Most of the 320 or so cruise ships visiting Copenhagen this year will be berthed at Langelinie Pier, which is conveniently only about a mile from the city centre.
Although Langelinie is sometimes called the Copenhagen Cruise Terminal it’s not so much a terminal, more a long quay with shops and an information centre operated by the Copenhagen Tourist Office.
Still, it’s much more convenient than terminals in many cruise destinations and you can easily walk to the major tourist sights along Copenhagen’s attractive waterfront. In fact, the city’s icon, the statue of the Little Mermaid, is only a few hundred yards away.
If you’re aboard one of the ships which berths at the city’s Freeport Terminal at Nordhavn you will be a little farther out but not enough for it to be a problem. If your cruise line doesn’t put on a shuttle bus, the No. 26 local bus service to central Copenhagen serves both Langelinie Pier and the Freeport Terminal.
It runs every 20 minutes and will cost you about 20kr for the 15 to 20-minute ride from Langelinie and about 25kr for the 20 to 25-minute trip from the Freeport Terminal.
On the journey to the city centre you will pass some of Copenhagen’s attractions including the old Frederiksstad Quarters from 1748, which include the four Amalienborg Palaces (the Royal residence) and the Marble Church.
Then the bus passes the historic Holmens Church from 1641 and the Christiansborg Palace and the Danish Parliament. It then drives past the Danish National Museum, Tivoli Gardens and the Town Hall Square before the end of the line at Copenhagen’s Central Station.
If you’d prefer a taxi it will cost you about 80 to 100kr from Langeline and between 110 and 160kr from the Freeport Terminal.
Of course, you could always walk the mile or so direct route from Langeline or brave the trek of about an hour from the Freeport Terminal.
From the Central Station the city centre stretches east, bounded by the harbour on its south-east edge. Europe’s longest shopping street, the pedestrianised Stroget, is across Radhuspladsen to the east.
North of the Central Station are the Three Lakes and beyond them is the trendy area of Norrebro, which is full of more shops and cafes.
The city’s financial and political heart, Slotsholmen, is on a small island between Stroget and the harbour.
Like Britain, Denmark is not part of the Eurozone. Its currency is the krone (kr), which is divided into 100 smaller units called ore. Notes range from 50 to 1,000kr and there are coins worth 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20kr and 25 and 50ore. Depending on current exchange rates, one krone is worth just over 10 UK pence.
Banks in Copenhagen are plentiful and they are open from 10am to 4pm on weekdays, sometimes to 6pm on Thursdays. There are 24-hour cash machines everyw
here and they accept most internationally-recognised debit and credit cards.
If the weather and your fitness allow it, exploring by foot is probably the best bet – it takes about an hour to walk across Copenhagen’s central area. However, there are plent
y of other transport options.
The city’s new-ish metro system (www.m.dk) has two lines connecting the east and west of the city with the centre, but there is no stop at the Central Station.
Like the bus service the metro is zoned and a basic ticket, costing about 20kr, lasts an hour and will take you across two zones. It can be transferred to a bus journey with
in those zones in that hour.
A suburban train network, the S-train, does run from Central Station, radiating out along nine lines. Destinations and times are shown in the station concourse. You need to buy a ticket and clip it yourself on the platform at the beginning of your journey.
Single tickets can be bought at the start of each journey in the metro stations or on the bus. Ten-clip tickets, called Klippekort, offer slightly cheaper journeys. They can be bought at stations and at vending machines along bus routes and come in two-zone and three-zone forms. You must stamp them on the platform or on the bus.
Be warned that inspectors travel on most buses and trains and failure to produce a clipped ticket will result in an instant fine.
Some of the useful bus routes for visitors to the city are:
1A – from Osterbro to Amelienborg, Nyhavn, the city centre, Central Station, Fisketorvet and the west.
5A – from Amager, past Slotsholmen and Radhuspladzen to Norrebro.
6A – from Frederiksberg to Osterbro via Central Station, Slotsholmen and Nyhavn.
66 – from Central Station to Christianshavn.
For the adventurous, the city operates a system of free bicycle use between April and September. At stands around the city centre there are racks where a free bike can be removed by inserting a 20kr coin.
If you are there during the height of the tourist season, however, you may find that all these bikes are in use but cycles can be rented from many of the bike shops around the city for about 70kr a day.
If you do take to a bike, beware of these rules of the road:
- Bus passengers often alight on to cycle paths and cyclists must give way to them.
- Keep to the right on cycle paths.
- Cyclists are not allowed to turn left at major road junctions but have to dismount and cross at the pedestrian crossing.
