At C in Copenhagen

An epitome of Scandinavian heritage, Copenhagen is the land of churches, cathedrals, castles and all things Nordic, writes Brig A N Suryanarayanan

Amalienborg Palace. PhOTOS BY AUTHOR

Copenhagen’s a land of churches, cathedrals, canal-rides, castles, museums and breweries. With so much on hand, it sure can be a problem of plenty but planning well and buying a Copenhagen Card or a city pass that offers access to all the top attractions can make a trip to the Land of the Vikings memorable. 

Copenhagen is the capital and most populous city of Denmark, one of the five Nordic countries — the others are: Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. The city is situated on the eastern coast of the island of Zealand, with a small portion separated due to Malmö, a Swedish town, by the strait of Øresund with an eponymous long road and railway bridge tunnel linking the two countries. Faroe Islands and Greenland in the North Atlantic Ocean are two autonomous constituents of Denmark.

Emerging as a proficient seafaring nation in the struggle for control of the Baltic Sea, Denmark, Sweden and Norway were ruled together from 1397 to 1523, when Sweden seceded. Denmark today is a constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy.

Architecture holds a special place in Denmark, with Romanesque and Gothic styles in Middle Ages, through Renaissance and 19th-20th century national romantic
and expressionist styles and today, the functionalist style.

Round Tower

Rundetaarn, or the Round Tower, the oldest (17th century) functioning observatory in Europe was built by Christian IV during the heydeys of its astronomy. Today, only amateur astronomers use it. Its outer platform gives an amazing view of the city. Only 36 m tall, it needs a 210 m climb through a spiral staircase. Housing the University Library originally (Anderson’s haunt), today it hosts exhibitions. A recent
addition is a glass floor projection at 25 m above ground. Free on Copenhagen Card, it opens at 10 am but closes at different seasonal timings.

City Hall
City Hall

City Hall & Tower

One of the tallest buildings in the whole of Copenhagen at 106 m, the City Hall Tower gives a magnificent view of the inner city and the extent of Tivoli Gardens from above. The only guided tour of the City Hall in English is at 1 pm on weekdays and 10 am on Saturday. Both are free on Copenhagen Card. City hall area has more budget-friendly shops than Strøget.

Strøget

Within walking distance from the City Hall is Europe’s longest pedestrian-only street at 1.1 km, where you can buy both budget-friendly items and expensive brands. While walking along Strøget, do watch out for the side-streets that offer beautiful views of sights like Church of Our Lady, Stork Fountain, and more. It is also a place where street performers exhibit acrobatics, magic and music. But like all tourist sites, beware of con-artistes who lure you with betting and wagering.

Tivoli Gardens

Founded in 1843, it is just a few minutes walk from the City Hall and one of its gates opens right opposite the Copenhagen Central Station. As an amusement park opening daily at 11 am and closing at 11 pm/midnight depending on the season, it has something for everyone, young and old alike: architecture, historic old buildings and
gardens with greenery. A myriad of coloured lights switched on in the late evenings creates a unique fairytale atmosphere, which is why probably Anderson and Walt Disney visited it many times.

Grundtvig’s Church

Built in the memory of Danish priest and reformer, the eponymous church is a sublime architectural marvel and a rare example of ‘expressionist’ architecture. It is famous due to its distinctive appearance resembling a church organ, unlike any other church and for its location in a residential area, where
surrounding buildings use the same coloured brick. Chosen after a competition and begun by architect Klint in 1921-26, it was completed after his death by his son. The most striking features of the building are: use of six million high quality light yellow bricks that give a serene look and its west facade with vertical pillars, and a bell tower.

Nyhavn

A boat point for canal tours, it was originaly a busy commercial port for ships from all over the world. Today, it has many kiosks/vans and restaurants lining the street on renovated buildings. After a canal tour, it is the ideal place to end a long day,
especially in summer with a glass of cold beer, jazz music and great food by the quay or at an eatery. You can see the famous Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen’s homes in Numbers 20, 67 and 18 used in different periods to write many fairy tales.

Carlsberg horsecart ride
Carlsberg horsecart ride

Roskilde Cathedral

Located in Roskilde, a former capital of Denmark in 960 AD, this Lutheran church is about 25 minutes by NSB express trains from Copenhagen Central. Being on the UNESCO Heritage list, it is the first Gothic cathedral to be built with red bricks circa 1170s and with tall spires. Originally built as a wooden church by King Bluetooth, various porches and chapels have been added over the centuries, as it is the main burial site for over 40 Danish monarchs since the 10th century.

Roskilde facade
Roskilde facade

Carlsberg

The museum shows you the evolution of beer from 4000 BC and of Carlsberg Brewery in pictures and you can see its functioning. You can smell the ingredients, discover authentic architecture, taste world-famous Danish beer (one glass free) of your choice and buy souvenirs. Don’t forget to enjoy one of the horse carriage rides which will take you around iconic buildings that have shaped the development of Carlsberg.

Little Mermaid

A nude sculpture on a solitary rock close to Langelinje Pier in Copenhagen harbour is spell-bounding. Sketched in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, the mermaid falls in love with a young, handsome prince on land and gives up everything to be with him. Inspired by her character and after seeing a ballet by Ellen Price, a ballerina in 1909, Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Brewery offered to gift a sculpture to Copenhagen Harbour. But since no one would model in the nude, the sculptor, Edvard Eriksen, used his wife Eline.

The statue is made of bronze and granite and the folklore is that she surfaces every morning and evening after swimming in the sea, to perch on that rock with a longing look for her prince. Vandalised a few times, she is restored and placed back every time, so now there is a ban on climbing that rock. 

Little Mermaid
Little Mermaid

Ripley’s Believe-It-or-Not Museum

It is a creation of Robert Ripley who had travelled to 201 countries and seen the strangest things. Some exhibits worth seeing and which may leave you speechless and wondering if what you just saw or read about could actually be true, are: Taj Mahal made of 3,00,000 matches; Queen Margrethe’s portrait
produced from bits of fluff found in peoples pockets; Lincoln’s statue made of dollar bills; a condemned prisoner who survived 13 shots and was granted a pardon; strange/scary sights with sounds that make
you shiver.

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