Copenhagen is cool! And by that I don’t mean weather-wise or the trendy pretentious hipster kind of faux cool but rather a genuine kind of cool that happens almost without effort as this gateway to Scandinavia boasts a gilded imperial past yet lives very much in an pragmatic present while embracing a dynamic future.

Home to more than a million Danes Copenhagen is in equal measures a big modern metropolis with striking modern architectural showpieces and a capital with centuries of notable historic treasures but luckily for the visitor both are found in close proximity within a compact and walkable city center.

A good place to begin city explorations is in Rådhuspladsen or City Hall Square dominated by the imposing red brick City Hall with its tall bell tower copied from the Tuscan town hall of Siena.

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The main hall is open to the public without charge and is draped with dozens of red and white flags which have been used by Danish kings since the 14th century making it the oldest continuously used national flag on earth.

Well worth the CAD$5 price of admission and climb up 300 stairs is the bell tower for its sweeping view of central Copenhagen including the adjacent Tivoli Gardens.

 

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Local literary legend Hans Christian Andersen’s statue looking at the H.C. Andersen Castle that rules over his beloved Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest amusement parks enchanting young and old alike since 1843.

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Despite not being open year round, Tivoli still managed to attract 4.7 million visitors in 2015 making it the  second-most popular seasonal theme park in the world. From its founding the park has featured many buildings built in exotic Indian and Oriental styles including the picturesque Chinese pagoda that shimmers at dusk above an ornamental lake.

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I was fortunate that Tivoli was open for a few weeks during my visit to Copenhagen to celebrate the Hallowe’en season and was decorated with carved pumpkins and spooky spirits.   20161016_095156photo by author

Adult admission to the 20 acre amusement park entry is free for Copenhagen Card holders or the equivalent of CAD$22 for those without this versatile sightseeing card.  Note that the entry price does not include any of the two dozen adult and child oriented rides including the floorless 4g Dæmonen (demon) roller coaster.

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For the thrill-seeker a front-seat view of this chilling coaster ride can be found here. There is something for everyone within Tivoli so if adrenalin rushes from thrill rides aren’t your thing there are lots of quieter corners to people watch or enjoy at a leisurely pace.

As with most amusement parks there is a variety of dining options from take-away fast food to sit-down higher end fare but as with costs around Copenhagen expect food at Tivoli to be in the CAD$20 range for a hot dog,  fries and Coke and double that for more formal dining.

Upon entering the park pick-up a schedule of concerts and events as it changes throughout the year. A popular favorite is Tivoli Illuminations, a light and sound show that uses colors, music, lasers, fire, smoke and water on Tivoli Lake to dazzle the gathered crowds.

The Copenhagen Card also includes a harbour tour in a Netto-Boat and seeing the city from the water is a good way to appreciate the role maritime trade played in making the city a regional powerhouse. The low sightseeing boats glide into the postcard perfect Nyhavn canal which is one of the oldest parts of the Copenhagen harbour dating back to 1673.  Once a  seedy sailor quarter but having undergone a makeover in recent years to become a popular dining  destination for locals and visitors alike. The familiar yellow façade of the pub Nyhavn 17 has  been welcoming thirsty visitors since the 18th century while a little further along is Hong Kong Night Club, a Danish strip club who’s heyday ran from the 1960’s – 80’s but survives in part because it’s open until 5 AM, long after all the other bars have closed.

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A reminder of the seafaring traditions of the Nyhavn is the Mindeankeret monument, a large monumental anchor in memory of the Danish officers and sailors who died during the Second World War.
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Anchor placed in Nyhavn by Medien-gbr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Arguably Copenhagen’s most familiar city symbol is The Little Mermaid, or in Danish Den lille Havfrue, a diminutive harbour side statue commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, the founder of the Carlsberg brewing empire and based upon a fairly tale of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.  I took this picture from the harbour tour boat to show the crowds that gather to snap a photo,

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The 4-foot tall statue has been decapitated on numerous occasions and suffered an occasional limb amputation since she was unveiled in 1913 but each time she’s been restored to her original state. There was some thought given to moving her rocky perch out from the shore a few metres to discourage vandalism but as of my visit she remains landlocked.

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Copenhagen harbour is home to a number of impressive modern architectural showpieces including the Royal Danish Opera House, designed by Henning Larsen, one of the great names of Danish architecture.

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Another modern cubist building occupying a scenic spot on the harbour in the Frederiksstaden district near the Amalienborg Palace is the Royal Danish Playhouse, a theatre building for the Royal Danish Theatre opened in 2008.

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The first local landmark on the architectural landscape in 1999 was a modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library‘s old building on Slotsholmen in central Copenhagen, the so called  ‘The Black Diamond’.

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The Black Diamond by Jeroen Pulles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License.

Copenhagen however is far more than gleaming architectural wonders or centuries old palaces as it’s the people who make this city the thriving Nordic capital it is today with unexpected moments of serendipity around almost every corner. A morning wander drew me to a dozen knitted pink bras pinned to a line along a busy thoroughfare which I thought at first may be a manufacture’s gimmick but quickly learned was a more sombre symbol to the victims of breast cancer as October is breast cancer awareness month in Denmark.

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The pink bra is knitted by the breast cancer survivor who tells their story on the attached tag (more in this article).

The Danes are often cited in surveys as the happiest people in the world and this positive outlook stems from Hygge (pronounced ‘hooga’) a word that roughly translates to ‘cosiness’ but means much more of  creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good life with friends & family and it’s this contentment that makes Copenhagen such a pleasure for visitors to experience.

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