Less than Foreign: Finding a Place to Live as a Visitor to Denmark

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Moving to a foreign country can be an overwhelming experience.  One of the biggest sources of frustration can be finding a place to live, especially if you don’t know much about your future home. Which area is right for your lifestyle? What areas are in or out of your budget? If you find yourself lucky enough to be considering a move to Copenhagen, rest assured that your transition would be much easier than other locales. Unlike realtors and renters in many other European cities, Danes are usually comfortable and willing to conduct business in English. This makes finding your dream location, for any length of stay, much easier. Whether you want to stay for a week or a year, this article will help you find the apartment that is best for you.

The first step of finding an apartment is deciding how long you want to stay. For short stays (one month or less) it is best to find a short-term rental. This is more of a vacation (or working holiday) so it is best to check established vacation rental sites like AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway. Prices and availability vary greatly, so it is best to book your stay far in advance to ensure you get a place suitable to your needs.  Options stray from private room rentals, to suburban houses, and even houseboats. One month in a shared apartment should be less than $1000 even in the city center.  For a private residence, prices range from economical to extreme luxury. AirBnB’s searchable interactive map makes finding the perfect place a breeze.

For longer stays the definitive source for Danish housing listings is https://www.danmarkbolig.dk/en/.  Here you can find all availabilities for Denmark’s rent-controlled public housing. Unlike in the United States, public housing in Denmark is highly respected and competitive. Great places are not on the market for long. This is due to their highly subsidized rent and excellent quality. Thanks to a strong dollar, a 3-room apartment about 20 minutes commute from Central Copenhagen can be had for around $600/Month. These are the best deals in Copenhagen but increasingly harder and harder to land. Once again, an early start and persistence are necessary. For a more informal and less arduous experience, there is always Craigslist. As always, do not send money to a renter/leaser without first entering the apartment. Be wary of people asking for deposits or holds to secure your place. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. House hunting is best done in person, and if you arrive in Copenhagen there is no shortage of English speaking professionals willing and able to aid you in your search.

Copenhagen also features a vast array of options for visiting students. Copenhagen’s student population is massive and prices are expectedly affordable.  At Housing Anywhere Danish students leaving for study abroad can post their rooms and incoming-visiting students can fill the void. This is an excellent option since the apartment will be furnished, and it allows both students to experience a cultural exchange. Prices will range from $400-800/Month depending on location. Furthermore, the areas of Christianshavn, Amagerbro, and Copenhagen South, offer a variety of student only dorms for the full Danish university experience. Check with your Danish school website to see which dorms are closest to and partnered with your institution. Many of these buildings encourage foreign visitors to increase cultural exposure and cooperation. So don’t be shy about living in a Danish dorm, there will be other international students there and Danes are notoriously friendly.

Now you know how to look for your ideal apartment, but if you haven’t spent much time in Copenhagen you may not know which neighborhood is right for you. In actuality, all areas of the city are easily accessible by public transportation and bike. It’s all about priorities. If you are a student or businessperson, living near your school or office is the best option for an easy commute. However, these areas may be out of your budget or contrary to your lifestyle. For these reasons, a brief understanding of Copenhagen’s distinct neighborhoods is more than necessary. What student wants to be surrounded by working families, and vice versa?

Copenhagen’s center, Indre By, is the heart of the city. Most people work in the businesses and shops in this area, but commute from outside the city center. Indre By is Copenhagen’s historical center and rent can be very expensive since new buildings are discouraged in favor of maintaining old-world charm. Living here is a dream for many Danes. It is possible to find cheap housing, but unlikely. The proximity to Copenhagen’s nightlife and cultural activities would place Indre By high on anyone’s list of possible locations to settle in.

However, due to the aforementioned nightlife and price, many Copenhagen residents choose to live in the surrounding boroughs. The Hellerup and Gentofte areas would be spectacular for a quiet family home. The small brick homes with extremely steep roofs are iconic and well regarded. These areas are perfect for those who love to garden or have kids/pets who enjoy playing outdoors. Finding a house in Hellerup or Gentofte will be difficult and expensive, but for a quite family home, there is no better location.

Working our way west, the areas of Norrebro, Copenhagen North, and Frederiksberg offer great value and scenery. Home to many of the city's biggest and best parks. An apartment here can be a great compromise between the unceasing momentum of the city center and the (perhaps unattainable) seclusion of Hellerup.  It would be excellent for a small family or a person who enjoys the quiet pleasures of nature.

Furthest west is Copenhagen’s hippest and seediest neighborhood. Vesterbro was once home toCopenhagen’s meat packing industry. Long famous for its stench and squalor, cheap rent and an influx of artistic investment has made Vesterbro the epicenter for Copenhagen’s exploding art and culinary scenes. Continuously expanding options for food and drink make Vesterbro the place to go for a night out. Students and young professionals flock here on the weekends to eat and drink casually. Finding a place here can be difficult and is getting more expensive daily. Furthermore, the area, often called Copenhagen’s red light district, has its fair share of less than reputable industries, but location and value make Vesterbro one ofCopenhagen’s coolest neighborhoods.

On Copenhagen’s south side, separated by a series of canals, there are the boroughs of Christianshavn,Copenhagen South, and Amagerbro. Here a waterfront view is within reach for everyone. The location of a campus of Copenhagen University makes this area increasingly popular with students. These areas are green, (in both senses of the word), and affordable. The further south one goes, the cheaper the rent. Kastrup airport, at the southeastern edge of the island effectively delineates the extent of Copenhagenproper. These areas are all attached to the city center by the efficient metro. Since students and small families each claim small pockets of real estate here, an in person tour may be the best way to pick a location for your needs. Luckily, most of the student dorms are sequestered near the beautiful canals. I doubt either group is complaining.

I have done my best to describe the spirit of Copenhagen’s general districts, but it is no substitute to seeing them in person. After one visit, you can easily see which neighborhood feels right. Moving to a foreign country is one of the most exciting, and terrifying things a person can do. This fear stems from the multitude of unknown factors at play. Copenhagen is a great place to expatriate, even if just for a week. The green of the city’s forested areas and the abundance of waterfront property make Copenhagen an amazing place to live. Also, many people live day to day without speaking a word of Danish. Just beware, if you move toCopenhagen for a while, you may find yourself calling it home permanently.

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