Copenhagen - My Danish Fairytale
I recently dubbed 2016 as "The Year of Myra" - an epic travel year, where scintilating fairytale destinations top my must-see bucket list. My first 2016 magic carpet ride (aka Norwegian Air) brought me to snow-covered Scandinavia, where master storyteller, Hans Christian
Andersen, began his prolific career. Andersen wrote classic children stories such as "The Little Mermaid", "The Ugly Duckling", and "The Emperor's New Clothes". These childhood fables drew worldwide acclaim and brought my fairytale loving self to this author's beloved city - Copenhagen.
Royal Baubles and Trinkets
Hans Christian Anderson, who also wrote "The Princess and the Pea", would likely agree that the quintessential fairytale wouldn't be complete without kings, queens, castles, and
palaces. Rosenborg Castle and Amalienborg Palace are top Copenhagen attractions,
tantalizing thousands of visitors with their grand halls, regal baubles, and golden trinkets.
Tip: Purchase a dual admission ticket at either registration desk for 145.00 DKK (~ $21.00 USD). Both locations are approximately 1km apart so you can easily visit these 2 royal landmarks in a single afternoon.
This 400-year old castle was built by Christian IV in the early 1600s and quickly became his favorite residence. In the 1700s, it was transformed into a lavish repository encasing the king's finest collections - tapestries, crown jewels, and an extensive Venetian glass collection to name a few. There are 4 levels that take you through roughly 35 rooms including Princess Sophie's Lacquered Chamber, the Stone Corridor, Christina V's Chamber, the Regalia Room, the Bronze Room, and many others.
The basement features an exquisite ivory/amber collection as well as the Royal Treasury, my favorite part of the self-guided tour. The latter showcases coronation regalia, Christian III's sword, The Crown of the Absolute Monarch, and baptismal trinkets used by royal children since 1671.
Rosenborg's sister museum is just a short, 15-minute walk away. After leaving the castle, head east towards the canals until you find an octogon- shaped square flanked by 4 identical, rococo-style buildings. These 4 palaces (only 2 are open to the public) surround an equestrian statue of Frederik V, which was unveiled in 1771.
Built in the 1700s, Amalienborg is home to the Danish Royal Family. While Rosenborg chronicles Frederik II (1500s) through Frederik VII's reign (mid 1800s), Amalienborg continues where Rosenborg left off by documenting the following 150 years of Danish royal history inside its palatial walls.
After storing your bag/coat inside museum lockers, wander through Queen Louise's private salon and Frederik VIII's private study. There are also mementos from key Danish events including King Constantine and Queen Ann-Marie's wedding in 1964.
Changing of the Royal Guard
I must have timed my visit well since it coincided with the Changing of the Royal Guard. This daily procession begins at Rosenborg Castle and ends at Amalienborg around noon.
The following 55-second video highlights several photos from my Amalienborg Palace tour. It includes a brief clip featuring marching Royal Guards alongside musicians playing traditional military tunes.
The Marble Church
This church reminds me of San Francisco's stunning City Hall, which is why I was instantly drawn to it once my palace tour ended. Tidbit: The church dome is the largest in Scandinavia and took over 100 years to fully complete. Once inside, silence your phones and take a few minutes to appreciate this evangelical Lutheran church's interior.
Copenhagen is home to many museums, but when you only have a day and a half to explore, I suggest narrowing it down to at least 2: Glyptoteket and The National Museum.
Glyptoteket is just steps from Tivoli Garden - an amusement park, which Wikipedia dubbed as "the 2nd most popular seasonal theme park in the world". Since Tivoli was closed for the winter, I had no choice but to skip that tourist site and head towards Glyptoteket, which was a strong (yet different) alternative.
Tip: Admission is free on Tuesdays. Admission typically costs 95.00 DKK (~ $14.00 USD).
This museum houses ancient Roman, Greek, Etruscan, Egyptian sculptures and modern
Danish paintings - all under one spectacular roof. The auditorium with its chiseled columns and perimeter-lined statues, is often booked for classical musical performances. I can't think of a better stage for ambiance and acoustics.
