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Sitting on the east coast of Denmark, Copenhagen has been that country's capital for 600 years and is the largest city in Scandinavia with a population of 1.7 million people. It's home to the world's oldest monarchy (King Erik VII set up permanent residence in 1417) and its present Queen, Margrethe II, currently lives at Amalienborg Palace.
In a country rich in Viking history, grand castles and lush green countryside, Copenhagen is a charming city of 17th- and 18th-century buildings, beautiful parks and gardens, pretty promenades along canals, and ancient winding streets made for walking and biking. During the longer days and warmer weather of summer, outdoor cafe-sitting and outings to the magical Tivoli Gardens are highlights.
Copenhagen recently marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen, the legendary and magical writer of such fairy tales as "The Little Mermaid" and "The Princess and The Pea."
At any time, getting your bearings in old Copenhagen is easy; it's a warren of pedestrian streets, bounded by Norreport Station, Town Hall Square and the Central Train Station. Stroget, which is an amalgamation of five streets -- Frederiksberggade, Nygade, Vimmelskaftet, Amagertorv and Ostergade -- runs practically smack-dab through the center of the city between Rauspladsen and Kongens Nytorv. Pistolstraede is chock-a-block with galleries, restaurants and boutiques; Fiolstraede is for antiques galore; and Nyhavn is where some of the most expensive restaurants are located.
Note: The "Cruise Lounge" is located midway along Stroget at Amagertorv Square. Be sure to have proof that you're a cruise passenger for complimentary coffee or tea and a chance to rest a bit. If you make some purchases at, say, Georg Jensen or Royal Copenhagen, you can leave them at the lounge and pick them up later.
It's an expensive city, and yet a visit here is worth the splurge. And please note: all prices we list here are approximate and are subject to change.
Here's a hint: You might want to consider getting the COPENhagen CARD, which offers unlimited free access by bus and rail throughout the metropolitan area for one or three days as well as complimentary admission to well over 60 sights and museums. Up to two children under the age of 10 are allowed free with each adult card. For more information, visit the Copenhagen Tourist Information Center at www.woco.dk.
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Other Baltic & Northern Europe Cruise Ports:
Aarhus • Akureyri • Alesund • Amsterdam • Bergen • Berlin • Bremerhaven • Copenhagen • Flam • Gdansk • Geiranger • Hamburg • Helsinki • Ilulissat • Invergordon • Kristiansand • Moscow • Oslo • Reykjavik • Riga • Rostock (Warnemunde) • Spitsbergen (Svalbard) • St. Petersburg • Stavanger • Stockholm • Tallinn • Travemunde (Lubeck) • Tromso • Trondheim • Visby
Danish, which is a bit difficult to master -- but generally, English is spoken and understood.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Denmark is one of Europe's hold-outs in terms of embracing the Euro, so be prepared to master the krone (as of summer 2008 it's about $4.75 DKK to $1 USD, and 9.35 DKK to 1 GBP) and beware of sticker shock everywhere, at restaurants, at hotels and in shops.
Currency exchange can be made in most banks, post offices and train stations. Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices since very few businesses will accept them (ATMs and credit cards have made them nearly obsolete). Banks are open from Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Thursday until 6 p.m. There are several exchange offices in the central train station across from Tivoli Gardens that stay open until 10 p.m. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs, found almost everywhere.
Note: Many European ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
If you're visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back some 18 percent of the 25 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on certain goods. You must spend at least a minimum per store and items purchased must remain sealed and unused while you're in Denmark. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill in a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at the final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents most likely will ask to see the goods. (www.globalrefund.com)
Where You're Docked
Copenhagen offers two major port facilities. The first, more heavily visited by ships making simple day calls, is Langelinie Pier, about 1 1/2 miles from the city's center. It's a delightful port area, with a series of shops and cafes right on hand, and is a mere 10-minute walk into the city (taxis are also available). The Copenhagen Information Center is located here and also can offer money changing services (and ATMs).
On the other hand, the Freeport Terminal, about two miles from town, is frequently used by ships for which Copenhagen is a port of embarkation or debarkation. There are neither services nor an ATM nearby (though taxis often take credit cards), and the nearest train into town is a healthy 15 - 20 minute walk away.
As well, when big ships use this facility as a turnaround port, beware that cabs may be in short supply; you may want to arrange for a ride in advance or take advantage of your cruise line's transfer services.
