Copenhagen, Denmark

Jun 12, 2011 Avatar Dan Ilves Dan Ilves

Copenhagen is a major gateway for Baltic cruises and tours of Scandinavia, so many cruise travelers have the opportunity to extend their visit here. Copenhagen may not seem to be a very exciting city, where top-of-mind images might start and end with Hans Christian Andersen, the Little Mermaid statue and Tivoli Gardens. I’ve always found Copenhagen appealing and comfortable, and the Danes a people that have found a fine balance in their lives. The city is Denmark’s intellectual and cultural hub, and in summer, Copenhagen pulsates with activity. It’s a pretty city that’s compact, and it’s easy to get around. It’s not surprising Copenhagen has been rated by some as the best city in Europe for design and quality of life. Here are a few of my favorites in and around Copenhagen.

Depending on one’s interests, Copenhagen has many museums of note. The National Museum, once an 18th century residence, offers a fascinating history of the Danes and an excellent Viking exhibit, complete with tombs and skeletons, with great information and exhibits to help visitors of any age to appreciate this history. Even better, admission is free.

Next door to the central rail station and across from Tivoli Gardens is the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, a world-class art museum in an architecturally interesting building. A bit of everything here, including some Danish art.

I’ve always admired Scandinavian design, and the Design Museum’s exhibits have never disappointed me, and the Danish-designed trinkets in the store always tempting. Don’t expect a museum, however, as it’s more of a showroom.

There are two art museums out of town worth considering. Arken Museum of Modern Art is about 25-from Copenhagen by S-tog train and bus. Set just off the beach, it’s a lovely setting and an architecturally appealing building, featuring 20th century art. Sunday brunch in the cafe here is a pretty good deal, or pack a picnic and enjoy the beach. About a half-hour north in Humlebaek is the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, a stunning location on the coast, featuring 20th century art.

If Viking lore and history intrigue you, a trip to the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde may engage you with its display of the remains of several Viking ships from the 11th century found here.

There are plenty of castles and palaces to visit, from Kastellet, Amalienborg, Christiansborg and Rosenborg in Copenhagen, and Kronborg (Hamlet’s Castle) in Helsingor. Of unique interest, particularly to anyone who grew up in the late 60′s and early 70′s, is the enclave of Christiania, located on Christianshavn, site of the new Opera House and slated for much new development. There’s nothing quite like Christiania anywhere, and it’s worth a visit. Somwhere around 1969 a former military barracks here was taken over by “hippies” and established a colony that’s survived ever since on 85 acres here. Pick up a brochure that tells the story.

Summer is the best time for a Scandinavia vacation, and there are usually outdoor festivals or events going on somewhere. Find out what’s happening, and join in the fun. Copenhagen is a great city to bike around, and a number of hotels offer bike rentals. Shoppers will enjoy the series of pedestrian shopping streets (Stroget)thru the heart of town.