Museums, Mermaids and Memories. Copenhagen Denmark
Last, but not least, I’m now in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen. And as expected, it’s all about colourful homes, waterside cafes, boats and canals, and of course the inimitable mermaid. It is, I’m soon to find out, also one of the more expensive destinations I have been to.
But first, I have to check in to the Generator Hostel. I have to admit that this is the first time that I am staying at an actual hostel. Located smack bang in the center of the city on Kongens Nytorv, the Generator is buzzing…the vibe, the visitors and the visceral indulgences…all get a 10/10 from me.
Kongens Nytorv is a central old square and home to prominent institutions such as the Royal Theatre, the D’Angleterre Hotel and the Charlottenborg Academy. The square was constructed in 1908, is encircled by buildings on five sides, was paved with cobblestones in 1670, and the equestrian statue of Christian V on horseback was raised in 1688. It is the oldest equestrian statue and royal sculpture in Copenhagen.
I’m joining a city tour and so I make my way to the City Hall Square, about a 10-minute walk from the Generator. This Square is one of Copenhagen’s main sites for meetings, greetings, concerts, exhibitions and even demonstrations because it can hold up to 50,000 people at any given time. It is also fondly referred to as “the beating heart of Copenhagen”.
Flanking the square is the Copenhagen City Hall, the headquarters of the Municipal Council as well as the Lord Mayor of the Copenhagen Municipality, Denmark. Built in the years 1892-1905, it has a tower that reaches up to 105.6 meters and is one of the city’s tallest buildings. It’s pretty impressive inside and busy to boot!
And then, we move on to see some of Copenhagen’s more popular places.
The Christiansborg Palace is where the Danish Parliament meets and occupies a major part of Slotsholmen, an islet in the heart of Copenhagen. Apart from the parliament, it also houses other powerful institutions such as the Prime Minister’s Office and the Supreme Court, and the Christiansborg Palace Chapel. Christiansborg Palace as it stands today is only the most recent of a succession of five buildings that have occupied Slotsholmen in Copenhagen for more than 800 years. For centuries, one building has been succeeded by the next as a consequence of wars, modernisations and fires.
As is with every capital city, there is this one must-see place. In my case, it is Nyhaven, the 17th century waterfront that was used as a harbor for boats entering and leaving this historic section of Copenhagen. The brightly colored buildings lining either side of the harbor truly makes this street remarkable. It is teeming with people who have come to sit, eat or just relax at the many restaurants, boutique hotels, and vendors lining up this waterfront. I also had to come back after dark to take a night time photo!
This quaint picturesque street has a smelly past. Commonly referred to as Shit Street, Magstæd is known for previously being a runway for a large amount of central Copenhagen’s sewage, especially during times of floods. The lower overall elevation of the street compared to the surrounding streets created the perfect funnel for sewage and despite it looking so lovely now, the name still sticks!
Copenhagen’s first and oldest church, built in 1200s, is the Nikolaj Kirke, or Nikolaj Church. Due to fires that destroyed Copenhagen in 1794, only the tower building of the original church remains. The church building is famous for its fanciful Neo-Baroque 90-meter long spire. It was also the focus of Hans Christian Andersen’s drama, Love of Nicolai Tower performed in 1829 at the Royal Theatre.
Amalienborg is HM The Queen’s winter residence. The Amalienborg complex consists of four rococco palaces, built around an octagonal courtyard, in the centre of which stands the French sculptor J.F.J. Saly’s equestrian statue of Frederik V, the founder of Amalienborg Palace and Frederiksstaden. The complex was constructed by Frederik V on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the coronation of Christian I, the first King of the House of Oldenborg. Amalienborg became the royal residence after Christiansborg Palace burned down in the night between 26 and 27 February 1794.
With its huge copper green dome, the awe-inspiring Marble Church is one of the most impressive churches of the city. It lies in line with the Amalienborg Castle and The Opera in the middle of the elegant area of Frederiksstaden.
In the heart of the city, set in the King’s Garden is the Rosenborg Castle with its vast collection of art treasures, crown jewels and royal regalia. It was built by King Christian IV, in the early 17th century.
Among the main attractions is the Knights’ Hall with the coronation thrones and three life-sized silver lions standing guard. Tapestries on the walls commemorate battles between Denmark and Sweden and an exquisite collection of Flora Danica and one of the world’s finest Venetian glass collections, both set in tower chambers.
The crowns of the Danish kings and queens are kept in special vaults and are embellished with table-cut stones, enamel and gold ornamentation. I am gobsmacked by the collection of gifts and memorabilia carved out of ivory. It’s hard to imagine how many tuskers were killed for this.
I take a walk along the Langelinie promenade en route to see the Little Mermaid. Along the way I stop to admire the all-time hunk, David, who stands tall and unabashed in front of the Royal Cast Museum.
And then there is the Little Mermaid herself. Was I disappointed? Well, I expected her to be bigger…but she is lovely, nonetheless! And as to be expected, there are plenty of tourists to take selfies with her!
Close at hand is the very quaint and lovely St. Alban’s Church. As Copenhagen became the centre for commerce during the 1800’s – an English congregation was developing in Copenhagen. It was possible for the English congregation in rented rooms at Store Kongensgade to have religious services in Copenhagen protected by a certain “Kings Law” until freedom of worship was granted by the Danish Constitution of 5 June, 1849. In need to build the congregation’s own church – the Danish Princess Alexandra – who later became Queen of England – and married to King Edward VII – took the first initiative to raise funds for the English church at Langelinie – beside the Gefion fountain. The foundation stone of St Alban’s English Church was laid on September 19th – 1885 by H.R.H. the Princess of Wales in the presence of many royal persons and members of the Church Building Committee.
The Gefion Fountain features a large-scale group of animal figures being driven by the legendary Norse goddess, Gefjun. It is the largest monument in Copenhagen and used as a wishing well. According to an ancient legend, Gefion was the goddess who ploughed the island of Zealand out of Sweden. The Swedish king Gylfe offered the goddess Gefion as much land as she was capable of ploughing within one day and one night. Gefion received help only from four oxen. She had transformed her four sons into immensely powerful oxen and had them plough so deeply in the ground that they raised the land and pulled it into the sea. This is how the island of Zealand was created. Strangely, the lake Vännern in Sweden approximately resembles the shape of Zealand. The fountain underwent extensive renovations starting in 1999 and was out of commission for many years until it was re-inaugurated in September 2004.
And before I leave Copenhagen, I must visit the ‘hippie paradise’ of the world, Christiania. Unlike the rest of Copenhagen, Freetown Christiania is governed under its own set of societal rules through an agreement reached in 2012 between Foundation Freetown Christiania and the Danish Government. But even though Freetown is considered independent, it is still considered illegal to deal in drugs within the district and I am cautioned against taking photos inside. Yet, the drugs are sold openly. What is really awesome are some of the amazing art and sculptures that adorn the doors and walls of this place. And of course, the smell in the air…feels like teen spirit!
It’s been quite a journey for me. I’ve travelled through nine countries and enjoyed myself immensely. It is now time to head back home and I’ve got a flight to catch.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me!