Like most European capitals the layout of modern day Copenhagen reflects its past as a fortified city. The historical city centre lies surrounded by water: East of the city centre you'll find the inner harbor that separates Copenhagen from its eastern appendix namely the islet of "Holmen" and the island Amager, which houses the Copenhagen Airport and through the Øresund-bridge also connects Denmark to Sweden.
Although Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, it is still a city small enough to cover from one end to the other on foot. If you are in reasonably good shape and not in the company of small children or the elderly, in general, it is safe and pleasant to enjoy walking in Copenhagen. The sidewalks are generally wide enough to accommodate pedestrians safely, and the added buffer of the bicycle lane ensures that you have a certain safety distance before you risk coming too close to car traffic. However, you need also to be careful about the bicycles that are not actually using the bicycle lanes.
waterfront path to city
My squiggle line shows our self-walking tour where you will see the interest points described below. Look for the Tourist Office down the street when you get off the ship and ask for their free map. The ship's map isn't detailed enough. There is a wonderful interactive map of Copenhagen: HERE
The Little Mermaid is about a 10-minute walk up the Langelinie; just stay to the sidewalks nearest the waterfront. (For the story of The Little Mermaid, Click HERE
Langelinie Pier Shopping Centre
The Cruise ships that visit Copenhagen are berthed at the Langelinie Pier. Beneath the stone arches of Langelinie’s old warehouses, you’ll find interesting shops and outlet stores that sell porcelain, amber, Danish clogs, jewelery, clothing, and other products.
Follow the long wharf past the shops to the city. Skirt around the small yacht club marina and until you come to the harbor's walkway to town where you will see several monuments.
The first statue you'll come to is not that of the famous "Little Mermaid" but everyone will be taking pictures of it. The Little Mermaid got a little sister, when Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard presented his post-modern interpretation of her: The Genetically Modified Little Mermaid, only a few hundred feet from The Little Mermaid.
The ice bear monument was erected in 1937, and depicts an ice bear with its 2 cubs on an ice flake. It was a gift of the harbor authorities and symbolizes Greenland, Denmark's Northernmost part.
The Little Mermaid Denmark sits close to the shore of Langelinie on her granite resting place. Gazing towards the harbor entrance, this famous landmark is indeed "little" and attracts a lot of well-deserved attention. Although perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in Copenhagen, it is very small and somewhat unimpressive when seen first-hand. You'll have to jocky for position to take your photo in front of it.
Continuing along the ocean front walk, you'll pass more statutes and memorials. Finally, you'll come upon a large bridge spanning a lake. Cross the bridge, and there is Kastellet, a 300 year old fortress. (There are only two roads into Kastellet.) Kastellet houses both Army and Home Guard functions and still has a contingent of soldiers guarding the fortress, parading around it every evening before the flag is lowered.In the surrounding park (Churchillparkin) there was the spectacular Gefion Fountain, the English Church and the Resistance Museum.
The surrounding park is also home to the Gefion Fountain, Copenhagen's most spectacular fountain. The Gefion Fountain is a large three-tiered fountain on the harbour front in Copenhagen, Denmark. It features a large-scale group of animal figures being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. It is located in Langelinie Park next to Kastellet and is the largest monument in Copenhagen and used as a wishing well.
Next to the fountain is St. Alban's English church. Take time to admire the stonework and beautiful glass windows.
Saint Alban's Church built in 1885-87
Unusual brickwork and gold onion-shaped domes on Alexander Newsky Kirke and The Marble Church
The Marble Church (Frederik's Church) on Bredgade has the largest church dome in Scandinavia. The dome rests on 12 columns. It is known as Frederik's Church, because it was intended to be the main church in the Frederiksstad district of Copenhagen. Features of the interior include an ivory Crucifix, an oak carving of the Descent from the Cross and Grundtvig's seven-branched golden candelabrum. The church has a dome 275 ft high and the facade is decorated with statues of great figures in ecclesiastical history, including St Ansgar, the Apostle of the North, and the religious reformer Grundtvig. Free Entrance to the church and admittance to the dome of the church.
Finally, we were at Nyhaven Harbor...
Nyhavn docks were constructed in 1670 as an encouragement to trade and shipping. Along the quays, houses have been built on both sides - one side contains Charlottenborg castle (The former Royal Home that burned down) and blocks of flats, which belong to the bourgeoisie. On the other side, are houses built of timber, and picturesque buildings. Once seedy and considered dangerous after dark, today, this side of Nyhavn has become fashionable. The quay has been turned into a pedestrian street and the harbor basin has been opened for old sailing ships. Excellent restaurants and cafes abound. Especially in the summer, the quay is crowded with people having a good time. Today, the property in this part of town, is very expensive. One of the most famous former residents of Nyhavn was the fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. You can take tours departing from Nyhavn on the canal tour boats but we chose to keep walking.