You can take a short walk from Langelinie Pier to see the Little Mermaid statue or Amalienborg Palace. Langelinie's promenade is lined with plenty of shops, casual cafes and more.
There is no reason to hang around the Freeport Terminal.
Copenhagen is a great walking city with most of its wondrous sights within a square mile of its center. A good place to begin a city tour is Town Hall Square; the Tivoli Gardens are across the street and just north of Tivoli is Rauspladsen, the central city square and the main terminal for the local bus network. To the east is the city's waterfront, including the canal district of Christianshavn.
There are more than 1,700 government-licensed taxis that service Copenhagen, and most accept credit cards for trips of any length. Just make sure you tell the driver at the onset of your journey. You can hail taxis easily enough and most drivers speak English. The first drop is approximately 23 DKK and 10 DKK per 1/2 mi/1 km thereafter on weekdays from 6 a.m. - 4 p.m. The first drop alwayss remains the same, but from 4 p.m. - 6 a.m., the per mi/km fare increases to 11 DKK. On Fridays and Saturdays, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. as well as all day on holidays, the per mi/km fare increases yet again to 13 DKK. Drivers round up to the next krone, but no other tip is necessary. We recommend that you only ride in metered taxis.
From the main cruise facility at Langelinie Pier, bus #26, which runs every 20 minutes, will take you to the city center. A waterbus near the polar bear statue at the end of the pier can also get you to the center of the city (a one-day ticket lets you get on and off all day). Taxis are plentiful for the 10-minute ride in. If you've disembarked at Freeport Terminal, shuttle buses are generally close by -- as are taxis.
Copenhagen Airport is six miles (9 km) from the city's center. Shuttle buses are generally available to cruise ships, but contact your cruise line for more information. If you arrive at Terminal 3, there are trains every 20 minutes to town. A taxi to Langelinie Pier takes about 25 minutes and costs about 225 DKK. There's also a direct SAS bus running from the airport to Central Station. A local bus service (#250S) connects the airport with Rauspladsen and Central Station, but takes 35 minutes.
You can transfer from all methods of public transportation -- bus, train, metro -- with the same ticket. A basic ticket (grundbillet) is 15 DDK and allows for an hour of travel with unlimited transfers within the zone where you started your trip. You can buy a pack of 10 for 90 DKK. Kids under the age of 11 ride for half fare (those under four ride free on the trains; the cut-off is six on the buses). For more information, call 70-10-00-10.
The 24/7 Metro, which operates virtually every two minutes during rush hour (every 15 minutes in the evening), runs from Vanlose (in the west) to Vestmager (in the south). To transfer to the S-tog system, you must change at Norreport. For more information, visit www.dsb.dk.
Copenhagen has 1,300 free "City Bikes" that anyone can use within central Copenhagen between May 1 and December 15 by inserting a 20 DKK coin (get it back when you return it to any one of 125 City Bike Parking places) into the bike's locking mechanism. There are plenty of these hard-to-miss bright red or blue bikes by the Langelinie Pier, but not the Freeport Terminal. Pick up a City Bike Map from any Copenhagen Information Center (there's one next to Langelinie Pier, one on Bernstorffsgade and one at Tivoli's main entrance) and ask about three easy-pedal tours.
Car rental companies like Avis (www.avis.com), Hertz (www.hertz.com) and Danecars/National (www.danecars.dk) have offices in the city as well as at the airport. Check their Web sites for exact locations and prices. The cost of parking weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. is determined by zones (red, green and blue) and each has its own pricing. The farther away, the cheaper (the red zone is 20 DKK per hour, the green zone is 12 DKK and the blue zone is 7 DKK). Other times are free. Parking away from the city center is free for up to 2 hours. Tickets are purchased from coin-operated meters at the parking areas.
For travelers debarking (or embarking) here, Copenhagen has one of the most convenient rail services between downtown's main terminal (Kobenhavn) and the airport. The ride takes about 15 minutes. For travelers with a day to kill before flying, the rail station offers baggage storage.
Royal Copenhagen porcelain or Georg Jensen silver.
Watch Out For
Parts of Copenhagen -- particularly the central part of the city, near the train station and Tivoli Gardens -- have a red-light district vibe. You may see adult shops and massage parlors of varying types. Also, don't be surprised if you are approached by adult workers, plying their trades.
