Things to see and do - Copenhagen
Copenhagen, the lucky capital :
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Copenhagen, the lucky capital
Copenhagen, the lucky capitalPedestrian, 11 km, 2 days
Denmark is said to have the happiest people in all European countries. A visit to Copenhagen is, therefore, a must! On arrival, the first thing to do is head straight to the city’s most characteristic neighbourhood: the old port of Nyhavn.Customise this route and add it to My travel book
This picturesque port was built in the late 17C to allow ships up to the Royal Square. The rapid development of trade here led to the construction of warehouses and narrow housing for the merchants, and the ground floors were soon turned into taverns and inns for the sailors. This once infamous quarter is today an ideal place for a stroll, with little restaurants and café terraces where you can now watch not trade ships but sailboats pass by. Andersen lived in several maisonnettes on the quayside and n° 69 has been turned into a Cultural Centre in his name.
In the centre of the square, the equestrian statue of Frederik V by Saly (1768), pays homage to the man who created this Royal district. The palace buildings were initially intended for high dignitaries and often named after the kings who lived there - Christian IX in 1755, Frederik VIII in 1760, Christian VIII in 1760 and Christian VII. Today, they are occupied by the royal family. The buildings are flanked by sunken wings with symmetrical sandstone façades with high central windows on a balustrade of pillars. Between the palaces, the square leads to two major roads - the one running north-south is crossed by Amalia Avenue that leads down to the Little Mermaid, while the east-west rout goes from the port and nearby Amelia Garden to the Marble Church. Building on the church began in 1749 but was interrupted through lack of funds and was only completed in 1874 thanks to the patronage of a banker. But the marble became simple stone. Nonetheless, the high and vast cupola is one of the landmarks of the city. Halfway between the square and the Kastellet, on the elegant Bredgade street, the former Frederik Hospital has been turned into the Museum of Decorative Arts that houses many objects showing the development of Danish craft including a Limoges enamelled reliquary from the 13C, a Tournai tapestry from the 15C and the largest collection of posters by Toulouse-Lautrec in the world.
On leaving Amalienborg, Amaliegade leads to Churchill Park at the centre of which stands a former barracks, the 18C Kastellet (18e s.), with Vauban-like fortifications surrounded by lakes. At the entrance to the park stands the Museum of the Resistance which pays homage to the Danish underground that fought against Nazi occupation. Further on, the Anglican church of St-Alban (19C) stands in front of the monumental Gefion Fountain, an illustration of a Danish myth.
On the sea front to the north of Amalienborg, the Little Mermaid, heroie of the famous tale by Andersen, looks forlornly out to see, sat on a rock. This sculpture by Edvard Eriksen (1913) was a gift from Carl Jocobsen to his city. It seems to symbolise the link between Copenhagen and the sea. "Inanimate objects, do you have a soul?" asked the poet. Perhaps this little statue would have given him an answer.
Initially a simple summer pavilion with two floors of redbrick and a small tower, Rosenborg doubled in size in 1615. It was raised and flanked with a large lateral tower, a central staircase was added and it became a little castle. The museum is made up of some luxurious rooms. The Winter Salon with its mural woodwork containing dozens of Flemish paintings resembles a vast book of hours. The Marble Room, meanwhile, is baroque, while the Great Festival Hall on the second floor contains the annals of the monarchy: an ivory throne, silver furniture. All thse rooms are furnished in period style and contain rare Flemish tapestries, Venetian glassware and silverware, including the Crown Jewels (crown of Christian IV and his wife -1731- plus other jewels). Opposite the King's Park, the Botanical Gardens (1870) are a lovely place for a stroll with greenhouses containing tropical plants (cacti, palm trees and orchids). On the other side, heading back down towards the city centre, the Samling Collection includes Islamic works of art and French and English furniture from the 18C.
Giving a fine retrospective of Danish pictorial art from the 19C and 20C, the Fine Ats Museum contains the Skagen School (active around 1880 with Anna and Michael Ancher and P Kroyer), and paintings from the Golden Age (1815-1850, with Eckensberg and Hansen), the Romantics, the Fionian (Larsen , Willemsen, Peter Hansel) Surrealists and so on. But, aside from the painters who are not known beyond their country, the Museum also has a journey through the work of the Grand Masters. All schools are represented here. Italy, with Lippi, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and the moving Passion of Christ by Mantegna; Holland, with the skies of Ruysdael, Rembrandt and another version of Christ in Emmaüs, portraits by Hals; the Flemish by Memling with a lovely Nativity, Peter Christus, Jordaens, Brueghel (the Elder and the Younger) and Rubens; The Rhenan schools by the Cranachs (including the superb Melancholia) and the French by the landscapes of Lorrain. While 19C art does not figure here, the 20C is well represented. There are Cubists, Cobras, Surrealists and Expressionists, with a collection of Matisses ( Intérieur au violon, Odalisque, Poisson rouge) that is one of the best in the world.
