Copenhagen Travel Guide


Christianshavn & Christiania
One of the highlights of the canal-punctured district of Christianshavn is Vor Frelsers Kirke ('Our Saviour's Church'), topped by a 95m (311ft), 400-step spiral steeple which affords breathtaking views over the city. On the eastern side of the district is the self-labelled 'progressive' community of Christiania.

Christiania started life as a military camp before being abandoned and taken over in 1971 by ambitious squatters who proclaimed their own 'free state'.

It never achieved full independence but still enjoys status as a rent- and tax-free enclave and a lively, arts-soaked environment. You can stroll or cycle through the area (cars aren't allowed) and check out the local craft market or organic food eateries - informative guided tours are offered daily throughout summer.

Latin Quarter
Copenhagen's Latin Quarter surrounds the old campus of Copenhagen University and brims with pedestrians, cafes and bookshops. Kultorvet, a plaza just to the north of the Latin Quarter, is particularly busy during summer, when its beer gardens and produce stalls are well attended, and when buskers will endeavour to win your patronage.

Directly opposite the university grounds is Vor Frue Kirke, the city's striking neoclassical cathedral which was originally built in the late 12th century and then rebuilt three times after succumbing to various pesky fires. The interior is decorated with sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's acclaimed statues of Christ and the 12 apostles.

Good views of the city's rooftops are available from the summit of the Rundetårn (Round Tower), a 35m-high (115ft) pile of bricks a few blocks east of the Latin Quarter. The Rundetårn was erected as an observatory in 1642 and is still used by amateur astronomers in the wintertime, qualifying it as the oldest functioning observatory in Europe.

The Nationalmuseet (National Museum) is a must-see for anyone who wants a comprehensive grounding in Danish history and culture. True to its name, the Nationalmuseet has the biggest collection of Danish historical artefacts in the country. On Sundays in summer the ambience is enhanced by free chamber music concerts.

The Nationalmuseet has dibs on virtually every antiquity found on Danish soils, whether it was unearthed by a farmer ploughing his fields or a government-sponsored archaeological dig.

The artefacts date from the Upper Palaeolithic period to the mid-19th century. Highlights include the Sun Chariot, which is over 3500 years old, and an exhibition of 3000-year-old bronze lurs (Danish horns).

Rosenborg Slot
Rosenborg Slot houses a museum and the treasury where the royal regalia and jewels are kept. Downstairs is a public viewing room where you can marvel at incredible jewellery.

It was built in Dutch Renaissance style by Christian IV to serve as his summer home. A century later Frederik IV, who felt cramped at Rosenborg, built a roomier palace north of the city in the town of Fredensborg.

The 24 rooms in the castle's upper levels are chronologically arranged, housing the furnishings and portraits of each monarch from Christian IV to Frederik VII. However, the main attraction lies on the lower level, where the dazzling collection of crown jewels are displayed.

These include Christian IV's ornately designed crown; the jewel-studded sword of Christian III; and Queen Margrethe II's emeralds and pearls, which are kept here when the queen is not wearing them to official functions. These items are considered such a national treasure that the queen is not permitted to take the royal jewels with her when she travels outside Denmark.

Slotsholmen is a groovy island connected to the rest of Copenhagen by small bridges, it is the place that Denmark's national government calls home. Slotsholmen attracts large numbers of visitors who come to check out the palatial (literally) government office.

The original Christiansborg palace was constructed in the 1730s to replace the pokey Copenhagen Castle and several buildings, namely the royal stables and edifices surrounding the main courtyard, date from this time.

Folketinget, the parliamentary chamber, can be toured on Sunday year-round, as well as on weekdays over summer, and this includes a peek at Wanderer's Hall, which contains the original copy of Denmark's Constitution.

For sheer Renaissance grandness, De Kongelige Repræsentationslokaler (the Royal Reception Chambers) won't disappoint - it's where royal banquets are scoffed and heads of state entertained. Underneath the palace are the excavated ruins of two earlier castles, including Bishop Absalom's original 1167 effort.

Tivoli & Strøget
Funsters will want to head to Tivoli, the popular amusement park-cum-flower garden in the heart of the city. At the north corner of the park is Strøget, a long chain of five streets replete with shops and eateries and a myriad of entertainment options including street theatre and cinemas.

The famed Tivoli park has been operating for over 150 years and so has had plenty of time to figure out how to best cater to the hordes of tourists and locals, many trailing enthusiastic youngsters, who flock there between mid-April and late-September each year. There are all the usual fun-park attractions, such as a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, open-air performances, carnival games and food pavilions. For the more cultured fun-loving palates, there are also traditional folk dances and a large concert hall hosting international symphony orchestras and ballet troupes. Tivoli also opens up for a few weeks prior to Christmas for holiday festivities, a seasonal market and ice-skating on the lake.

When you've had all the gee-whiz, whoop-it-up, wallet-emptying festivities you can stomach, stagger out in a calmer consumer-oriented manner up the world's longest pedestrian mall, Strøget.

