We were at the front of the queue to disembark Sea Princess when we arrived Denmark, because we wanted to walk around the city before joining a Princess shore excursion later in the morning, and we trotted swiftly into Copenhagen along the pretty waterfront on a day which promised rain.
First up, we passed Copenhagen’s smallest cherished icon, the bronze statue of The Little Mermaid. She’s a graceful little statue, sitting on a rock gazing wistfully out to sea, and here’s a tip – if you want photos, get there early, because by mid morning, the world and his dog will be crowding around for selfies with her.
The Little Mermaid
In 1837 Danish author Hans Christian Andersen published a fairy tale about a little mermaid. About 70 years later a Danish brewer, Carl Jacobson attended the Little Mermaid ballet and commissioned the waterfront statue which is now a major icon of Copenhagen and represents the ballerina who first played the lead in the Tale of the Little Mermaid ballet.
As the skies darkened we walked on to the impressive Gefion Fountain next to St Alban’s Church (below) and passed through pretty gardens with herbaceous borders, and other bronze statues weathered to a beautiful malachite colouring.
I put up my brolley (Princess of course!) as rain started to fall just as we came to Amaliegade Road which led to the Amalienborg Palace home to the Danish Monarchy before we came to the area known as Nyhavn below.
From the impressive Royal Square looking north west along Frederiksgard we could see the Marble Church with its resplendent dome, which we would visit later on the ship’s tour.
On first impression, Copenhagen felt solid and clean, and alive with history, and we loved the architecture.
Nyhavn and its famous resident
We continued along the waterfront gazing across the water to the new opera house, and onto Nyhavn, once a busy commercial port where ships from all over the world once docked to ply their trade.
Surrounding the colourful 17th Century waterfront there are brightly coloured townhouses, and a canal packed with old wooden ships making it a picture postcard photo stop.
Around 1,300 years ago the Vikings were a terrifying bunch and struck fear across the cities of Europe. They were also successful traders and Denmark became a superpower between the 13th and 17th Centuries but during the reign of King Christian IV Copenhagen developed into the jewel box that we saw on our short visit today.
Hans Chrstian Andersen used to live in house No. 20 along Nyhavn, and here he wrote some of his most famous fairy tales, and his first book The Tinder Box in 1835, a fact which had my writer’s imagination fired up.
Later on we were booked on a ship’s tour, which included a guided tour of Copenhagen by coach during which we visited castles, parks and churches all of which had a story to tell.
We went on a very special visit to the Christiansborg Palace, above, until 1794 the home of the Royal family, but which Queen Margrethe II now uses for state dinners, banquets and receptions.
It was fascinating walking through the palace rooms. Even more intriguing was a visit to the family’s private chapel, the Marble Church which has only recently been opened to the public (below).
At Christiansborg Palace, we saw the suite of rooms used by the Queen for state dinners, banquets and receptions. They’re richly decorated with works of art, elaborate chandeliers, gold and marble and we really got a feel for how Danish Royalty lives.
Tip: Make sure you view the beautiful collection of the Flora Danica Service – I imagined hosting a dinner party with all this exquisite china – dream on!
17 Modern Tapestries
The 17 modern tapestries in The Great Hall were a present to Queen Margrethe II on her 50th birthday. They illustrate the history and the future of Denmark and were particularly interesting. It took 10 years to complete the tapestries which depict 1000 years of history. The one below depicts the 20th Century.
Fascinating fact: Each 1 square meter of tapestry took 1 woman 1 year to make.
We spent some time looking at the tapestry which depicted the 20th Century including the World Wars (above) and also the tapestry depicting the Viking heritage of Denmark.
We were intrigued by the tapestry which depicted Her Majesty Margrethe II and HRH Prince Frederik in a portrait together in which the guide pointed out how Queen Margrethe was depicted in 3 characteristic ways – as a woman (symbolised by her offering an apple to Frederik) – as the queen for she is wearing her royal tiara and lastly as an artist because she holds an artist’s paintbrush and paper.
Little known fact: The tapestries were commissioned on Queen Margrethe’s 50th birthday but only completed on her 60th birthday.
What struck me most was a) how much the Danes love their Royals, and b) the everydayness surrounding Royalty. “That’s Princess Mary and Prince Frederik’s mansion,’ said our guide Jenny pointing to one of the four palaces on the Square of the Royal Palaces, “Look that car going in … probably Mary just picking the kids up from school.”
That’s part of Amalienborg Palace – at the Square of the Royal Palace below.
Top Things to do in Copenhagen.
- Take a canal tour.
- Jump on the Hop on Hop Off bus to view the city – if you’re on a cruise you can catch this conveniently at the port/jetty.
- Walk along the beautiful Nyhavn, take photos, have a coffee or relax with a Carlsberg beer (JC Jacobson founded Carlsberg Brewery in 1847 and it’s the fifth-larges brewery in the world today.)
- Walk to Amalienborg Palace – at the Square of the Royal Palace – where the Royal Family live – here there are four French style Rococo Mansions which have been the homes of the Danish Royals since 1794.
- Visit Christiansborg Palace and make sure you have a guide to explain the meanings of the 17 wonderful tapestries.
- Visit the Tivoli Gardens – founded in 1843 – these are beautiful gardens which house one of the oldest amusement parks in the world – Tivoli boasts the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kronberg Castle, built as a fortress in the 16th Century, immortalised by Shakespeare in Hamlet as Elsinore Castle.
- Go to Rosenborg Castle constructed in 1606 as the summer residence of King Christian iV, a fairytale looking castle now a museum and hold the crown jewels, family portraits and more.
- Walk around this pleasant city and just enjoy. It’s easy to explore on foot. Don’t miss the Gefion Fountain sculpture.
- Visit the legendary landmark where you can indulge your senses and try world famous beer at Carlsberg.
Danish in 2 minutes
Good Bye: Farvel
- Australia’s darling, Princess Mary (above), is the crown princess and will be the Queen of Denmark when Queen Margrethe passes on.
- Denmark comprises of 150 islands, 90 of which are habituated. It only has one border, and that’s with Germany.
- Denmark means field of Danes.
- Copenhagen means Harbour of the Merchants.
- It’s situated on an arm of the Baltic Sea.
- Copenhagen is know for its copper spires and statues, many of which are a malachite green colour. It takes around 20 years for copper to oxidise and turn green.
- There are 29 monarchies in the world today and queen Margrethe II rules Denmark.
- Denmark has the oldest same-family monarchy in Europe – starting around 934AD.
- JC Jacobson founded Carlsberg Brewery in 1847 naming it after his son, Carl. It’s the fifth largest brewery in the world today.
- The Gefion Fountain sculpture depicts the powerful Norse Goddess Gefion who turned her sons into oxen and ploughed through the earth and sea to create the island of Zealand.
I’m a guest of Princess Cruises on the 2016 World Cruise, but all opinions are my own.