Take a tour. An excellent option for broad-stroke sightseeing is any one of several bus or canal tours. The nearly three-hour Grand Bus Tour that departs from Town Hall Square includes drive-by views of Tivoli, the New Carlsberg Museum, Christiansborg Palace, the Stock Exchange, the Danish Royal Theater, Nyhavn, Gefion Fountain, Grundtvig Church and Rosenborg Castle. Short stops are made to see the Little Mermaid, the changing of the guard at Amalienborg Palace and the Church of Our Lady, where the recent wedding ceremony of HRH Crown Prince Frederik and commoner Mary Donaldson took place. The hourlong Open Top Bus Tour includes much of the same, but offers an on/off option for those who wish to linger a bit longer at some of the stops. A one-hour Harbor and Canal Tour departs from Gammel Strand and Kongens Nytorv from May to mid-September. For those who prefer to tour on foot, staff members from the Copenhagen Tourist Information Office lead two-hour guided walking tours between May and September, Monday - Saturday at 10:30 a.m. For information, visit www.woco.dk.
The biggest museum in Denmark is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, where works from the 13th century to the present are exhibited. You'll see Rubens, Rembrandts and Hals, as well as the works of Eckerberg, Kobke and Hansen. French 20th-century art includes 20 works by Matisse. Inside the Royal Print Room, you'll have an opportunity to look at any one of more than 300,000 drawings, prints and lithographs by the world's most important artists. Tuesday and Thursday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Closed Monday. Solvgade 48-50.
Since opening in 1843, the 20-acre Tivoli Gardens has made visitors grin from ear to ear. You'll love the more than 400,000 flowers and almost as many sparkling lights that fill Tivoli after dark. There are 38 restaurants covering all budgets, 150 concerts per year, 26 amusement rides (including a brand-spanking-new roller coaster), and colorful just-before-midnight fireworks each Saturday night. Don't skip the Pantomime Theater's free magical evening performances of ballet and acrobatics, which have been presented since 1844. Daily from 11 a.m. - midnight (until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday). Tivoli is closed from mid-September until April, but opens for a few weeks prior to the Christmas holidays with a terrific market and a chance to channel your inner Hans Christian Andersen by ice skating on the lake. Vesterbrogade 3.
The four 18th-century French-style Rococo mansions that make up Amalienborg Palace have been the homes of the Danish royal family since 1794. You can see the changing of the Royal Danish Guard at noon, only when the royal family is at home (you'll know they are if the swallowtail flag is flying above). Capped off in black bearskin busbies, the guards begin marching at 11:30 a.m. from the barracks by the Rosenborg Palace along different routes, depending on which royal is in residence. For the Queen, it goes along Rosenborggade, Kobmagergade, Ostergade, Kongens Nytorv, Bredgade, Sct.Annae Plads and Amaliegade. When the princes are residing at the palace, but not as regents, the parade route is along Gothersgade, CHr.IX's Gade, Kr. Bernikowsgade, Kongens Nytorv, Bredgade, Frederiksgade and Amalienborg. After the change, they return along those same routes back to Rosenborg accompanied by a band. Visitors only have access to Christian VIII's Palace (Margrethe lives at Christian VII's). May - October: Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; November - December 17 and January 2 - April 30: Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed Monday. Kobenhavn 1257.
Home to the Danish Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Royal Reception Rooms, Christiansborg Palace is a must see. Take any one of the daily guided tours (through September: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m.; October - April: Tuesday - Thursday and Saturday - Sunday 3 p.m.) to see the Reception Rooms, Throne Room, Banqueting Hall, the Queen's Library and Parliament. Make sure you visit the ruins (year-round 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.) of the 1167 Bishop Absalon castle (he founded Copenhagen) under the palace. Christiansborg Slotsholmen.
A citadel constructed by King Frederik III in the 1660s and still with some of its original ramparts, Kastellet was the city's main fortress until the 18th century, when it fell into disuse. During the Nazi occupation, it was the Germans' headquarters. Though the Danish military occupies its buildings today, visitors can stroll the lovely grounds. Don't forget to check out the five-point moat. Langelinie. Daily 6
a. m. - sunset.
The coyly reclining Little Mermaid is quintessential Copenhagen, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen and sculpted by Edvard Eriksen in 1913. She's been decapitated twice -- once in 1964 (the head was never recovered) and again in 1998 (this time the head turned up at a TV station, delivered by a masked person). Fortunately, the head was welded back on. Vandals cut off her arm in the early 1900's -- but because the original mold exists, her body parts were replaced.
