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Summer Travel Tips: How to Do Scandinavia on a Budget

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen; Image: Marco Cristofori/Getty

Getting There: The capital of Denmark, known for its bike-friendly streets and historic sites, is a quick plane ride away from Stockholm through a low-cost carrier. Or, for a more scenic ride that takes you through the countryside, take one of several regional train lines (SJ, Öresund or Snälltåget). Some lines offer student and youth discounts.

Where to Stay: Malmö, Sweden’s southernmost city, is only a half-hour train ride from Copenhagen and offers plenty of charm itself. Save some serious dough by getting an Airbnb or hotel here and doing what the commuters do by taking the Øresund into the city. We like the more old-school Elite Hotel Savoy or the classic Scandinavian Hotel Mortensen, which offers a complimentary breakfast.

Things to Do: Copenhagen is the world’s most bike-friendly city, so it’s best to do as the locals do and trade your two legs for two wheels. While there are many private companies, this is the place that the City Bike was born. An hour costs 25 DKK (around $3.75) and is the perfect way to get your SoulCycle fix while seeing the city.

Copenhagen waterfront

Copenhagen waterfront; Image: HAGENS WORLD – PHOTOGRAHY/Getty

A Copenhagen Card will get you discounted access to historic places like the Rundetaarn, a spiraling tower offering the best vista of the city, plus rides on the Netto Boats that cruise along the city’s Amsterdam-like canals and offer breathtaking views of the city. If you’ve had your fill of historic buildings and museums, take a tour of the Carlsberg factory where the Danish brew is made. For around $13 (or free with the Copenhagen Card), you can tour the brewery, stables and get two beers.

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, make your way up to Christiania or “Freetown,” a local commune overseen by the state. Here, you’ll likely see people partaking in otherwise illegal activities like marijuana smoking, but it’s also a meeting point for plenty of young Danes to sit by the lake and unwind.

Food for Thought: Sure, New York may have some odd curbs and corners dedicated to street food, but Copenhagen boasts an entire island. Papirøen (Paper Island) has about 30 trucks carrying food ranging from Mexican to Cuban to Japanese to Danish. Grab a beer and a Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich, for under 100 DKK ($15).