I went to Copenhagen with two of my best and closest friends, my cousin Cathie and Tracey for a short break of 4 days, perfect to see some of the main sites and get a feel of the city.
Flights from the UK are direct and approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, we flew with British Airways and it was a quick, easy and comfortable flight.
This is a place that I have wanted to visit since I was a child as, like many other people, I was captivated by the magic of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories, The Little Mermaid being one of my favourites, but first lets talk about the city itself.
Cycling is huge in Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars, which makes makes for a healthy environment and the roads are so wide and straight, no potholes, a joy to cycle or drive on, bicycles are so symbolic to Copenhagen that in 1997 when American President Bill Clinton visited the city, he was presented with a City Bike as a gift.
You will see the City Bikes parked up in rows all around the city and if you want to hire one, then get on a bike, go to the touch screen tablet to pay for it via credit card then you can unlock the bike with a code, next select the built in GPS map to tell it where you want to go, yes it will even guide you, these bikes are very high tech. The tablet will even guide you to special tourist attractions in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, once you are finished with the bike you can return it to any bike station or wherever you see them parked up.
To register online it is quicker and will save you some time, although it really is user friendly to just do it by the tablet, here are the details though if you wish to book ahead:
Web Email Phone
www.bycyklen.dk firstname.lastname@example.org +45 8988 3910
Public transport in Copenhagen is superb, everything was on time to the second, the train and bus stations were spotlessly clean and there were no barriers or ticket attendants to check the tickets we bought, when I asked a local why no one was checking our tickets he shrugged and simply said “This Copenhagen, it is done on trust”
Although on occasion a ticket may be checked and the fine is very high if you have not paid, this system seems to work extremely well saving time and stress by cutting out those queues at the barriers, it cuts out the chaos.
It is extremely easy to get about once you have worked out the trains, the S Train will take you to the main station Copenhagen Central, all trains were spotless, had comfy seats and wide seating areas, perfect, one of the most impressive things was that they also had cycle lock up rooms that were painted in bright colours, cyclists are well catered for here.
You must go to the famous colourful Harbour with its painted houses, there is a bridge there connecting the centre and Island Brygge and on this bridge are hundreds of ‘lovelocks’ locked to the railings of the bridge, all different colours and styles.
Lovelocks are where a couple take a padlock, write their initials on it, then lock it to the railings and throw the key into the water as a way of showing their commitment and sealing their love, it is a romantic idea that has caught on globally, below is a photo of some of these locks.
I booked us a house to stay in via Air B&B; a very popular way to get accommodation these days, the house belonged to a couple called Kristen and Louise and was a beautiful home with wide, open spaces and a large garden.
In Denmark everything is very high tech for ease of use, for example in the kitchen one twist of the cold tap gives standard cold water, a second twist and it lights up blue for chilled still drinking water, a third twist and it lights up green for chilled sparking drinking water ….fantastic!
Instead of curtains, I notice that the Danes prefer simple white pull down blinds or shutters, these were in most houses that I passed, the floors were wooden whitewashed and everything was about space saving, each kitchen drawer was rather like a Russian doll, with many smaller drawers inside for even more storage.
The Danes are responsible for the latest craze for simple, good living and relaxation, which has gone huge in UK, the Danish word ‘Hygge’ (pronounced ‘Hooga’) means ‘cosiness’ and they encourage ridding your life of anything that causes stress or annoyance, making time for yourself, your family and friends, making your home as comfortable as possible, burning candles, eating well and drinking fine wine.
Calm colours with lots of whites and creams along with creating clean, open spaces, getting rid of clutter and keeping your surroundings comfortable and chilled out seem to be the way forward, if you get tired, rest, make time for quiet.
Some businesses in Denmark have taken Hygge to the workplace allowing employees to go home and sleep if they are tired with the outlook that they will come back refreshed, trust plays a large part of this in the hope that it wont be abused in any way.
I think it is a great way to live and have started making some changes in my own lifestyle going the Hygge way, so far I have white washed my stairs making them brighter and bought an egg swing relaxation chair complete with sheepskin fur cosy.
The importance of time out and relaxation can never be underestimated.
In the working environment if you get tired at any time in the day for example you can go home and have a sleep, the Dames believe if you are tired you will not function properly so you can go home for a sleep, once you have slept you can return to work fully refreshed, I like this outlook very much.
The city felt very relaxed, there were lots of outside cafe and bar areas, there are some very trendy arty bars and it seems very much the civilised norm to work on your computer whilst having a cappuccino or a hot chocolate, I have to say that I sampled the best hot chocolate ever in Copenhagen, as if there were not already enough reasons to go back.
