A last minute trip to Copenhagen couldn’t be any more satisfying. I came with only the little mermaid and Andersen in mind but actually, with all the colorful buildings and castles, navigable canals, and pedestrian-friendly streets, that sad little sculpture is the last thing this city should promote. This eye candy of a city is such a delight. Although I should stop with food references because to be honest, the city is a den of fast food joints and ridiculous cold food. But yes, as a beer and sausage country like their neighbours, you can’t really blame them. You will need all the calories to survive the freezing winters anyway.
The city center is concentrated with brick structures combining early brick gothic with renaissance styles. There might be a shortage in bricks somewhere but definitely not in Copenhagen. One of the standouts is the city hall and surrounding hotels which form a nice square facing the Tivoli Gardens – one of the oldest functioning theme parks in the world.
Not far from the city hall is the Christiansborg Palace complex which includes the Parliament, Supreme Court and other government offices – pretty much the core of Danish politics. An ornate marble bridge introduces you to the grand entrance of the Palace stables. The Danish royalty obviously loved their horses. Actually, almost every statue is a king on a horse. One of the best features of the complex, however, is the Christiansborg Tower, the tallest tower in this city up to this day, with a viewing platform that is open to the public (for free!) offering stunning bird’s-eye views of Copenhagen.
Transportation is also aplenty with buses, the metro and trains criss-crossing paths across the city. But of course, the Danish prefer their bicycles. Not a second passes without you seeing anyone around on a bike. But actually, to get to the famous landmarks, a leisurely walk will do. Most of these structures are concentrated in the heart of the city so they are not difficult to get to. Along one of the city’s veins is the pedestrian avenue, the Stroget, the longest of its kind in the world. The street ends with the French-looking Kongens square surrounded by an opera house, a mall, and luxury hotels which seemed to have been plucked out of Paris.
Connected to this square is finally, the harbour or Nyhavn, the “postcard” Copenhagen, lined with colourful houses, restaurants, and parked sailboats.
The Amalienborg, not far up north, is said to be the Queen’s winter residence. I was lucky enough to pass by exactly at noon where the Danish guards with funny furry hats march to swap posts. Yes, they all have to march and stand in the cold just to replace a single guard on his post only to be fancied by random tourists afterwards. I don’t know how they make a straight face really. The great Marble church is also located in this complex. It has a gigantic dome and an ornate ceiling.
Further up north, is, well, you guessed it, the little mermaid sculpture (which is aptly named by the way). Luckily it is built near another landmark star fortress complete with a moat, a church, a windmill, and rows of brickhouse barracks so at least you have something else to do after walking all the way just to get that touristic shot of the famous sculpture. In winter, the fortress (including the surrounding moat) is covered with snow creating quite a landscape.
There are a myriad of other things to do with all the castles, gardens, and unique neighbourhoods scattered around the city. One could also visit the Carlsberg brewery if you are into beers or just curious about how it is made. The famous beer company opened up its elephant-guarded gates for a short but interesting tour of its historic old brewery. With a free beer in tow, you can explore the old and new ways of the brewery including the horse stables. The mini museum also stores the largest unopened beer bottle collection stacked in an array of shelves.
The greater Copenhagen area is also home to massive castles displaying the opulent wealth of generations of Danish royalty. I was glad I was able to still sneak into my itinerary a visit to the Frederiksborg Castle. The castle is standing proudly on a lake surrounded by well-manicured parks. It is around 40min by train from the Copenhagen center. This of course deserves a separate post but just for a teaser, here’s one of its majestic views:
Overall, I really liked the city. The people are quite nice although at wee hours of the night, expect a bit of craziness in the streets. My only true qualm is with the food. Rye bread and its cold toppings seem to be odd combinations for winter but well, I’m from a food culture with an entirely different taste palate (and thriving in a warmer weather for that matter). But yes, I was blown away by the city’s beauty. Just by the looks alone, it is up there with Vienna and Prague and I think I can safely recommend it as a legit European tour stop.