A Short Break in Copenhagen: Wonderful, Worldly and Wacky
Wonderful, Worldly and Wacky, Copenhagen blends old world charm and cutting edge design into an appealing yet pricey mix of top class culture, fun and food
This “friendly old girl of a town” is big enough to be a metropolis with shopping, culture and nightlife par excellence, yet still small enough to be intimate, safe and easy to navigate. Overlooking the Øresund strait with Sweden just minutes away, it is a cultural and geographic link between mainland Europe and Scandinavia. This is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design; where warm jazz mixes with cold electronica from Copenhagen’s basements. You’ll feel you’ve seen it all in a day, but could keep on discovering more for months.
On a short break in Copenhagen an excellent start to any visit is to climb the unique 7.5-turn helical corridor leading to the observation platform of Rundetårn (the Round tower), one of Copenhagen’s most iconic buildings. It offers wonderful views and is smack in the middle of the city. If that is not high enough for you head to Christianshavn for a climb up the circular stairs on the outside of the church spire of the Church of Our Saviour. It has always been regarded as something of a manhood test to climb up and touch the globe on the summit, nearly 100 meters up in the air. And now that you’re in the area, head over to the opposite side of the street to Christiania, a self-governing community that has been squatting on an old naval area since the seventies. Their inventive, brightly coloured, home built houses are spectacular, as is the relaxed atmosphere — this is truly one of Copenhagen’s most unique and best attractions. Due south of Christiania the old, crooked, brightly coloured buildings and soothing canals lined with masted ships make this an excellent place to continue a stroll. Other fine examples of classical architecture include the impressive City Hall and the massive dome of the Frederikskirken colloquially known as the Marble Church. This dome, with a span of 31 meters, is one of the largest in northern Europe. Both are in the Indre By area.
The four classicist palaces of Amalienborg, make up the main residence of the Danish royal family. The octagonal courtyard in the centre is open to the public and guarded by the ceremonial Royal Guard. The relief takes place every day at noon and is a highlight for any royalist visiting the city. There is also a small royal museum on the premises. Rosenborg Palace is a small but pretty renaissance palace, surrounded by the lovely King’s Garden which is one of the most lively parks of the city. The palace serves both as a museum of Royal history and as a home for the crown jewels which are on display in the catacombs beneath the castle. A closed-off wing of Rosenborg serves as barracks for the Royal Guard, and every day a detachment marches through the Copenhagen city center between Rosenborg and Amalienborg for the changing of the guard. Unusual for a well-founded democracy, the palace that houses the parliament, Christiansborg, is also a royal palace. It is usually possible to visit the Royal reception rooms, stables and the old court theatre here. And for entertainment of royal stature, you can try to arrange tickets to watch a play in the beautiful Royal Theatre facing Kings New Square. All of these sights are in the inner city. If you are hungry for more, head north, where the park around Sorgenfri palace is open to the public, or have a picnic on the huge open plains in front of the Eremitage Palace in the Dyrehaven park which formerly served as the king’s hunting castle.
Amazingly, the two oldest functioning amusement parks in the world, with the two oldest roller coasters, are both located in Copenhagen and they are distinctively different. Bakken or Dyrehavsbakken is the older of the two, set in a beautiful beech forest near Klampenborg north of Copenhagen. This gives it a special atmosphere and it is a lot less touristy than its counterpart — Tivoli — which is located smack in the city center in a beautiful park surrounding a lake.
Tivoli is best known for its wooden roller coaster, Rutschebanen, or as some people call it, Bjergbanen (the Mountain Coaster), built in 1914 in Malmö, Sweden and moved to Tivoli Gardens in 1915. It is one of world’s oldest wooden roller coasters that is still operating today. An operator controls the ride by braking down the hills so it won’t gain too much speed. The world’s tallest carousel, The Star Flyer, opened in Tivoli in 2006. Eighty meters high and built by the Austrian company Funtime, it offers panoramic views of the city. In May 2009 Tivoli opened the new ride Vertigo, a looping plane ride where the rider pilots the ride, able to control the plane.
The Arts in Copenhagen
If you are into the arts during your short break in Copenhagen has a lot to offer and the natural starting point is a visit to the Danish National Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst, free entry, 10 kr deposit for lockers) where you can feast your eyes on blockbusters from the likes of Rembrandt, Picasso, and Matisse. There are a number of paintings by Danish artists from the “Golden Age.” For more classical art, visit Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (adult 75 kr, 20 kr or €2 deposit for lockers). In addition to works by masters like Picasso, Leger, and Matisse, this spectacular building houses a large collection of classical statues and sculptures. The winter garden here is a beautiful place to rest your legs on a rainy day. Both of these museums are conveniently located in the centre, or Indre By area.
If you are hungry for even more classic art exhibitions, an excursion north of Copenhagen to the beautiful Ordrupgaard offers you a chance to enjoy Monet, Renoir, Degas, and Gauguin. There are several other options for classical paintings but if you are ready for a change, head south to the Arken Museum of Modern Art for a world class exhibition of contemporary art, mostly Scandinavian, as well as hugely popular temporary exhibitions. However the arguably best and most visited museum in Denmark is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art located in northern Zealand with a panoramic view across the Øresund. The museum frames the sculpture park facing the sea and the interaction between art, nature and the museum architecture is quite unique. Louisiana is an international museum with a considerable collection of modern art, and hugely popular temporary exhibitions.
If you want to enjoy some local color on an art tour, The Hirschsprung Collection in Østerbro features the top-of-the-pops of Danish artists, with a particular focus on the Skagen painters. For something quintessentially Danish, breeze through the wonderfully quirky sketches of the much-loved local personality Storm P at the aptly named Storm P museum on Frederiksberg.
