Denmark’s vibrant capital city is famous for its picturesque waterfront, colourful housing facades and cutting-edge design. The historic architecture blends with the modern Scandinavian style to create a fusion city, one that fits both in the future, and the past. Copenhagen is one of the most dynamic stops on any Baltic cruise. In this article, we’ll provide a handy guide on how to make the most of your stopover in the capital, including a broad range of attractions and sights for every type of traveller.
When you arrive at Copenhagen you’ll be overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, and how happy the people are! The city welcomes you into its arms with brightly painted buildings and winding cobbled streets.
In Copenhagen the flat compact downtown area is perfect for walking, but bikes are the best way to see the city. This way you can take in the city streets how the locals do, and it’s the perfect way to see as much as you can. There are bike rental places all over the capital, and it won’t cost you too much to rent a cycle for a few hours or the day.
We spoke to Ben Posetti from Donkey Republic, one of the leading bike rental services in Copenhagen and they told us about the history of cycling in Copenhagen: “In the 80s and 90s the city started prioritising bike infrastructure in the city. As cycling grew then it became part of the city culture and the most efficient way to get around. This was such a success that they introduced a Cycle Policy in 2002 aiming for 40% of trips made on bike by 2012, and they reached 45%. It helps that the city is also very flat and not too big, so you can get everywhere easily. But mostly it just became part of the culture as a standard mode of transport.”
Ben also spoke to us about why tourists should embrace the cycling culture of Copenhagen during their visits: “Cycling is nearly always the most efficient way to get around the city compared to driving, public transport or walking. Because the bike lanes are so well developed it is really safe to cycle, segregated from car traffic. But most importantly it's the best way to see the city, whether it's weaving across bridges down the canal or cycling through parks and green areas.”
Nyhavn is the most picturesque part of Copenhagen and the postcard part of the capital, it’s the epitome of the capital. Nyhavn was once a busy commercial port, but now the canal is a relaxed area full of upmarket bars and restaurants. In the warmer months you can stroll by the multi coloured houses and grab a drink in one of the canal side cafes or do as the locals do - grab a beer and sit on the edge of the canal. In the winter months Nyhavn fills with stalls and festive cheer and it’s the perfect place to warm up with a hot drink and do some light Christmas shopping.
Most of the houses have been lived in by prominent artists, but none more famous than the former resident of number 20, Hans Christian Andersen. He is said to have wrote ‘The Princess and The Pea’ here and has also lived in number 67 and number 18. You can visit his house and see the plaque dedicated to him or you can go one better and visit our next suggestion.
The Little Mermaid
Although Nyhavn is the postcard, The Little Mermaid statue is the symbol. The statue, a dedication to its namesake written by Hans Christian Anderson, sits at Langelinie Pier, and is probably the city’s most popular tourist attraction. The statue was a gift to Copenhagen from Carl Jacobsen in 1913 and has sat there ever since. The small, unimposing statue is backed by Copenhagen’s industrial area, where the mermaid stares out to sea waiting for her prince.
A little out of town, The Little Mermaid statue is the perfect place to cycle to and experience the city on your way. As you cycle north you will no doubt also go past Kastellet, Copenhagen’s star-shaped military fortress and museum.
Tivoli Gardens is Copenhagen’s own amusement park and gardens. The park originally opened in 1843 and is home to the second oldest operating amusement park in the world, the other being Dyrehavsbakken, which is also in Denmark. Hans Christian Anderson is said to have visited here many times, along with Walt Disney and many other famous faces, who all fell in love with it.
The rides are nostalgic and twist through the park complimenting the architecture and gardens. The oldest rollercoaster, dating back to 1914, is the most popular ride inthe park and still fully functional. It is one of only seven roller coasters worldwide that require a brakeman in every train.
We spoke to Mette Rou Lund, communications officer for Tivoli who told us about the rich history of the gardens: “Tivoli Gardens is Denmark’s most popular attraction, loved by locals and tourists and with the ability to enchant guests since 1843. Tivoli Gardens is so much more than rides and games. With the beautiful flower gardens and unique architecture there is always something pretty to look at.
