An August 2004 trip
to Copenhagen by michaelhudson
Quote: Hip, laid back and idiosyncratic, Copenhagen is one of Europe's oldest and most accessible capitals.
For the best bird’s eye views of the city head to the Marmorkirken in Amalienborg or the historic Rundertårn in the inner city, Indre By, where the city’s main shopping street, Strøget, Charlottenborg Palace and Nyhavn, whose multi-coloured canalside promenade is one of the city’s picturesque spots, are all located. While you’re in the area you can also pick up some wonderful Danish pastries from Trianon, down a small sidestreet opposite Helligåndskirken, or get a hot dog from one of the many street vans on your way back to Rådhuspladsen and the heart of the city.
Copenhagen’s de facto symbol the Little Mermaid is one of those things that you have to see but can never understand why. The nearby Kastellet and the Resistance Museum make the walk from the centre worthwhile.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the National Museum. Also recommended are the Carlsberg Visitors’ Centre and the Ny Carlsberg Glypotek. While Tivoli is overpriced, the city has wonderfully expansive public parks such as Frederiksberg Have and Kongens Have, where you’ll find the Dutch-Renaissance Rosenborg Slot. The Botanical Gardens are also free of charge and boast an interesting Palm House.
Like the Little Mermaid and Tivoli Gardens, Christiania was something of a disappointment. However, the area inspires such subjective opinions that you really need to judge it for yourself. The island on which it is located, Christianshavn is indisputably worth visiting, not least for the mad spire of the Vor Frelsers Kirke.
Finally, Copenhagen is by no means a cheap city, and accommodation, eating out and alcohol are particularly expensive. Expect to pay upwards of DKK30 for a beer; hotel rates are on a par with London.
You can save 40% off bus, Metro and S-Tog journeys by purchasing a klipperkort, a strip of ten tickets that you can buy at bus and train stations or at Visit Copenagen. There’s also a one-day ticket (DKK100, two under 12s free with one paying adult).
Admission to most of Copenhagen’s museums and galleries is free one day of the week. The National Museum, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Royal Danish Arsenal and the Resistance Museum are free on Wednesdays, while the Ny Carlsberg Glypotek is free on both Wednesdays and Sundays and the City Museum on Fridays. A number also close one day of the week – usually Mondays – so check the relevant Internet sites before you visit.
The Copenhagen Card is available from the main tourist offices. As I wasn’t using public transport I didn’t find it particularly cost effective. However, if you’re planning to visit the suburbs and see a number of museums during your stay, it might be worth a look.
For the genuine Copenhagen transport experience, you can hire bikes for a DKK20 deposit from one of many stands dotted around the city centre. Full information on the scheme is available from City Bike Info. You can also rent bicycles from Københavns Cykler, located on Central Station’s platform 12.
The cheapest way to see the city from the water is the one-hour tour (DKK25) operated by Netto Boats which starts from Nyhavn.
Connections between Kastrup Airport and the city centre are extremely convenient. Trains (DKK25.50) run round the clock, and the journey time to Central Station is under fifteen minutes.
The three star rated Copenhagen Express is a ten minute walk from Tivoli and Central Station in Danasvej, a residential street in Frederiksberg. The bright and modern reception area is situated in a 24 hour café on the ground floor, which offers free internet access and shelves of literature on the city’s attractions. Aside from a narrow strip along the near side wall, the floor space in the room, a 2.5 x 5 metre rectangle of white and pale green with an interior bathroom formed by three sides of a hexagon cut into the sloping wall to the right of the door, was almost entirely covered by two adjoining single beds and a unit combining a clothes rail and hangars with open fronted drawer space. A metre long window stretched along the top of the headboards to the far wall, where a third bed extended out halfway between the floor and the ceiling. In the remaining two corners were a folding table with chair and a small shelf holding an electric kettle, some polystyrene cups, tea bags and sachets of coffee were located. A large, colour wall chart explains how to assemble the table, access the higher bed and work the shower and wall mounted TV. Immaculately clean, the overall effect was one of comfort without a great deal of character.
The bathroom was straight out of an overnight ferry crossing – consisting of a narrow plastic shelf, a sink about three hands’ width across, a floor to ceiling shower curtain that pulled round into a circle to partition the room in two, and a shower head resembling an upside down periscope which shot hot water down in straight vertical lines.
Breakfast, which is available at an extra charge of DKK50 per morning, was much the same as the rooms: pleasant if not particularly memorable. Families and middle aged guests sat quietly in a purple carpeted room of yellow and deep brown, a mirror running the entire length of the wall opposite a smaller room containing a large bowl of apples, slices of ham, salami, turkey and cheese, three kinds of cereal, fruit juice, yoghurt, several varieties of bread and an array of jams, marmalades and butter.
