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If you truly want to experience Copenhagen, skip the Danish and go for the hot dog.
After all, every Dane loves a good dog, so not only will you be doing something quintessentially Danish, but on your quest for the perfect hot dog, you also will visit the key attractions in the Danish capital.
Following my advice, you’re going to get a taste of Copenhagen — and a hot dog — that you’re not likely to soon forget.
Your quest begins at the time-honored D’Angleterre, one of the world’s oldest hotels, situated in the heart of Copenhagen. You can’t beat the location, on Kongens Nytorv (the King’s New Square). For a full review of D’Angleterre, visit The Avid Cruiser’s Copenhagen Hotel Guide.
D’Angleterre is the choice hotel for heads of state and celebrities. On the plagues adjacent to the hotel reception area, peruse the impressive roster of those who have stayed at Copenhagen’s grande dame. There’s the late Michael Jackson. The pop king reportedly was insulted when his offer to buy the King Arthur statue that adorns one of the stairways was refused. Jackson was said to quip, “Well, can I just buy the whole hotel then?”
You’re not buying the whole hotel, of course, but you are ponying up a pretty penny for one of the suites. The Royal Suite is a little too rich, so you settled on one of two other suites.
You considered the Victor Borge Suite, at one end on the first floor (111) because the thought of Borge, “The Great Dane,” makes you smile. The Danish musical prodigy was as quick with a joke as he was talented at tickling the ivory.
You decide instead to pitch camp in the Karen Blixen Suite, room number 201. Pitching camp is an appropriate phrase, because this suite makes you feel as though you were with Blixen on the plains of Africa.
Blixen, who wrote under the name of Isak Dinesen (because women were not supposed to be writing books back then), was the Danish writer who spent a good part of her life in Africa and her later years in her family home 30 minutes north of Copenhagen. If you get the chance, the Karen Blixen Museum, situated in Rungsted, where Blixen was born and where she died, is a worthwhile half-day excursion from the city center.
D’Angleterre’s Karen Blixen Suite features an African motif, with photos of Blixen throughout. In one photo, Blixen kneels triumphantly over a lion that she shot on the plains of Africa.
The high ceilings in this room, the period furniture, and leopard skin lampshades and rugs, all give an air of the Dark Continent. The furniture too is fitting for a suite named for a woman whose claim to fame was the novel “Out of Africa.”
Many of the rooms at D’Angleterre are remarkable in that they face Kongens Nytorv, or the King’s New Square. Winters, kids and adults ice skate in the square. Summers, the square is filled with pedestrians making their way from beautiful Nyhavn, the lovely harbor lined with colorful buildings that you can see from your suite, to the pedestrian shopping street, Strøget.
Enough digression. It’s time to get moving. There’s a hot dog waiting.
Before setting you loose to explore Copenhagen on your own, I need to let you in on a secret: A lot of the people you’ll be meeting today aren’t Danes. They’re Swedes.
Each day, they come across the Oresund Bridge, which opened in 2000, from Malmo, Sweden’s third’s largest city. Such is the number of Swedes who commute back and forth between the two that some people joke that Malmo is West Copenhagen. I once met a Swede who worked at the airport but had never bothered to make the 10-minute trip into Copenhagen’s city center. Swedes come to Copenhagen because they earn higher wages (and pay less in taxes) than in Sweden.
Here’s a hint to help you tell the Danes from the Swedes. If you hear Copenhagen referred to as something that sounds vaguely like “Shopping Ham,” you’ve met a Swede. The “K” in København, which is how “Merchant’s Harbor” is spelled in Danish, is pronounced as an “sh” in Swedish and is spelled in Swedish as “Köpenhamn.”
The Danes swallow consonants. Nyhavn, which you and I would pronounce phonetically as “Knee haven” is pronounced in Danish as “New Hound,” swallowing the D at the end.
Strøget, the walking street that you’re eventually headed to, is pronounced “Stro Et.” And even that is not phonetically correct. Those of us outside of Scandinavia can’t pronounce any Danish words with phonetic accuracy. Our tongues are not genetically engineered to handle the complexity of the vowel/consonant combinations.
