Another first for me – visiting the capital of Denmark.
I have many delightful Danish friends who are very proud of their fair city, so it was lovely to experience Copenhagen first hand.
We disembarked the Celebrity Silhouette and paid $20 each (charged to our onboard account) for a return 15-minute bus trip into the centre. We prefer to do our own shore excursions. I was surprised that some of the cruise guests weren’t aware that they even had the option to go into the port cities on their own. One lady lamented that she was charged $49 for a bus trip to Bruges, Belgium (the last port), for a 20-minute return trip and a few sentences from a commentator. So, do be aware folks: the cruise ships likely charge a 40-50% markup on their excursions. If you are Internet savvy, you can do your own thing quite easily.
Copenhagen is unlike any other European city I have explored. The Danish capital has unique architecture and a pleasant vibe. The main attraction is the harbour. Just a few yards from the bus drop-off point is the district of Nyhavn (New Harbour), which was one of the busiest European ports and noted for sailors, drinking and debauchery many moons ago.
Take the hour-long boat cruise around the harbour to quickly familiarize yourself with the various buildings and history of the area. The canals are studded with permanently moored houseboats of all shapes and sizes.
You will see the Opera House, the new Shakespearean Theatre, the fortress -which stills fires its cannons daily – the Church of Our Savior with its winding staircase, some breweries, parliament buildings and of course, the Royal Palace. Most of the bridges around the city are very low, so mind your head!
In August 1913, Carl Jacobsen, a Danish Brewer of beer, gave a bronze and granite mermaid statue to the city as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s story “The Little Mermaid”. You will see her from the back on a boat tour. She is difficult to miss, as there are always throngs of tourists taking her picture. Our tour guide told us that the Little Mermaid has lost her head on two occasions due to vandals, but the Danes keep repairing her, as she is their most famous mascot.
Stroget will also be easy to get to on your self-guided walking tour of Copenhagen. This is a street in the city’s centre that is “pedestrian-only”. There are shops of all kinds – from brand names to touristy – as well as cafes and restaurants. Street entertainers attract big crowds in the city squares.
Tivoli Gardens is just a few minutes walk from City Hall and well worth a visit. It is the oldest amusement park in Europe and has been delighting Copenhagen residents for 175 years. There are all sorts of traditional rides, so it is a great place for children. (I, however, am of the opinion that there are only two ways to travel – first class, and with children. If you insist on bringing them along, this is a perfect distraction for the little monsters.)
Tivoli was special because the grounds are so lovely with fountains, flowers, trees, birds and topiary. I have never seen anything quite so lovely. There is also an open-air stage, an aquarium and a light show in the evenings. Live music is a daily feature at Tivoli.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch in a Tivoli café – a sampling of all sorts of Danish delicacies such as pickled herring, tuna, gravlax, cornmeal-battered white fish, cheese, pickles, caramelized onions and vegetables. It was served with condiments and a variety of breads. I opened one package of what I thought was butter only to find salted lard. Interesting. Not my palate. I opted for the butter.
There are many other sites to take in during a visit to Copenhagen. You can tour Kronborg Castle – the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or take a stroll through Frederiksstaden, an 18th-centruy rococo district where the royal family resides. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough time in 8 hours to do it all and get back to the ship on time!
Copenhagen is a beautiful and vibrant city that seems very progressive and friendly. We’d love to go back some day!