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Copenhagen Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Copenhagen

A fairy tale of a city full of peculiarities, the Danish capital Copenhagen has a fairly straightforward etymology, derived from Kopmannahafn, which roughly translates to “merchant's harbor”. Originally a fishing village simply called Havn (port), probably dating back to the Vikings, it was given as a fief to Absalon, the church father of Denmark in the second half of the 12th century, who built a fortress, which eventually became the Copenhagen castle.

The town thrived and eventually grew into a trading center, earning its current name. Its historic downtown is a treasure trove of attractions, too many to be squeezed into a single city guide. To see the most colorful of these, you're invited to embark on a self guided introduction walk and enjoy the blend of old and new in the streets of Copenhagen.
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Copenhagen Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Copenhagen Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Denmark » Copenhagen (See other walking tours in Copenhagen)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: alexei
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • City Hall (Radhus)
  • City Hall Square (Radhuspladsen)
  • Tivoli Gardens
  • Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – Art Museum
  • National Museum of Denmark
  • Christiansborg Palace
  • Old Stock Exchange
  • Stork Fountain
  • Stroget Pedestrian Street
  • Kongens Nytorv Square
  • Nyhavn (New Harbour)
1
City Hall (Radhus)

1) City Hall (Radhus) (must see)

Inspired by the Siena City Hall in Italy, yet draped, inside and out, in Danish symbolism, this building and its huge tower were constructed in National Romantic style by famous architect Martin Nyrop in 1905. On approaching, you will be impressed with its front decorated in rich ornamental style, where polar bears symbolize the giant Danish protectorate of Greenland. Standing just over the door is the gilded statue of the city's founder, Bishop Absalon, who drove out pirates and built a fort to guard the harbor, turning a wretched fishing village into a humming seaport some nine centuries ago.

Enormous functions fill the interior's grand hall (freely open to the public), while the marble busts of four celebrated local boys – fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, physicist Niels Bohr, and the building's architect, Martin Nyrop – look on. Downstairs are national archives dating back to the 1270s, popular with those researching their family roots. As you leave, pop into the amazing World Clock (opposite the info desk), built between 1943-55 – the mother of all astronomical clocks in function and precision. Its displays include lunar and solar eclipses, positions of the stellar bodies, and a perpetual calendar, in addition to the time across the world's time zones. The clock's fastest gear completes a revolution every ten seconds and the slowest – every 25,753 years!

Tip:
Free to see the main hall, which is stunning but there's a small fee to go up the tower.
They escort you in groups and the times are 11am / 12:30pm / 2pm; Saturdays at 12pm.
As the building is central, the views are great and the viewing platform is square and large.
Alternately, you are free to join a guided tour in English at 1pm (weekdays) and at 10am (Saturday).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–4pm
2
City Hall Square (Radhuspladsen)

2) City Hall Square (Radhuspladsen)

Sitting in the shadows of the stately and historic City Hall, Radhuspladsen is a main hub of the many miles of Copenhagen's beautifully historic pedestrian streets, as well as a gathering place for, street performers, public message boards, and folks from all corners of the globe. As in so much of this magical city, English is not only understood widely, but spoken better than what one would hear in the public plazas of most major American cities.

Once Copenhagen's fortified west end, it contained much of the city within its walls, with as much as 150,000 people packed inside by the mid-19th-century. The overcrowding led to hygiene problems (including a cholera outbreak), so after nearly seven centuries the walls eventually had to come down. Today, the redesigned square features the Dragon Fountain (1904) depicting a bull and a dragon in combat, and the impressive Weather Girl (Danish: vejrpigen) that tells when the rain comes. There is also a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, one of the most popular Danish writers in history, and a bronze depicting two lur blowers mounted on top of a tall terracotta column – the latter having been a gift to the city from the Carlsberg Foundation on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Carlsberg founder J. C. Jacobsen.

