In the Danny Kaye movie “Hans Christian Andersen,” he sings about a “salty old queen of the sea.” I loved the song as a child. The tune describes “Wonderful Copenhagen,” a town that seemed magical to me. Any place that could inspire Andersen’s fairy tales must be magical, right?
The city doesn’t disappoint: a castle full of royal treasures, soldiers marching down cobbled streets, a mermaid in the harbor, a downtown amusement park. The country has 17 castles, is the birthplace of Legos, and has the best hot chocolate in the world. What could be better?
Our fall visit several years ago wasn’t dampened by the unusually cold weather, nor by occasional downpours. Such a wonderful city can’t be marred by mere weather.
To be or not to be…
Our first morning we set out for Helsingor and Kronborg Castle, less than an hour away and more famously known as Hamlet’s Castle. It just happened to be the weekend of a Renaissance Fair. While we didn’t quite understand the Danish explanations of activities, most people speak English and answered our questions. Jousting and sword fighting needed no explanation. Plan at least half a day to explore the castle and grounds; a full day if there are other festivities.
Near the castle a ferry terminal takes visitors and their cars across the sea to Sweden. My next post I’ll dive into easy day trip options and what to do in Sweden.
Location, location, location
Back in Copenhagen we stayed adjacent to Kongens Have (King’s Gardens). Hotel Christian IV is located in a section of Copenhagen known as Indre By (Old Town). The region is ideal for catching public transportation, walking to popular sites, and plenty of wonderful restaurants. With the garden’s proximity to the hotel we were able to visit often. The park has a children’s play area, lovely landscaping and plenty of statues to explore.
The hotel is only a few blocks from food but a roughly twenty minute walk to the main shopping area. It became my daughter’s mission to find the best hot chocolate in the country. It seems every cafe boasts their own specialty chocolate but the best of the best was Hotel Chocolat. A bit pricey, but worth every sip of incredible richness.
A Land of Castles
Denmark boasts 17 castles and palaces. Of those, three are in downtown Copenhagen and several others are in very close proximity. Visit the official website for more information on the castles and palaces: https://kongeligeslotte.dk/en/
The King’s Garden is also home of Rosenborg Castle, which holds the crown jewels and thousands of royal gifts. The castle itself is a jewel. Allow several hours to wander through each room, each more elaborate than the last. Rooms were constructed from marble, tile, mirrors or murals with hidden speaking tubes and secret sound channels built into the architecture. The third floor houses majestic thrones. The basement holds bejeweled crowns and elaborate children’s toys.
The barracks of the Royal Danish Life Guard are located on the Rosenborg grounds. Guardsdepart the grounds daily, marching in straight lines through the streets of Copenhagen.
Their destination is Amalienborg Palace, home of the royal family, for the changing of the guard. Visitors march alongside snapping photos and dodging traffic. The changing of the guard occurs multiple times across the palace grounds, so young children will probably tire after the first few changes.
Amalienborg Palace houses its own museum focused on the history of the royal family. Its contents will likely be more interesting to adults and older children. The legacy of King Christian IX and Queen Louise is fascinating; their
lineage connects Denmark to the most prominent European royal families.
Land of Magic
With or without children, Tivoli is a wonderful stop as the world’s second oldest amusement park. Built in 1843 with theaters, bandstands, restaurants and gardens, it retains much of its original charm. Food options are plentiful and most of the youth working at any number of food stalls speak English. They’re also eager to share Danish translations (such as enormous “candyfloss”).Even in cold months it can be quite crowded, so don’t necessarily expect to ride anything. Each ride requires tickets beyond the entrance fee. Finding ticket locations can be confusing so ask for assistance when you first enter or simply purchase several immediately.
No trip to Copenhagen is complete without a visit to the Little Mermaid statue. Take a guided boat tour around the city to view the statue from water, then try to see if from land. It’s a kilometer from the nearest metro station or take a taxi. Seeing it from land when the tide is low affords a closer (though sometimes crowded) view. For those unable to get close enough, a replica statue is located in the airport’s departure terminal. Just a last minute reminder of wonderful Copenhagen.