Two streets (Frederiksberggade and Nygade) lead from the Town Hall and are mostly given over to tourist shops. They end in two paved squares that make up an inverted double trapezium: to the left, the Old Square, where the first town market was held and tournaments used to be held; and to the right, the New Square, occupied by the Law Court which used to be the Town Hall and where the condemned used to be tortured. At the heart of this two-sided esplanade, the Caritas Fountain illustrates one of the theological virtues, as its name suggests. During holidays, the fountain contains golden balls, hence the nickname "fountain of the golden apples". Strøget is followed by Nybroggade and Vimmelskaftet, leading to Amagertov, the old fish market since dominated by the Stork Fountain (1894), where newly qualified midwives gather. A short diversion towards the banks and you can go an see Absalon who still proudly watches over Christiansborg and come back to the luxury shops, stopping off in front of St Nicholas's Church whose 16C tower is all that remains of the original building, accompanied by a modern steeple (1910) that is just as impressive. Then you will arrive at the New Royal Square after another detour to the "Latin Quarter" this time, where Pistolstraede leads you through 18C houses.
On the northwestern flank of Christiansborg, aside from the cupola of the Royal Chapel (1826), the Thorvaldsens Museum is of Greek-Roman inspiration (1839-1848) and houses neoclassical works of art from the great Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844). Thorvaldsen's career was mainly based in Rome but in 1838, he returned triumphant to Denmark and was made an honorary citizen of Copenhagen.
Between the early fortress and Christianborg, there was a gothic castle in around 1416, a baroque palace (of which the two wings and stairs remain, accessed from the Marble Bridge) which was intended to rival Versailles. It burned down in 1794 and a further fire ruined the neoclassical reconstruction of 1803-1828. In the iddle of the courtyard stands the equestrian statue of Frederick VII. The castle now houses the Parliament, the Prime Minister's office and the royal reception rooms.
Several buildings, linked together by winter gardens full of exotic plants, give this museum a maze-like feel. Danish painting is not the main focus of interest here, even though there are some lovely landscape paintings and a fine Self-Portrait by Lundbye. The rooms devoted to Antiquities are exceptionally well appointed, both in terms of geographical coverage (from Sumer in Egypt to Greece and Rome via the Etruscans) and the quality of the work on display here. There is a colossal group of Ramses II, the famous alabaster Nile Hippopotaus, Cypriot silver plates Attic heads and bas-reliefs from Rhodes, Greek portraits of great men and their Roman counterparts, Roman copies of Polycletes and Praxitelus, and many objects from the Etruscan civilisation (jewels, sarcophaguses, urns, etc.) The other area of interest is the collection of paintings and sculptures from 19-20C France. Here you will find sculptures by Rodin (including The Kiss), Carpeaux and Degas, paintings by Géricault, Delacroix, Daumier (Don Quixot and Sancho Panza), Corot, Millet, Courbet, Manet (Le Buveur, Portrait de Mlle Lemonnier), Berthe Morisot, Renoir, Sisley (Flood in Port-Marly), Monet (Ombres sur la mer, Rochers de Belle-Isle, etc.) Autoportrait au chapeau melon by Cézanne, Femme au gardénia by Gauguin, Portrait du Père Tanguy by Van Gogh and Paysage de Saint-Rémy.
No clever fountains here, but hundreds of Venetian lights that make this eight-hectare park so magical. There are 400,000 flowers and 110,000 lightbulbs here and the park is a few steps away from the Town Hall. Since it was opened in 1843, this has become the most popular attraction in Denmark, not least with the people of Copenhagen for whom this is their favourite spot for a stroll. There are dozens of refreshment stalls, 30 or so restaurants (from the simple to the luxurious), fairground attractions (roundabouts, bumper cars, roller coasters, etc.), music of all sorts, from rock and pop to classical (the concert hall is the home of the Sjaelland Symphonic); and if you prefer the theatre, there are plays of commedia dell arte or pantomies like the ones that used to entertain the public in the old days of the Fair. This is a perfect place for relaxation and enjoyment, in a human, innocent environment, a million miles away from the modern theme park experience where you are just another customer. And the impeccable uniformed guards don't wear the false smiles of a theme park either. If you are lucky enough to visit on one of the three evenings per week where Tivoli is lit up with a firework display, you will see the sky light up in a thousand colours.