset Absalon, where locals and visitors come together to chat, play, dance, create and eat. Menus change daily but there’s always a focus on healthy eating (£28 for four).

Seeking a dose of education and entertainment, we headed north to the Experimentarium (Copenhagen Card). Inventive interactive displays spread over three levels come with the strict instruction that children – and parents – do touch everything.

With an eye on our flight time, we made our way to Diamond Slice where speedy, delicious pizzas with crispy crusts are sold by the (extremely large) slice in a cosy setting (£29 for four).

Think three levels of interactive fun at the Experimentarium (Anders Bøggild)

One final itch to scratch, we popped back into the Generator to treat ourselves to a couple of beers and a couple of lemonades (£24), and I totted up our expenses to the sound of metallic clinks and childish giggles from the shuffleboard table (another £13).

Daily spend = £138

Copenhagen is an expensive city, particularly when it comes to eating out; however, with forward planning, a set of Copenhagen Cards and by making the most of diverse dining options, it’s easy to enjoy a fun-filled family break on a budget.

Total spend = £929

Read more: The ultimate foodie guide to Copenhagen