One might assume Copenhagen to be bland, not interesting, just because it did not play an important role in the history of Central Europe. Why would it though? Denmark is part of Scandinavia, making the city immensely important to the North. While it was only a small Viking fishing village in the beginning, the Danish capital is now the country’s economic and cultural center.
The best place to learn about Danish history are the Amalienborg palaces, situated almost right on the waterfront, only separated from the harbor by Amaliehaven, a small park. These palaces are still the home of the royal family. Because they were originally built for four different noble families there are four identical buildings situated around the central square. The monarch’s family still occupies two of the four palaces, the other two are open to the public. It is in one of the two latter buildings that you can find a museum, outlining Denmark’s history and the royal family’s way of life. If you head to the palaces at around 12pm you might see the changing of the royal guards, a very formal affair.
Fun fact? There were ten kings named Christian and nine named Frederick. I’d say tradition was — and maybe still is — quite important to them. Also, the first woman to reign was Margaret I in 1376. Which makes me wonder: How did the only female ruler during the monarchy in Austria, Maria Theresa, not ascend the throne until 1740?
As for the rest of the city? Be prepared to spend hours walking around admiring the buildings, to take time for a coffee in one of the lively streets. Have a waffle at Nyhavn, walk out to den Lille Havfrue to be disappointed by her size and the number of tourists lurking around, take a moment to feel the breeze on your face.
Should you want to take an hour to relax, enjoy the serenity at Botanisk Have, the Botanical Garden. You might even see a gorgeous blue butterfly that obviously escaped the Butterfly House. Right next to it you can also find Rosenborg Slot, a charming little castle with beautiful grounds.
If you would like to go shopping, be prepared – the prices are steep. But for window-shopping? I would absolutely recommend a quarter called Indre By. I fell in love with Danish fashion right there.
A little to the south you can find Christiansborg Palace, Børsen (the beautiful building formerly housing the Copenhagen Stock Exchange), det Kongelige Bibliotek (the Royal Library), and several museums. Even if you do not want to enter the buildings, you should definitely take a moment to admire their architecture.
As for fun? there are two different options that both seem to be popular with the locals. A) Tivoli and B) Christianshavn. While the first is an amusement park, the latter cannot be described so easily. In the beginning it was a working-class neighborhood, but over the last 50 years or so it turned into a diverse and artsy quarter, its character clearly distinctive. If you happen to see any police raids, don’t worry. One particular street in the center of Christianshavn is well known for the selling of weed, and supposedly the police come by four or five times a day to make sure everything is in order. Still, the path running along the canal is nice for a ride on a bicycle or a calm afternoon walk.
While I am sure there is much more to see in Copenhagen, what most surprised me was the atmosphere. It is calm and laid back and unpretentious, all while bustling with life.