- When you decide to stop you should raise your right hand to warn those behind you.
Finally, tricycle rickshaws called trishaws can be hired around the city.
Stroget and its side roads contain some of the best shopping opportunities in Europe, from big names like Prada to the best of Danish design. Silversmith Georg Jensen, glass nirvana Holmegaard and Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, among others, gather together under the Royal Shopping banner at 6-10 Amagertorv.
But Stroget is not the only place to shop. Kronprinsensgade is the home of edgy Danish fashion while Ravnsborggade is a centre for fine antiques.
If these are out of your market, cheaper wares can be found in the bohemian area of Pisserenden or in the many outlets along Langelinie, near your cruise ship.
The main department stores are Magasin du Nord (Kongens Nytorv 13) and Illum (Ostergade 52).
Shops open at about 10am on weekdays and most close between 5.30 and 6pm. On Saturdays most shops except large department stores are closed by mid-afternoon and almost everywhere is closed on Sundays. On the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, however, shops all open until about 6pm.
Obey pedestrian crossing signals and keep out of cycle lanes – unless you’ve hired a bike. Stick to every British rule about queueing except, strangely, at bus stops.
Restaurant bills and taxi fares include service charges. Further tipping is unnecessary, although rounding up the bill is not uncommon when the service has been particularly good.
Bargaining is not a common practice in Denmark.
There are public toilets at all stations and at a number of squares throughout the city. They are generally free and spotless. Cafes and bars are also available, but ordering a drink would be polite.
Useful words and phrases
Most Danes speak some English, many better than we do, so communication should not be a problem. However, here are a few words and phrases if you wish to impress with your knowledge. The words in brackets are an approximate pronunciation of the Danish.
Do you speak English? Taler De engelsk? (tayla dee ENgellsg?)
Please vaersa venlig (verso venli)
Thank you tak (tagg)
Yes ja (ya)
No nej (nye)
Excuse me undskyld (unsgul)
Good morning godmorgen (goMORN)
Good afternoon goddag (goDA)
Entrance IndgangExit Udgang
Gentlemen HerrerLadies Damer
No Smoking Rygning Forbudt / Ikke Rygere
No Entry Ingen Adgang
Scandinavia’s largest city had humble beginnings. Until the middle of the 12th century, Copenhagen, or Havn (Harbour) as it was then known, comprised a small village of wattle and daub huts between what is now Rådhuspladsen (City Hall Square) and the sea. Its inhabitants were subjected to raids by the neighbouring Wendish tribes but managed to make a living by fishing the plentiful herring from Øresund. In the 1160s, Bishop Absalon was given control of the city by Denmark’s ruler Valdemar the Great, with instructions to expand the settlement into a key port in the king’s realm. A fort was built on Slotsholmen, the small island upon which Christiansborg Palace now stands, and, buoyed by its fishing business and excellent trading position, the town grew tenfold in size. Havn soon became Kømandshavn (Merchant’s Port) – which was later shortened to its current Danish name, København. In 1417 the royal family moved in, and in 1443 Copenhagen was declared the country’s new capital, replacing the nearby Roskilde. The city suffered numerous setbacks in the ensuing centuries, including the bubonic plague, which killed nearly a third of its population, several fires, and a bombardment by the English fleet in 1807. Nevertheless, Copenhagen continued to expand and flourish. It’s set to enlarge still further in the coming years, with several ambitious building projects planned for development in the near future.
Denmark’s monarchy is one of the oldest in the world. The current queen, Margrethe II, can trace her lineage all the way back to the country’s first king, Gorm the Old, who ruled from c. 900–c. 940. Gorm and his son, Harold I (nicknamed Harold Bluetooth) unified Denmark, and their successors came to rule Norway, Sweden and England until the death of King Canute in 1035. Gorm and Harold Bluetooth are not the only interestingly named former sovereigns of Denmark. Others include Sweyn Forkbeard, Valdemar II the Victorious, and Erik the Lame. Since the early 16th century, the first son of the king or queen has been called Christian or Frederick on a rotational basis. The monarchy is a popular institution in Denmark. Queen Margrethe II is regarded highly by Danes, and she and her family attract a great deal of interest. Much of that attention is focused upon the Crown Prince Frederick (who will become Frederick X when he accedes to the throne). Young, handsome and affable, he is the first member of the Danish royal house to have been voted ‘Dane of the Year’ in several opinion polls. On 14 May 2004 he married an Australian-born marketing executive, Mary Donaldson, in Copenhagen Cathedral. The event was filmed for national television, and Frederick’s tearful expression as he saw his bride-to-be walk down the aisle won the hearts of the Danish citizenry.