The National Museum
You can easily spend hours navigating this admission free museum chronicling 14,000 years of Danish history and culture. Exhibits take you through the Ice Age, the Stone Age, the Viking Age, the Middle Ages, and other monumental stages throughout Denmark's archaeological, ethnographic, and natural history. The museum offers an extensive collection of antiquities such as coins, fossils, and other national treasures such as the Huldremose Woman, whose well preserved remains date as far back as the Iron Age.
Copenhagen Canal Tours
You can't leave Copenhagen without taking a quick 1-hour tour of Copenhagen's harbors and canals. There are 2 possible starting points: Nyhavn vs. Ved Stranden. Some websites suggest Gammel Strand as an alternative pickup point depending on the tour operator you select.
I paid 80.00 DKK (~$12.00 USD) to coast by the Royal Library, the Opera House,
Christiansborg Palace, and the world famous Little Mermaid honoring H.C. Andersen's female protagonist featured in the lower right hand corner of my collage.
Once you disembark, feel free to wander on foot across Copenhagen's bridges since you will likely discover picture-perfect photo opportunities. The following "love locks" canal image is one of my all time favorites.
Skipperkroen is one of many quaint restaurants along Copenhagen's cobblestoned Nyhavn Street. This highly popular restaurant offers an international menu with marinated herring and other seafood/meat plates. If it's freezing outside, ask for the off-menu lobster bisque, which fellow patrons ordered as well. Food and service were great, but location and setting were unbeatable. Just look at these postcard-worthy views!
Axelborg Bodega - Since I didn't order traditional Danish food at Skipperkroenf, I googled several Danish restaurants within walking distance of my hotel for my final Copenhagen supper. Axelborg Bodega, which opened its doors in 1912, offered exactly what I was searching for - a palate pleasing Danish meal paired with local beer such as the Tuborg Classic.
The waiter recommended FLAESKESTEG, which consisted of roast pork, white potatoes, pickles, and jus. The pork crust (similar to Filipino chicharon or fried pork rinds) made this a standout Scandinavian feast.
One of Europe's Longest Pedestrian Walkways - Stroget
Stroget is a 1.1km pedestrian pathway connecting Rådhuspladsen to Kongens Nytorv. This well-trafficked street is lined with numerous restaurants and international storefronts such as Zara and H&M. At the height of tourist season, roughly 80,000 people traverse this popular walkway each day. Definitely worth walking from end to end, especially during winter months when streets are not as crowded.
Accomodations: The Square Hotel
The Square Hotel is ideally situated across from Rådhuspladsen and Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen Central station is just 600 meters from the hotel entrance making the journey from airport to train station to hotel a seamless one. The hotel is perfectly centralized with walking access to Stroget, the Glyptoteket Museum, the National Museum, and many key tourist attractions. Christiandborg Palace and the Round Tower are also within reach.
Tip: After checking in, grab a Copenhagen map and several tourist mini cards from the lobby before planning your daily excursions. These cards offer tourist suggestions and possible discounts.
Once you arrive in Copenhagen, proceed to the DSB ticket counter in Terminal 3 to purchase your 36.00 DKK (~ $5.00 USD) fare to Copenhagen Central Station.
Note: There is a free 5-minute shuttle that takes you from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 (where the main train departs). Ticket kiosks are also available, but they only accept credit cards and coins. Taking the train is the most cost-effective way of getting to and from central Copenhagen and the airport.
Taxis cost roughly 250.00 - 300.00 DKK (~ $37.00 - $45.00 USD) each way. So you're better off choosing the 13-minute train ride into central Copengagen before heading to your final destination.
Tip: Activate Google maps to gauge distance from the main train station to your hotel. Doing so prevented me from jumping into a taxi for an embarrassing 600 meter ride.
My fairytale trip began and ended with a 1.5 day walking tour of this sensational city. While I wasn't equipped with fairy dust or escorted by mystical beings, this visit (in tandem with my Stockholm visit) is as magical as it gets. Hans Christian Andersen, it was a pleasure exploring your hometown. I can see why this marvelous backdrop inspired you to write and create your award-winning masterpieces. Copenhagen, it was a pleasure getting to know you!
Original Trip Date: January 19 - 21, 2016