Science and Natural History
If you want your short break in Copenhagen to be educational, or if you want to sneak some knowledge into the kids while you are there, there are several options to consider. The best choice for children is perhaps the hugely entertaining, and well renowned hands-on science museum, the Experimentarium north of Copenhagen. Another popular and institution, is the Copenhagen Zoo on Frederiksberg,one of the the best and oldest zoos in Europe. If you are more into stationary animals, the Zoology museum on Østerbro offers a different perspective on the subject. Elsewhere on Østerbro, a little known attraction is a display of famous physicist Niels Bohr’s study room, along with a setup of his experiments (but as this is not a museum, you should have more than passing interest in the subject to bother with them). In the City Centre, the University of Copenhagen runs two adjacent science museums. The Geological museum where dinosaur fossils, moon rock, and glow in the dark minerals should spark some interest in the subject for even the most school-weary kid. The Botanical Gardens on the opposite side of the street is an excellent place for a stroll in the beautiful park, even if you are not botanically inclined, and the classical palm house is a nice place to relax if it is cold outside. In poor weather, Tycho Brahe Planetarium on Vesterbro is another option and is part planetarium with an interesting astronomy exhibition and part omnimax theatre where they usually screen science films.
Hans Christian Andersen
One of Copenhagen’s favourite sons, during his lifetime Hans Christian Andersen was acclaimed for having delighted children worldwide, and was feted by royalty. Andersen’s fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West’s collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. They have inspired films, plays, ballets, and cartoons
At Rådhuspladsen 57, The Hans Christian Andersen Fairy-tale House guides the audience through a series of brilliant tableaux depicting the universally known fairy-tales.. The “live” exhibit boasts state-of-the-art lighting effects and a three-lingual sound system in Danish, English, and German. In addition to the fairy-tale exhibits, you can visit Hans Christian Andersen’s study and listen to the great poet giving an account of his life and many travels abroad. The museum also features a hand-written manuscript and a collection of props and appliances that were important to him during his lifetime.
Strøget is one of the largest pedestrian malls in the world which links City Hall, Kongens Nytorv, and Nørreport station. Impeccably dressed Copenhageners breeze through high-end fashion and design stores when not zig-zagging through the hordes of tourists during the summer and Christmas seasons. Your fellow visitors can make it all feel rather touristy at times but if nothing else, it is great for people watching. If all this strange outdoor shopping takes you too far from your usual habitat, head for Magasin du Nord (on Kongens Nytorv) or Illums (on Amagertorv) for more familiar surroundings. There is even a real American style mall complete with a gargantuan parking lot out on Amager. Appropriately, it is called Fields.
If you would rather sample smaller and more personal stores, the quarter of narrow streets surrounding Strøget in the old city(colloquially known as Pisserenden and the The Latin Quarter), has a fantastic, eclectic mix of shopping. This ranges from quirky century-old businesses to the ultra hip in a wide range of fields. It is also much less crowded than Strøget, though unfortunately no less expensive.
You can also try Vesterbrogade and Istedgade on Vesterbro, due west of the central station, although you’ll need to go a few blocks before hotels/sex shops/Thai restaurants turn into more interesting territory. Right at the border of this area, Værnedamsvej and Tullinsgade are also good bets.
For a city of its size, Copenhagen has a good number of Michelin starred restaurants located mostly in the inner city. Noma (ranked as the Best Restaurant in the World by Restaurant magazine) and Ensemble offer rare and exciting Danish cuisine, while Kong Hans Kælder and restaurant MR are the places to go for fine French dining. In other districts, Frederiksberg is home of the French/Danish restaurant Formel B and far away in the Northern suburbs Søllerød Kro is a traditional inn also offering fine French dining.
Christianshavn is the home of the only starred Italian restaurant, Era Ora and Kiin Kiin on Nørrebro is a rare high class Thai restaurant. Finally, on Østerbro, Paustian’s fusion and alchemist kitchen is an altogether different way of dining.
If your budget doesn’t allow for regular dining at expensive Michelin restaurants, don’t despair — there are plenty of other options. The cheapest are the many shawarma and pizza joints’ that you find on almost every street in the city. You can get a shawarma for as little as 15-20 Kr and pizzas start at around 40 Kr). You can opt for take away or sit at the one or two tables that are usually available. The cheapest places can be found around Istedgade on Vesterbro and Nørrebrogade on Nørrebro. For affordable and delicious pita kebab, try Ahaaa on Blågårds Plads, or Boys Shawarma & Is for dürüm kebab on Nørrebrogade 216. For the best kebab in the city go to Shawarma Grill House Frederiksberggade 36. If shawarma gets a little tiring, there are several Mediterranean-style all-you-can eat buffet restaurants dotted around the inner city. Riz Raz is popular, with three locations and a huge vegetarian buffet for 69 Kr (lunch) / 99 Kr (dinner).
Copenhagen offers all kinds of accommodation but like the rest of Denmark, prices are high. Most hotels are located in Indre By and Vesterbro. Special rates are often available on the internet or from travel agencies, so look around well ahead of time, rather than spending your holiday budget on sleeping because you booked at the last minute.
For a good selection of reviews on hotels in Copenhagen visit Frommers Guide to Copenhagen http://www.frommers.com/destinations/copenhagen/48_indacc.html
To book hotels in Copenhagen http://www.hotelscombined.com/City/Copenhagen.htm?a_aid=74013&label=EuroTravel2