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Discover Copenhagen

By Copenhagen Expert: Una, Denmark, June 2011

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If you have ever heard the phrase ”Big things come in small packages”, then you have an idea of what awaits your visit to Copenhagen. Tourism is exploding here due to the Baltic Sea cruise ship routes. Even so, many tourists have only planned a day or overnite in Copenhagen and leave wishing they had had more time.

First, what attracts tourists is that Copenhagen is quite small for a capital city. One can walk from one end of the old city to the other within an hour. The buildings are limited to 5 floors so that the old copper spires of churches and castles from earlier times can be seen. This gives the city a more human size. Second, this is the place pedestrian shopping streets started (in 1964). The lack of cars in the inner city therefore invites wandering. If you feel lost you can always find someone who speaks English – it is taught here in school from the 3rd grade. We do have traffic – over 2 million bicycles during the day! Most streets have bicycle lanes but watch out when you cross!!!! Yes, you can rent one of your own for exploring. We have several city bike stands where you can check a bike out as you do a shopping cart. Return, lock the bike and your money is returned.

There are three castles within walking distance of each other in Copenhagen. The first, Rosenborg, displays the crown jewels. Dating from 1606, it was built as a summer home for our Danish King Christian 4. It's minuature size makes it one of the tourist's favorite sites. Then there is the World Heritage site of Amalianborg castles – 4 identical roccoco mansions where our Queen and her family live in the Winter. The Royal Guards stand watch in colourful soldier uniforms. Finally, Christiansborg, which houses government and our Queen's Reception Rooms. Even though it is from the 1900s  it is built over ruins from the 1100's which can be seen. So one can experience 1000 years of Royal living and architectural changes within a small distance.

Most people, when they travel see a lot of things but carry home adventures of a more personal sort. Copenhagen is the place to try Danish pastry. Just remember pastry is a traditional morning treat so often gone if you try to buy in the afternoon! Often when doing a walking tour, I end at a confectioner's shop so my guests can try tea and cakes Danish style. We still have old cafes from late the 1700's which serve the traditional open sandwich lunches  with beer. One can take a short public bus ride up to the old Carlsberg Brewery where a tour ends with a raised beer glass. Skål! Carlsberg commissioned the Little Mermaid statue which stands in the harbor. Here at the brewery is a smaller but still orginal cast of her.

When I first moved to Denmark I was taken by the paper cuttings one can buy and hang in windows at Christmas or Easter. Later I found out that our famous story teller H.C.Andersen was an expert paper clipper. As he told his stories he would be working with his sissors. This is a souvenir which doesn't take much space.

80% of the people visiting Tivoli are Danes. Friday evenings there are Rock concerts and Tivoli is jam-packed with the young. Daytime one finds many retired Danes, who have a season card, using the park for a daily stroll. Nightime Tivoli lit by over a million lights is not to be forgotten.

Another place to stroll is up the Round Tower. King Christian 4 built the tower in 1642  and attached it to the Trinity Church. While most people think of the trinity in religious terms, here we have a university multi-purpose building. (1) The church for students to attend is just opposite the dorm complex dating  from 1618. (2) The church roof was set aside for the university library and (3) the Round Tower housed the astronomy department's telescope on top. One does not climb the Round Tower; one walks up a spiral walkway which winds 7½ times around the central core. The attic area was even used by the pharmacists of the 1600's to hang herbs to dry. At the top one has a wonderful view of the city.

Copenhagen city hall, which is just across from Tivoli, is admired by tourists who walk by on their way to our famous walking street Strøget. The clock tower is the tallest in Copenhagen symbolizing that the people rule. A shame really, that so few turists take the opportunity to go inside. Danish modern furniture is known worldwide. It owes much of it's fame to the craft renewal that spread from masons to carpenters to architects and finally interior designers. Inside you can see that handicraft.  During the fall new architecture students with scetch pads copying motives fill the halls. If you wander to the  back garden you can see a tower that is a dovecote. That is a tower home for around 200 pigeons. It is an architectural quote – in olden times a dovecote served as an early warning system for fire. Fun to think Copenhagen has a city employee whose job it is to take care of the city hall pigeons. One of the perks of being the mayor is one can have pigeon to eat! Most city employees prefer the city hall pancakes which are served up on formal visit occassions.

One could go on an on about hidden corners and stories in Copenhagen. Such a small city with so much to experience. Promise yourself to make more time when planning a Scandinavian tour to see Denmark.

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