The point of all this is to keep you from making a fool of yourself. But if you really want to avoid doing that, here’s a tip: Don’t even pretend you can speak the language. Not to worry: The Danes can speak English with perfection.
There’s something else you should know about the Danes.
Arguably, one of the reasons for the Danes being named by two university studies as the world’s happiest nation can be attributed to a concept known as Janteloven, or Jante Law.
Basically, the concept asserts that no one is better than anyone else and that you should never brag too much. The local beer brewer even makes the claim that Carlsberg is “probably” the world’s best beer.
Day One, Two Perfect Days
Throw back the sheets, slide into your bathrobe and slippers, and pull back the curtains. From your suite, you see that the sun is shining on Kongens Nytorv and colorful Nyhavn. You can’t wait to get outside.
Now go back to bed: It’s 4 a.m.
What were you thinking? How could you have known? During the summer, it gets bright early here in Copenhagen, which is situated at the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska.
At 7 a.m., you give up the struggle to sleep. Outside, summer is full on. Head downstairs for a hearty breakfast at D’Angelterre’s Restaurant. Be sure to ask for a table by the window, so that you can admire bustling Kongens Nytorv across the street.
Looking out the large windows from D’Angleterre, you’re surprised to see so many people on bicycles. Copenhagen is like Amsterdam in that regard. You’ll see people pedaling to work, not in Spandex, but in their everyday attire.
Each day, one third of the locals commute by bike on the city’s more than 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes and roads. There are even miniature traffic lights for the bicycles. If you’re able to bike, you won’t find a better way to see the Danish capital, but for now, you’re going to rely on your peds.
After breakfast, exit D’Angleterre and head to your right, at, oh, about 2 o’clock, where your first stop is the historic Royal Theatre. Just take a quick gander, or if you have time and the inclination, book a tour or tickets for an evening ballet or show.
After visiting the Royal Theatre, get your bearings by facing the Magasin department store (one block left of D’Angleterre) and head toward it. Right in front, you’ll see the stairs leading down to the Metro, which will take you between the city center and the airport for DK30 (about US$5) in less than 15 minutes. Make note of that for your return to Kastrup, as the airport is known.
Head into Magasin, and downstairs to the grocery store. You need not spend long here, but take a few minutes to browse some of the Danish foods. Rather than pay mini-bar prices by at D’Angleterre, consider stocking up here.
From Magasin, head back in the direction of D’Angleterre to Strøget. Stretching about one mile from Kongens Nytorv square to Town Hall Square, the route you’re taking on Strøget offers lots to see along the way. Strøget, in fact, is Europe’s longest pedestrian street and Scandinavia’s largest shopping district.
Kids enjoy the Guinness Book of World Records, which you’ll see on your right shortly after putting your peds in motion, but if you’re with kids, they’ve got a much bigger treat coming. Dangle the carrot of Tivoli in front of them to keep them moving and you’ll get to stroll all of Strøget at a good pace.
Feel free to wander the side streets. One popular detour is to slip down the small alley, Pistolstraede, past small boutiques, interesting architecture and good restaurants, then along Ny Østergade and to the pastry shop, Kransekagehuset Summerbird, and Cafe Victor, both worthy of a few minutes inside.
Kransekagehuset serves up some of Denmark’s most popular pastries and chocolates, including the traditional Danish kransekage, the “almond ring cake,” a tradition during weddings and other celebrations.
Kransekagehuset also specializes in an exclusive selection of home-made chocolates.
Cafe Victor, on the other hand, is one of Copenhagen’s trendy cafes, originally opened in 1981 and still going strong with both locals and tourists alike.
You’re making your way to the heart of Strøget and Amagertorv (“torv” means “square”), where you’ll find the Crane Fountain. Facing the square from the direction you came, head left if you want to see the ornate facade of Christiansborg Palace, the seat of the Danish government.
Along the way, when passing Højbro Plads, take a gander at the monument to Bishop Absalon, Copenhagen’s founder, riding high on his horse.
