Copenhagen, the charming capital city of Denmark is located on the Oresund Strait. The city apart from being well known for its landmarks such as the Little Mermaid and the Tivoli gardens is renowned for its cutting edge design development in the fields of industrial and product designs. The Danes have also been in the news in recent times for the controversy surrounding a Danish cartoon published in a local newspaper which seemed to offend the sensibilities of the Muslim community the world over. The Danes today are known as world leaders in wind farming technology. The environmentally conscious and ecologically aware Danish government is making a concentrated effort to reduce the emissions of green house gasses as well.
The earliest origins of the city can be traced back to 1167 when the Bishop Absalom constructed a small fortress on the canal encircled island called Slotsholmen. The fortification was constructed to protect the harbor side village from raids by the marauding German wends. The village grew in stature and adopted the name Købmandshavn which evolved into København. However this fortress was destroyed in 1369 by the Germans and soon a new protective structure was established at Copenhagen Castle. The Danish King Erik of Pomerania established this castle as his capital in 1416 and thus the city of Copenhagen came to be established. The population of Copenhagen grew steadily towards the early part of the eighteenth century.
However this growth was adversely affected by events such as the bubonic plague, fires and Napoleonic wars when the city was relentlessly bombed by the British who were angered by the supposed Danish support for Napoleon. The era following these catastrophes and disasters was the golden age in Danish history for it was at this time art and culture flourished in the Danish capita l.Luminaries such as the writer Hans Christian Anderson, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, Christoffer Wilhelm Ecksberg, the founder of the Danish school of art and sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen all rose to prominence during this time.
During the Second World War the Danes tried to remain neutral as they had during the First World War but this didn’t stop them from being occupied by the Nazis this time around. The Nazi occupation lasted five years and at the end of the war Copenhagen had suffered a fate similar to other European cities occupied by the Nazis. Soon after the war the government embarked on a rehabilitation and rebuilding program which saw the establishment of a socialist state in Denmark. In the late 1960’s student protest led to the creation of ‘a free state of Christiana’ on a military base located on outskirts of Copenhagen which is governed by the rules of communal property. The popularity of this concept has prompted the government to allow it to continue as a social experiment.
The best months to visit Copenhagen are in the summer months of May to September. Day temperatures in the summer months are usually around 68°F (20°F). The summer months sees the city come to life as its cafes and squares are filled with the local populace and tourists basking in the warm sunshine. The city’s popular Aalborg Carnival commemorating the triumph of spring over winter is held in late May and enhances the festive spirit prevailing in the city. The coldest months are January and February when temperatures hover around 50°F (10°C) but these relatively mild temperatures are usually accompanied by rain and cloud cover which makes one’s surroundings feel significantly cooler. The maximum amount of rainfall is received by Copenhagen in the months of July to December.
The currency used in Copenhagen is the Danish Krone(DKK) which is made up of 100øre. ATMs are available all through out the city and credit cards are widely accepted.
Banks in Copenhagen are generally not open on the weekends but several bureau de changes remain open to meet the needs of tourists.
Even though Danish is the official language English is widely spoken and understood.
Getting to Copenhagen
Copenhagen’s International Airport is called Kastrup and it is situated at a distance of 8 km to the south east of Copenhagen city. The airport is the hub of the Scandinavian airline SAS. The airport has all the amenities of a modern airport including a shuttle bus which runs between terminals and helps passengers transfer between Terminal 1 which is the domestic terminal and Terminal 2 which is the international terminal. Low cost carriers such as Easy Jet, Air Berlin, Sterling and budget airline of SAS, Snowflake serve the Kastrup airport and connect Copenhagen to a number of European cities. Transfers to the city are available by taxi, train, bus and car. The train from the airport to the central station called Hovedbanegården in downtown Copenhagen takes twelve minutes with the ticket costing approximately 30 DKK. The ticket needs to be validated before it is used. Major international car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz have offices at the airport. Taxis are available at the arrivals terminal and fares which include VAT can be paid by credit card. Several local buses serve the airport and provide another link to the city center.
An alternative route to reach Copenhagen by air is to fly into Sweden’s Sturup Airport in Malmö Sweden and get to Copenhagen by train. The journey to Copenhagen’s central station takes only thirty minutes. Low cost airline Ryan Air serves Malmö’s airport.
By Bus and Train
Trains from cities such as Odense and Aarhus come into Copenhagen’s central every hour after traversing the Storeboelt Bridge. Train links also exist to Hamburg and Lübeck in Germany. The train links use the train and ferry crossing called Rødbyputtgarden. Buses from Malmö in Sweden use the Øresund Fixed link built in July 2002 to come into Copenhagen’s central station. This journey from Sweden takes a mere thirty minutes. Several Bus companies such as Swebus Express and Gråhundbus provide bus services to Copenhagen.
Ferries provide waterway links between Copenhagen and Oslo and Swinouzcie in Poland. The city of Copenhagen has several marinas where berths are available for yachts visiting from other parts of Europe. The largest marina is called Svanemøllehavnen.
Getting around Copenhagen
The city of Copenhagen is well served by an efficient public transport system consisting of trains, buses, the metro, taxis cycle rickshaws and city bikes. The public transport system can be accessed by a single ticket which can be used on trains, buses and the metro.
The S-tog trains also operate from early morning to midnight and have a frequency of three trains on the hour. The metro is composed of two lines M1 and M2 and this system runs from Vanløse Station to Lengravsparken in East Amagar, to Ørestad in West Amager and to Frederisksberg. The metro runs all night on Friday and Saturday nights. Free bicycles called City Bikes are available for use during the summer months of May to September. The City of Copenhagen has designated Bike paths all throughout the city. The bikes can be picked up and dropped off at various Bike Parks all over the city and they require a deposit of 20DKK which is returned to you when you return the Bike. Cycle rickshaws like the ones which operate in the Far East have been introduced recently and have proved to be very popular. Licensed taxis are operated by five taxi companies in the city and these taxis can be flagged down anywhere in the city.
One can also avail of a harbor tour operated by firms such as Canal tours and Netto Boats by purchasing a one day ticket. This tour gives one the ability to hop and off while taking in the sights such as the fortress ‘Trekroner’, Christiana and the old city.
Tivoli Gardens,Vesterbrogade 3
Copenhagen’s most famous attraction is the Tivoli Gardens. The amusement park and garden set over twenty acres opened in 1843. The many delights of the amusement park include a rollercoaster which operates at a speed of 80mph, a carousel composed of tiny Viking ships, a palace straight out of Arabian nights, a Chinese style pantomime theater, pinball machines, slot machines and shooting arcades. The gardens also have a lake and a number of restaurants which serve a variety of cuisines. Often the gardens are a venue for rock concerts by international artists on Friday nights. The park is especially pretty at nights when it is illuminated with fairy and colored lights. There is also a parade of the uniformed Tivoli Boys Guard which is a weekend special. From mid November to December is the magnificent spectacle of Christmas in Tivoli.
Ny Carlsberg Glypotek,Dantes Plads 7
Located next to the Tivoli Gardens is one of the best beaux arts museums of the region. The museum housed in a structure built in the nineteenth century has wonderful exhibits of Egyptian, Greek and Roman art as well as much French painting and sculpture including works of the famous sculptor Rodin. The museum was founded by the owner of the famous Carlsberg beer company Carl Jacobson an avid patron of the arts and a collector.
This round cylindrical tower was built in the Christian IV area and it offers wonderful views of the city. To take advantage of this view one needs to climb up a spiral ramp which is attached to a church. At this popular landmark which dates back to the seventeenth century there is also a library hall which has exhibits of art culture and history.
Kastellet and Little Mermaid,Den Lille Havfrue 31
The Little Mermaid of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale is another popular attraction of Copenhagen and consists of a bronze figurine perched on a rock which is situated on the water’s edge. The Kastellet is a well preserved fort surrounded by a moat built by Frederik III in the 1660s. Visiting the fort and crossing the moat gives one a sense of life in the ages past.
NationalMuseet, Ny Vestergade 10 1471
The Danish National Museum houses a number of Danish artifacts that date back to the Paleolithic ages. The exhibits include the Sun Chariot which is more than 3500 years old and 3000 year old bronze Danish horns.
Rosenborg Castle,Øster Voldgade 4A
Another of Christian IV contributions to the city of Copenhagen the castle contains Danish treasures including the crown jewels and the regalia which are located in the treasury in the basement. There are various other royal artifacts including a 1596 coronation saddles, Frederick VII‘s baby shoes and ivory coronation chairs. This castle built in the Renaissance style has a wonderful Knights room which is a must see.
Rådhus ( Town Hall ) and World Clock
The Town hall has statues commemorating Hans Christian Anderson and the Nobel Prize winning Physicist Niels Bohr. The Jen Olsen’s World Clock is extremely accurate and was set by Frederick IX on 15th December 2005.
Constructed as a palace for the Danish Royal Family in 1683,s the palace has housed the Royal Academy of Fine Arts since 1754. The gallery of the palace features changing exhibits of contemporary art by Danish and international artists.
Danish Design Center,Hans Christian Anderson Boulevard
This modern glass structure designed by Henning Larsen displays exhibits of futuristic industrial and product designers from the world over.
Nyhavn canal is a picturesque canal lined with town houses and pavement cafes was initially dug to afford access to traders who needed to get to the center of the city to trade their wares. The area surrounding the canal was the abode of sailors and writers including Copenhagen’s native son Hans Christian Anderson who resided in house no.67.
Copenhagen has a number of hotels belonging to International chains such as the SAS Radisson. However, mention must be made of quirky abodes which reflect the design sensibilities of the city. One such Hotel is the Hotel Guldsmeden Bertams which used to be a run of the mill guest house until it was transformed in 2006 into a chic boutique hotel adorned with ethnic accents such as Pakistani carpets and Balinese beds. The Hotel can be accessed for rates and availability at www.hotelguldsmeden.dk.
At the other end of the spectrum is the ultra modern Front hotel whose décor includes high end accessories and furniture. This hotel can be accessed for further information at www.front.dk.
Danhostel Copenhagen is an abode styled by the ultra cool Danish design firm GUBI. It is a viable option for those on a budget and others who want an experience peppered with cutting edge Danish design. It can be accessed at www.danhostel.dk/copenhagencity.