People enjoying the
beautiful day in Kings Square
After taking the customary walk up an down the quay, scrunching past hundreds of people enjoying the beautiful day at the outdoor cafes along the quays, we crossed Kings Square and headed for the Stroget, the longest shopping street in Copenhagen. (Look for the large Rolex sign on top of a building when in the Square. Stroget street starts just to the right of the building the sign resides upon) Five streets in the heart of the city have been merged to provide the world's longest pedestrian mall! (Starting on Ostergade and ending up on H. C. Anderson Blvd.) This street is not dominated by skyscrapers, but rather old houses with pointed roofs. The center isn't congested with traffic or smelling of car exhaust fumes, but full of bicycles and scented with the sweet smell of freshly baked breads.
We stopped to watch a mime on Stroget Stroget pedestrian shopping street
Tip: The Illum department store has a small
cruise lounge in its main building on the Strøget
in central Copenhagen. You can rest your feet, get help from the
on-duty hostess, and enjoy a free cup of coffee or tea before you
resume your shopping and sightseeing. (The new lounge, which opened
in 2009, is available during store hours whenever cruise ships are
in port. It replaces earlier cruise lounges at the Royal Copenhagen
and the Magasin du Nord stores that you may have read about in
Me and Hans Christian Anderson Tivoli (pronounced Tiyoli)
As you turn the corner on H. C. Anderson Blvd, you will see the Radhus (Town Hall). Radhuspladsen is at the heart of Copenhagen. Here, you find the Town Hall, and the house of Politiken, where neon signs provide the passers-by with news from all over the world. Also the Palace Hotel, the Bus Terminal, outdoor restaurants, newspaper stands and the famous Danish polsevogne (hot-dog stands) are all here. Radhuspladsen is an important social meeting-point, and a place for magnificent views of the Tivoli fireworks at night. At the corner of the Radhus building, the statue of Hans Christian Andersen greets visitors to Copenhagen. When Hans Christian Andersen was alive, he loved to have his photo made, and most tourists (including me) continue to accommodate his wish. Note how shiny his knees are! That's from everyone sitting on his lap for their memory picture from Copenhagen. I settled for sitting on his foot!
Walking down HC Anderson we start to make our way back, passing the famous Tivoli Park across the street. We didn't have time or inclination to visit Tivoli, though as we passed by we could hear the laughter and screaming from the people on the roller coasters. Tivoli, created in 1843 on the site of the old city wall, is Copenhagen's well-known amusement park. In addition to the fair ground; the complex houses, restaurants, theatres and concert halls and is decorated with colorful flower beds and graceful swans, who glide across the various lakes. More than 5 million people annually visit Tivoli. They say it is beautiful in the evening.
We passed the Church of Holmen (Holmens Kirk) where crown princess Margrethe, current queen of Denmark and prince Henrik were married in 1967 before we again reached Nyhaven Harbor.
A well deserved break... we stopped at a cafe at the far end of Nyhaven Harbor for a cold beer and some appetizers and tried a fresh Kringle to determined for ourselves whether Danish or French pastry is better.
Refreshed, we headed up Toldbodgade to check out Amalienborg Palace. As we walked through Amalienborg Palace, we seemed to be the only ones in the Royal Courtyard!
Behind the square is Frederiks Kirke, commonly known as The Marble Church, (which we passed on our way to Nyhaven) and which has the largest dome in Scandinavia. From the other side of the square, the harbor is just a few steps away, marked by a magnificent fountain.
Amalienborg Slotspad, is the square in the center of the Queen's palace/residence. This courtyard is quite open and breathtaking. There is a changing of the guard here every day at noon-1:30 pm, but if you've seen one changing of the guard somewhere --you've seen them all. The cobblestone square gives a feeling of approachability.
Statue of King Frederik V, sitting on horseback in the center of it all. Notice the Marble Church on the street behind.
Inside the courtyard. We could see that the Queen was home by the flag that was flying... but we didn't call on her!
The Royal Guards' everyday uniform, is characterized by the dark blue jacket and dark blue trousers. At specific times, ( i.e, Queen Margrethe IIs birthday, official state visits and royal weddings), the Royal Guard puts on its galla uniform with the red jackets and bright blue trousers... "The Bear" - the dreaded head gear is always worn and it is not uncommon for guards to faint during longer marches or drills while wearing it, because of its warmth.
Each guard has a two-hour shift, in which he is stands in front of the very distinctive guard house or marches back and forth in front of the palace to which he is assigned. The whole detail of guardsmen are then marched around to the different guard houses.
We thought he looked kind of silly... all alone in this huge courtyard marching up and down, clicking his heels and marching back and forth in front of the castle entrance....with only us there. But a job's a job! I wonder what the perks are...
Amalienborg Palace (Changing of the Guard at noon)
Finally, we were back at the ship. We figured we had walked at least 5 miles which took us a little over four hours admiring the sights along the way. Except for our lunch stop, we really didn't spend any time visiting inside any of the points of interest, nor did we stop to shop on the Stroget..... maybe next time! On this initial trip to Copenhagen we wanted to cover as much ground as possible--and that we did!