Two nights bed and breakfast at the Cab-Inn Express cost a combined total of DKK1,460 for two people. Parking is available at an extra cost of DK55 per day. The nearest S-Tog station is Vesterport, a five minute walk in the direction of the city centre; the closest Metro station is Forum, a couple of minutes to the north.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on August 27, 2004
Cab Inn Copenhagen Express
Danasvej 32 - 34
Attraction | "Carlsberg Visitors' Centre"
Free drink vouchers and floor plans for the self-guided tours are dispensed from the reception desk at the entrance to the building complex. The tour is divided into sixteen sections, including displays on the brewery laboratory, beer processing, the malting cellars, bottling, the workers’ quarters, distribution, the history of the Carlsberg and Tuborg breweries, the brewing process and the disused workshops for the coopers, cartwrights and blacksmiths. Largely composed of models and photographs with explanatory text in Danish and English, the exhibits are informative but mostly uninvolving, the undoubted highlight being the stables, where a team of drayhorses from Jutland are still kept in working condition. In addition to original features such as a steam engine used in the production process and a number of wooden distribution carts, by far the most interesting feature of the tour is the contrast between modern and traditional working practices, best illustrated by a video showing workers manually shoveling backbreaking amounts of malt during the germination process.
The Bar Carlsberg is the penultimate stage of the tour, immediately before the obligatory Gift and Souvenir Shop, which sells branded items including clothing, umbrellas, key rings and beer glasses. The two vouchers given to each visitor are more than generous considering the fact that the tour is completely free of charge, each voucher entitling the holder to a soft drink or a 250ml glass of one of the five draught beers on offer. The bar itself is large, bright and sufficiently well staffed to keep queues down to a minimum, while the rapid turnover of visitors means seats are usually available at one of the dozen or so wooden benches.
Overall, while probably not the best brewery tour in the world, a trip to the Carlsberg Visitors’ Centre is one of the best bargains you’re likely to find in Copenhagen. Just over a kilometre from the city centre, and a few hundred metres from the expansive park and boating lakes at Frederiksberg Have, bus number 26 connects the brewery to Central Station; the closest S-Tog station is Enghave.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 27, 2004
Carlsberg Brewery Visitor Center
11, Gamle Carlsberg Vej
(45) 3327 1282
Attraction | "Marmorkirken"
The grand, neo-Baroque exterior – purposely evocative of St Peter’s in Rome – stands at the midpoint of the Royal quarter, a monumental portico of four precisely aligned columns topped by a green copper dome- 150 feet high and 108 feet round - which soars above the cramped encircling streets. The dimly lit interior is not quite as interesting, the most interesting detail the tell-tale transition from expensive Norwegian marble to cheaper Danish materials eight metres above floor level, marking the point at which the original financing ran out.
Forty minute tours up the 260 steps to the bell tower commence punctually at 1 and 3pm daily (weekends only between September and mid-June; DKK20). Comfortable shoes and a good head for heights are required as the guide leads the way along a musty staircase to a one metre wide walkway approximately two thirds of the way up the circular internal walls, before taking a hidden doorway above the altar to a narrow, steep set of 80 stone steps, each barely as wide as a human foot. An uncomfortably tight spiral of steel steps takes you into the gap between the inner and outer domes, where a walkway leads around and above the thick wooden supports.
The final few steps through a trapdoor reveal a wonderful 360-degree sweep, the views stretching far across the flat horizon to the Øresund Bridge, the Swedish coastline and Malmö on one side and way out over Copenhagen on the other, the contrasting spires of the incongruously English St Alban’s Church and the dizzying Vor Frelsers Kirke forming distance markers to the north and south. It seems like the whole city is spread out down below, packed clusters of red roofed houses, dark green parks, banks of wind turbines standing in the water, planes descending into Kastrup Airport, rooftop car parks, the Oslo ferry dwarfing the new Opera House, and all the other stalwarts of Copenhagen’s skyline from Christiansborg Slot to the Rådhus, stately Rosenborg to the golden onion domes of the Alexsander Nevsky Church. Not to be missed.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 29, 2004
The Marble Church (Marmorkirken)
33 15 01 44
Attraction | "National Museum"
Make sure you collect one of the free floorplans at the entrance, as the layout of the first few rooms is slightly confusing. Most of the ground floor is taken up with the stunning Prehistoric Denmark and the Viking Age collection, which begins on the far side of a central courtyard. By turns grotesque and enthralling, the highlights are the stunning Trundholm Sun Chariot - a flaking gold leaf disc pulled by a straight backed horse on broken wheels – and a number of oak coffins, the grisly, partially clothed remains of their occupants preserved in peat bogs for three millennia. The best known, the 3,400 year old Egtved Girl, was buried with a small bucket of beer on top of her body, still visible along with her blond hair and bronze jewellery. Even the exhaustive Viking artefacts – several rooms of clothing, weaponry and jewellery – pale just a bit in comparison.
