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. 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.
Designed by Nicolai Eigtved on the request of Frederik V, this palace is made up of the four buildings that occupy the octagonal square and adjacent streets. It is an example of Classical urbanism that is delcately freed from its constraints by discreet baroque na drococo artifices. With the addition of the marble church that stands to the north of the square, Amalienborg is now a diplomatic centre, giving it the same aristocratic air as it had in former days.
On leaving Amalienborg, Amaliegade leads to Churchill Park at the centre of which stands a former barracks, the 18C Kastellet (18 e 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 seafront, the Little Mermaid, the symbol of the city of Copenhagen, sits on a rock on the water's edge looking forlornly towards the entrance to the huge port. This bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen was a gift from Carl Jocobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg brewery, to his city and honours Hans Christian Andersen and the attachment Danes have with the sea.
In 1606, Christian IV bought a vast expanse of land outside the city walls that he turned into a garden, nowadays the Royal Garden, in which he built a "folly" that over the years was transformed into a castle. The most advanced techniques of the time were used here, including bathrooms with running water, and a drawbridge operated from the winter salon. In 1710, the palace ceased to be a royal residence as Frederik IV considered it too small. Since 1833, Rosenborg has housed the Crown Jewels.
The original building boasts a collection of Danish and international art up to 1900 in two sections: European art from 1300 to 1800, in particular Flemish and Dutch painters from the 15C-18C; and Danish and European art from 1800 to 1900. A gallery, the "street of sculpture", links the old building and the new, which displays 20C art, including Scandinavian paintings, a collection of canvases by Matisse, the CoBra movement, Cubism etc. Other rooms are devoted to modern, Danish and foreign art.
From the Town Hall to the New Royal Square, there is a maze of streets that sometimes open out onto squares, forming the "main street" of Copenhagen. During a walk through these streets, styles change and duty free shops make way for elegant shops labelled with "suppliers to the Court". And, unless you wind among the cars, strollers must find a way through the coming and going of passers-by and the café terraces that have invaded the footpaths.
Denmark's most famous sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844), spent a great part of his life in Rome and was welcomed home as a hero when he returned to his native country. Built in a deliberately neo-Classical style in homage to the artist, this museum houses a number of his sculptures, as well as his personal collection of works, which provides a fascinating insight into the art of his time.
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.
The large art collection, established by the brewer Carl Jacobsen in 1882, is at the origin of this museum. It boasts the biggest collection of antiquities in Northern Europe (the Etruscan section is particularly impressive), and a collection of French art from the 19C and 20C, including a large portfolio of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works. The museum also houses numerous Danish sculptures and important canvases by 19C Danish artists.
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.