After crossing the Atlantic on the cruise ship Disney Magic we found ourselves in lively Copenhagen, Denmark. My husband had an old work friend whose wife’s job had taken them from Los Angeles to Copenhagen for a two year stint. Lucky for us, they found an amazing apartment right in the center of town and we were therefore within walking distance of the majority of sites.
A twenty minute walk and we found ourselves in Tivoli Gardens, one of the spots Walt Disney himself visited and used as inspiration for the now world famous Disneyland. You can read about our experience there on our site.
After a day exploring Tivoli we walked to the vibrant area of Nyhavn for a canal boat tour. Nyhavn was originally a busy commercial port where ships from all over the world docked. At that time one would have found it crammed with sailors, prostitutes and pubs. Today, it is packed with tourists and locals alike and still boasts pubs. The houses are old and beautiful and have been transformed into restaurants. The buildings are colorful and when viewed from the opposite side, numerous Danish flags and ship masts add to the charm.
We found Nyhavn wonderful despite the crowds. It had a laid back feeling as people wandered the street, gazed at the canal and listened to music. We found several tour boats (called Netto-Boats) docked on the opposite side of the canal and without doing any prior research picked one at random. It ended up being fantastic, despite the very chilly wind.
Just up the street from the restaurants and hubbub of Nyhavn, our guide pointed out what once was the home of Hans Christian Andersen. She also pointed out No. 9, Nyhavn, the oldest house in the area dating back to 1681. The cruise took us under fascinating old bridges, one that was so low the tour guide who sat just a head above us had to duck down to avoid being hit.
Eventually, the tour passed Langelinje Pier, home to one of Copenhagen’s most famous tourist attractions, the sculpture of The Little Mermaid. She turned 100 years old on August 23rd, 2013. She was a gift from Danish brewer Carl Jacobsen to the City of Copenhagen. The bronze and granite sculpture was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about a mermaid who gives up everything to be united with a young, handsome prince on land. She would perch daily on a rock in the water where she would stare towards the shore hoping for a mere glimpse of her beloved prince.
Carl Jacobsen was not the only one who fell in love with the story. Disney made an animated version which has captured the imagination and wonder of many a child and adult alike. But it is thanks to Carl Jacobsen’s captivation to both the fairy tale, and the ballet which introduced him to it, that the sculpture exists today. He commissioned the sculptor Edvard Eriksen to create the mermaid who, after several acts of vandalism (even brutal beheading- twice) has managed to be rescued and restored. After 100 years she still sits on her rock watching the shore. You should take note that from the tour boat, you don’t get to see the front of the mermaid as the boat does not go between her and land.
The tour boat will also take you past places such as Holmen, which was the naval base of Copenhagen for more than 300 years. Holmen is situated on four islands which now are home to The Danish Film School, The Drama School, The Academy of Rhythmic Music and The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Architect School.
You also sail past some of the 250 years old bastions or powder magazines, one of which – Frederiks Bastion – has been restored and converted into a small art gallery. You will see the old Mast Crane from 1748, which was previously a well-known landmark at the entrance to the Copenhagen harbor as well as the royal residence Amalienborg Palace and enter the picturesque Christianshavn’s Canal with Our Saviour’s Church with the famous, twisted spire. You can buy your tickets at the visitors counter, but we just bought ours on the boat.
Another day found us on a train to Malmo, Sweden! Though it doesn’t follow the title of the article as something to do in Copenhagen itself, it is something worth looking into. For us, it was fun to add another country to the list of places visited this time around. The train only takes 35 minutes across the famous Oresund Bridge and departs Copenhagen’s central train station every 20 minutes. Malmo is home to the famous twisting torso building and surprisingly, amazing falafel’s! Falafel was brought to Malmö by immigrants from Israel and Lebanon and has become hugely popular.
Our destination for the third day is located 22 miles North of Copenhagen; The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. It is definitely worth a visit. It is set above the sea amongst gorgeous trees and greenery. We arrived via train on a rainy day. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the museum from the station.
The museum houses an extensive permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, dating from World War II to present and also hosts a comprehensive program of special exhibitions. There is a fabulous hands on arts and crafts area for kids, an extensive gift shop as well as a very good cafe which serves lunch, wines and baked goods. It is easy to see why it is the most visited art museum in Denmark.
I had been curious about the name of the museum and found out that it has nothing to do with the state of Louisiana, but is derived from the first owner of the property, Alexander Brun, who named the villa after his three wives, all named Louise. The villa was later turned into a museum in 1958 by Knud W. Jensen, the owner at the time. He contacted architects Vilhelm Wohlert and Jørgen Bo who spent a few months exploring around the property before deciding how a new construction would best fit into the landscape. The results are stunning and it is acknowledged as a milestone in modern Danish architecture, noted for the synthesis it creates of art, architecture and landscape.
We really enjoyed our time in Copenhagen and hope you too will have an opportunity to visit. Happy Travels!