Budget Eating in Denmark

Budget Eating is not impossible if you take a path less travelled by most tourists. You have probably heard that Denmark is expensive. True, but there are many ways to save money and still enjoy a good meal in Copenhagen or anywhere else in Denmark.

First, let me say that there are many fine restaurants in Denmark, and I would not want to dissuade anyone from sampling their cuisine.

Unfortunately, most are very expensive; you are paying more for the location and ambiance than you are for the meal.

Service in Danish restaurants are also something most Americans will find horrendous. But that is for another page and time. This page does deal mostly with budget eating in Copenhagen, but the basic ideas can be applied throughout Denmark.


breakfast in denmark

Let's start with budget eating breakfast. In the morning, have some Wienerbrød, or Danish pastries. Wienerbrød comes in many varieties and tastes very different from the Danish pastries you find at home.

Bakeries in Denmark use a different type of flour, which makes Wienerbrød taste lighter and flakier than the US/British versions. One popular choice is the Spandauer, which is a round flaky pastry with either custard cream or raspberry jam in the center. Another popular choice is the rectangular-shaped Tebirke, which is an almond-flavoured flaky pastry with poppy seeds.

Most hotels will serve a breakfast buffet that includes eggs, real Danish bacon and lots of breads and pastries and fruit. This is an excellent way to sample many types of pastries for an inclusive price.

If you are going to buy pastries, check out some of the bakeries away from the Strøget or main tourist areas. There are several on Vesterbrogade or on Norrebrogade. Also, check out the grocery stores like Irma, Netto, Brugsen, etc. They have fresh baked goods available for sale. Most gas stations sell baked goods and coffee for a good price.

Buying a loaf of bread, butter, jam and meats at the grocery store bakery and you can have a fantastic Danish breakfast for a low price. (especially if you share with others).

P.S. Most McDonalds in Denmark are not open in the morning, but the train stations in Copenhagen and Aarhus are now open for breakfast, but sure if that really qualifies as budget eating or just bad eating. (sorry not a big fan of McDs).


danish open face sandwiches

A budget eating lunch can and should include smørrebrød for a real Danish treat at lunchtime.

Smørrebrød comes in so many varieties that it is hard to decide which one is best. Smørrebrød is an open-faced sandwich served on rye, pumpernickel or white bread. Danes usually start with a sild sandwich, which is marinated herring, or some other type of fish. Next is a meat sandwich; for example, kødpølse, salami or leverpostej. Finally, they may finish with a cheese sandwich. You can order smørrebrød at many restaurants and kros (pubs or inns).

A favorite place of mine in Copenhagen is Hviids Vinstue on Kongens Nytorv. It is a small basement kro with a nice atmosphere. They have a lunch special with 3 pieces of smørrebrød and a beer at pretty reasonable prices. Smørrebrød is cheapest at local sandwich shops and at the bakeries. There are several of these located around the main train station.

typical old fashion danish cellar bar

A tip: When eating in a restaurant or kro, it is good etiquette to eat your sandwiches with a fork and knife. Using your hands is "gauche".

Another favorite option for lunch is a chain of Chinese restaurants called China Box/Sam's Bar. These are takeaway places.

You get rice or noodles and a choice of 2 (or more) other items such as chicken, shrimp, spring rolls, etc. Your meal comes in a small box (along with a fork), and you can then find a pleasant place to sit and eat. The helpings are generous and their prices are good, but don't buy your drinks there - it's too expensive. You will see these stalls along the Strøget in Copenhagen.

There are three: one near the Rådhuspladsen and one near Nyhavn and one toward Nørreport Station. During the lunch hour you will see lots of people carrying little white boxes. If you can't locate China Box, just stop one of them and ask.


china box copenhagen budget eating

Your budget eating dinner meal will end up being your most expensive meal unless you plan carefully. The budget possibilities are a bit more limited than with other meals. Copenhagen has hundreds of restaurants and cafes, so you will find many choices, but few will be in the budget range.

RizRaz Budget Eating

One of my favorite budget places is Riz Raz, located in the student quarter. This is a Mediterranean restaurant that serves delicious food. The best bargain is the buffet, which includes enough choices to make your head spin. During the evening, the buffet is 99 kroner (not including drinks), and during the lunch period it is only 79 kroner. If weather permits, sit outside. If it is a bit chilly, the restaurant provides blankets.

Sporvejen is a burger bar, built in an old tram or cable car. They serve great burgers at a reasonable price (denmark standards). About the same price as McDonalds, but a whole lot tastier. They are located in Gråbrødretorv.

Another option for a quick dinner is the traditional Danish pølsevogn. These are dotted all over Copenhagen. You can get a traditional Danish hot dog for under 30 kroner. This may not be to everyone's taste for dinner, but they are delicious.

There are also many small fast-food style restaurants away from the main tourist section. Check out JustEats.dk for a comprehensive list.

danish hot dog stand

Many restaurants have 2-for-1 special and early-bird dining specials. Check out the "dagens ret" which is the meal of the day, which will often be the cheapest meal on the menu. Also, think about having your main meal during lunch and a lighter meal at night.

Hopefully some of these budget eating tips (here are some more) will help you when looking for budget places to eat. Please do not be persuaded away from some of the more expensive places to dine, since there are some excellent restaurants in Copenhagen and all over Denmark. We even got a few Michelin star restaurants.

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