Just across the street is the very interesting Dansk Industri building that contains a showroom for green technologies (House of Green), as well as a series of two-storey flagship stores and restaurants on Vesterbrogade. Down the same street towers the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Copenhagen's only skyscraper, built in 1960 as the world's first design hotel.
3
Tivoli Gardens

3) Tivoli Gardens (must see)

Located in central Copenhagen, and very close to the train station for those traveling into town, Tivoli is the original inspiration for Walt Disney World – and it shows. The lovingly tended grounds and gardens are picturesque and the rides are both kid- and adult-friendly – a wonderland of rides, games, restaurants, marching bands, funny mirrors and roulette wheels. Tickets are both "pay as you go" and a "pay once for all" type fee, which is affordable for every budget and worth it just to see Danes – young and old – at play. In the summer months they have firework shows every Saturday at 23:45 (11:45pm) and if you don't want to stay all day, just have your hand stamped so you can re-enter at a later time.

Tivoli is actually the second oldest, still operating, amusement park in the world; second only to another park also in Denmark. The wooden roller coaster, Rutschebanen (or as some people call it, Bjergbanen – "The Mountain Coaster"), built in 1914, is one of the oldest of its kind still operating in the world: an operator actually controls the ride by braking so that it does not gain too much speed while descending the hills! Another roller coaster, The Demon (Dæmonen), features an Immelmann loop, a vertical loop, and a zero-G roll all during the ride time of just one minute and forty six seconds. A well-known swing ride, The Star Flyer, opened in 2006, offers panoramic views of the city from a 80-metre (260 ft) elevation.

Apart from these exciting rides and a few thrilling towers, Tivoli is a venue for performing arts, counting among the major cultural hubs in Copenhagen. So even if you are not interested in the rides, there is plenty of space just to walk around, admire the prodigious flowers and large fountains, catch a free concert, or try a wide range of different foods: Mexican, Asian, Sushi, Italian, French, Danish, sandwiches/burgers, etc.

Why You Should Visit:
Supposedly this was the template that inspired Walt Disney to create his theme parks!
Fun to walk around in even if you don't go on any rides – a lovely way to spend time with friends.

Tip:
Great to come a bit before sunset so you can see the place both in daylight and illuminated in the evening.
You can also take your own food and drink in a bag – they don't check them (and it's rather expensive inside).

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 11am–11pm; Fri,Sat: 11am–12am (Apr 4 – Sep 22 / Oct 11 – Nov 3 / Nov 16 – Jan 5)
4
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – Art Museum

4) Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek – Art Museum (must see)

Built on the personal collection of Carl Jacobsen, whose father founded the Carlsberg Breweries, this world-class museum houses many captivating artifacts from the ancient world, along with some fine art from our own times (Jacobsen died over a century ago, so one can imagine the exhibits have changed somewhat since then).

There are whole rooms full of ancient naked people sculpted from bronze and marble but also an incredible collection of Auguste Rodin's works, considered to be the most important outside France. However, the museum is equally noted for its paintings that include an extensive display of French impressionists and Post-impressionists (Monet, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pissarro, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, etc.) as well as a robust selection of the Danish Golden Age.

What is more, the wings of the museum are built around a very soothing, Victorian-style garden, rich with greenery and sculpture, under a translucent glass dome. If you can afford some extra time, it's always a nice place to relax for a while and enjoy coffee or lunch – especially in the winter, as you can be in nature and enjoy the warmth.

Why You Should Visit:
To enjoy a surprisingly good collection in a gorgeously modified building (the open rooftop affords great views of the city!). There is also a magnificent palm garden with many benches, ponds, a delicious café, and some horticultural wonders.

Tip:
Pick up a floor plan as you enter to help navigate the somewhat confusing layout. Take breaks to go through a wing at a time. You will need breaks, as the place is huge in an unexpected way.
Keep in mind that Tuesdays are free, so perhaps you could go multiple times to make sure you see it all. Additionally, they frequently have (free) classical music concerts at their concert hall, so try to catch one.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am–5pm; Thu: 10am–9pm
5
National Museum of Denmark

5) National Museum of Denmark (must see)

This cultural history museum is the largest in Copenhagen and displays Danish and foreign culture histories, with varied exhibits from across the world.

Here, you will be particularly impressed by the coverage of Danish history over the last 14,000 years. Enjoy learning all about the works of art created in this country that dates back to the Middle Ages. Browse through an interesting collection and learn all about the Ice Age reindeer hunters, coins from ancient Greece and Rome, Danish coins dating back to the Viking period and much more.

The National Museum is also known for its varied and extensive collection of artifacts from ancient cultures including Egypt, the Near East, Italy, and Greece. Do not miss out the collection of objects excavated in 1957 from the Tell Shemshara in Iraq. The Danish pre-history section, renovated in 2008, will take you right back to those ancient times.