Upstairs on the first floor, temporary exhibition space, the Royal Numismatic Collection and some 18th century Rococo interiors from The Prince’s Palace are housed alongside the wonderful Ethnographical Collection and The Danish Middle Ages and Renaissance. Stern, unadorned Viking crucifixes and elaborate gold altars from pre-Reformation Denmark are just some of the stand out exhibits from the Middle Ages; the ethnographical collection takes in indigenous cultures from five continents, including rooms devoted to New Guinea, India, Siberia and Japan.
Aside from small spaces for temporary exhibitions and toys, the second floor is split between Stories of Denmark 1660-2000- a fascinating look at every segment of Danish society, from displays on Royalty to provincial houses, WWII exhibits and women’s clothing from a bankrupt Copenhagen department store - and the Ethnographical Treasures section, with exhibits on China, Korea, Africa and superb Inuittreasures like the protective charm coated clothing belonging to the Amulet Boy and huge whalebone carvings.
The final floor is much smaller, with twenty rooms full of Near Eastern and Classical Antiquities that can be skipped without any real sense of loss. The artefacts are drawn from Egypt, Greece, Cyprus and Italian and include some interesting mummies, vases and Etruscan jewellery, but there’s really nothing here to compare with Denmark’s own treasures.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 2, 2004
National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet)
Frederiksholms Kanal 12
Copenhagen, Denmark 1220
(45) 3313 4411
Attraction | "Rundetårn"
The main attraction for modern visitors are the views from the roof of the tower (open daily; DKK20), which is curiously reached via a 209 metre long cobbled spiral ramp that turns seven and a bit times around the tower’s hollow centre. The absence of a staircase from all but the very top of the ascent encouraged a German tourist to drive up in 1902, while Peter the Great reputedly rode up on horseback – a more contemporary hazard are the groups of schoolchildren racing down the blind turns of the wooden staircase below the entrance to the observatory.
The views through the latticed railings at the top, while not as impressive as those from the Marmorkirken, are well worth the long walk up, the flat urban sprawl of Copenhagen spotted with church spires; Rådhuspladsen’s towers marking the landmark clustered city centre; the dome of the Marmorkirken visible to the north and the tower blocks and industrial buildings of the suburbs to the east.
Trinity Church, joined to the base of the tower and visible through a glass doorway near the base of the ramp, is open to visitors, its Baroque ornamentation and grand organ deserving of a brief view. The library – halfway up the ramp but temporarily closed at the time of my visit – is more interesting, housing month long art and cultural exhibitions. Best of all, however, is the observatory, once reserved for scholars from the University of Copenhagen but now open to the public on winter evenings and weekends during the summer. See the Rundetårn website for full details.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 3, 2004
Rundetaarn (Round Tower)
Købmagergade 52 A
Copenhagen, Denmark 1160
45 33 73 03 73
Attraction | "Strøget"
Starting at Kongens Nytorv, home to the regal facades of Charlottenburg Palace and the Royal Theatre and with the famous statue of Christian V at its centre, Østergade is the most exclusive part of Strøget, overlooked by the red brick tower and green copper spire of the Nikolaj Kirke its slight, designer shop lined curve ends at Illums Department Store, a Copenhagen institution with one of Reinh van Hauen’s bakery outlets at its ground floor entrance.
Amagertorv takes over at the junction with Købmagergade, the outdoor tables of The Dubliner pub spilling onto the mosaic covered square near the 400 year old Royal Copenhagen building and the heron adorned Storkespringvandet (Stork Fountain). Look south for a great view of historic Slotsholmen, founded by Bishop Absalon – the subject of the nearby equestrian statue – in 1167. The wide street narrows as you pass the benches and hot dog vans near Helligåndskirken, squeezing through the hectic Vimmelskaftet, which in turn curves into Nygade, the shortest of Strøget’s thoroughfares.
Nygade intersects the wide rectangle formed by Gammeltorv and Nytorv (literally ‘old’ and ‘new’ squares), twin squares on the site of the city’s first marketplace, held when it was no more than a strategically located fishing village. The market has since shrunk into a few stalls selling cheap trinkets, clothes and fruit & veg. Of greater interest is the Domhus (Law Courts) and the risqué Caritas Fountain. Look closely and you’ll see water spurting out of Charity’s breasts while the small boy at her feet relieves himself into the pool of water below.
Frederiksberggade is the youngest and tackiest part of Strøget, a straight line of neon lights advertising fast food, glass shop fronts and souvenir shops with matching piles of t-shirts, Little Mermaid figures, postcards and key rings, opening into Rådhuspladsen, the City Hall towering over the wide square to the left and Tivoli and Central Station just a few minutes away across the busy road junction straight ahead.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 4, 2004
Stroget Pedestrian Shopping Area
Center of Copenhaten
Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, United Kingdom