Copenhagen’s Surprising Nature and City Sights

Copenhagen’s Surprising Nature and City Sights

If your family or friends suggest a holiday in Copenhagen what will be your first idea for activity? My first thoughts are metropole, dense housing, lots of people and the centre of power. So this is where I first go wrong as Copenhagen has so much more to offer. Numerous historical sites with lots of captivating stories, squares, beautiful buildings and centuries of history, wars and social history shaping the sense of being Danish. There are so many more opportunities to find the good experiences, which I do not initially associate with a holiday in Copenhagen. The Danish capital has plenty of opportunities for recreational activities, beautiful nature as well as the many cultural and gastronomic options. In other words: Copenhagen has something enjoyable for everyone and everybody.

For Danes Bellevue Strandpark which is a very popular beach on the outskirts of Copenhagen is the epitome of sunbathing, bikinis, swimming trunks, beach play and children having fun in the water. Because of this it is rather odd to let our thoughts wander back to a time when this area was the centre for political decision making with our former Prime Minister Thorvald Stauning leader of the Socialdemokratiet, the Labor Party leading the proces. Having lived in Copenhagen and often enjoyed my time on the beach I haven’t thought of him at all on my visits on the beach which is easyly reached by bicycle. But I enjoyed my bikerides to the beach close to Copenhagen centre. Because he initiated the beach the lawn in the beach park is now named after him. That was new information for myself as well.

Copenhagen Canal

Without trouble you can stick to a water theme for your holiday in Copenhagen if you wish. The city flows with water experiences in the centre. An obvious choice for a relaxing tour is to take a tour with one of the canal boats. On the tour the guides will tell you lots of stories of Copenhagen – in Danish, English, German, Spanish or another language requested by the guests. Don’t worry about all the languages. Listening to the stories in more languages give you a chance to practice your language skills and digest the information while the guide give his information in the different languages.

One of the stories will be of Agnete and the Man in the Sea. For a lot of people it is only a sculpture at the bottom of the canal by Højbro Plads, Højbro Square. The figures though have a significant story on top of being a sculpture in the water.

Agnete og Havmanden – Agnete and the Man in the Sea

The sculpture is based on a folk song about the girl Agnete who fell in love with a man from the sea and moved in with him at the bottom of the sea where she gave birth to 7 sons. The folk song is the tale of a particular day when she heard the pleasant sound of a church bell ringing from afar which made her long for going to church just one more time. Agnete and the man in the sea agreed that she could step out of the sea and go to church provided she respected a few rules of his which were as follows:

  • she could not wear any jewelry made of gold
  • she was not allowed to smile
  • she could not sit next to her mother
  • she could not untie her hair
  • she could not look down out of respect to Our Lord.

How do you think Agnete acted? If she kept all her promises there would be no story you would most likely point out. And you are so right. She broke all her promises. This is why even to this day she still lives at the bottom of the sea playing sad tunes on her golden harp, a gift from the man in the sea.

More artists have been inspired by the folksong of Agnete and the man in the sea. One of the artists is Hans Christian Andersen who wrote a poem which was revealed from the scene in a theatre. Unfortunately not at all as succesfull as he would have liked. Learn more about the life of Hans Christian Andersen on a city walk in Copenhagen. A perfect activity if you are interested in the life of the famous Danish writer most reknowned for his fairytales. Hans Christian Andersen lived in Copenhagen for a huge part of his life as he moved from his childhood city Odense to Copenhagen when he was only 14 years old to never again settle in Odense except for short revisits.

Hans Christian Andersen was a well known figure in the capital and had to put up with much criticism as most people did not really like him. But he was not a quitter. He kept seeking out people he believed would help him achieve his ambitions and goals and he made enemies as well as friends. He was a persistent young man and he stood through his trials. The guide will tell you which during the guided tour and you will get a chance to understand the writer a lot better. When you have seen enough facades and long for more open, blue sky and water a visit to one of the Øresund beaches might be the thing to go for…

Beaches – Several in Copenhagen

Have you ever spent a warm summer holiday in a metropole longing for a cool dive in the sea? If you go to Copenhagen for your holiday you will have that option and not only one beach, several beaches. Copenhageners take advantage of these options summer as well as winter and a growing number of Danes take to bathing all year round.

Bellevue Beach

The Bellevue Beach is one of the beaches Copenhageners frequently take advantage of. Side by side with tourists they enjoy the beach, the sun and the cooling Øresund sea. Most visitors on the beach most probably live locally and thereby take full advantage of the proximity of the beach which is only 13 kilometres from the centre of Copenhagen. A bicycle ride of 13 kilometres from the town hall square to Bellevue most Copenhageners reckon a short distance. You can go to Bellevue either by the S-train, the bus to Klampenborg Station or hop on the iron horse yourself.