We went on a boat trip to get a look at the harbour areas, these trips are popular but seem to be running every 10 minutes so no need to book, the trips vary in length from 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 90 minutes and you can choose from a live speaker to a recording with headphones.
Go for Netto, they are half the price of the other companies and just as good, the locals all recommend Netto to sail through the waterways of Copenhagen, its costs around 40 Kronen and is worth every penny for what you get to see.
You can have a glass of wine on the boat as you pass by all the sights, however if you wait until you finish you can head to a bar for a much better glass of wine, still it is a nice touch.
Christiania – The free peoples town
One of the places I was most keen to see is the free town Christiania which was formerly the military barracks of Bådsmandsstræde housing the Royal Artillery Regiment, ammunition laboratories and depots. Following WW2 these barracks were abandoned and in 1971 squatters broke down the fencing and took over the buildings, shortly after cannabis trading started up in the area, over the years the area and number of people grew so the police started to do regular raids and evictions.
Due to the lack of housing in Copenhagen eventually re-negotiations began and on 26th September 1971 the area of Christiania was permitted to be lived in, Jacob Ludvigson who helped enable this to happen wrote magazine articles aimed at young people and this paragraph gives an insight to the hippy area:
Christiania is the land of the settlers. It is the so far biggest opportunity to build up a society from scratch – while nevertheless still incorporating the remaining constructions. Own electricity plant, a bath-house, a giant athletics building, where all the seekers of peace could have their grand meditation – and yoga center. Halls where theater groups can feel at home. Buildings for the stoners who are too paranoid and weak to participate in the race…Yes for those who feel the beating of the pioneer heart there can be no doubt as to the purpose of Christiania. It is the part of the city which has been kept secret to us – but no more.
Christiania has been a source of controversy for years with drugs and police riots fast becoming an ‘us and them’ situation, the people were free to live as they pleased openly selling drugs on ‘Pusher Street’ and use the song You Cannot Kill Us by Bitfrost as their anthem song.
Having heroin so freely came at a price and in one year 10 people died from overdosing at Christiania, they also had some serious run ins with a gang of Hells Angels bikers and rival biker gangs where more lives were lost, which is why biker colours are now banned in Christiania.
Despite the free living following these problems they made their own rules for the community of no stealing, violence, guns, knives, bulletproof vests, hard drugs or bikers colours, however in 2005 there was trouble with a gang who murdered one person and injured three others over cannabis marketing.
The incident happened when 8 masked men sped up in a car with automatic weapons heading for pusher street and fired rounds at the people there and in 2009 someone threw a hand grenade into a crowd and a 22 year old had his jaw blown off, others were left with injuries.
The trouble continued on and in 2016 one of the residents pulled a gun and shot two police officers and a civilian, he was later wounded then died from shots fired by a special police unit.
Nowadays the people keep themselves to themselves as much as possible, Christiania is more of a peaceful hippy commune but sadly it will always have this controversy hanging over its reputation.
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is the iconic statue that sits upon some rocks at the shore of the harbour in Copenhagen, many people have complained that she is very small, but as she is known as The ‘Little’ Mermaid, I think she is perfect as she is, a large statue would look odd.
The statue is made of bronze and granite and was given to Copenhagen by Carol Jacobson the famous brewer, who fell in love with the Ballerina (Ellen Price) who in 1909 danced as the character of The Little Mermaid at the Ballot in the Royal Danish Theater, he commissioned sculptor Edvard Eriksen to make the statue.
Ballet Dancer Ellen would not pose for the sculpture so Eriksens wife was used instead to model for the statue which was unveiled in August 1913 and now sits on the rocks at Langelinje Pier, the statue although over 100 years old, is not the original one anymore due to vandalism, she has had her head cut off, her arms cut off and very recently an Anti-Whaling group threw red paint over her, just was we came back from Copenhagen in fact.
Hans Christian Anderson wrote children’s stories and loved to tell the tales too, he wrote The Little Mermaid in 1837, it was a sad story about a mermaid who at the age of 15 is permitted to swim up to the surface of the sea and gaze upon the human world. She spots a handsome prince and instantly falls in love with him, a storm breaks out sweeping the prince into the sea and he almost drowns, but the mermaid rescues him holding him up and saving his life, he is found on the shore by a maiden and taken back to his castle.
The Mermaid goes to see the Sea Witch and asks her if she can become a human, she is told that she can but at a price and the Prince must marry her otherwise she will die and become sea foam, she takes the opportunity and goes ashore to find her prince, he is mesmerised by her but also loves the hand maiden who took him back to the castle, in the end he marries her.
The Mermaids sisters tell her that if she kills the prince she might live, but she cannot do it as she still loves him, the little mermaid is left to die, but instead of becoming sea foam, she has earned a soul through all of her kindness and love, and her soul rises up to heaven.
