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Copenhagen, Denmark

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know … ?

  • Georg Jensen Silversmiths originated in 1904 when Georg Jensen opened a silver workshop in Copenhagen.
  • An estimated 1.2 million people visit the Little Mermaid statue each year.
  • Walt Disney took some of his inspiration from Tivoli Gardens.
  • Bakken, opened 1583 near Copenhagen, is considered the world’s oldest amusement park.
  • Stroget in the center of Copenhagen is the world’s longest pedestrian street (about .7 miles).

Beyond the mermaid

It is sometimes said the Little Mermaid statue is to Danes what the Statue of Liberty is to Americans. It is a very important symbol indeed. On the other hand, it has suffered from vandalism and occasional verbal attacks from feminists. Never mind. There is more to the Danish capital than a small statue by the water.

Copenhagen was founded in the 12th century for security reasons. Therefore, it sits so far east on Denmark’s hundreds of islands that it is now linked by bridge and tunnel to Malmo in Sweden. And it is characterized by numerous canals and winding waterways, much like other cities that face Europe’s northern seas.

Many of Copenhagen’s oldest, and historically important, buildings date from the early 17th century, an era noted for ambitious construction projects undertaken by King Christian IV. One project was an entire section of town, Christianshavn, with its canals and surviving 17th century buildings.

Essentially, however, the city center shows off a lovely low-rise environment dating from the 18th century or later because of two major fires in the 1700s. It also helps that locals don’t want skyscrapers in the city center.

In a 21st century development, at an old industrial area along the Sydhavnen canal near Christianshavn, the buildings are also low rise. The new housing is meant to foster Dutch-inspired canal living. However, it is very modern, and not everyone is a fan.

Copenhagen is notable as a clean, generally safe and friendly city where most people speak English. The Copenhagen tourist office frankly warns visitors off the few danger spots. One suggestion: Don’t take photos on Pusher Street (the street name is for real) although drug trading has been largely cleaned up.

Danes are liberal about matters related to sex, which means, for example, that visitors may stumble onto art exhibits with porn in the collection.

The krone remains the currency, rather than the euro, and the city can be expensive. This requires some planning. It is helpful that some museums have no admission and others offer occasional free dates. Also, there are hostels and other housing choices for tight budgets.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Stroll through the so-called Free City of Christiania in the Christianshavn section of town. You will be surrounded by art on the street and in galleries, some of the outre kind. Residents consider that they are not part of the European Union.
  • Do your daytime shopping and nighttime socializing in the hip area called Vesterbro, a former working class and red light district. Check out Vesterbro’s new cafe square, Halmtorvet. (Part of Vesterbro is still a red light district though.)
  • Hang out with the locals at Assistens Kirkegarden, a cemetery and Hans Christian Andersen’s final resting place. Copenhageners use it as a park in summer and can be found sunning themselves among the gravestones. Another idea: Ride the Demon, a heart-stopping roller coaster in Tivoli Gardens.
  • Climb the 17th century Round Tower for great views of the city. This involves walking up a wide 686-foot-long ramp that wraps around the center seven and a half times. It also involves some stairs on a tight circular staircase. Go up when you can use the equally old observatory to view the heavens (meaning nighttime, in winter). See exhibitions and attend concerts in this complex, too.
  • See the Museum of Modern Glass Art for the art and for the building, which originated in the 18th century as an underground water reservoir.
  • Come to town in May for the European Beer Festival. You will have a chance to see some of the old Carlsberg Brewery premises.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Bicycles are a frequent form of transport here. Choose a bike to get around when you do your sightseeing.
  • Make a lunch of a local favorite, a pork sausage with bread, purchased from one of many corner sausage stands.
  • If you like architecture, plan an itinerary built around the projects of King Christian IV, who reigned from 1588 to 1648. Those structures include the Rosenborg Castle, the Round Tower (Rundetaarn), the Old Stock Exchange, the Armoury Museum, the Old Citadel (Kastellet) and an entire section of town, the canalside area called Christianshavn.
  • Jog along Sortedams Lake in Osterbro, a district noted for its green spaces.
  • Have a coffee or lunch in one of the numerous canalside cafes found at Nyhavn or in Christianshavn.
  • Prepare a picnic, and take your sweetheart rowing in Frederiksberg Gardens.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Take photos at the noon changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace (available when the royal family is in residence). Turn up early to get a good position. Stay on to see some of the rooms inside the palace, too.
  • Take an hourlong canal tour to get acquainted with the waterways that characterize Denmark’s capital. This is a good supplement to a guided land tour that includes time getting acquainted with City Hall and relishing the treasures of the National Museum.
  • See the five-foot, four-inch tall Little Mermaid. Everyone else does.
  • Choose the classy Frederiksberg Alle in the independent municipality of Frederiksberg (in the middle of Copenhagen) for your evening’s entertainment. Establishments on this street offer theatrical entertainment and live music.
  • In the northern part of town, visit the open-air museum, Frilandsmuseet, which has more than 100 buildings, some reflecting life as far back as 1650. On summer afternoons, you might see folkloric dance programs or demonstrations of old crafts.
  • Walk — and shop — on Stroget, the pedestrian street in the heart of the capital city. Shop for quintessentially Danish goods: amber, Royal Copenhagen porcelain or Georg Jensen silver.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult Wonderful Copenhagen at www.visitcopenhagen.com