The Danish capital of Copenhagen is arguably the coziest Scandinavian city and almost ranked as the happiest city in the world every time. This city of 2 million inhabitants is big enough to be a metropolis with shopping, culture and nightlife par excellence, yet still small enough to be intimate, safe and easy to navigate. The Danish embraces a unique culture which they called “Hygga” (pronounce hoo-guh) and it generally means coziness or well-being, but may encompass much more.
Copenhagen’s compact dimensions are perfect for exploration on two feet or two wheels. The city’s distinctively good looks are also intrinsically linked to the famed Danish flair for design. This is where old fairy tales blend with flashy new architecture and world-class design, with industrial-chic bar, fashion scenes, and culinary revolution where warm jazz mixes with cold electronica from Copenhagen’s basements. But the city is much more than just a pretty sight for design as historic sites, beautiful beaches, serene parks, and elegant lakes are just a short bike ride away.
Rosenborg Castle & King’s Garden
Built in early 17th century, Rosenborg Castle was the summer palace of King Christian IV, one of the most famous Scandinavian kings. The Dutch renaissance style castle sets in the King’s Garden in the heart of Copenhagen and features 400 years of splendor, royal art treasures and the Crown Jewels and Royal Regalia. In 1838, the castle was opened to the public as a museum and its collection continues to grow with time. One of the main attractions is the Knights’ Hall with the coronation thrones and three life-size silver lions standing guard while tapestries on the walls commemorate battles between Denmark and Sweden. Rosenborg Castle also houses Denmark’s crown jewels in special vaults. The crowns of the Danish kings are primarily consisted of four garnitures: a diamond set, a ruby set, a pearl set, and an emerald set, with the emeralds being among the world’s finest.
The castle’s interiors are well-preserved and invite you to take a journey in time. You can experience the king’s private writing cabinet, his bathroom, and see wax figures of former royal inhabitants.
Surrounding the Rosenborg Castle is the picturesque King’s Garden. The garden was established at the same time as the castle, making it Denmark’s oldest royal garden. The huge flowerbed is a spectacular sight during summer and attracts a big crowd of sun-worshippers and jazz lovers during Copenhagen Jazz Festival. The garden layout may have been completely altered since its establishment, but the 3 original entrances have been well-preserved. Besides a wide collection of herbaceous and roses, King’s Garden is home to Hercules Pavilion, which now operates as a café, and a multitude of sculptures, including the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, a famous Danish author.
Nyhavn came a long way from a busy commercial port packed with sailors, ladies of the evening, pubs and alehouses, to a classy lifestyle district. Today Nyhavn is well-renovated and classy restaurants now dominate the old port. Locals quickly occupy numerous outdoor bars and restaurants as soon as the weather is clear and it’s common to see plenty of tourists enjoying the relaxed atmosphere by the canal, jazz music and great food.
Nyhavn plays an important part in Danish history and literature scene. From the original No.9 Nyhavn being the oldest house in the area dating back to 1681, to No. 20 where the famous Danish author, Hans Christian Anderson, wrote his famous fairy tales – ‘The Tinderbox’, ‘Little Claus and Big Claus’, and ‘The Princess and the Pea’ – No.67 where Anderson spent 19 years of his life, and No.18 where he passed away. Many of the houses lining the quays of Nyhavn have been the homes of prominent artists throughout the history to present day.
Tip: Nyhavn makes an ideal location to start your city exploration through networks of canal. Canal and harbor tour will open you to a whole new perspective of the city.
The Little Mermaid
Not far from Nyhavn, Langelinje Pier is where you will find the most photographed statue in Denmark – The Little Mermaid. Yes, a lot of you may recognize the statue from Disney’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who gives up everything to be united with a young, handsome prince on land. This bronze and granite statue was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen – Mr. Jacobson fell in love with the character after watching a ballet performance at the Royal Danish Theater. She recently turned a hundred in 2013, and still stares longingly towards the shore hoping to catch a glimpse of her beloved prince!
Fact: The Little Mermaid never once gave up to harsh weather or natural disaster, but she endured many human silliness and literally lost her head thrice, her arm once, painted on five times, and knocked off her rock by an explosive once.
As Copenhagen grew larger during 1960s, the small streets in the inner city became too crowded with more and more people bumping into each other and blocking the way on the narrow pavements. That was when the city council decided to establish a pedestrian (and bike) zone that covers from from the westerly Town Hall Square to The Kings New Square in the eastern part of the town called “Strøget”. Since then it has become one of Europe’s longest pedestrian streets with a wealth of shops, from budget-friendly chains to boutique stores and some of the world’s most expensive brands. Big international brands like Prada, Max Mara, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Mulberry are represented at the end of the street facing up to The Kings New Square while more affordable brands like H&M, Vero Moda and Zara are closer to City Hall Square.
Strøget is naturally the place you will visit at some point on your trip. Along its 1.1 kilometer stretch, you won’t just find shops and restaurants, but several of Copenhagen’s beautiful sights and attractions as well as street entertainers.
Tip: Danish Royal Guard will march from Rosenborg Castle through Strøget to Amalienborg Palace every noon, and if the royal family is at Amalienborg Palace, there will be a music band marching behind the guards as well.
Tip: Tipping is minimal. Restaurant bills normally include a service charge and taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, although it’s customary to round up the amount.