If you are a fan of Hans Christian Anderson as I am, you can see what was once his house along the colourful Harbour, the house is now a gift shop selling his stories, pictures, etc. but is still worth a visit, upstairs is still a habitable living quarters and some Scholars who are studying his works live there, which seems very fitting.
Rosenborg Castle and its Silver Lions
This is well worth a visit, Renaissance ruler Christian IV had the Castle built as he wanted somewhere modern to entertain guests in, a space where he could entertain, dine and relax with his own guests, the old Medieval castle of Copenhagen was deemed too old fashioned, so works to build a secondary Castle took place from 1606 through to 1633, it was grand with high walls, a moat and a park.
Inside the Palace you can clearly see throughout the numerous rooms that there were four different stages of the castle coming together:
1605 – 1606
The Palace had two storeys and a spire turret tower with winding stone steps.
A gate with a drawbridge was built.
The palace was expanded to twice its size
1616 – 1624
Now it was ready to be lived in, a large tower was built on the West side and Christian IV named the Palace Rosenborg which in literal terms means ‘big house in the garden.’
Rosenborg Castle took 28 years to complete and Christian IV loved it there so much that on his deathbed he requested to be put on his sleigh and taken to Rosenborg to die on his bed there, in every picture painted of him, we noticed how happy and contented he looked which is unusual as often portraits painted at this time often had the subject looking stern and serious.
The Palace is stunning inside, huge chandeliers hung from every room and the ceilings were decorated even further with panels painted with colourful birds and cherubs.
There are 24 rooms to explore here, some of them truly stunning with the decor, The Dark Room (room 4) stands out though as being darker in both senses of the word, it served as a windowless antechamber. In this chamber is a chair which was used to restrain unwanted guests, the person once restrained would then be soaked with water running from pipes in the back of the chair and when they stood up a trumpet hidden in the seat would loudly toot.
The rooms are all full of treasures, golden mirrors, precious gemstones, rich paintings and tapestries, antique ornaments, literally wherever you look there is something spectacular to see.
The Knights hall is very impressive with the King and Queens Coronation chairs and it is guarded by the three life size silver lions, these lions are absolutely stunning and seem to be looking right at you, I can only imagine how sumptuous a banquet here would have been with the silver lions looking on.
All of the rooms are impressive, however there is one that really stood out to me, the glass cabinet, just off Knight Hall, this is a small space filled with some of the finest glass objects I have ever seen, the collection came from Venice as a gift and it was all packed in crazily into this cabinet with a green light shining onto the precious goods, see the images below.
For a full online informative guide around the castle, click on this link which takes you to the Rosenborg website tour: http://www.kongernessamling.dk/en/rosenborg/rosenborgs-interior-and-objects/#ground_floor
At 11:30 you can see the Guard leave his barracks in the castle grounds and march through the city to Amalienborg Palace, the changing of the guard can be seen at 1200 noon daily.
As I began to walk down the stone stairs to leave the castle I noticed the most beautiful delicate lace green curtains, strangely enough, of all the wonderful things I saw at the castle, apart from the silver lions, these curtains still stick in my mind, I thought they were stunning.
Out in the Kings Gardens, it is green and spacious but more like a big park rather than the pruned gardens I had imagined, it is still worth walking round though and there is a huge statue of Hans Christian Anderson there, which I had been on the look out for.
Amalienborg palace is home to the Danish Royal family and is made up of four palace veneers set around an octagonal courtyard, the area is spotless and pleasant to walk around, there are some pretty gardens behind the courtyard and an impressive statue of King Frederik V on horseback.
The Botanical Gardens
The Botanical gardens in Copenhagen are well worth a visit, they were first established in 1600 but moved twice and finally set where they now remain in 1870, these gardens have over 13,000 species of plants.
The gardens are nicely set out, with 27 greenhouses – the largest being the Old Glass House which is Victorian and 16 metres tall with an iron staircase, of course these glass houses are set up for tropical plants. However there is also a special greenhouse which has cold air pumped into it making it habitable for Arctic plants, I did not see this when I went as I was dashing about looking for wildlife, but I shall definitely go back and see that.
The highlight for me in the end was a small lake where I came across some wild turtles sunbathing on the rocks, I sat and watched them slipping in and out of the water back onto their hot sun warmed rocks and ended up taking about a hundred photographs of them.
The Botanical Gardens are open 08:30 am – 6pm Spring/Summer and 08:30 – 4pm Autumn/Winter
This was a short, but sweet, taster break and I definitely intend to go back, there is still much to see and learn about this wonderful city of statues and there are many more interesting areas to see further out from the city centre, if you are going do plenty of research, there are some good deals on the Copenhagen Card, etc. and it is well worth checking all of this before you go.