“With live music and ballet at the open-air stages in the summer, performances in several indoor venues, The Tivoli Youth Guard marching band, the illuminations and fireworks displays there is also a lot to experience. This year Tivoli Gardens celebrates the 175th anniversary throughout 2018. In May we’ll have a Tivoli Anniversary Parade with World Disney World Resort contribution. Living up to the motto: Always Like Never Before.”
If you are seeking out the alternative, Christiania is the place for you. Copenhagen’s Freetown is an eco-friendly and autonomous area of the city. As you enter Christiania you walk past a list of rules, such as no telephone calls or photographs. The walls are swathed with street art, and Christiania is a mix of homemade houses, art exhibitions, workshops, music venues and bars all complementing the intertwining flowers and plants.
Christiana is for the eccentric, the unruly and the free. It feels like you are entering a whole different world, a world unlike anything you have ever known. Although the prospect of a self-policing Freetown can be daunting, the people are happy, and it is a top tourist spot in the city, so don’t be too afraid to step through the arch.
If historic is more your speed, you will not want to miss out on the Christiansborg Palace. The Palace is located on the island of Slotsholmen, not too far south of Nyhavn. The spectacular building contains Danish Parliament, the Ministry of State, the Supreme Court and some parts are even reserved for use by the Royal Family.
The grounds around Christiansborg Palace are just as beautiful as the building itself and makes for a delightful stroll through the brilliant Danish horticulture. The tower is the highest in Copenhagen, and a free visit will give you a great vantage point of the city.
For food you’ll want to check out Torvehallerne, a large food market near Nørreport. The stalls you can find in Torvehallerne display a vast range of food and drink choices. The court fully opens mid-morning, but you can head in to grab a coffee and some freshly baked bread earlier in the day. For the authentic food lovers this is a fantastic place to immerse yourself in the very best of Danish cuisine.
For lunch you may want to find a local restaurant that serves the traditional Danish lunch of smørrebrød, which is quite literally spread bread. This traditional dish brings together a myriad of toppings with some fresh rye bread for a dish made to suit every taste bud and one that will look great on your Instagram feed.
If you are looking for something more upmarket, you’ll find it in Copenhagen. With high quality seasonal ingredients, new Nordic gastronomy and fine dining places, you’ll find everything you need for an exclusive meal in the city. Copenhagen has 15 Michelin star restaurants, and hundreds more fine dining experiences, so a culinary experience will never be too far out of your way.
Copenhagen is the home of Carlsberg, and therefore the beer that comes through the pumps is only ever meters from home. You can head to any bar in the city to taste some of the freshest beer you’ll ever try, or you can even head to Visit Carlsberg to experience the brewery in all of its glory.
The residents of this grand city are by far one of the best things about it. Voted the happiest city in the world, the people of Copenhagen radiate pride for this city. You will never be too far from a friendly face, or a helping hand in the city, and sometimes the best experience can just be talking to a few locals in a bar or café.
Monica Stott from The Travel Hack spoke to us about her experience with the locals: “The people of Copenhagen are so lovely. They're kind, welcoming and friendly but it's all in an understated kind of way. They're very chilled and gentle so you won't be getting an over the top welcome, it's more of a 'come and make yourself and home' kind of welcome.”
However you chose to spend your time in Copenhagen on your Baltic cruise, you are guaranteed to fall in love. If the free spirits of Christiania don’t do it, the historic presence of Christiansborg Palace, the bright coloured building of Nyhavn or the sheer happiness of the people will.
Image Credit: Jacob Schjørring & Simon Lau, Donkey Republic, Thomas Høyrup Christensen, Ty Stange 1/2, Martin Heiberg, Thomas Steen Sørensen, cyclonebill, Rasmus Flindt Pedersen, Copenhagen Media Center.