And here comes the explanation of the political decision. Bellevue Beach is an artificially made beach. To me that was a surprise. I’ve spent lots of summer days on the beach and enjoyed the atmosphere side by side with thousands of other beach guests. The beach is 700 m long. Made in the beginning of the 1900s. In those days it must have seemed a forward thinking decision. Rather quickly it got a loving nickname which it still holds. The Fly Paper. Yes you got it right. So many people placed themselves sunbathing on the beach you could hardly spot the sand on a nice summer’s day. Visit the beach yourself and you will see that nothing has changed.

Bellavista, Bellevue Teatre, a Visionary Prime Minister and a Renowned Architect

Right opposite the Bellevue Beach you find some buildings by the famous Danish architect Arne Jacobsen: the Bellavista and the Bellevue Theatre, two buildings as famous as the beach and as well known. Often referred to as the white buildings. The style is mostly known as Functionalism which is the period between the two world wars. The theatre is now a listed building simply due to the beautiful architecture by Arne Jacobsen. Some say that Arne Jacobsen found his inspiration in works by the Swiss designer and architect Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier had his break through just before Arne Jacobsen had his. I’ve visited Le Corbusiers beautiful church in Ronchamp in France. If you know it you might see details similar to Arne Jacobsen’s white buildings here in Copenhagen?

One more interesting detail with the Bellevue Beach is the thatched restaurant Den Gule Cottage which translates into the Yellow Cottage. It might come as a surprise that it was once the entrance to the bathing facilities. Bear in mind that when the beach was built the attitude to bathing and changing facilities were rather strict and not at all as liberal as in recent decades. Therefore Arne Jacobsen designed bathing facilities for men and women to be able to change into bathing suits in private. Rather like the bathing huts you find on some English beaches as well as on the west coast of Jutland by the North Sea. The Danish bathing huts on the west coast are privately owned – the bathing facilities on the Bellevue Beach were built for everybody.

Copenhagen Harbour, the Opera and a Few Surprising Stories

If you like modern architecture Copenhagen offers lots of pleasant stops for architectural eye catching moments. Rather new harbour pools for bathing, recreational areas by the water side and probably even some of the colorful houseboats. Even right in the core of Copenhagen you will find lots of options for sightseeing related to water.

One of the sights worth treating yourself to is the Opera on Holmen, an area in Copenhagen which used to belong to the Navy. The Opera is an impressive and modern building in the flight line from the Marble Church, Marmorkirken. Choosing this location stirred the Danish public opinion for quite some time. Nowadays Danes from all over the country as well as tourists in huge numbers visit the Opera to take in the beautiful sight and of course enjoy the shows.

It was the owner of the world famous Danish shipping company Mærsk, Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller who had the Opera built as a gift for all Danes with all costs paid for. This came about by a Mærsk foundation buying Dokøen, the Dock Island for the sum of 120 mio DKK and everything from architect to contracting the building was paid for as well. When it stood ready to house the first performances it was presented as a gift for all Danes. The administration is run by the Theatre Royal so most of us see the Opera as being the theatre’s house rather than a building in which we all have a share. The Opera is an impressive building whether viewed from the water side or with your feet on the ground. Enjoy it.

The Copenhagen harbour covers a huge area. During summer time you find huge cruise ships docking along the harbour front allowing thousands of international tourists to explore Copenhagen and its sights. When you see the harbour use your imagination to understand the early medieval Copenhagen harbour. The Bishop Absalon was one of Copenhagen’s founders. Once a small settlement which grew into the city in which Dutch farmers centuries later were granted permission to sell their products harvested on the Amager island, now a part of Copenhagen, connected by several bridges. What a difference to the Copenhagen we see today with crowds of different nationalities exploring the streets by foot, by bicycle or in cars and taxies. See for yourself on your next visit in Copenhagen.

One of the interesting stories of the Copenhagen harbour you can hear on a guided walk in the former naval area Holmen. If you are interested in then Navy and how it shaped Copenhagen this is the guided walk to go for. Our guide will tell everything there is to know about gunboat sheds, salutes to the national flag, Rigets Flag which is called Dannebrog. He will also tell you what happened during WWII when Denmark was occupied by Nazi-Germany. If you are British you might prefer to refresh the story about the battle of Copenhagen, in Danish history called Slaget på Reden, in 1801 when England sailed off with the Danish Navy’s ships.

A colleague of mine puts it slightly different: If you are not sure which sights to go for in Copenhagen or if you want to ensure you get the most out of your visit book a guided tour. See all options for guided tours of Copenhagen, right there for you to pick and choose according to your liking. A guided tour is often the shortest way to gain knowledge about a city and forms a good basis for the rest of your stay.

You can end an exciting day in Copenhagen sticking to a theme of water by having a guide show and explain about edible plants, herbs and berries by the water. Your will find edible plants everywhere, also in cities such as Copenhagen. Going by bicycle will be perfect in a search of edibles as you can go that much further and in a speed that allows you to observe. Danes often use the bicycle as their everyday means of transport. You will therefore definately not be the only one riding on the road or in the bicycle lane. The guide is an expert in nature and will show you which plants to go for in the area of Kalveboderne.

Photoes: Absalon: Photo by Glån. License. Agnete og Havmanden: Photo by Jens Cederskjold. License.


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