Behind the palace is the National Museum. Admission is free to this museum covering 10,000 years of history. Spend an hour learning about the early Danes and the well-preserved “bog people,” which lay buried since the Bronze and Iron ages in Danish bogs. Finish off by visiting a fully furnished Victorian-era Copenhagen apartment.
If you’d rather spend your time shopping, stick around Amagertorv. Here, you’ve reached the heart of Danish design, a row of shops including Illums Bolighus design department store, Royal Copenhagen china, and Georg Jensen silverware.
Step into the Royal Café, but resist the urge to try Smushi – a combination of the traditional Smorgas (open-faced sandwich) and Sushi. You’re saving room for the hot dog, remember?
Farther along Strøget, you’ll visit Konditorie La Glace, which has been tempting patrons with its sensational cakes since 1870.
Continue your stroll on Strøget to City Hall Square (where Strøget ends), then cross the square to Tivoli. Facing Tivoli’s main entrance, do a complete turnaround and look up at the building on your left, at about 10 o’clock. That’s the Radisson SAS Royal, an Arne Jacobsen design hotel.
Walk across the street and step inside to admire the egg chairs and the hotel’s interior. This is another excellent choice for accommodations during your stay in Copenhagen, particularly if you book a corner room, overlooking Tivoli (room 1011 show below, for example).
Also, if you can coax the desk clerk, ask to see room 606, which remains the true to Jacobsen’s original design.
You may want to consider returning here for a romantic dinner on the 20th floor at the gourmet restaurant Alberto K, with beautiful views over Copenhagen.
Head out of lobby and return to entrance of Tivoli. Purchase a ticket and head inside (or, if you’ve purchased a Copenhagen Card from the Visitor’s Center across the street, you’ll get free admittance to Tivoli and many other attractions as well as free transportation in the city).
Enjoy the amusements and the entertainment (Dee Dee Bridgewater was at Tivoli during my visit yesterday).
And now the big moment. Turn on your heels and head over to the Asia section of Tivoli. Look for the hot dog signs like the ones in the photo below and order the Stor (which means large) Fransk Hotdog for DK35. Take it with mustard, mayonnaise or ketchup, and, of course, a Carlsberg beer if you want to have an authentic Danish experience.
When the dog is done, head out the nearby gate and into Glyptotek. The Beaux-Arts-style museum was stocked with ancient and classical treasures by the 19th-century industrialist Carl Jacobsen, who funded the collection with proceeds from his Carlsberg beer empire. Aren’t you glad you had that beer with your hot dog?
Exit Glyptotek and head back to City Call for a city sightseeing tour, which departs from directly in front of the Scandic Palace Hotel. Among the attractions you’ll see: Christiansborg Palace; Thorvaldsen’s Museum; The National Museum; The Royal Theatre; The Royal Winter residence, Amalienborg; and The Little Mermaid.
End the day at the Icebar at Hotel TwentySeven, just around the corner from the Scandic Palace. After donning a cape and mittens for a drink in the below-freezing ice bar, find your way back to Strøget (ask Hotel TwentySeven for directions) and D’Angleterre.
Just a few minutes walk from D’Angleterre, have dinner at Madklubben (reservations recommended), then take a leisurely a stroll along Nyhavn, before ending the night with a performance at the Royal Theatre.
Day Two, Two Perfect Days
Day two of Two Perfect Days in Copenhagen takes you from Langelinie, where some of the smaller cruise ships dock, to Nyhavn, the colorful “new” harbor, and across Kongens Nytorv (the King’s New Square) to time-honored Hotel D’Angleterre.
You can do this tour in either direction, and for those on a pre- or post-cruise stay at D’Angleterre, this tour meshes nicely with Day One of Two Perfect Days in Copenhagen. That route takes you from D’Angleterre to Tivoli and beyond.
Setting out from either D’Angleterre or Langelinie, you could walk this entire route in 30 minutes, but there’s lots to see along the way, so you’re setting out instead for a long sightseeing stroll. You’ll see many of Copenhagen’s best attractions along the way. This is certainly one of the Danish capital’s most enjoyable strolls, a popular route for walking or bicycling.