Off the Beaten Track

Frederiksborg Slot
This Dutch Renaissance castle looks spectacular enough from the outside - spread as it is over several small islets on a lake called Slotsø - but the interior of this former fortress and now national museum is no let-down either, with over 70 publicly accessible rooms boasting gilded ceilings, full-wall tapestries, paintings and antiques.

Particularly impressive are the Riddershalen (Knights Hall) and the Slotskirken (Coronation Chapel), the latter being where Danish monarchs received their extravagant new head-gear between 1671 and 1840.

People who visit Hillerød, 40km (25mi) northwest of Copenhagen, don't really go there to visit Hillerød - they go there to see the magnificent castle around which the small town is centred: Frederiksborg Slot.

This Dutch Renaissance castle looks spectacular enough from the outside - spread as it is over several small islets on a lake called Slotsø - but the interior of this former fortress and now national museum is no let-down either, with over 70 publicly accessible rooms boasting gilded ceilings, full-wall tapestries, paintings and antiques. Particularly impressive are the Riddershalen (Knights Hall) and the Slotskirken (Coronation Chapel), the latter being where Danish monarchs received their extravagant new headgear between 1671 and 1840.

There are four Viking ring fortresses in Denmark, but Viking ring fortress purists will find that Trelleborg, which is situated 7km (4.3mi) west of the town of Slagelse in Southern Zealand, is the best preserved of all of them.

Features of the site include a detailed reconstruction of a Viking house where you can imagine warriors feasting, sleeping and discussing hair-plaiting techniques, a museum containing pottery and other domestic items that have been excavated from the site and burial mounds up on the circular grassy rampart.

Other Denmark Attractions

Egeskov Slot
Egeskov Castle, complete with moat and drawbridge, is a Renaissance gem. Built in 1554, in the middle of a small lake, Egeskov rests on a foundation of thousands of upright oak trunks. The expansive park includes century-old privet hedges, free-roaming peacocks, a topiary and manicured English gardens.

The interior has antique furnishings, grand period paintings and an abundance of hunting trophies. For those who enjoy labyrinths, there's a 200-year-old bamboo maze. Also on the grounds is an antique car museum, which displays about 300 period cars.

Legoland, a kilometre north of the small Jutland town of Billund, is a 10-hectare theme park built from plastic Lego blocks, and is not recommended to anyone who fears having their childhood writ both large and Lilliputian in 42 million pieces.

Møns Klint
These spectacular white chalk cliffs rise 128m above sea level, presenting one of the most striking landscapes in Denmark. Created 5000 years ago, the cliffs were formed when calcareous deposits were lifted from the ocean floor. You can walk down the cliffs to the beach and directly back up again in about 30 minutes, or walk along the shoreline in either direction and then loop back up through a thick forest of wind-gnarled beech trees for a hardier walk of about one and a half hours.

Møns Klint is located on the island of Møn, south of Zealand, to which it is connected by bridge and serviced daily by bus.

Ribe is the oldest town in Scandinavia; recent excavations have unearthed a number of silver coins, indicating that a market town once existed on the site as far back as AD 700. Incessant wars with Sweden strangled regional commerce, resulting in Ribe's decline as an important medieval trading centre. Its economic decline has, nevertheless, spared it from modernisation. With its crooked, cobbled streets and half-timbered 16th-century houses, visiting Ribe is like stepping into a living museum.

The town's dominant landmark, Ribe Cathedral, stands as a fine testament to Ribe's prominent past. For a lofty view of the countryside, climb the cathedral's 14th-century tower. Ribes Vikinger is a huge museum with displays of Ribe's Viking and medieval history. One exhibition hall has a reproduction of an AD 800 marketplace, complete with a cargo-laden Viking ship; and there's also a multimedia room where you can explore the Viking era via computers, light and sound. Just south of the town centre is the Vikingecenter, which has attempted to re-create Viking-era Ribe through various reconstructions, including a 34-metre (1112ft) Fyrkat-style longhouse. Ribe is in southern Jutland, accessible by trains from Esbjerg (35 minutes) and Tønder (50 minutes).

The commercial and cultural centre of Jutland, Århus is a lively university city with one of Denmark's best music and entertainment scenes. It has the added attraction of an open-air museum with 75 restored buildings brought here from around Denmark and reconstructed as a provincial town.

Christiansø is a beautifully preserved 17th-century island fortress, an hour's sail north-east of Bornholm. The entire island is an unspoiled reserve - there are no cars or modern buildings and no cats or dogs. Christiansø (population 100), is connected to its sister island, Frederiksø, by a footbridge.

A fishing port for centuries, Skagen's luminous heath-and-dune landscape was discovered in the mid-1800s by artists, and in more recent times by summering urbanites. The peninsula is lined with fine beaches, including a sandy stretch just a 15-minute walk from the town centre.

Ærø is an idyllic island with small villages, rolling hills and patchwork farms. Great for cycling, the country roads are dotted with thatched houses, old windmills and ancient passage graves and dolmens. Ærøskøbing - a prosperous merchant town in the late 1600s -is a wonderful place for a flaneur.

Its narrow, cobbled streets are lined with close-standing 17th- and 18th-century houses, many of them gently listing half-timbered affairs with handblown glass windows, decorative doorways and street-side hollyhocks.

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