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  • Candace Ahlfinger

A Day in Copenhagen

Updated: Mar 23

The Little Mermaid Statue

Copenhagen is a city where both old and new flourish and visitors and residents alike are out and about on beautiful sunny days.

Our ship, the Viking Jupiter, docked at the Langelinie Quay which was convenient for walking into nearby areas for exploration. We walked along the boardwalk to get our first glimpse of The Little Mermaid statue, the famous symbol of Copenhagen. Her sad expression may be due to several facts: 1) Through the years she has suffered decapitation and loss of other body parts due to protestors, or 2) Have you ever actually read Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales? These stories aren’t the happy ending ones that Disney has given us. Instead, they are gruesomely sad accounts. (Disney hadn’t addressed the happy endings when I was little, so I read Andersen’s original stories. To this day I cannot see a falling star without thinking of “The Little Matchgirl.”) All that being said, a trip to Copenhagen without seeing The Little Mermaid would not be complete.

Our walk continued through the park as we passed the Gefion Fountain, a large, beautiful fountain based on a famous legend. The Swedish king promised Gefion, a Norse goddess, as much land as she could plow in 24 hours. She could not have any human help, so she changed her four sons into oxen to help her plow. Supposedly, she received the land that was placed into the sea as an island, the very island upon which the statue is located. Sitting picturesquely near the fountain is St. Alban’s Church.

Gefion Fountain and St. Alban's Church

Next up we saw the statue of Winston Churchill. Wait? Why? The statue was erected to thank Churchill and the English people for their help during WWII. The statue is located in Churchill Park. (Denmark saved over 90% of its Jewish population due to early warnings and quick action by caring citizens.)

Walking through an industrial area along the waterfront, we passed by the headquarters of Maersk, the largest shipping container manufacturer in the world. Continuing our tour, we passed another surprise—a statue of David. The statue stands in front of The Royal Cast Collection, which was begun in 1895 by Carl Jacobsen, son of the founder of Carlsberg Brewery.

Amalienborg Palace

As we walked further along the waterfront, we came to an impressive street, the Amalienborg Slotplads that led to the Palace Square—which is actually round—where the Changing of the Guards takes place at noon. The square is surrounded by the Amalienborg Palace, a massive complex of four palaces. All of the castles were built by kings, all of whom were named Frederik or Christian—because all of their kings are named Frederik or Christian. Only Christian VIII’s Palace, which houses the Amalienborg Museum, is open to the public. The others are occupied by members of the Royal Family. (A side note: Denmark is a monarchy, but what struck me most was how down-to-earth the royal family seems to be based on the stories we were told throughout Copenhagen. People respect the Royals because they are so “human.”)


We returned to our ship by a slightly different path that took us by rows of houses built by Christian IV from 1631-1641 for members of the navy. In fact, those who live there still are required to have a military affiliation. The area, Nyboder, was added onto throughout the 1700s. The distinctive yellow and reds of the houses make it a great place for pictures.

The King's Gate for Kastellet

The Kastellet (Citadel) was on our way back to the ship. This five-pointed star earthen fortress, built from 1662-1665 by Frederik III, is still an active military post used primarily for barracks and offices. Admission is free, but visitors are required to go through security.


Our walk continued past the water-side polar bear statue, a nod to Denmark’s ownership of Greenland, and then back to the ship. Denmark also owns the Faroe Island, another place on my to-do list.

This city walk is an easy and fun trip for visitors landing at the Langelinie Quay and one I would highly recommend.

We had time for a quick lunch—the good and bad about cruises: The good is that all meals are included, and, on Viking, they are wonderful. The bad is that we don’t tend to eat in the city we are visiting because meals are included on the ship.

Our afternoon adventure was facilitated by taking a bus. Unfortunately and fortunately, there was a huge parade in downtown which made traffic slow but was fun to watch.

Tivoli Gardens

Our first stop was at Tivoli Garden, an amusement park that opened in 1843 and is the third oldest theme park still in existence today. Walt Disney based Disneyland on this magical place. Some people may choose to skip this attraction thinking that they don’t like rides so why should they waste their time? However, Tivoli is more than an amusement park, it contains beautiful gardens and structures, shopping, and many places to eat. We had a wonderful time simply wandering around the space admiring the structures that were influenced by places such as China, Japan, and India. Many Danish come every year for opening day and sit at the same table that they have reserved for years. They can watch the parades while sitting amid the flowering bushes and enjoy a meal and drink.

Tivoli Gardens

And next stop…Christiansborg Palace was completed in 1928 on Slotsholmen, a small island with only 18 residents as of 2020. (There have been palaces located on the site for 800 years, several of which were destroyed by fire.) Now, the palace houses the Prime Minister’s offices, the Supreme Court, the Parliament, and the Ministry of State. The Great Hall was the most impressive room for me. Eleven tapestries hang on the walls of the room. These were given to Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II by businessmen in 1990 for her 50th birthday. The detailed tapestries, based on paintings by Bjørn Nørgaard, tell the 1,000-year-old story of Denmark. One tells the legend of the Danish flag. The Danes were not doing well in a battle, when a flag fell down from the sky and the course of the battle changed immediately. This battle-saving flag became the Danish national flag. The library was another amazing room. Many of the books are from the 1700s and were even saved from the fires.

I discovered two more tidbits about the Danish Royals during the tour. Historically, they were appreciated for their frugality. The seemingly gold leaf featured throughout the palace is actually trompe l’oeil, a painting technique. Secondly, the Royal Family is considered by the people to be the best marketing tool for the country.

Christiansborg Palace
One of the Amazing Tapestries in Christiansborg Palace

And then…it was good-bye to Copenhagen and back to the ship to head to our next stops. Copenhagen was another city that I would enjoy exploring on our own with more time. (The cruise stopped briefly in Alborg, Denmark, but my next post will be about our stops in Norway.)

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