Moreover, the route I suggest is particularly convenient for those on ships only calling on (not terminating or beginning their cruises from) Copenhagen. Free of your luggage, you could combine Day One and Day Two to walk all the way from Langelinie to Tivoli, taking local transport back to the ship, and seeing the best of Copenhagen in one day.
Alongside Langelinie are shops, cafes and a tourist information center where you can pick up a map and ask directions. You’ll hardly need directions, however. Just follow the the water. You’ll need to skirt around a few small harbors as you’re going, but just keep following the walkway and making your way back to the water. You’ll find your way with no problem.
Your first stop is the Little Mermaid. Don’t make the same mistake as one uninformed tourist. He asked to book a table at the Little Mermaid. She’s not a restaurant.
This, by the way, is not her either. This is the New Mermaid. The Little Mermaid is much smaller, and in fact, many tourists pass her by without realizing that, yes, she is the small statue sitting on the rock in the harbor. At least for the moment she sits there.
Copenhagen’s beloved Little Mermaid, known from the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, will leave the city soon for a brief tour. A fixture that has never left the spot where she was erected in 1913, the Little Mermaid will travel around the world to be part of World Expo in Shanghai from April 2010 to November 2010. While in Shanghai, her place in Copenhagen will be temporarily taken by a sculpture created by a Chinese artist.
From the Little Mermaid, continue walking along the water until you reach Gefion Fountain. The fountain represents the mythical story of a legendary Norse goddess who turned her son into oxen to plow the earth to create the island of Zeeland, where Copenhagen is situated.
Adjacent to the fountain is the beautiful Saint Alban’s Church. Known locally as “The English Church,” the small St Alban´s is Denmark’s only Anglican church. If you’re so inclined, you could make a small diversion to walk across the moat into Kastellet, a former military facility that is now a public park.
From The English Church, head away from the water (temporarily) through Churchillparken to the Museum of the Danish Resistance. Along the way, you’ll pass a charming restaurant, Lumskebugten.
Stop inside for coffee or lunch or just to admire the cozy setting. Serving traditional Danish food, the restaurant’s name translates to “sneaky bay.”
Continue on to the museum.
The museum tells the story of Danish resistance during Nazi occupation from 1940 until 1945. It’s filled with many interesting exhibits and interactive media, many about rescuing Danish Jews and sabotaging Nazi efforts to control Denmark.
From the museum, make your way along Bredgade to Frederik’s Church, popularly known as The Marble Church. Construction began in 1749, but the church was not opened until 1894. Boasting Scandinavia’s largest dome, the church is worth a brief visit inside.
Directly across Bredgade from the Marble Church is Amalienborg Palace, where the Royal family resides. Behind it, in the photo above, is Copenhagen’s new Opera House, which is situated across the water.
If you’ve timed your walk properly, you’re just in time for the changing of the guard at noon. You may just see the guards marching down the street toward Amalienborg. Denmark, by the way, is home to the world’s oldest monarchy and boasts the world’s oldest flag (you can see the birthplace of the Danish flag in Tallinn, Estonia.)
After watching the ceremonies in the palace courtyard, make your way back to the water and continue your walk.
You’ll pass the Royal Playhouse before reaching the canal that leads into Nyhavn. Walk alongside the canal, and when you get to the bridge, look to your right for a restaurant called Told & Snaps. It’s time for lunch and the famed Danish smorrebrød. To be assured a table in this popular restaurant, however, you may want to make reservations.
Be sure to try the homemade aquavit and a beer with your open-faced sandwich.
Afterward, stroll along the canal and admire the colorful buildings along Nyhavn. It’s a short stroll, but take your time.
Before crossing the street to Kongens Nytorv, hop on a 50-minute guided canal tour, departing from near the statue of the big anchor at one end of Nyhavn.
Afterward, head across Kongens Nytorv to Hotel D’Angleterre. If you’re staying here, consider yourself lucky. If not, take some time to admire the hotel before heading back to your ship. Bus #26 travels between the city center and Langelinie, or you can return by waterbus. Ask for directions in D’Angleterre.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com