Denmark’s beautiful capital Copenhagen is a city which is steeped in history. The first written records of the city date back to 1043 AC when it was originally called ‘Havn’, which means harbour. Its origins were very modest, starting life as nothing more than a very small fishing village that very few people even knew existed.
The locals earned their living by fishing the plentiful supplies of herring. Over the following few hundred years the fishing industry led the town to grow and prosper, so much so that in 1343 King Valdemar Atterdag made Copenhagen the capital of Denmark. Apart from its rich trading in salted herring, the geographical location of the city, with its approach to the Baltic Sea, was another major factor in determining its growth and wealth.
Today it rightly deserves its place as one of the most vibrant and exciting destinations in Europe. It has a population of 1.2 million people and is the second largest city in Scandinavia. Moreover, it is home to the world’s oldest monarchy with not just one but two palaces in the city centre, Christiansborg, which is now the seat of the Danish parliament and Amalienborg, which is the winter residence of the royal family.
Copenhagen has so much to offer its visitors. It has a wealth of cultural activities on offer and sightseeing on an epic scale. This article will highlight some of the best attractions to be enjoyed when you visit this amazing city.
The Tivoli Gardens
What better place to start your tour of Copenhagen than with the incredible Tivoli Gardens. This is the world’s second oldest amusement park which was opened on 15th August 1843, beaten only by Dyrehavsbakken, which incidentally is located just nearby in an area called Klampenborg in the northern suburbs of Copenhagen. The park is loved by visitors old and young alike and really is a magical place to see. One of its clear strengths is that it has something to please everyone.
Whether you want to admire the beauty of the gardens and the magnificent architecture or you are a thrill-seeker looking for the excitement to be had in the stomach-churning rides like Vertigo, which was voted as being the best ride in Europe in 2014, the Tivoli gardens has it all. To do any justice to this incredible place you need to allocate more than just a few hours as there’s so much to explore.
If you are travelling with children it is a must-see! Throughout the summer months there is plenty of entertainment laid on including concerts and ballet performances. There’s plenty of choice on offer when it comes to food. It is the biggest eatery in Copenhagen where you can enjoy everything from fine dining in the restaurants to burger bars, fish and chips or even delicious pastries.
Few palaces in Europe could exceed the grandeur of Amalienborg Palace. What makes this one all the more remarkable is the fact that it is actually comprised of four identical palaces formed around the courtyard where a statue of King Frederik V has pride of place in the centre. This has been the official royal residence for more than two hundred years, although it was originally built for noblemen in the 1750’s. Due to a fire at the original royal residence of Christiansborg in 1794, the monarchy had to find an alternative residence and this has remained their home ever since. It is considered one of the greatest examples of Rococo architecture in Europe and certainly the best of its kind in Denmark.
One of the greatest spectacles here is the changing of the Royal Guard, which takes place each day at precisely 12 noon. There are a few different routes in accordance with the three types of watches: King’s watch, lieutenant watch and palace watch. The largest and grandest of these is the King’s Watch which takes place when The Queen of Denmark is in residence.
The guards march from their barracks and through the city’s streets to Amalienborg where the changing of the guards takes place. The palace has sightseeing tours which allow you to explore some of the royal rooms, complete with their fabulous furniture, photographs and artefacts.
The Little Mermaid
You simply couldn’t visit Copenhagen without taking the opportunity to see its most iconic figure – the little mermaid statue! She was gifted to the city in 1913 by Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen and you will find her at Langelinje Pier, near to the old fort. The inspiration for this most famous of statues came from the fairytale of the little mermaid penned by Denmark’s most famous son Hans Christian Andersen. The inspiration behind the statue itself was a prima ballerina named Ellen Price, but due to her reluctance to pose naked the model for the statue was the sculptor’s own wife. She is one of the city’s most visited and most photographed attractions.
Nyhavn (New Harbour) is an idyllic waterfront location, stretching along the canalside. It has a long history, being established in 1670 by King Christian V as the gateway from the sea to the heart of the old city. At that time the canals extended all the way up to Kongens Nytorv (Kings Square) where cargo was unloaded off the ships as well as the fishermen’s daily catch of fish. This bustling maritime trade was instrumental in the city’s growth. Consequently, fabulous mansions of the likes of Charlottenborg were erected here in the early 1700s for the wealthy citizens of Copenhagen.
On the opposite side of Nyhavn the houses for the poor were built. These being the beautiful and brightly coloured wood and brick homes which make the area so picturesque today. It is a very charming area and is packed with amazing restaurants and bars. It still retains a great deal of character and is a fantastic place to sit and enjoy a drink or go for dinner. This area was also home to Hans Christian Andersen, who lived at various addresses in Nyhavn over an 18 year period. To get a different perspective on the area you can enjoy a canal tour, but I think the best way to take it all in is to simply go for a stroll along the water front and really soak up the atmosphere of this incredible place.
The Marble Church
If you want to enjoy a little quiet time, few locations could compare with Frederik’s Church (the Marble Church). This building really is a thing of wonder. King Frederik V laid the foundation stone in 1749 but due to a series of financial difficulties, it was not until 1894 that the church was finally opened. The building has many noteable features, such as the fact that it has the largest dome in Scandinavia with a span of 31 metres.
It has a very impressive baroque altar. On the roof terrace you can see statues of very influential people in the church history such as Moses and Martin Luther. It is a stunning building, located just near Amalienborg Palace. Without doubt the dome has to be the most magnificent aspect but the beautiful stained glass and interior paintings make it a very worthwhile place to explore.