Copenhagen’s two longest-standing festivals are held on opposite points of the year: Sankt Hans Aften (Saint John’s Eve) on 23 June and Jul (Yule, or Christmas) on 24 and
25 December. The former celebrates the ancient festival of the summer solstice, or Midsummer, which marks the year’s longest day. The event is celebrated across the capital with the lighting of bonfires, the biggest of which are located at Tivoli Gardens, and at Fælledparken, next to Parken stadium. Old folk songs are sung, including one honouring Sankt Hans, written by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, and much eating and drinking takes place. Jul is marked by several Christmas markets held throughout the city, with Tivoli again taking centre stage. Copenhagen’s home island of Zealand (Sjælland) is given special mention in Norse mythology. King Gylfi, the ruler of Sweden, repaid a beggarwoman, who had entertained him, by offering her as much land as she could plough from his kingdom. Unbeknownst to the king, the mendicant was in fact the goddess Gefjun (also known as Gefion). She disguised her four children – who were sired by a giant – as oxen, and ploughed out a huge section of land, laying it to rest in Øresund. The legend identifies the hole left behind in Sweden as the lake of Mälaren; however, modern versions of the tale give Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern – whose shape certainly resembles Zealand – as the origin. The feat is commemorated by Copenhagen’s largest monument, the Gefion fountain.
As you might expect from a destination whose name means ‘Merchants’ Harbour’, Copenhagen is an excellent place to shop. The city runs the gamut of retailers, from dinky antiques and arts and crafts stores to huge shopping centres featuring internationally renowned brands. Its central network of pedestrian shopping streets, known collectively as Strøget, makes up the largest outdoor retail area in Europe. Stretching from Rådhuspladsen to Kongens Nytorv, it’s filled with trendy outlets selling designer clothing, souvenirs, shoes, accessories, crystal and even traditional Viking jewellery. Its eastern end is home to Scandinavia’s biggest department store, Magasin du Nord, while the flagship shop of
Royal Copenhagen – which supplies hand-painted porcelain ware to the queen – is on Højbro Plads. Also worth investigating is Kronprinsensgade, which branches off eastwards from Strøget. It’s colloquially known as ‘Copenhagen fashion street’ due to its many domestic clothing stores, and it’s the best place to find decidedly Danish designs. The nearest shopping centres are Fisketorvetand and Frederiksberg Centret, both of which feature modern retail chains, local stores and several restaurants and cafés. Located two km southwest and 2.5 km west of Rådhuspladsen respectively, they are too far to walk to but can be reached by bus in 10 minutes from the city centre.
Food and Drink
With some 2,000 restaurants, cafés and bars, Copenhagen offers a huge amount of gastronomic freedom. If you want to sample Danish cuisine, the most obvious choice is smørrebrød – open sandwiches – Denmark’s national dish. Smørrebrød consist of buttered rye bread topped with meat, fish, vegetables or cheese. The ingredients can be highly varied, and some restaurants offer literally hundreds of different combinations. Most smørrebrød cost between 15 DKK and 50 DKK, depending on the toppings, but some can be as expensive as 150 DKK. Danes usually eat three for a meal, washed down with a bottle of beer or shots of snaps. Copenhagen is fast gaining a reputation for haute cuisine, with several of its establishments earning Michelin stars in recent years. Restaurants like Noma (Strandgade 93, Copenhagen K), which has been voted the 10th-best in the world, Geranium (Kronprinsessegade 13, Copenhagen K) and Kokkeriet (Kronprinsessegade 64, Copenhagen K) are proving that modern Nordic cuisine can compete internationally. Many Copenhagen restaurants are located close to Strøget, making it easy to combine a shopping spree with lunch. If you don’t have the time to stop for a meal, you can drop by one of the city’s hundreds of pølsevognen (sausage wagons) and try one of fifty different kinds of hot dogs.
Copenhagen boasts a diverse music scene, with rock, pop, jazz, techno and classical styles all enjoying great popularity amongst the capital’s open-minded citizens. In recent years the city has produced popular artists across several genres, including the highly acclaimed dance act Safri Duo; electronica maestro Trentemøller; the indie two-piece The Raveonettes; and rock band Kashmir, whose 2005 album No Balance Palace featured guest appearances by Lou Reed and David Bowie. Better-known to foreign audiences are D-A-D, who were formerly known as Disneyland After Dark but had to change their name to avoid an impending lawsuit, and Aqua, who achieved worldwide success with the singles Barbie Girl, Doctor Jones and Turn Back Time in the late 90s.
