I could not disagree more with Marcellus who famously said, “There’s something rotten in Denmark” in Hamlet. The opposite of rotten, Denmark is a beautiful country and its capital city of Copenhagen is spotlessly clean, rich with history and provides the perfect Baltic Sea get-a-way. So Open the Map! Find an odd shaped country that sits atop Germany like a crown on a head. On one of its many islands you’ll find Copenhagen on the coast of the Baltic.
I went to Copenhagen in late July and was pleasantly surprised that I really did need the jacket my mother insisted I pack. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, the southernmost country making up Scandinavia. The city is clean and feels spacious despite having a population of about 620,000. The city has certainly grown since its days as Viking fishing village.
There are many sights to see while touring this colorful, cool and clean city. The architecture is a blend of old and ornate with new and modern. We oriented ourselves by starting our first day riding the Hop On Hop Off bus which loops the city center and stops at all the points of interest. Concurrent with a bus ticket may be purchased a boat canal tour ticket. A boat canal tour is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. Not only did we go out into open water but we saw charming colorful neighborhoods and bustling shopping districts from the many canals crisscrossing the city not unlike Amsterdam or Bruges.
There is still a royal family in Denmark, headed by Queen Margrethe who has been on the throne since 1972. Her castles and palaces are open for tourists and offer the expected opulence. Rosenborg Castle was my favorite since it houses the Crown Jewels. They are gleaming, impressive and guarded, of course! But you can get up close to view them, unlike in the Tower of London where you must stay at a polite distant. The changing of the guard starts at 11:30am every day and the guards march from Rosenborg to Amalienborg Palace. There’s Christiansborg Palace also in the old district of Frederiksstaden where rococo architecture dominates. The area is very walkable with wide cobblestone sidewalks. But be warned: the Danes love to bike and cyclists do not move out of your way. You must move out of theirs.
Hans Christian Anderson is Copenhagen’s most treasured son. No stay in Copenhagen is complete without a visit to see the Little Mermaid statue on her base in the water a few feet off the shore. It is small and just a photo opportunity but a charming reminder of the creative mind that gave the world The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and the The Emporer’s New Clothes. The poor statue has endured much vandalism since 1913. She has been painted red and even had her arm hacked off! I was grateful to see her restored in good condition.
Tivoli Gardens is full of bustle and light and a fun way for families to spend an afternoon or evening. It is the oldest amusement park in the world and served as the inspiration for Walt Disney who modeled Disneyland after Tivoli. A great place to eat, shop, people watch and get great photos is Nyhavn near the Royal Quarter. There is a canal running through Nyhavn which is lined on both sides with many brightly colored houses. There are new and old boats moored along the water. The area was popular with sailors and intellectuals. In fact, Hans Christian Anderson lived at #20.
From the canal boat tourists will see Nyhavn, the Little Mermaid as well as the grand new and old opera houses, facing each other on separate inlets across the water. One old, one modern; a contrast of eras.
The National Museum is a great place to immerse in Denmark’s history. Artifacts throughout its history are displayed here going back to the Stone Age. There is even a chariot that is over 3,000 years old.
Denmark kept its currency, the Krone, even though it is a member of the EU. The official language is Danish but thankfully most in the hospitality industry speak English. Popular food dishes are fried pork with potatoes, meatballs, cod and herring. Very hearty food. The local beer is Carlsberg so my dad made sure to order it when at dinner. Though called a Danish, the pastry actually originated in Austria.
So Open the Map! Find that odd shaped country sitting atop Germany. Plan to go see Copenhagen’s colorful houses, walk in the footsteps of a famous writer of fairy tales and see how royalty lives. Enjoy the relief of cooler air during a hot summer and soak up the charm of Scandinavia.