Tip:
After paying your entry fee, be sure to find out when a free one-hour tour of the museum's 'greatest hits' is available in your language.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
6
Christiansborg Palace

6) Christiansborg Palace (must see)

The seat of Danish government today, housing all its three wings – Parliament, Supreme Court, and Prime Minister's office, this site is considered the birthplace of Copenhagen, as it comprises the ruins of the city's original 12th-century fortress (now literally under visitors' feet). Dating from 1928, the current palace is the sixth building to stand on the spot in 800 years, after a series of fires and reconstructions. Despite its relative recency, the majesty here is excellent, with all of the furniture, tapestries and exhibits in excellent condition. Paper slippers are put on to protect the beautiful parquet floors.

If you have the Copenhagen Card for tourists, admission to the royal reception rooms (as well as the nearby stables, kitchen, and underground ruins) is free. Highlights of the experience include the Queen's china collection; her ornate ceremonial library; and the Great Hall, which today is adorned with tapestries chronicling Denmark's history. The detail in the hand paintings that cover every square inch of some of the rooms is simply amazing.

If you don't have the Copenhagen Card (or don't want to pay to get in), it is still possible to walk around the courtyard and go up the tower (Copenhagen's tallest), where a nice observation area looks over the city on all sides. There's even a small elevator that takes groups of 8ish at a time to the top, so definitely do this, if nothing else.

Why You Should Visit:
The library is the stuff of dreams, and one could easily spend an hour looking at the modern tapestries.

Tip:
Always look out for the free English hour-long tours included in your ticket (they are at 3pm each day but also at different times in the weekends: 12pm/2pm), unless you'd rather wander the rooms on your own, reading the descriptions.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm (June); Tue-Sun: 10am–5pm (July–March)
7
Old Stock Exchange

7) Old Stock Exchange

Constructed by one of Copenhagen's greatest builders and architects, King Christian IV, the Old Stock Exchange stands as a testimony to the city's wealth, having been specially built to impress foreign as well as Danish merchants arriving from the sea. Like many others in the 17th century, the eye-catching red-brick structure was inspired by the Dutch Renaissance; its low facade, stretching out along the water side, reads "For the profitable use of buyer and seller."

The spire is definitely interesting to see up close (or zoomed in), with four intertwined dragon tails that are topped by three crowns, symbolizing aspirations to rule a united Scandinavian empire (Denmark, Sweden and Norway), or at least be its commercial capital. According to legend, the spire also guards against enemy attacks and fires – and true enough, the Old Stock Exchange has many times been spared from damage, even as neighboring buildings have burnt to the ground.

Beyond lies the island of Christianshavn – Copenhagen's "Little Amsterdam" district, with its own distinct spire.

Tip:
For a nice overview picture, just take the elevator in the Christiansborg Palace, on the other side of the road! The inside is only accessible during Culture Night held every year in October, though be warned that queues can get quite long.
8
Stork Fountain

8) Stork Fountain

Copenhagen has so many statues, but not that many fountains. The Stork Fountain can be found as one wanders along the Amagertorv square, with its fine inlaid Italian granite stonework and its numerous old buildings – the oldest of which dates back to 1600. A highlight for shoppers seeking porcelain and modern Danish design, the square also holds the city's first ever public toilets – still free and very clean (look for the stairs to the underground).

Built in 1888, the Stork Fountain was a present to Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Louise in connection with their upcoming silver wedding anniversary. A popular meeting spot for locals and tourists, it is decorated with various aquatic plants and in the basin, frogs spewing water. On a shelf on the pedestal stand three storks ready to take flight.

Since 1950, it has been a tradition that midwives dance around the fountain as part of their graduation ritual. The key here, of course, would be to time your trip around the summer solstice (or Midsummer), when graduates come by the truckload (not an expression – via actual trucks!) to dance around, and wade/swim in the fountain. Grab a table with a good view of the fountain in the evening, and wait for the show to start!

***HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN'S COPENHAGEN***
The most familiar tale about the stork's role in bringing babies, written by H. C. Andersen, was first published in 1838. They storks know "the pond in which all the little children lie, waiting till the storks come to take them to their parents. The prettiest little babies lie there dreaming more sweetly than they will ever dream in the time to come. All parents are glad to have a little child, and children are so pleased with a little brother or sister." This is probably why the Stork Fountain among the most famous fountains in this part of the world.
9
Stroget Pedestrian Street

9) Stroget Pedestrian Street (must see)

Popularly known as Pedestrian Street, Strøget came into existence in 1962. This car-free pedestrian zone was created by the city council to manage the ever-expanding traffic around Copenhagen’s major shopping areas. It extends all the way to Kongens Nytorv from the Town Hall Square.

Walk along Strøget and you will find many interesting historical squares and a maze of small streets on either side. This is Copenhagen’s medieval part that extends to a length of 3.2 km. It is also the longest and oldest pedestrian street system in the world. Tourists visiting Copenhagen never miss the experience of walking along Strøget.

You will find a variety of outdoor sidewalk cafes, restaurants, fast food eateries, gift stores, art galleries, specialty shops, departmental stores, theatres, street entertainment, museum and much more. Whether you visit this street in the day time or during the night, you will find it bustling with activity.

Some of the most popular tourist attractions close to Strøget include the Lure Blowers, Tivoli, Town Hall, Cinemas and Glyptotek-Vesterbrogade on the west entrance. On the eastern end, you will find many shops selling branded merchandise. Enjoy a unique and exciting shopping experience!

Tip:
Make sure to make a detour down one of the crossing side-streets, and avoid most of the restaurants.
10
Kongens Nytorv Square

10) Kongens Nytorv Square

A popular tourist attraction, Kongens Nytorv Square is situated in central Denmark in Stroget Pedestrian Street. This public square is huge and impressive with an equestrian statue of Christian V at the center.

This square was constructed by Christian V in 1670 during the expansion of the fortified city. Around the square, you will find many prominent buildings such as the 1683Thott Palace, 1671 Charlottenborg Palace and 1874 Royal Danish Theatre.

Abraham-Cesar Lamoureux, the French sculptor created the equestrian statue in 1688. This statue, originally made in gilded lead, holds the distinction of being the oldest statue in Scandinavia. In 1939, the statue was recast in bronze.

You will find a statue of the king with a laurel wreath helmet dressed as a Roman imperator. At Kongens Nytorv Square, there are four allegorical statues at the plinth foot. Representing fortitude and prudence, the figures of Alexander the Great and Minerva, face Charlottenborg Palace. On the opposite side, you will find statues of Artemisia and Herkules signifying honor and strength.

“Krinsen” or circle of wreath in Danish surrounds Christian V’s statue in the form of an elliptical parterre. Do not miss out the 1913 telephone stand and old kiosk with their hand carved ornamentation and copper clad roof at this square.
11
Nyhavn (New Harbour)

11) Nyhavn (New Harbour) (must see)

Established by King Christian V in the 1670s along with Kongens Nytorv (the downtown main square), Nyhavn ("New Harbor") is a recently gentrified sailors' quarter. With its exquisitely constructed townhouses made of bricks, wood and plaster, the whole stretch is a wonderfully colorful place to hang out. Go to the south of Nyhavn and you'll find huge, lavish mansions along the canal, or just work your way through the maze of trendy cafés, jazz clubs, and tattoo shops.

Fancy a drink? Take your beer out to the canal and feel like a local, or take a walk down Nyhavn all the way to the end, where you will find Skuespilhuset (part of the Royal Theatre) and its reasonably priced bar/café, with good quality service and one of the best views in town (of the harbour, the new Opera House, and other things, too). Those with tired feet may alternatively opt to take an hour-long boat tour, usually booked just at the entrance to the harbor.

***HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN'S COPENHAGEN***
The Danish author lived in the area for quite a while, back when it was was most notorious for sailors, beer and prostitution. Between 1834-38, he wrote his first stories ("The Princess and the Pea", "The Tinderbox") on the 2nd floor of the bright red building at #20, and ended up occupying two other canal-front houses over four decades – one of which is right next door at the mustard-colored #18. Both houses are best viewed from the bridge midway along the canal. His longest lodging stint, however, was at #67, where he lived on and off between 1848-65. The bottom floor of the white building is now a café.

Why You Should Visit:
Perfect picturesque place to end a long day. You can do as the locals do: enjoy a beer/coffee from a nearby store, rest your feet at the quayside and enjoy the view.

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