Here is how I spent a day in Copenhagen! Enjoy.
I must admit, out of the eight countries I would be visiting on my two-week Baltic cruise, I am most excited for Denmark. There were a few reasons for this.
First, Danish pastries. I am a huge sweet tooth and carbavore, so visiting the country that mastered the pastry was reason alone to book a plane ticket. My second reason for Danish eagerness was because I had just read A Year of Living Danishly. Learning about Danish customs from a foreigner’s perspective was a great introduction to the city. I was able to notice nuances that otherwise would have gone unobserved, like the amount of stores with a name consisting of “Dan” to signify the country’s high pride. Reading this book really primed me for my day in Copenhagen. The final cause of my excitement – and the whole reason I picked a cruise throughout the Baltic – is due to Denmark’s happiness rating. As I am on my search for happiness, my year off to find it would not have been complete without a trip to the happiest country in the world.
Here is how I made the most of my day in Denmark.
My group met at 9AM and embarked for our full-day “Best of Copenhagen” tour.
As with all of the tours, we were given some information about the country:
- Copenhagen means “the harbor of the merchant.”
- 5 million inhabitants in Denmark and 1.3 million of them live in Copenhagen.
- On the day of my trip, it was the Prince’s birthday, and a Dannebrog could be seen from every building.
- For more interesting facts, check out my previous blog post.
We started with the infamous Little Mermaid statue. I say infamous because this statue, based on Hans Christian Anderson’s iconic story, was recently rated the most disappointing landmark in the world. Lack of size, not beauty, was this statue’s doom. Interestingly though, her head has been stolen twice and her arm once.
Next was a stop at Gefion Fountain. Here we saw a statue immortalizing the Norse goddess Gefion who gained territory for Denmark, the island of Zealand, by betting a man that she could keep all of the land she could plow in a day. The man thinking little of the woman before him, took the deal. What he did not know was that the woman had three sons who could turn into oxen. Perhaps fables warning against discounting women contributes to Denmark’s ranking as one of the most gender-progressive nations in the world.
We then went to Amalienborg Palace, the winter residence of the Dutch royal family, led by Queen Margrethe II. This octagonal-shaped courtyard is comprised of four identical palaces. The Dannebrog flying signals that the royal family is home.
In the distance, you can see the magnificent Marble Church, which, like many places in Denmark, is topped with the signature copper roof.
As I was traveling alone (my grandmother went on a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus with some women she met on the cruise ship), I partnered up with a woman from my tour group who was also going it solo. The woman was from Mexico and, although she spoke very good English, was having a hard time understanding our tour guide through his thick Danish accent. I spoke with her in Spanish throughout the entire day. Aside from helping me practice my Spanish, my new friend also saved me from taking selfies with all of the landmarks. I love that traveling solo forces you to push out of your comfort zone to make friends, and practice other languages!
We then went to Rosenborg Castle, which once was the summer residence of King Christian IV but now houses the crown jewels.
We first walked through the portrait rooms as we were told about the family’s history. My favorite anecdote involved this gag chair, which was offered to new guests during parties. Once the guest sat down, he would suddendly be secured into the chair by straps around his wrists and would have the crotch of his trousers doused in water. The guest would then be rejoined with the party, giving off the impression that he had wet his pants…oh those crazy Danes.
Now well acquainted with the royal family of the time, we went down to the Skathkammer, or treasury. We saw many beautiful artifacts, including the King’s crown, which was adorned with a globe on top to signify that the King possessed the knowledge of the world.
Our next adventure was my favorite of the day. We spent two-hours exploring Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks (opened in 1843).
Although I did not go on the world’s oldest wooden rollercoaster nor the world’s highest carousel (the 262-foot Star Flyer), I did eat a famous Danish pastry.
I went for the Danish take on a cinnamon roll and it was very delicious. To see if Danish pastires really are better, I decided to create a small challenge for the countries I would be visiting, much like the challenges my dad creates back home. During my travels, if I happened upon a cinnamon roll, I would give it a try. I’ll announce at the end of these European travelogues which country came out on top!
I then proceeded to walk through every inch of Tivoli. Everywhere you looked there was something whimsical and magical to behold. With Dutch, Oriental, and French inspiration, there is a corner of the park for everyone.
Seeing these pictures might remind you much of Disneyland. Well, Walt Disney came to Tivoli to gain inspiration before setting out to build his own amusement park. If you ask me, Tivoli is the amusement park to spend your money on!
We wrapped up this busy but amazing day with an hour-long canal ride alone the Nyhavn waterfront district. Here we were finally able to see the idyllic 17th and 18th century townhouses.
We sailed past the Christiansborg Palace, which houses the Danish Parliament; the Opera house, built by Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company which was founded and is headquartered in Denmark; and by the ‘dragon-spire’ tower which is topped with three golden crowns to symbolize the union of the Nordic nations.
From reading A Year of Living Danishly, I have learned that Danes take design seriously. Since their school of architecture teaches all students art as well as design, Danish architecture and design aesthetic is something to behold.
Unfortunately, the Danes do have one famous blunder. For four years now, the Kissing Bridge, or Inderhavnsbroen, has remained unfinished. One side was built 8cm higher than the other. Understandably, the company that designed and fabricated it has since gone bankrupt, but rumor is that a new company has been commissioned to finish it this year.
We also received a waterfront view of the Opera House, which does credit the famous Danish design. Fun fact: on June 18th Red Bull hosts a diving competition off the roof!
We also saw the royal family’s boat and the Børsen tower (the Danish stock exchange). What makes the Børsen tower so captivating is that it has a spire on the outside…a surprising design move for a country that boasts of winters at zero degrees Celsius.
With that, my day in Denmark came to an end. Unfortunately, 7.5 hours was not enough for me to discover all of the happiness secrets of the Danish people. Again, I will just have to come back for a longer visit!
Have you been to Denmark? Is it on your travel list? Let us know below!