Copenhagen, the Place of Danish Kings

Copenhagen, the Place of Danish Kings

posted in: Articles, Denmark, Europe | 0

bergen-to-copenhagenWe flew from the Bergen airport to Copenhagen. We got to the Copenhagen airport around 7:30 PM but didn’t get to our Airbnb place until close to 10 PM because it was far away from the city center and we had to figure out how to get there. The place was huge and we had the entire house to ourselves which was nice after so many stops of having to share a house and common areas with other people.

Back in 2001 I studied abroad in Seville, Spain with some friends from college. Before our school started in Seville we decide to backpack through Europe for about month. We started our trip in Copenhagen, then we went to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Barcelona, and Madrid before making it to Seville. We only spent a couple of days in Copenhagen and our priorities back then were a little different than our now. I do remember seeing the main city square, the train station, the little mermaid, and enjoying the nightlife. Copenhagen has more to offer than just the highlights of my 15 year old memory. It is the capital of Denmark and a number of famous attractions like the Tivoli Gardens, the Little Mermaid, and its Palaces. Copenhagen is also well known for its bicycles, its colorful neighborhoods, and is consistently ranked high in cities with the highest quality of life.

Nyhavn
Nyhavn

On our first full day, we made our way to the city center. I hadn’t had a haircut in nearly 2 months and was in sore need of one. The cheapest haircut I could find in Scandinavia was about $30 and I couldn’t stomach paying that much for my simple haircut. I found out that Copenhagen has a hairdresser school where you can get haircuts for less than $10 USD. The guy that cut my hair was this huge guy with no style. Every other student at the school was dressed nice and had some sort of well-shaped, hip haircut but my guy looked like he hadn’t shaved in a few days, and was dressed in an old T-shirt and ill-fitting pants. He was nice enough but he still needs some work before he’s ready to graduate. I had to get him to go back over a few spots that he just completely missed or were uneven but I guess you get what you pay for. Afterwards, we went to get lunch at Copenhagen Street Food which is an area of Copenhagen across from the Royal Danish Playhouse and the Nyhavn neighborhood that has a number of street food stalls in a warehouse adjacent to the harbor. I got a pulled duck sandwich which was delicious and Diem got a surf and turf burger which was not that good. Next, we walked across the newly finished Inderhavnsbro (Inner Harbour Bridge) connecting the Nyhavn and Christianshavn to Nyhavn. Nyhavn is a famous area that has colorfully painted houses along river/canal, similar to Amsterdam and Italy. We had a nice sunny day so we got some nice pictures and it actually wasn’t too crowded.

Christianborg Palace
Christianborg Palace

After lunch, we decided to do a Sandeman’s free walking tour to explore the city and learn some more about the history of Copenhagen. We’ve done a number of Sandeman’s tours and they’ve all been pretty good. The tour started at City Hall which we found out was modeled after the City Hall in Sienna, Italy which we visited back in 2009. City hall square is one of the few places I remember from my trip in 2001 but half of the square was blocked off for construction and preparation of the cultural festival and the cooking festival that was happening just as we were leaving. On the tour we learned that Copenhagen has an interesting history of burning down, and many of the buildings (City Hall) have been built and re-built many times. We first walked by the Tivoli Gardens amusement park and the tour guide said its one of his favorite places in Copenhagen. We’re not that big of fans of amusement parks so we didn’t end up going inside during our stay but it is pretty famous and one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. Next, we went by the house of the founder of Carlsberg beer, named after one of his sons. He started the Carlsberg foundation which was founded to promote and support Danish scientific research within the fields of natural sciences, mathematics, philosophy, the humanities and social sciences. Next, we went by Christianborg Palace which has a free tower that you can go up and get a look of the city. The Palace holds all 3 branches of the Danish government. We also walked by Gammel Strand which is a street and public square in central Copenhagen. On the south side it borders on the Slotsholmens Canal while the north side is lined by a row of brightly colored houses from the 18th and 19th century.