If you're up to it, trek up the 400-step spiral steeple of the Baroque Our Savior's Church for an amazing city view. Urban legend says the architect jumped from the steeple when he realized the winding staircase curved the wrong way. Leave enough time to see the carved organ case. Through August: Monday - Saturday 11a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Sunday noon - 4:30 p.m.; September - October: Monday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Sunday noon - 3:30 p.m.; November - March: Daily 11 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Annaegade 29.
Jam-packed with anthropological artifacts from the Upper Palaeolithic period to the mid-19th century, the National Museum houses the largest collection of artifacts in the country. The Viking stones and helmets are amazing, as are the 3,000-year-old lur horn (among the oldest instruments in Europe) and the 3,500-year old Sun Chariot. We recommend seeing the Royal Collection of Coins and Medals, too. On summer Sundays, they offer free chamber music concerts. Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed Monday. Ny Vestergade 10.
The 17th-century Renaissance-style Rosenborg Castle was built as a summer home by Christian IV. Wait'll you see the ivory coronation chairs and Frederik VII's baby shoes. Twenty-four chronologically arranged rooms are filled to the brim with royal family artifacts. Head downstairs to the basement to see the crown jewels (including Christian IV's crown and the jewel-studded sword of Christian III) and Knights Hall. By the way, the crown jewels are so protected that even the Queen can't take them with her on visits outside Denmark. June - August: Daily 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; September - mid-October: Daily 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; mid-October - April: Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. Oster Voldgade 4A.
Be sure to see Bertel Thorvaldsen's statues of Christ and the 12 apostles at the neoclassical 11th-century Vor Frue Kirke Church. Visitors are not permitted to enter during religious services or other events.
Been There, Done That
Apart from the largest chunk of amber in the world, the Copenhagen Amber Museum has an excellent collection of other amber with embedded insects, plants and other pre-historic material. Guided tours are available if pre-arranged. Through September 15: Daily 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. After September 15, until 6 p.m. Kongens Nytorv 2. There's a shop downstairs where you can buy high-quality amber jewelry.
Established in 1882, the Carlsberg Museum is surprisingly wonderful -- filled with exhibits about the founding family's long history. Monday - Friday 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Valby Langgade 1.
The brand-new Hans Christian Andersen Museum honors Denmark's world famous poet and fairy tale writer, Hans Christian Andersen. Established to honor his 200th birthday in April 2005, the museum is filled with all you can imagine -- beginning with his childhood in Odense. Private letters, books and photographs along with original artifacts are on exhibit. Daily 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Radhuspladsen 57.
Designed by Daniel Libeskind (he also designed New York City's Freedom Tower, which will replace the World Trade Center), the Danish Jewish Museum opened its doors on June 8, 2004. Located in the former Royal Boathouse built by Christian IV in 1598, it is the first museum for any minority in Denmark. Exhibits show Danish-Jewish culture, art and history extending back to the first Jewish immigration 400 years ago. Tuesday - Friday 1 p.m. - 4 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Monday. Access through Proviantpassagen from Christians Borg and Christians Brygge.
Some say the greatest castle in the country is Kronborg. The "Elsinore Castle" of Shakespeare's Hamlet, it is considered one of the most important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe. May - September: daily 10:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.; October: Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.; November - March: Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; April: Tuesday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Elsinore.
Head out to Lyngby, on the outskirts of Copenhagen, to see the Open-Air Museum, a lovely reconstructed village spread out on nearly 90 acres -- consider it good exercise to stroll the two miles around the compound. Don't-miss exhibits include a half-timbered 18th-century farmstead from one of Denmark's tiny islands, a primitive longhouse from the Faroe Islands and thatched fishermen's huts from Jutland. Through September: Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; October 1 - October 18 until 4 p.m. Closed October 19 through Easter. Kongevejen 100.
An excellent exhibit on the period of Nazi occupation can be found at the Museum of Danish Resistance. Old news communications from the underground press and a good deal of artifacts dealing with rescuing Danish Jews, sabotaging the railways, etc. are all on display. Editor's Note: The museum remains closed due to a fire in April 2013. The reconstruction of the building and exhibits is expected to take several years.
The Royal Stables are the actual stables of the Royal Family since 1778 and you'll see riders exercising the royal horses. Visit the Harness Room to see old uniforms, an ornate eight-horse harness and the Royal Family's carriage. Inside the Coach Hall, you can see old well-preserved state coaches and carriages. Through September 30: Friday - Sunday 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.; October - April: Saturday - Sunday 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Christiansborg Ridebane 12.