Denmark’s most important influence on cinema is the Dogme 95 (or Dogma 95) movement – a series of films that adhere to strict guidelines, e.g. only handheld camerawork, no external music, etc. Its 10-point manifesto was drawn up by directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995, hence the ’95′ in its name. Although both men hailed from Copenhagen, only a handful of Dogme films were shot here, the most famous of which are the dramas Mifune (1999) and Open Hearts (2003). Non-Dogme Danish works filmed in the city include Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dancer in the Dark (2000); the Oscar-winning Babette’s Feast (1987); Smilla’s Feeling for Snow (2004), a thriller based on a book by Copenhagener Peter Høeg; the action-packed Pusher trilogy (1996, 2004, 2005); and Denmark’s answer to Godzilla, Reptilicus (1961) in which a scaly puppet terrorises ropey-looking models of the city’s landmarks. Copenhagen also features heavily in foreign productions, most notably in Hitchcock’s Cold War thrillers Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969), Anastasia (1956) and the romantic comedy The Prince and Me (2004).
Football is by far the most popular spectator sport in Denmark, and Copenhagen is home to over a dozen league clubs. The city’s two most successful teams are Brøndby IF and FC København (FCK), both of which play in the Danish Superliga. The two sides have a fierce rivalry, and games between them are always guaranteed sellouts. FCK share the modern Parken stadium, north of the city centre, with the Danish national team. It’s the largest sporting venue in the country, with a capacity of 38,000. Danes in general are a very health-conscious people and partake in many sporting activities. Gymnastics is the country’s second most popular discipline, and it’s practiced by around 300,000 citizens. Thirty-six percent of Copenhageners bicycle to work, many of them taking advantage of the city’s free bike-hire service, and Denmark’s excellent sailing location means its population has the highest rate of yacht ownership per-person in Europe. Jogging is also popular: Copenhagen’s annual marathon attracts over 8,000 participants, and in summer there are even guided jogging tours of major landmarks. The city also has several ice hockey and rugby teams, as well as over 40 cricket clubs.
Morten Andersen (b. 1960) – American footballer and the holder of numerous sporting records, including most NFL games played, most field goals and most points. Andersen is also the all-time leading scorer for two teams: the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.
Helena Christensen (b. 1968) – One of the most iconic supermodels of the 1990s. Christensen won Miss Denmark when she was 18 before earning international stardom.
King Diamond (b. 1956) – Born Kim Bendix Petersen, King Diamond is the colourful and controversial frontman of the heavy metal bands Mercyful Fate and the eponymous King Diamond. Mercyful Fate is credited with influencing countless metal and rock bands of the 80s and 90s, notably Metallica and Slayer.
Michael Laudrup (b. 1964) – Officially Denmark’s greatest ever footballer, Laudrup played for numerous top European clubs, including Juventus, Lazio, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax before getting into management. His younger brother Brian, who had a similarly impressive football career, was born in Vienna.
Lars von Trier (b. 1956) – Director and screenwriter who co-founded the Dogme 95 movement with Thomas Vinterberg, Kristian Levring and Søren Kragh-Jacobsen. His most famous films include Breaking the Waves (1996) and Dancer in the Dark (2000).
Thomas Vinterberg (b. 1969) – Filmmaker and co-founder of Dogme 95. He made the first Dogme film, Festen (The Celebration, 1998), and went on to direct Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix in It’s All About Love (2003) and Bill Pullman in Dear Wendy (2005).
- Since 1964 The Little Mermaid statue has been repeatedly vandalised. It has been decapitated, had one of its arms sawn off, been covered in paint and even blown clean off its rock with dynamite. The city has restored it shortly after each attack.
- Copenhagen holds the record for the largest ever live audience to attend the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2001, almost 38,000 people filled Parken stadium to see their nation finish second, behind Estonia.
- In 1834, Hans Christian Andersen applied for work at the Royal Library ‘to be freed from the heavy burden of having to write in order to live’. The library administrators weren’t too impressed with his qualifications, and he was turned down. His application was preserved and is now stored in the building’s archives along with some of his original manuscripts.
- The toxic metallic element hafnium was discovered in Copenhagen in 1923; it is named after the city’s Latin name, Hafnia.
In the 1970s, authorities in Vancouver asked for permission to erect a copy of The Little Mermaid in the city’s Stanley Park, but they were refused. Canadian officials instead installed a more ‘modern’ version, known as Girl in a Wetsuit, which wears diving gear instead of a fish’s tail.
Authors: John Wilkinson & Stephen Palmer