Bishop Absalon and St. Nicholas Church in the background
Bishop Absalon and St. Nicholas Church in the background

We next stopped by the Bishop Absalon, founder of the city of Copenhagen, statue for a small break.  After the break, we walked by St. Nicholas Church (modern arts gallery), Magasin Du Norv Mall – Kongen Nyorv station (upscale mall) before we stopped at Nyhavn again. We next went to the King Christian Statue where the tour guide told us some interesting history about the King and Hitler. Apparently, Hitler didn’t like the tone of a letter that the King sent in reply Hitler’s letter congratulating the King on his 72nd birthday. Hilter then ordered all the Danish Jews out of Denmark to various concentration camps but the King was able to finance the transport of Danish Jews to unoccupied Sweden, where they would be safe from Nazi persecution. We next walked to the Amalienborg Palace and Museum. The Palace is actually made up of four identical buildings - Christian VII’s Palace (also known as Moltke's Palace, used as guest residence), Christian VIII’s Palace (also known as Levetzau' Palace, used as guest palace for Prince Joachim and Princess Benedikte), Frederik VIII’s Palace (also known as Brockdorff’s Palace, home of the Crown Prince family), and Christian IX’s Palace (also known as Schack’s Palace, home of the Queen and Prince Consort). In the middle of the palace square there is a statue of King Frederik V from 1771.  We then walked to the nearby harbor for a view of the Opera house. The tour guide ended the tour with a nice story of the Jews of Denmark. When Hitler removed the Jews of Denmark to concentration camps or to other locations, the houses and businesses that the Danish Jews owned were looked after and run by their neighbors and friends so that when the Danish Jews came back to Denmark, they could go right back to living in their houses and running their businesses. This anecdote had more significance after we visited Berlin and the Holocaust Memorial.

After the tour we walked to the Little Mermaid statue which was a 10 minute walk away. Just as I remembered, the Little Mermaid was pretty unimpressive. We were pretty tired from walking all day so we decided just to head back toward our house and get some groceries, make dinner, and go to bed.

The Little Mermaid Statue, but where is Sebastian the crab?
The Little Mermaid Statue, but where is Sebastian the crab?

The next day I went for a run around the house, next to a cemetery and a park. During the tour yesterday, the guide mentioned that all the cemeteries in Denmark are open and many people will walk through them, have picnics, and hang out on the cemetery grounds. We were pretty tired and it was pretty hot out so we decided to make it a rest day, we went to get groceries and Diem made lunch – rolled ham and cheese (Gouda) sandwiches with egg dippers.

Fredricksburg Castle
Fredricksburg Castle

On our last full day in Copenhagen, we started the day going to Fredricksburg Castle which was pretty close to our Airbnb. The Castle and the Castle grounds are really beautiful. The museum inside cost money but it was free to go around the Castle Gardens and moat/lake area. The garden area was huge and we wanted to explore more but it was getting pretty hot and there was still a lot in Copenhagen that we wanted to see so we went into downtown Copenhagen. We went to the Christiansburg Palace and up the Tower to get a nice view of the city. The tour guide told us that they passed out chocolates when you got to the top of the Tower but we were disappointed that we didn’t see any. We originally planned to walk around more but we were getting tired so we just went back and had dinner.

View from Christiansburg Palace Tower
View from Christiansburg Palace Tower

During our time in Copenhagen we saw signs for Copenhagen Food Festival that was starting the day we were leaving. Before we left Copenhagen, we tried to go to some free events of the Food Festival. One of the free events was by the Theivensen Musuem. There was also free entry into the museum which had a number of sculptures from the artist Theivensen. We went inside and the sculptures were really beautiful and impressive. Outside the museum we also saw a swimming event where people were swimming in the canals around Copenhagen. I would have liked to swim in the event but we were leaving that day and I didn’t have a wetsuit. Next, we went to an Ox of the day event where they were selling fresh meat but it didn’t look that good and we decided not to taste it. We also went by another event which was a combination food and art exhibition, but there were no free tastings. Our attempt to get free food at the festival was a failure so we ended up just going to the grocery store to get some food for the train ride.

Theivensen Musuem
Theivensen Musuem

This was a much different trip than my first visit to Copenhagen. I definitely appreciated the beauty of the city a lot more this time around. One regret was not renting a bike and going around the city but the bike lanes were definitely crowded and the bikers were pretty aggressive with each other and the pedestrians so we decided against braving the streets. We also wished we had a bigger budget to try some more of the high end food around Copenhagen. One restaurant, Noma, has been considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the world, maybe one day we'll splurge if we're back in the area.

See the full gallery of our Copenhagen visit here: Copenhagen, Denmark

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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