For dips and sunsets with the sand beneath your feet, head about 38 miles out of town to the beaches of North Zealand -- such as Gilleleje, Hornbaek, Liseleje and Tisvildeleje. The easiest way to get to the North Zealand beaches is first by train to Helsingor, then by bus. If you've got the time, check out any one of the little resort towns along the coast. As a side note, North Zealand has more castles and palaces than any other region in Denmark. We highly recommend checking out at least one. Our favorite is the Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod near Lake Slotso. It's as beautiful inside as it is from the outside; you'll tour more than 70 rooms filled with magnificent tapestries, paintings and antiques.
Denmark's best fare comes in its open-faced sandwiches or smorrebrod and its legendary hot dogs (seriously) that can be bought from any one of many carts scattered throughout the city. Dining can be rather expensive, so hang on to your hat when the check comes.
Tivoli Gardens: One of the most delightful spots in Copenhagen, Tivoli, beyond the amusement park aspect, is a fantastic place for lunch and dinner.
New to Tivoli in spring 2008 is Nimb, a beautifully restored historic structure on the grounds that now houses an extremely upmarket boutique hotel, deli, market, restaurant and brasserie. Aim for the latter which, though a bit pricey, offers fantastic views over the grounds (we could watch a pantomime performance while we dined on the terrace); the food is traditional Danish with a contemporary flair.
Another option at Tivoli is Divan 2, known for its Danish cuisine with a French twist. Reservations strongly suggested. Daily from 11 a.m. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 300 DKK. Of course, Tivoli also offers all manner of casual eateries and even a Hard Rock Cafe.
Kommandanten: Quintessential Danish cuisine with perfect service and a menu that changes bi-weekly. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 270 DKK. Monday - Friday noon - 2 p.m. Ny Adelgade 7.
Nouvelle: Check out the caviar menu. One of the city's best for more than half a century. Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 475 DKK. Near Christiansborg.
Era Ora: Called the best Italian eatery in Denmark, this celeb-haunt serves up 10 different antipasto platters. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 600 DKK. Daily 6 p.m. - midnight. You must make a reservation. Overgaden Neden Vandet 33B.
Godt: Everyone's favorite because the food is just plain excellent. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 500 DKK. Reservations a must! Tuesday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m. Gothersgade 38.
Kong Hans Kaelder: This Copenhagen institution is five centuries old -- and Hans Christian Andersen once lived upstairs. Oh, the quail with truffles. Per-person for three courses with wine will run about 602 DKK. Reservations highly recommended. Monday - Saturday 6 p.m. - 1 a.m. Vingardsstraede 6.
All ships offer a simple city tour by motorcoach which, in about three hours, covers the prime attractions, such as the canals of old Christianshavn, Nyhavn Canal area and Christiansborg Palace.
Visit the castles of North Zealand, including Frederiksborg Castle (which now serves as the National Museum of History) and, in Elsinore, Kronborg Castle, best known as Hamlet's Castle.
Draoger Fishing Village is the epitome of both quaint and traditional. It's a pedestrian town, now, and there are plenty of handcraft shops and historic structures to admire.
Some ships, staying in Copenhagen late into the night, will offer evening tours of Tivoli -- when much of the park's most interesting entertainment programming is offered. It's easy enough to simply take a taxi and visit independently but this option is available for those more comfortable traveling in groups.
Total Splurge: Snap up a Royal Suite at Hotel d'Angleterre, offering the city's most luxe accommodations. It often hosts kings, queens and celebrities, and it's located in the heart of the city.
For More Luxury: Check out the Nimb. It's the new, hip and hot property in town, located inside the grounds of Tivoli Gardens and across the street from Copenhagen's central rail station. It hosts some of the city's top restaurants, too.
Middle of the Road: CopenHagen Plaza is located opposite Tivoli Gardens. The hotel was commissioned by King Frederik VIII in 1913 and still gets plenty of celebs. The inclusive breakfast buffet is excellent. Bernstorffsgade 4.
On a Shoestring: Absalon Hotel is on Nelgolandsgade and Colbjornsensgade. Well-run with an attentive staff. Rooms are small, but modern and clean. Another good choice is the Hotel Nebo, which is not far from the Tivoli Gardens. Quiet, clean and modern, albeit spartan.
Staying in Touch
Boomtown, Axel Torv 1
Nethulen, Istedgade 114
Gamestation PC & Internet Cafe, Vesterbrogade 115
For More Information
On the Web: www.visitcopenhagen.com or www.denmark.net
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--updated by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief